In 1977, after finishing my degree at the University of Leeds, I went to Cardiff, capital city of Wales, to do a Post-graduate Diploma in Theatre Studies at the Sherman Theatre, with University College, Cardiff, which was part of the University of Wales.
I stayed in Cardiff for four years. I met my husband Stephen during the course (he was an undergraduate in Electronics Engineering - we met when he was eighteen and I was twenty-one, oh the scandal!) The following year I temped in offices all over Cardiff, and worked in the Civil Service for six months as a temp. The year after that I did a teacher-training course, and then I taught in a dreadful school in nearby Newport for a year.
After that, Stephen had graduated and we moved up to Leeds, where we have been ever since.
I liked many things about Cardiff but I was homesick for Yorkshire and I missed my family. Stephen has always got on well with my family and was happy to move back with me, so we did: I have never regretted it.
On Thursday I finally went back to Cardiff - I'd only visited once since, very briefly, about fifteen years ago. One of our actors, the excellent Sonia Beck
, was in a play, Barkin'
at the New Theatre
, and I went to see it, and Silverback
kindly accompanied me (thank you - much appreciated!) Stephen was working or he would have come as well, of course. The play was by the well-known Welsh playwright Frank Vickery
, and it was excellent: we enjoyed it tremendously. Frank Vickery was in it, too, one of a very strong cast.
It was fascinating to see Cardiff again. Some parts were still the same, like The Hayes, with the old Victorian subterranean toilets:
Before I began my teacher-training course I read many books on education which I got from the nearby library: and here it is now:
It's a restaurant called - guess what? The Old Library
and we had lunch there!
But many of the main streets are pedestrianised now, and look very clean and stylish - far more "gentrified" than when we lived there:
Silverback listened with remarkable patience as I detailed every change and every similarity! Every office building we passed was "Oooh - - Hodge House - - I used to work there!" Because in six months' temping, I think I worked in just about every office in Cardiff.
The years have passed, all right. Portcullis House, the old Customs and Excise building where I temped for six months, is To Let. It was fairly new then, and not the most glamorous building in the world. It hasn't improved with age:
The Sherman Theatre
, another Seventies building, where I spent a year, is closed for refurbishment.
Cardiff Bay has been thoroughly done up and is fantastic, I'm told, though we didn't have time to visit it. For three years Stephen and I lived in a crumbling terraced house in nearby Splott (if you don't know Cardiff, yes, that is a real place!) Here's how the street looks now. It hasn't actually changed very much but many of the houses have been renovated:
There weren't so many cars in those days. I don't think they'd been invented.
It was so strange being there again. Here's a photo of me, nearly thirty years after I left, in front of the house where I lived in my very early twenties. In those days the rent was seven pounds fifty a week - - it was cheap even then as it was a run-down house in one of the - er - less stylish parts of Cardiff!
So much has happened since. So many happy memories after we left that house - - and a good many sad ones too. I suppose it's like that for everyone. If you'd told me, when I was living there, age twenty-one, of all the things that would happen afterwards, I think I would not have believed you, or thought that I could cope.
I'm still not sure, quite a bit of the time, that I can
cope. But one thing I've learned is that I seem to be stronger than I ever thought I'd be.
It was lovely to go back - - - and I'll be telling you more tomorrow!