South Wales, Port Talbot and Famous Movie Stars

Aberavon Swansea Bay

“I would like to go back to Wales. I’m obsessed with my childhood and at least three times a week dream I am back there” – Anthony Hopkins

After a comfortable night in the caravan and a full English breakfast in the morning I tentatively raised the subject of plans for the day.

I hope that he won’t mind me saying but my travelling companion is rather eclectic by nature and I knew that he had a lot of things that he wanted to show me but I was certain that he didn’t really have what you would call a schedule  to follow.  It was a tough thirty minutes or so putting a sensible itinerary together but this was essential because without a set route we would almost certainly have been driving all around South Wales in a completely ragged and hopelessly disorganised way and contributing thousands of tonnes of CO2 towards global warming.

To begin with we drove west towards Swansea because our first destination was Aberavon close to the steel town of Port Talbot and we come now to the question of the Welsh language because as an Englishman I confess that I am seriously confused about the naming of Port Talbot.

The Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith) has spent several years obsessively insisting on using Welsh place names instead of English; for example Cardiff is now Caerdydd*, Swansea is Abertawe and Merthyr Tidfil has amusingly become Merthyr Tudful and this is why I am confused because Port Talbot stubbornly remains Port Talbot, curious because it is named (wash your mouth out) after an English landowning family, the Talbots, who built the port there.

Let’s think about it.  What used to be Portmadoc in North Wales has become Porthmadog  and just west of Swansea Burry Port is Porth Tywyn, so following that line of logic Port Talbot should surely be something like Porth Turbot but whilst Cymdeithas yr Iaith have zealously removed as many English place names as possible Port Talbot curiously remains Port Talbot. But then, who wants to be called after a fish in any language

steel-works-sign

Welsh is a noble ancient language but the absurd thing is that Cymdeithas yr Iaith are so opposed to anything remotely English that when there is no equivalent (traditional) Welsh word they just make one up (except for Port Talbot).  Last time I identified Tacsi and Ambiwlans, two completely unnecessary new words that have been added to the lexicon of Wales and now I present further evidence such as  ffacs (for fax), garag (garage) and compiwter (computer) but driving along today I came upon possibly the best example of all.

We drove past the entrance to a GOLF course.

The game of golf originated in Scotland and is played all over the World.  All over the World it is called GOLF, every country in Western Europe calls it GOLF (check it out if you don’t believe me – Catalan, Basque, Galician) if Scotland had a language it would almost certainly call it GOLF, but in Wales they have decided to call it GOLFF which is surely language revisionism at its most absurd.

I laughed so much I almost had to pull over and stop for fear of crashing the car!

Port Talbot Steel works from Aberavon Beach

After  some confusion and an unnecessary detour through the town we eventually arrived at the seafront and a stunning three-mile wide beach, perhaps one of the best beaches that you could ever hope to see, magnificent golden honey-comb sand only just separated from a burning blue sky by a foaming white surf, certainly one of the finest that I have ever set foot on and I walked to the shoreline and admired the views that perfectly combined natural and built environment with the Port Talbot steel works to my left and the docks of Swansea to my right, a pair of modern industrial pincers surrounding the idyllic Swansea Bay and the Bristol Channel beyond.

I could have stayed much longer, but…

… of course my pal hadn’t brought me here to see the beach because there were more important things to tell me about. Film actors!  Because Port Talbot is blessed by being either birthplace or nearby birthplace or the home to some of the film industries most famous people.

Burton Hopkins Sheen

Richard Burton was born in nearby Pontrhydyfen, Anthony Hopkins was born in Margam and Michael Sheen (born in Newport) was bought up in Port Talbot.  My friend likes these bits of information and we spoke about our visit to a local man on the promenade.  “A shame you weren’t here three days ago”, he said, “Anthony Hopkins was here shopping in the pie shop”.

Quite frankly this sounded rather unlikely to me and I thought straight away that it was a little joke at our expense.  I did some research when I returned home and it turns out to be entirely true, he was indeed in South Wales just a week before our visit.  Nevertheless, call me a sceptic if you like but I somehow doubt that Anthony Hopkins, who lives in Malibu, California and enjoys a life of fine dining experiences, has any sort of fantasies about tucking into a Peter’s Pie!

anthony-hopkind-dreams-of-pies

We left Aberavon and Port Talbot and made our way north-east towards the Rhondda Valley stopping on the way at the village of Pontrhydyfen to see the house where Richard Burton was born and the pub The Miners Arms which proudly displays old photographs of the actor on his many visits home including a famous return in 1972 when he took Elizabeth Taylor to meet his family while filming the movie “Under Milk Wood”.

It must have been great to be in The Miners Arms the night Burton turned up there. Drinks all round and all of it charged to Richard’s bar bill!

I thought about this.  Everyone has to come from somewhere, however remote, however grubby, however humble.  I guess if I were rich and successful and married to one of the most famous woman in the world I’d probably want to take her back to my home town to meet the folks just as Richard did.

After Pontrhydyfen we drove to the Rhondda an area consisting  made up of two valleys, those of the larger Rhondda Fawr valley (mawr large) and the smaller Rhondda Fach valley (bach small).  We reached Rhondda Fawr and after an argument about the route headed north towards the Brecon Beacons.  My route because I was driving!

burton-visit

An interesting picture, Richard looks likes he wants to get it over with and Elizabeth looks as though she is ready to bail out – “I’m a celebrity get me out of here!”

* I wonder if the Welsh Language Society are aware that there are five towns in the USA (in Alabama, California, Illonois, Maryland and Tennessee) called Cardiff and none of them are referred to as Caerdydd.  If I were Cymdeithas yr Iaith I would be urgently taking that up with The United States Board on Geographic Names!

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35 responses to “South Wales, Port Talbot and Famous Movie Stars

  1. Amusing. Sort of like Scots only worse. I was traveling in Greece or Rhodes somewhere and heard two gents speaking with what I thought were English accents. I said ‘are you British’ and they said ‘no, we’re Scottish’. I rest my case.

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  2. All these famous people just love Wales or Scotland, but never enough to pay their tax there.

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  3. Have you seen the one for drive slowly? Can’t remember the actual words but its something like ‘araf yknw’.

    I’m reading this out, it was written in the road, on the way to Holyhead.

    ‘Nah, it’s all right. Let’s wait till we get to the camp site.’

    I couldn’t find it on a search, so maybe they’ve changed it due to other people thinking the same non-driving-related activity.

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    • ARAF certainly means SLOW. It is painted on all of the roads – both versions. The cost of road signs in Wales must be double that in England and we are probably paying for it!

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      • Yeah, I could find araf, but not the rest of it. I tried drive slow, carefully but didn’t work. Maybe, danger? bend? As I said, maybe the ambiguity of the rest of it has disappeared.

        My knowledge of Welsh is below my Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian. And despite coming from The Valleys, my partner was at school when they were swapping between English one minute, Welsh the next, so his is no better!

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      • The leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, can’t speak Welsh!
        I try not to overload my brain and restrict my knowledge of foreign languages to being fluent in a bar!

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      • A glass of wine, a beer, count to one to ten, a salad, and in my case ‘I’m vegetarian’. Works well enough.
        If I were Leanne, I would be taking a crash course tan rapido you eouldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t vote for yorkshire indie party who couldn’t speak tyke.

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      • Ay Up I agree chuck!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A nice crowd but give me Hopkins any day, above the rest 🙂

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  5. I wish you a good journey of dreams and love

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  6. I have a difficult enough time with English. I’d be lost in no time. o_O

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  7. Actually, I’d like an order of Anthony Hopkins with a side order of Sean Connery. 😀 Sigh.

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  8. Thank you for your answer, Mr. Petcher. Hope, you will forgive me for answering here, but that blogpost was getting old and falling deeper and deeper “down”

    “As I said before mine is not really a political blog but I will play along”

    When you are visiting foreign countries, you’re encountering different culture and customs. This is not surprising, given the differences in history and politics all across the world. As the saying goes, you might not be interested in politics – but politics are interested in you.

    Even when you are expressing your opinion to this or that tourist highlight (and you are here for tourism, right?) you also have your own impression and attitude towards it, based on your upbringing, past experiences and culture – in short, based on your country(ies?) past history and politics. It’s inevitable, because we, humans, don’t live in vacuum. And aggressively promoted for the past few decades globalization made this interconnection of culture(s), history and politics only more noticeable.

    “I predict that it will never achieve membership of the EU.”

    I never claimed it will. The West is happy with Turkey just where it is currently.

    “Simple – because within only a few short years there will be no EU.
    I speak as one of the deplorables who voted to leave.”

    I will answer first with a couple of raised brows. Unexpected. Then I’m going to reassure you – no, the EU won’t break up in a “few short years”. It will take more than that.

    “Do you remember the Warsaw Pact? Do you see any similarities?”

    You understand that political parallels are not 100% and more serve to express someone’s sentiments and opinion in the name to “illustrate” or to “drive the point”, right? Anything more or less similar could serve that aim – you could just as easily compare the EU to the Delian League.

    And, no – I don’t “remember” the Warsaw pact. I was a child when the USSR was breaking up.

    “I really don’t think I care about ownership of some uninhabited islands in the Aegean and I have even less time for Erdogan than Putin”

    It is interesting, Mr. Petcher, that you find Erdogan less deserving of your attention (and fear?) than Putin. Which brings us to this:

    “Maybe ‘monstrous’ was the wrong descriptor, I think I meant ‘monstrous tyrant!”

    Honestly, I have no idea what you are talking about here. “Monstrous tyrant” is somehow more fitting (according to you) description of Putin, than just “monstrous”? Again – can you, please, elaborate here a little bit more?

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    • Thomas More wrote , “Anyone who campaigns for public office becomes disqualified for holding any office at all” (Utopia, 1516)

      All politicians are potential monsters. Putin is the extreme example. Unaccountable, Self-elected and Tyrannical in the extreme.

      The problem for Russia is now as it always was, it doesn’t know if it is part of the western world or the east. Personally I consider it to be an integral part of the west and it should come to terms with that just as the Tsars of the late nineteenth century tried to achieve.

      In the west we remember the eastern barbarism of 1945 – invasion, murder, rape and occupation. You are an intelligent person, please do not try to deny it.

      On a lighter note, Russia has a monster and the USA has a clown!

      Thanks for dropping by again, I enjoy your visits.

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  9. Lots of fun, but I’m thinking Mr. Hopkins WAS most likely popping in for a pie. No matter where you roam, is there ever anything that tastes as good as home?

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  10. You did have fun with this, Andrew! You’ll never have a simple game of golff ever again without smiling. 🙂 Monster of a pork pie on sale on a Christmas market down in Sheffield on Sunday. I couldn’t even have eaten half.

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  11. Glad you discovered Swansea Bay, Andrew. Not sure if you travelled further along the coast towards the west of Swansea, but there you would find some of the most stunning beaches the UK has to offer. No mention of Lava Bread or Brains Beer, but maybe they’re coming up in a later post?

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  12. I enjoyed your unflinching comments on place names. Excuse me, I’m now going out to play a few holes of golff. The only name changes I’ve noticed lately in the states are that some place names are getting their indigenous names back, after having been named after various white men for some time. My favourite is Denali, stubbornly called Denali by locals for decades, while maps showed it to be Mount McKinley. That’s one trend I support.

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