Monday, 30 November 2015

Social studies in Swansea

My goodness, it's very nearly a month ago that I was in Swansea! It was a fine day for 1 November, so late in the year.

I rather like Swansea, or at least those parts of it that lie near the sea front. It must once have been a very industrial place - and therefore drab and dirty. But now it's a bright and breezy university city, with probably the best shopping centre outside Cardiff; a beautiful beach that stretches westwards past parkland, all the way to The Mumbles; and dockland that has been transformed since the 1980s into a very attractive Marina. Here's a selection of shots, to show what I'm referring to - beginning with myself, in front of a city-centre water cascade, with the old castle in the background:


Well, that was a pretty rapid tour of the city centre, Marina and sea front! But I hope you can see that this Welsh coastal city has much to offer as a place to visit, and indeed to live in. The Marina development began some thirty years ago, and by the late 1990s was mostly built up to the extent now seen. It's now in a constant refurbishment phase, to keep all the buildings nicely painted, and to limit the damage done by the salt air and the strong gales. Some of the stone materials used back in the 1980s have not lasted well, if they were placed in exposed positions. This plaque, for instance - created from a piece of sandstone I'm thinking. Back in 1999 its detail was still crisp:


But now look at it in 2015. It's almost unrecognisable. The surface, assaulted by wind and weather, and possibly blown sand, has disintegrated:


Here's another of those plaques, with my hand on it. I wonder what clever design has been eroded away?


On the other hand, if this kind of thing was in a sheltered spot, it survives intact:


The Marina - really large enough to be a little seafront suburb of Swansea - is full of whimsical plaques, sculptures and installations on a maritime theme. The ones made of metal have lasted the best. Such as this pastiche of nautical bits and pieces on a tall column:


It looks interesting, and is surprisingly little degraded from when I lasted photographed it in 1999, when it was like this:


Here's another typical installation - a sea captain leaning forward at a most unusual angle, carrying a ship's bell on an impossibly stiff length of rope!


The Dylan Thomas Theatre is one of the cultural buildings that cluster around the marina. In front of it is a rather unattractive statue of this great Welsh poet. Here I pose with the travesty, squinting into the autumn sunshine:


I personally think it makes him look like a vacant-minded teenager, and not the sensitive and insightful bard he really was. Compare that statue with this painting in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff:


I felt I couldn't miss a walk up Wind Street.


This is the street all of Young Swansea makes for on a Saturday Night. It's full of pubs and nightclubs and places to eat.

This was also, I think, the street where, in October 2009, CCTV caught two local lads attacking what they thought were two crossdressing men - but the 'easy victims' were in fact professional cage fighters on their way to a party in fancy dress, and they had no problem at all knocking the attackers to the ground - casually done too - then picking up their handbags, and strolling on as it nothing had happened. See the Daily Telegraph report at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/6268426/Cross-dressing-cage-fighters-turn-tables-on-yobs.html. One hopes the two local lads learned a lesson - never pick on anyone who seems to be a man in a dress, because he may well have strength, technique and confidence, and be alert for trouble. But I've noted the prevailing attitude of young Welsh men elsewhere in these chronicles, and I doubt if they spotted the moral.

Emerging from Wind street, I found myself following a young couple quite closely. Both were dressed in their own versions of 'Sunday Best'.


He looked athletic. He walked on his toes, as if prowling, prepared to spring like a panther at any moment. Note the short, sharp haircut. Note his sports top, skinny jeans and new trainers. Note also the smartphone in his hand. He was ready for a call. In fact my intuition told me that he'd be very glad to have a call requesting his urgent presence at some pub where the previous night's Rugby World Cup match was going to be replayed and analysed over many, many drinks. The fact that he was trailing behind his girlfriend signalled reluctance to be wasting a Sunday afternoon following a baby buggy about. Unless I was much deceived, he wanted to be doing Something Else. Presumably they were on their way to visit her Mum - not his scene at all.

She was very stylishly turned out, in that dress with its bold Mondrian-inspired design. Note the close (nay, exact) colour-match of the tights to the dress. Note the brand new heeled shoes. Note the designer handbag. You can just make out the designer sunglasses perched up on her hair.

And she was merely pushing a pram through a city centre, man in tow.

Her body language said she was the boss - the buggy, and the trophy baby in it, bestowing unanswerable authority. But I think her young man had his own views on that!

One of the best bits of advice in street photography is if they look dangerous, shoot 'em in the back. As you know, I always heed good advice.

(Of course I do, every time)

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