Saturday, August 26, 2006

Abertawe and the Heart of Wales

Having had most of the morning at Swansea/Abertawe, I can see where Dylan Thomas was coming from when he called it an 'ugly, lovely town'. The streetscapes swing between two extremes - there are the scenic seaside bits, with cute little hotels and fish-and-chip shops, then there are the university student housing bits. The Addams family would feel right at home in any of the student housing here - the gardens are overgrown, windows are rotting out and so forth - I search through my suitcase for appropriate black clothing and makeup, but the Goth look loses its effectiveness when teamed with a pair of bright blue thongs...

The Crescent Guest House is at the top of a massive hill on the opposite side of town to the railway station, so I get to walk through both 'zones' on the way there.

My morning in Abertawe starts with a walk along the beach (a proper beach, with sand - none of the British ton-of-rocks nonsense!) to the National Waterfront Museum ( The National Waterfront Museum is set up to showcase industrial Wales - it is very slick, with lots of multimedia displays and a bizarre conveyor belt of display cases, which puts me in mind of my last project before I headed out (an automated stock storage and distribution system).

Next door to the National Waterfront Museum is the Swansea Museum ( In the first room they have a display of fine china, a whale vertabrae, portraits of local notables and a grand piano. This is pretty typical - I like this museum much better than the Waterfront!!

The climax of the Swansea Museum (and indeed of the entire day) is their Egyptian collection. Someone has given the museum a massive collection of Egyptian bits and pieces including:

* mummified cats (three), ibises and baby crocodiles
* a mouse relinquary complete with mummified mouse
* about four dozen amulets with rather general labels (for e.g. 'birds')

The mouse relinquary is a bit of a highlight, not only has someone mummified poor Tibbles but they've considerately given the poor little pusskins something to play with in the afterlife... I wonder whether these were the equivalent of the VCE - a young embalmer starts out with mice, working their way up to cats and crocodiles until the happy day of graduation, when someone gives them a very big roll of bandages and someone's grandad to get cracking on...

The Dylan Thomas Centre ( is around the corner from the Swansea Museum. The centre has a theatre, a bookshop, a cafe and a display summarising Thomas' life and work.

After all this culture, I head up Wind Street past Salubrious Place and Salubrious Passage (much laughter here, Salubrious Passage opens into a backyard full of garbage bins) and back to the guest house.

The Heart of Wales train line runs from Swansea to Shrewsbury through some of the most stunning countryside you can imagine. Unfortunately, there are embankments and coppices along the railway line to conceal it from the public view, which spoils some of the scenery - but what I can see is stunning - rolling, green hills - terrified livestock fertilising same as the train goes past - beautiful little cottages... It was worth the trip, although there are some quite ordinary stretches where all I can see are oak trees and blackberries.

Shrewsbury next stop!!


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