Swansea Sound by Geoffrey Clarke
Swansea Sound by Geoffrey Clarke
by Geoffrey Clarke
by Geoffrey Clarke
This novel is a work of ‘faction’, that means it is a combination of fact and fiction. Any similarity to incidents, events, famous personalities, or places in this book is either intentional, or otherwise haphazardly the product of the author’s imagination, so to speak. Resemblances to actual persons either dead or alive are purely intentional, but the protagonist Watkin Davies, Mervyn Jenkins, Watkin’s wife Diane, Cliff and others are imaginary, but probably induced autobiographically in the author’s mind by a process of the assimilation of ideas.
All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be stored in a retrieval system, or reproduced in any way or by means, electrical, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the permission of the author.
The writer asserts his right as the author of this work.
The author recognises his sources as Ryan Davies and Ronnie Williams, Max Boyce, Frankie Howard, Tony Hancock, Syd James, Spike Milligan, Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques, Harry Secombe, TT (Terry) Thomas, Jimmy Edwards, Tommy Cooper, the fastest milkman in the West, Benny Hill, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, and that inimitable joke collector of all time – Bob Monkhouse. Although too risqué for the period, I have included some material from Les Dawson, particularly about Watkin Davies’s mother in law. Quite out of time, I have been influenced, too, by Rhod Gilbert, the contemporary Welsh comedian and broadcaster.
Congratulations are due to Sir Tom Jones, Dame Shirley Bassey and now to Sir Gareth Edwards on his knighthood, June 2015.
Mervyn Jenkins from Dunvant, near Swansea, was a big, barrel-chested Welshman with a round face, grey hair and a goatee beard that needed trimming. He was corpulent, but not unfit. Married, with two boys, Ralph 15 and Chris 13, he had been in the business of sound systems for a long time. Business had been good for a while with installations of stands, stadium seating and sound equipment, and he had been busy all week erecting a stand at a local football club. By Saturday of that week, he needed to get the sound system working properly at the Swans ground in time for the key match with Reading.
‘There ew are, Watkin’, he said. ‘Go down the Vetch Field and see to the sound system at the Swans stadium’.
‘But I’m not on shift today, Merv’ he replied.
‘Never mind, I’ll pay you extra, you jus go down the Vetch and work on them loudspeakers.’
Watkin Davies goes down to the stadium and spends the morning fiddling with the loudspeakers on makeshift scaffolding put up the night before.
‘Don’t get shaky on them planks, Watkin’, the foreman cries out.
And Watkin carries on with the job regardless of the weak walkways and the dodgy, thrown up scaffolding, the usual cigarette in his mouth.
Arthur Birtwhistle, a round faced jovial man, has the tea café in a caravan trailer parked at the back of the stands. He’s hoping to make a big hit from today’s match[W1] .
‘Get that urn ready by half-time, Edna.’
‘O K, Arthur’, she replies.
At the 45 minute whistle, hundreds of plastic cups of tea are ready from the massive boiler and the huge, brown teapots. Pies, pasties, chips, pizza are all sold in huge quantities to the pressing crowd of spectators.
At the end of the match, Arthur counts the takings. He has made a fortune from selling tea, milk, sugar and boiling water in their thousands. He plans to buy a hotel in Mumbles with the proceeds. He’s soon into the multimillionaire property business in hotels and catering. He takes over the Langland Court hotel in Mumbles at a knock down price.
The next job for Watkin the following Saturday is the stadium seating at Maerdy rugby ground.
Mervyn gets a call from the Health and Safety inspector asking about the safety of the stadium terracing that they’ve put up and ‘when you finish putting them up we’d like to inspect them,’ he says. It’s just wooden boards from plywood and not nearly strong enough to pass the inspection.
So Mervyn tells Watkin:
‘Go down to the Maerdy stadium and dismantle the stand at the field and take all the plyboards over to Maesteg and put them up there’.
Watkin does as he is told and goes over to Maesteg in the spare Swansea Sound van and puts them up over there.
The inspector, a thin, wiry individual with large, prominent glasses, is bemused to find there is no stand seating at Maerdy rugby stadium as planned, but does not pursue the matter any further. ‘I didn’t find any structures you’d put up at the Maerdy ground, but I suppose you’ll get round to it, Mr Jenkins,’ he says over the phone. Merv is once again one step ahead of the game, and can carry on in the business of stadium seating and sound systems.
That night, the scaffolding boys and Watkin go out on a pub crawl for a few pints of local bitter. They call at ‘The Mermaid’, ‘The George’, ‘The Rock and Fountain’, ‘The Beaufort Arms’ and the ‘Swansea Jack’. Watkin ends up pretty squishy at home with his family, after collecting a number of souvenirs from outside the ‘Swansea Jack’. He has a pub sign of the Swansea Jack, a red traffic bollard, an old dog’s blanket and a gate latch in the back of his dad’s Morris Minor 1000 with wooden side panels.
His Dad says angrily:
‘What are these for Watkin? You were drunk, again, last night. What’s going on?’
‘Oh, they’re only a few leftovers from the Maerdy rugby ground. I’ll take them back tomorrow.’
'And on your twenty-first you were drunk. Ron Runcible and Nelly Nelson trashed your bedroom and Ron smashed the chandelier at the Langland Court Hotel do, didn't he? Nelly and that Gibson fellow were drunk and running round with an inflated condom tied to the aerial on their car. We gave you the scope by going out for the evening, and when we came back my Morris 1000 had been taken, our bedroom furniture piled up in the passage and our dining room walls covered with trifle. You were chucked out of a dance at the University that you’d gate crashed and one of the new members of your gang passed out, so you put him to bed in Brynmill. I heard that you saw a van rocking a bit so you went and rocked it a bit more, then you beat it back to your cars. Then you were off to Colin’s place for a game of football in the Tudor Hall.'
'I know, Dad, but you're only young once. I bet you would'of done it when you were young.'
And he gets away with it, once again.
The following morning Watkin shakes out of it and goes to a job for Mervyn on a sound system at the St Helen’s Road stadium. Over a quiet pint in the ‘Cricketer’s’ at lunch time Watkin recalls the memories he had at the St Helen’s ground.
‘Do you remember the time Garfield Sobers hit six sixes for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan?’ he asks his pals.
‘It was at the end of the season in the game against Glamorgan that the Nottingham skipper, Sobers got into exciting, rumbustious form. Notts are 308 for 5 in their first innings, when Sobers decided it was time to get some quick runs before declaring the innings and give his bowlers an opportunity to win the match,’ Watkin recalls.
‘Malcolm Nash was the outmatched, county level player whose round the arm, left handed bowling didn’t even trouble the left-hander Garfield. He hit the first few for sixes, with the third landing in a garden behind the pavilion. The fourth is another big six. And then it looked as if he could go for the record of 36 runs in an over. On the fifth ball he makes a terrific hit and is caught but dropped over the boundary by Roger Davies for another six.’
Watkin is one of the many spectators calling out for a six, because it lands behind the boundary rope laid at the edge of the field just in front of him. The last ball results in a final six and Watkin is jumping up with his hands in the air to celebrate the historic record breaking achievement of Sir Garfield Sobers, as he is later knighted by the Queen. His score of 36 runs in an over broke a 57-year-old record of 34 runs, held by Ted Alleston.
‘And Clive Lloyd scored the fastest double-century on record when batting for the West Indians against Glamorgan in 76’, Watkin recalls.
‘It was at the St. Helen’s ground that a ball travelled the furthest in history – eighty miles’, Watkin recounts, finishing his jar.
‘A player had hit a ball beyond the stadium at the Mumbles Road end and it landed’, says Watkin,’ in a goods wagon travelling on the LNWR railway line alongside the Mumbles Road.’
‘The Llanelly Railway, supported by the LNWR, opened a single line from Pontarddulais to Swansea in 1866,’ Watkin explained.
‘Leaving the terminus at Swansea Victoria, the lines from the South Dock came in from the left. with the Swansea and Mumbles Railway parallel to it, but approaching Blackpill it crossed over the tramway on a stone bridge and turned North’, Watkin recounted.
‘It carried on to the Clyne river, with views of the Clyne Lake, Killay, under the arches to Dunvant, passing alongside the Dunvant Arms pub’ he said. ‘Departing Gowerton, it bridged the GWR main line and the Afon line, now all abandoned or turned into cycle lanes’, regretted Watkin with a sigh.
Watkin was like a guidebook when it came to details of the sporting events he’d seen with Swansea Sound Systems. Watkin told the group at the ‘Cricketer’s’ that on 10 April 1954, the St. Helen's field held its last international against New Zealand. The burly, huge farmers from the North Island brushed aside the short, wiry Welshmen and scored a massive victory. Watkin had been at the match as a schoolboy in a midweek game bunking off from school, and had been amazed at the speed and power of the All Blacks quarter backs and wings.
‘Their forwards were like Amazons and could ruck the Welsh boys out of the way with ease,’ he said.
It’d been a reminder to Watkin to develop himself physically as a player. ‘I must work on my abs, my thighs, my biceps and my five-pack,’ Watkin says. ‘To never again experience such an humiliation from New Zealand,’ Watkin explains.
They had wanted to keep Welsh international rugby at the St. Helen’s ground and Mervyn Jenkins erected four floodlight pylons at the ground to try to influence the Welsh RFU to keep playing internationals there.
‘The last international game was in that year, 1954’, Watkin regretted.
There were even tennis matches on rare sunny days at the pavilion end of the ground on the grass court prepared specially on the cricket pitch area in front of the 70-odd steps leading to the clubhouse. Fifteen love, thirty love, forty love, Deuce, Vantage, Game etc were the terms that Watkin learnt as a youngster who with his Mum, Dot, a former nurse who was a great tennis fan, followed the matches played out there on the sandy grass.
‘Swan Swan Swan sea sea sea All All All Whi Whi Whi ites ites ites again again again st st st Nea Nea Nea…’
Watkin is in the commentary box of the Neath rugby ground at the Gnoll trying to fix the sound system that’s in a cabin at the top of the stadium, right at the back of the cloisters. The microphone is on and Watkin, and his mate Cliff, are adjusting the sound level to bring it down to normal. He carries on not realizing that the mic is still on.
‘Merv is a twat twat twat’ ‘He’s not payin payin payin us enough’. He needs to get his act to to to gether gether gether’, stutters Watkin.
‘Cliff. D’you know my favorite place of all’ he asks. (All on the open mic.)
‘No. What’s that, Watkin?’
Watkin, a strong Neath supporter, replies.
‘Well, it’s Fforestfach. ‘Cos there’s a sign there that says:
‘Llanelli 9. Neath 12’
‘Have you heard this one?’
‘A ref comes on to the field and immediately sends a player off for deliberate handball’, Watkin continues.
‘Ref. You don’t know what you’re bloody doin’, the player shouts.
‘They all say that’, the ref replies. ‘OK boys; scrum down’, he says.’
‘Ryan Davies makes an appearance at the Top Rank in Swansea with his oppo, Ronnie Williams. The doorman stops him and asks him for his ticket.’
‘My face is my ticket’, Ryan says.
‘What happened next?’ Ronnie Williams said.
He punched it.’
By now the rugby crowd are falling about laughing, and Watkin has made himself into a standup comedian in front of the home side against the All Whites.
‘Later this evening we’re goin’ to the Neath Fair’ continues Watkin on mic.
‘I’m goin’ to fix up the sound for the boxing booth. I’m gonna see the bearded lady and the bare knuckle fightin’. I want to ‘ave a go on the dodgems and try my luck on the ‘oopla stall. We might end up with a few jars at the Castle Hotel, and I might even get lucky.’
‘Watkin. The sound is still on, Mun.’
‘Oh God’, panics Watkin and hastily switches off the mic.
‘The Neath Fair is an event which usually starts in the town centre on the second Wednesday of September every year, but in those days it was held on the recreation grounds on the Gnoll Park Road,’ Watkin explains to Cliff. ‘Before becoming the Victoria Gardens, the land on which it now stands went through many functions. It was owned by Henry John Grant, the occupier of Gnoll House, a ruined former aristocratic home in the Gnoll Woods above the town’, he informs him.
‘The Fair lasted four days and covered the whole of the Rec’ with attractions like the lions, the merry-go-round, sideshows and booths for various shows such as the two headed sheep and the genuine African Zulu.’
‘Roll up Roll up!’ announces the M. C. that evening over the loudspeakers hastily erected by the boys from Swansea Sound at the boxing booth.
‘Who’ll take on Jim Davies in a three round match, no holds barred and bare knuckles?’
Cliff steps up to the ring. They spar around for a bit and then Cliff throws a punch. Davies parries with his forearm and counterpunches Cliff on the chin in two quick jabs. After another wild lunge at the champ, Cliff is cut under the eye. There’s red blood everywhere on his face. Swooning and swaying under a barrage of knuckle punches Cliff is knocked out by Davies in the first sixty seconds of the bout.
‘Next. Next!’ Calls Watkin.
And another hearty from the crowd steps up, only to be defeated in the first round by a barrage of expertly aimed punches to the chest and head that cause the champ no apparent effort.
The boys limp home after one or two at the Castle Hotel and then a final nightcap in the large, smoke filled, front lounge at the Mackworth back at Swansea High Street.
At the Swansea Uplands rugby field in Killay on the way to Fairwood Common, with one shaky trumpet-shaped speaker hanging from a telephone pole, Watkin goes over to see to the tannoy.
Merv says: ‘Get that tannoy system fixed by one o‘clock.’
But Watkin can only think about Diane who he has met the night before at the dodgems. She is a twenty one year old blonde with pretty eyes and shiny, waved hair, tied up by an elastic band in a pony-tail. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a tight top that emphasised her figure. Watkin thinks he’s in love and spends the morning dreaming about her and wondering how he can arrange to meet her again.
Merv gets Watkin on the phone at the club and warns him that he wants the loudspeaker fixed ASAP, but there is a small bar at the club and Watkin has ensconced himself on a bar stool with a pint glass of Felinfoel best bitter.
‘Have you heard the one about the famous lecturer?’ he asks the barman.
‘He gave a lecture on sex’ explains Watkin taking a pull of his pint.
‘My idea is’, intones the professor ‘that the more often you have sex, the happier you are. Now to test out my theory I’m going to ask members of the audience how often they have sex.’
‘Can those who have sex every night put up their hands.’
A large crowd of happy, smiling, jovial people put up their hands.
‘OK. That seems to prove my point, but to test it out; can I ask how many people have sex twice a week?’
‘A good number, but smaller amount of people put up their hands. They were not quite so smiley and happy.’
‘So just to make sure; how many have it once a month?’ And a smaller group of less cheerful and even dowdy persons indicated in the positive.
‘Right. This seems to support my argument, but to be absolutely sure, let me ask how many people have sex once a year?’
And this badly dressed, unshaven man in a mackintosh at the back starts laughing and jumping up and down and gesticulating and shouting with his hands up in the air.
‘What’s this?’ asks the professor.
‘Tonight! ‘Tonight!’ the man screams.’
The barman finds it very funny and congratulates Watkin on his splendid joke.
The following week Watkin meets Diane at the Albert Hall cinema in Craddock Street. She’s late for a seven o’clock date, but Watkin doesn’t mind, because he’s really keen on her. She turns up in a light grey coat in nylons and high heels wearing a knitted red dress that emphasized her figure, her blond hair worn down. ‘You look smashing’, Watkin says.
They manage to find a couple of seats in the back row of the stalls where Watkin soon puts his arm around his new girlfriend and gets up nice and close.
‘Stop it, Watkin’, she protests rather feebly.
And Watkin goes on trying to get the kisses that he’s been yearning for since he met her in the dodgems where she was taking the money. She looked completely different from that day when dodging the dodgem cars in a pair of blue jeans, flashy red gym shoes and a skimpy top she had just seemed sassy and energetic but a bit loud, as she called out to the drivers to pay their fare for the dodgems.
She feinted a defensive blow to Watkin, but he responded quickly with another hug. It ended up with Diane’s makeup on his shirt and collar and a trace of her crimson lipstick on his cheek.
‘See you next week at the Mumbles Pier ballroom for the dancing, eight o’clock on Saturday night.’
‘Alright,’ Diane agrees warmly and Watkin strolls back home in a form of junior ecstasy, the words of ‘In the Summertime,’ ringing in his ears.
In the Summertime when the weather is high
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
When the weather's fine
You got women, you got women on your mind
Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find
If her daddy's rich, take her out for a meal
If her daddy's poor, just do what you feel
Copyright: Broadley Music (International), Associated Music International Ltd., Imagem Music LLC D/B/a O.B.O. Nokawi Music
Watkin is at a sound job at the Langland Bay golf course above Langland Bay in Mumbles. He’s showing off to his pals in the Swansea Sound van. He’s driving around the golf course car park to impress all his pals with his newly acquired driving skills. Watkin makes a swerving turn downhill. And the front wheel comes off running away into the distance, ending in a round open storm drain.
‘Hole in One!’ he exclaims, totally bemused in front of his friends.
‘Ok. I’ll fix up the van somehow before Mervyn finds out,’ he promises.
Later in the members’ bar room Watkin is up to his usual routines of a pint in hand and a ready joke on his tongue. One of the jokes he always used to tell goes:
‘The boy’s out courting with the girl…
‘Take your hand off my knee’
‘That’s not my hand’, the boy says.
‘That’s not my knee.’ the girl replies’.
‘Ha Ha Ha’ go the members in the bar room, getting accustomed to Watkin’s standup comedy style.
‘Have you heard the one about the guy who goes out to buy fresh food at the ‘E.coli foodstore’. They must have lost the n and the s at the end – E. Colins, right? ‘I wouldn’t eat anything there. Then there’s the one about the 'Noodle King’ restaurant where all the poufs go. Do you know the one about the guy who went to an emotional wedding? Even the cake was in tiers.’
Watkin tells the one about the Chinese restaurant. ‘A local Welsh guy goes back to the Chinese to complain about his chicken chow mein.’
‘Yes, Sir. Can I help you? What’s the matter with our westauwant food?’
‘This chicken is rubbery’, says the customer.
‘Oh. Thank you vewy much, Sir. That’s vewy kind of you.’’ Watkin mimics in his inimitable Chinese accent pretending to be unable to pronounce his letter Rs.
‘Let’s slip outside and get some fresh air,’ Watkin mentions suggestively to Diane at the Mumbles Pier ballroom right at the beginning of the pier, the following Saturday. They have danced a few foxtrots and waltzes to the strains of the Cordonaires dance band with Mike Jones on piano and got rather warm in their close embraces on the floor and off. To the tune of ‘Blue Moon. I saw you standing alone. Without a dream in my heart. Without a love of my own’, they stroll out into the warm evening air and descend down the steps to the little sandy beach formed by the lee of the two islands at the Mumbles Head, with the lighthouse on the outer island. Of course, the islands are only reachable at low tide.
‘I love you, Diane’ Watkin murmurs. He puts his arms around Diane and kisses her fondly. Her luminous, green ball gown revealing a fine pair of shoulders and an ample bosom.
‘I only want marriage, Watkin. I’m not interested in short term relationships. I believe in wedlock, children, a house and all the rest of it. You’re only taking life as a joke and you’ll never settle down.’
Watkin, somewhat reluctantly, agrees and after a few passionate kisses they wander back up the steps on the lovely summer evening with a cloudless sky and only a few clouds left on Watkin’s horizon.
‘You look great in drag, Watkin,’ the Swansea Sound boys say, and Watkin, in a three string pearl necklace, and his sister’s bra and short blue ballet tutu goes mincing into the Langland Court Hotel for a fancy dress dance the following Saturday. Diane is not particularly pleased:
‘Watkin, I thought you told me you were going to be more serious about things in future and work and save for us to settle down and get married.’
At the interval of the dances, he goes from table to table showing off in his sister’s outfit. ‘Watkin, you’re a right pouf’, one of his work colleagues retorts and suggests ‘Look Watkin you’re overdoin’ it, right wus. Cut it out and get back to your girlfriend.’ By now Watkin’s dark facial stubble is showing though his thinly applied makeup, his eye mascara is running, his high heeled shoes are broken, and he looks a sight for sore eyes.
On the way home to Brynhyfryd, in the Swansea Sound van, Diane says ‘I’m disappointed in you, Watkin, you promised me you would grow up and become more responsible. I could get a job in Lewis Lewis’s department store which has been advertised. My uncle knows Rosser Lewis, one of the managers there, and he can get me the job and we could save some money.’
‘OK. I’ll work harder at Swansea Sound Systems and start saving for a mortgage on our flat.’
Watkin starts the six o'clock shift that finishes at two. They install a sound system at the Victoria Road, Port Talbot ground. ‘Do you want some extra money for another work run, Watkin?’ asks the foreman.
‘OK, then.’ Off Watkin goes towards the Port Talbot football club again. The thought of settling down with Diane is beginning to bug him, and he’s strained and worried about the financial issues and the responsibilities of a settled life with her. The idea of taking on a mortgage is daunting, and he wonders if he’d rather just stay single; say ‘bugger it’ and be ‘one of the boys’ for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, despite his reluctance, he decides to go for the extra overtime to earn money for Diane. In a moment of tiredness and exhaustion, Watkin decides to take a short cut down the Hafod and along the Tawe River into the bottom of Wind Street. He’s driving the Swansea Sound truck and talking to Cliff:
‘This takes us along the Strand, one of the oldest riverside ports in Britain. This dark and weaving road runs under the town, below High Street, and travels right along the bank of the River Tawe,’ Watkin explains to Cliff, his mate on this trip.
Cliff goes ‘Sure you’re alright to drive, matey? You look done in to me…’
Forgetting that there is a railway tunnel with a curved arch to pass under en route, Watkin looks forward. There is a sign:
’Danger. Low Bridge. 9 Feet 2 inches’
‘There is the top of the arch. It seems high enough.’
‘I’ll try and pass under with the truck’ Watkin divines. What he doesn’t appreciate is that the curve of the arch has a narrow angle that is much lower than at the top.
'Look out! Watkin, for fuck's sake' shouts Cliff but it's too late. He strikes the corner of the bridge with some force, leaving debris and broken masonry everywhere. The impact throws him and Cliff forward onto the windscreen. Watkin looks through the clouds of dust and smoke wistfully and just spies his pal smirking:
‘Tidy short cut, butty...’
‘This lorry is a foot shorter now.’
They stagger in to the local warehouse of Superdrug to get help.
‘Why eh, boys. Are you alright?’ asks a nearby warehouseman who’s loading boxes into a van.
‘Yes. We’ll be OK.’ Watkin says ‘Would you like to buy some accident or life insurance, I can arrange it easy?’ he continues joking.
Mervyn Jenkins was not too pleased with the damage to his van:
‘I’m lucky I’ve got fully comp on all my lorries, but if this happens again I’ll have to sack you, Watkin’ he explains, and Watkin breathes again thinking about his mortgage.
‘Dai and his friend were walking along Aberdyberthi Street in the Hafod,’ recounts Watkin at the bar of the Felinfoel, Llanelli rugby club shortly after the accident. Watkin drives the Swansea Sound Systems van through the ironwork gates at the entrance in Ynys Wen Road, Llanelli, the famed corrugated iron home of Phil Bennett.
‘Dai and his friend are walking along chatting when, suddenly they see a man lying on the ground, apparently incapacitated. ’Oh, God. What’re we goin’ to do,’ asks Dai.’
‘‘We’d better phone the cops’, says his friend.’
‘OK, so Dai gets on the phone and dials 999.’
‘‘What service do you require?’ asks the operator.’
‘Ambulance, please,’ replies Dai.’
‘What is your name?’
‘What is your date of birth?’
‘20 June 1957.’
‘Where are you located?’
‘Aberdyberthi Street in the Hafod.
‘How do you spell that?’
Dai thinks for a minute and starts to spell:
‘A B E… Oh bugger it. Let’s drag him into New Street. It’s easier to spell…’
Watkin carries on with the patter and the work seems to fade into the background. ‘A transducer’, he explains,’ is a device what converts energy from one form into another and an amplifier is a device that takes a signal and increases its power.’
‘Do you know the ones about the Cardis from Cardiganshire?’ Watkin asks the barman and an assembled crowd of drinkers.
‘You know the Cardis have got this terrible reputation for being stingy, mean and calculating over money. Well this night, one of the Cardi boys is out on the town. The ladies of ill-repute always waited sitting down on the steps of St Illtyd’s church, and they wrote the price in chalk on the soles of their shoes where they could be seen by the passers-by.’
‘Our Cardi boy goes up to one of the ladies and explains ''If you do it by the Cardi method, I’ll pay you.’’
‘What do you mean ‘Cardi method?’’
‘Yes, I need to do it the Cardi way.’
‘‘Look, boyo, I’ve been with a lot of men, but I’ve never heard of the Cardi method’, she continues.’
‘‘No. No. Unless you do it by the ‘Cardi method’ I wouldn’t go with you.’’
“O K, then. I’ll do it for half price, if you insist on your Cardi method.’’
‘‘Got it!’ the Cardi exclaims.’
‘You know the reputation of the Cardis as being mean and sheep shaggers and all that…’ Watkin continues.
‘So what do you call a Cardi who’s in charge of 39 sheep?’
‘Let’s go out to ‘Ron’s Rendezvous’ in Limeslade next week’, Diane suggests. There’s a jazz group with the Ken Colyer Jazzmen and we can jive’.
‘O K’ agrees Watkin.
Diane and Watkin do a great jive at the concrete, cliff top venue and Diane is wearing her red rubber gym shoes that she wears on the dodgems. She’s in a pony tail and jeans and looks fit and energetic, carrying on dancing after all the others are exhausted. They dance to ‘All the Girls Go Crazy About the Way I Walk', dance slow time to Ken Colyer’s clarinet solo of 'Just a Closer Walk with Thee' and go flat out to ‘Maryland, My Maryland'. At the end of the evening, Diane issues an ultimatum to Watkin:
‘Either we get married by next Spring or we can call it off.’
At the Top Rank to see Bonny Tyler performing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, ‘It’s a Heartache’, and ‘Holding Out for a Hero’
Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
Copyright: Sony/ATV Melody t
And, of course, Diane knows Gaynor Hopkins from Skewen as was, as they were in school together in Llansamlet Secondary school. They go backstage after the gig and share a champagne supper with Gaynor and her husband, Bob Sullivan, who is a black belt and First Dan in Judo.
‘Lovely to see you again, Diane,’ says Bonny Tyler putting her arms around Diane and giving her a good hug, while Watkin and Bob Sullivan shake hands warmly and exchange a few of Watkin’s never ending jokes:
‘What d’you call a Swedish pop group in Wales, Bob?’
‘Aber’ Watkin replies, taking a puff on his fag.
‘Lettuce’ Watkin says.
‘Lettuce who?’Bob asks.
‘Lettuce in it’s cold outside.’
‘I’m playing away for my club, Dunvant RFC, against the London Welsh Occasionals in Richmond London’, Watkin tells Diane.
‘Oh, Wat, you said you were going to come and look at flats next Saturday,’ she wailed.
‘No, No, Di I’ll soon be back, it’s only for a day, and we can go looking for accommodation for when we’re married after.’
The boys travel to London, Paddington by train and get bus numbers 27 and 33 to the London Welsh Richmond rugby ground. The field, containing five pitches, is lush and well tended, with a magnificent clubhouse that even serves dinners, and they meet Clifford the Club Secretary who has been there since the year dot. He’s almost better at jokes than Watkin and soon starts his patter:
‘We aren’t calling them the All Blacks this season.’
‘We are calling them New Zealand.’
‘New Zealand is a crappy little island in the South Seas’ Clifford continues, giggling.
‘Of course it troubles me. If the All Blacks are Invincible, I mean, it’s obvious. If we can’t see them we can’t beat them,’ Cliff argues.
After the match, won by the Welsh Londoners 21 to 3 (a try was three points in those days) Watkin takes his shower, has a quick pint of Watneys cask bitter in the clubhouse, and then the boys split up to attend various parties hosted by the wives and girlfriends of the expatriate players. There’s plenty of booze and an endless supply of fags, so Watkin has a good time and only just makes it to the last train from Paddington at twenty-past midnight.
‘What have you been up to in London, Watkin? Did you go out with any of those girls from the rugby club? I don’t trust you, Watkin.’ Diane is moody, temperamental and jealous and continues to be petulant for some time.
‘All I want is a home, a garden for the kids to run and play; perhaps save up for a car and one day move to a bigger house. It’s not a dream, Watkin, it’s just normal life’ she carries on the next time they meet.
By now Watkin is feeling challenged, a little depressed, yet still determined to create the dream home for Diane and their potential kids. He imagines a fine house in Wimmerfield, Killay and a Ford Capri in the driveway, with every Saturday taking the kids to the Cadle woods for adventures, or going to Brynmill Park to visit the zoo. ‘Perhaps I could set up my own business in sound systems, now I’ve a little experience in the trade. I could use my savings of four hundred pounds to get the mortgage and put a deposit on a small flat at least,’ he thinks, supping his beer in the Dunvant rugby club bar room, while Diane carries on with her makeup in the ladies, and Dai Vaughan, the chairman, is busy cracking his jokes.’
Meanwhile, Diane has accepted an invitation from her boss at Lewis Lewis department store, where she is now working as a sales assistant, to go flying in his Cessna private aeroplane over to Cardiff and back for a joyride that he gives to members of staff from time to time. Secretly, Cliff informs Watkin that he has heard about the flight with Rosser Lewis, the Manager, and has whispered in his ear that he needs to keep an eye on Diane in case she wanders.
After the stadium seating at Maesteg rugby ground collapses, fortunately without any injuries, Mervyn insists that Watkin has to rush over to Maesteg to attend to the planking and the hardboard runways to replace them with a better quality of woodwork to meet the specifications that the Health and Safety officer had laid down. Later on at the clubhouse Watkin continues with his usual patter:
'What do they do with teetotallers in Glasgow on Saturday night? They throw them in to the pubs.
‘You know the crachach in Wales, they have their second holiday home in a council house in Cardiff Bay.’
‘That’s the crachach for you! They have low alcohol lager louts!’ Watkin ploughed on, a fag in the corner of his mouth:
You know, that’s the crachach. They even have a campaign for real champagne,’ Watkin jokes.
‘My father was a late developer. I watched him grow up. I learned to walk before he did, and I could smoke before he knew how to…’
‘I just bought a new convertible. Well, I converted it myself – from a Ford Anglia,’ he laughs clutching his beer in case of spilling it.
‘This motorist was explaining to the judge:’
‘The pedestrian was running all over the place. He had no way to go. He wasn’t looking. So I run him over.’
'The motorist told the judge, 'I knocked a man down. He admitted to me that it was his fault. He'd been knocked down before.' People laugh quite well at that one, too.
‘Let’s go down the Tivoli Ballroom, Mumbles, and on the way we can call in at the High Street casino for the roulette,’ laughs Watkin. ‘You know, the one that Ron McKay and Don Bateman have opened with the proceeds from their demob money.’ So, the Friday evening Watkin escorts Diane to the casino and, with a glass of Double Diamond for him and a Dubonnet for her, Watkin starts on the tables. ‘I’ll go for red,’ Watkin smiles, sipping his drink.
‘No, black!’ Diane cries, her mouth full of Dubonnet.
Watkin still puts all the chips on the red and wins.
‘I’ll go again,’ and he wins again.
This time the ball can’t possibly fall on red. But, after a few agonizing clicks and clunks, it does, and Watkin collects a hundred pounds. ‘Third time lucky, Diane, and I’ll put the money with my savings of four hundred pounds as a deposit on that flat above Dick Barton’s fish and shop in West Cross.’
‘Mr Brownleigh, can you arrange a mortgage on a flat in Mumbles?’ Watkin enquires at the Provincial Building Society in the Kingsway.
‘Well, as you’ve got some regular savings with us, we could use your deposit of five hundred pounds and give you a twenty-five year loan at twelve percent,' he explains carefully looking at Watkin. 'You can borrow three thousand pounds, but don’t forget, Mr Davies, you’ll end up repaying over double what you borrow in interest on the capital, and your home can be repossessed if you default on the repayments. If you did discharge the mortgage in the first few years, there would be serious financial penalties for doing so.’
‘Ok, I’ll go ahead,’ agrees Watkin, with a big lump in his throat and, after the paperwork and formalities are completed, he goes out to a red public telephone box in the street to relay the news to Diane, at Lewis Lewis’s.
‘Try to put more paint on them rollers, Di’ Watkin calls out from the top of his ladder where he is maintenance the frieze and fixing a picture rail on the newly plastered wall of their new flat in West Cross. Alright, they have to enter by the fish and chip shop, but once inside they are in the cocoon of a loving home, newly set up for the young couple who want to make their way in life.
‘Wat, I’m doing my best’ calls up Diane, whose top and jeans are all smeared in paint from her exertions with the roller. She’s even got the lilac coloured emulsion on her red gym shoes and the smell of the Dulux gloss and emulsion paints is overpowering. Watkin’s Dad, who has also offered to help with the maintenance, is finding the fumes from the paint distressing and decides to return home, not feeling well.
Although he’s worried about his Dad, Watkin keeps on joking.
‘Who’s there?’ replies Di wiping some more paint from her cheek.
Honey bee who?
Honey bee a luv and get me a coffee.’
‘O K. Let’s stop for a cup of coffee, then Wat’ Diane offers, and they pass into the back kitchen where a strong pot of steaming coffee is soon bubbling away on the stove.
‘Knock, Knock!’ repeats Watkin.
‘Who's there?’ Diane kids on.
‘Yacht who?’ asks Diane still rubbing paint from her face.
‘Yacht a know me by now!’ They fall about laughing, but Wat is too worried about his Dad to go any further with Diane, as he was feeling like before Mr Davies had arrived. ‘Right, let’s tidy up now and finish the work, and we can go out for a meal somewhere,’ he says drawing Diane closer towards him and touching her paint covered face with his fingers in order to bring home the point.
Watkin struggles to get to his next job which is at Stradey Park, Llanelli, the famous home of the Scarlets. ‘Llanelli have played in red since 1884 when they played a game against a touring side from Ireland,’ Watkin informs Cliff. After assembling the new sound system quite quickly now that the speakers are getting smaller, Watkin settles down in the bar room of the club where he starts his usual jokes routine:
‘Ianto, a furniture dealer from Pontypridd, decided to expand the range of furniture in his store. So he decided to travel to Paris to see what he could buy.
After arriving in Paris, he visited some furniture makers and bought a range of furniture he thought would sell well back home in Wales. To celebrate the newly acquired line, he decided to visit a bar and have a glass of wine. As he sat sipping his wine, he noticed that the small place was quite crowded. He also noticed that the other chair at his table was the only available seat in the café bar.’
‘Before long, a beautiful, young Parisienne came to his table, and asked him something in French (which Ianto couldn’t understand). So he pointed to the empty chair and invited her to sit down. He tried to speak to her in English, but she didn’t speak his language. After a couple of minutes of trying to communicate with her, he took a paper serviette, drew a picture of a wine glass, and showed it to her. She nodded, so he ordered a glass of wine for her. After sitting together at the table for a while, he took another serviette, and drew a picture of a plate with food on it, and she nodded.’
‘They left the cafe bar and found a quiet restaurant that featured a small band playing romantic French music. They ordered dinner, and after that he took another paper napkin and drew a picture of a couple dancing. She nodded, and they got up to dance. They danced until the restaurant closed and the band was packing up. Back at their table, the young woman took another serviette and drew a picture of a four-poster bed on it.’
And now Watkin delivers his punch line:
’To this day, Ianto has no idea how she worked out he was in the furniture business.’ It got quite a good laugh.
His next, Essex blonde, joke come riddle required a bit of imagination and guesswork to work it out:
‘A few days ago Dave was having some work done at his local garage. An Essex blonde came in and asked for a ‘seven-hundred and ten’. They all looked at each other and another customer asked, 'What is a seven-hundred and ten?’
She answered ‘You know, the little piece in the middle of the engine, I have lost it and need a new one.'
‘She continued that she didn’t know exactly what it was, but this piece had always been there. The mechanic gave her a piece of paper and a pencil and asked her to draw what the part looked like. She drew a circle and in the middle of it wrote the figures 710. He then took her over to a car just like hers which had its bonnet up and asked, 'Is there a 710 on this car?'’
‘She pointed and said, 'Of course, it’s right there.’ The mechanic nearly died.’
Watkin helped a few of the slower boys and said ’It was upside down, right?’ That got a good chuckle as well.
Watkin travels in to Mervyn Jenkins’ office in the former warehouse of T. T. Thomas’s lemonade and pickled onions in Union Street, where a faint aroma of lemons and onions still lingered. Tommy Farr, the boxer, also maintained an office there. Watkin had a job on the ‘pop’ lorry of Thomas Thomas when he was a teenager; and he used to have a Saturday job cleaning T. T. Thomas’s Jaguar. He would wash it down and leather it carefully and meticulously with a chamois until the bonnet was gleaming enough to see his own face in it.
Watkin recalled: ‘Tommy Farr was the Welsh heavyweight champion who’d challenged for the world title against the American fighter Joe Louis in 1937 and had given Louis one of the toughest fights of his whole career. He’d lost the fight after fifteen rounds but the referee’s decision was loudly booed by the crowd, who’d regarded Tommy as the winner. My Mum has always been an admirer of Tommy Farr and remembered him from her days when nursing in the Rhondda Valley.’
‘There are five birds sitting on a fence. The farmer shoots one. How many birds are left’ goes Watkin off on his jokes again.
‘A red house is red, a blue house is blue. What colour is a greenhouse?’
‘How many eggs does a cockerel lay?’
This time, no one is laughing and Watkin’s jokes are getting tamer and tamer. He’s not on form and worrying about his Dad, who's in hospital, his mortgage and, most of all, whether Diane is going to remain faithful to him.
‘Is there any chance of more overtime?’ Watkin asks Vernon.
‘Not at the moment, son. Things are pretty quiet now that the price of fuel has increased with the Arabs quadrupling the oil price.’
I could set up my own business in sound systems, buy a van, and try to earn more money that way.’ Wat explains to Diane. ‘I’ll subcontract to Mervyn Jenkins and get the jobs he doesn’t want to do up the valleys and around Carmarthen,’ says Watkin.
Mervyn agrees to sub contract out a job in the Ammanford Town football stadium at the West Wales club which plays in the Welsh League. Mervyn sells him a new sound system that he gets cheap from another club and Watkin puts it in and repairs some of the planking at the ground. After a hard couple of weeks at Ammanford, Watkin declares to Diane ‘I’m making good money now and we should be able to afford that house in Wimmerfield Avenue before long.’
Watkin takes his van up to Glynneath, Hirwaun and Merthyr looking for clubs to sell sound systems. He calls in to the Merthyr football club which was based at the Pennydarren Park ground in Merthyr Tydfil playing in the Welsh League.
‘This English guy says ‘I had a go at playing rugby the other day.’’
‘Everyone kept on saying ‘nice try.’’
‘Snooty bastards…’ Watkin is back in form at the Merthyr football clubhouse, where he is ensconced in the bar, a half pint of Guinness in his hand and a roll up fag, to save money, in the corner of his mouth.
‘The wife had a go at me yesterday, saying that I needed to learn my boundaries. I already knew that if it bounces before it crosses the rope it's a Four, and if it doesn't it's a Six. Simple,’ Watkin goes, sipping his Guinness.
‘Did you know that a man’s ‘I’ll be home in five minutes’ and a woman’s ‘I’ll be ready in five minutes’ are exactly the same thing?’ Watkin laughs out loud, thinking of Diane as he spoke.
Watkin lands a big contract at Dowlais rugby club on the A465 to Merthyr. He gets Cliff to come over to work for him and they set out up the Neath valley to Dowlais. They spend a week there assembling stand flooring and they put in a sound system that Watkin has bought from Marconi systems in London.
'The Marconi Company' Watkin tells Cliff, 'was a British telecommunications and engineering company that went under that name from 1897 until the present day,’ Watkin informs the entire bar room at Dowlais, 'The company was founded by the Italian Guglielmo Marconi.'
‘And their equipment is very good' he assures the rugby club committee assembled to listen to Watkin talking. The committee endorses Watkin's contract and the chairman asks him 'Can you install further sound equipment in the clubhouse and entertainment areas?' Watkin replies that he would be delighted to do that, and arranges with Cliff for him to bring up a couple of his mates to work for Watkin in Dowlais. He only manages a couple of jokes that evening, as the pressure of work and business is getting to him. 'What do you call a man with a car on his head?' 'Dunno,' the crowd replies. 'Jack,' Wat explains, laughing a little distractedly and taking a puff on his roll up.
‘There was a local derby and the kicker was Morgan, the full back,’ Wat goes. There was a pelanty and he took the kick with great care, but struck the upright and the ball bounced back. ‘Jesu! Dieu Yunol’ he cried, swearing in Welsh. The referee, the Reverend Eli Jenkins, says ’Look you, there’s no need for profanity. Just say ’Help me Lord.’’
Watkin continues, ‘Then there’s another pelanty right in front of the posts, and Morgan takes it again with even greater care. He marks his spot, he makes a place with a divot and he takes great deliberation over the delivery of his kick. He strikes the ball, but he slices it and it goes careering away towards the corner flag about a yard off the ground and he says ‘Ohf…’ and he just remembers in time to say. ‘Help me Lord.’ Then the skies darken, and there is a crack of thunder, and the ball shudders and swerves and changes direction and climbs towards the posts and goes over. And the Rev Eli Jenkins says ‘Bleeding Hell’’.
'Hello, again, Mr Brownleigh, can you arrange a mortgage on a semi in Killay?’ Watkin enquires again at the Provincial Building Society. ‘Well, Mr Davies as you’re in business yourself now and you can raise capital on the flat in West Cross, we can lend you, including your current mortgage, seven thousand pounds but you will need a bridging loan to bridge the gap on the debt coming due on the flat before you exchange contracts, but it is considerably more expensive than a normal loan. So at twelve percent APR your repayments will be two hundred and eighty-four pounds ten shillings and sixpence a month over five years.
‘Alright, Mr Brownleigh, I’ll take it for the house in Wimmerfield Avenue that I have located and I’d like to take out some insurance in the event of my business going down at any future point.’
Coming out into the Kingsway, Wat meets up with Cliff and they pop into the Top Rank for half a pint of bottled IPA. ‘Wat, you know when you’re out all these late evenings in Merthyr, well, I hear that Diane has been slipping out to the West Cross hotel for a Dubonnet with ice and lemon, and is quite friendly with a couple of the locals.’
‘Not to worry, eh, Cliff?’
Together Cliff and Wakin take off in the van for Dowlais to carry on the installation of the sound system.
Stopping off for a swift half at ‘the Greyhound’ in Glynneath, (it was before drink and drive) they settle down in one of the booths. Cliff cannot help overhearing a young couple in the next cubicle talking sweet nothings.
‘But Dai, does you really love me?’
‘No, but Dai, does you really, really love me.’
‘Sure I do, love’
‘But how does I know you loves me?’
Dai thinks for a minute: ‘Shags you and buys you chips don’I?’
Before long, Watkin bumps into Max Boyce at the bar. ‘How’re you, Max’, he goes.
‘Fine thanks, I’m working the clubs, now’.
‘Didn’t I work with you and Mervyn Jenkins at the Metal Box factory in the Melyn, Neath?’ Max enquires, with his usual twinkle.
‘Aye Aye, and you were a joker even then, Max.’
‘Is it alright if I use some of your material in my jokes, Max?’
‘Aye, Aye wus,’ Max laughs. ‘I pinch a lot of my material as well, Wat,’ he goes, laughing his head off. The whole place was caught up in Max’s infectious laughs. Even the greyhound was laughing.
‘D’ye know, Rob,’ he tells a Max Boyce joke at the Dowlais venue, ‘It’s gone I can’t remember anything. I can’t remember where my car keys are, I can’t find my glasses, I don’t even remember where we went on holiday last year.’
‘Wat’, he says ‘what’s the name of that leafy green stuff that grows around the walls on those big, old houses?’
‘Ivy, Rob.’ ‘That’s right,’ I said.’ ‘Ivy… Where did we go on holidays last year?’
‘Can you imagine,’ he continues ‘If Wales won the international. If Jenkins won a drop pelanty in the dying seconds and won the game for them, they’d make a sixty foot bronze statue of him. His mother’s home help would get the OBE’ he laughs.
Laughing on: ‘Children would have a year off school, the ‘Evening Post’ would bring out a free three hundred and sixty five page supplement, the Ospreys would become a protected species and the Pope would visit Cwm Rhondda.’
Rubbing his ear while thinking, he reminisces: ‘We were so poor in them days, there were no inside toilets. It would be terrible of a night, when cold in bed, and wanting to go for a pee, you'd have to climb downstairs and go out into the back garden in all kinds of weather. You had to hold the toilet door closed, in case anybody came, with your foot. Trouble was the door opened outwards.’
‘We were so poor we couldn’t afford name tags – you know, those printed names at the back of your coat collar, so your stuff could be identified in school - I used to tell people my name was ‘St. Michael,’’ he jokes, pint in hand and taking another sup.
After a few moments while the laughter dies down, he continues: ‘On my first day in school my Mum took me down the school and left me at the school gates. ‘Mum. Where’re you goin?’ ‘I looked through the school fence and said to her: How long do I have to stay in school, Mum? ‘Till you’re fifteen’, she said. ‘Till I’m fifteen? Oh, my God’, I said. ‘You won’t forget to come and fetch me will you, Mum?’
‘We had the scholarship exam and I couldn’t answer the questions. They asked me: ‘What is ‘the station fly?’’ ‘I knew what a fly was. So I answered – an insect on the railway,’ he goes, baffled at the muted response.
Not worrying too much at the reception of that one, he continues: ‘Another question was ‘’Where is Hadrian’s Wall?’’ I answered ‘In Adrian’s garden’. ‘Well I knew my friend, Adrian, had a wall in his back garden,’ he chuckles, his infectious laugh causing him to knock over his glass.
‘I’ll get Mike Henwood to move us up to Killay, and Col from the Langland Court has promised to use his Jeep to move some of our stuff.’ ‘O K’ says Diane, ‘but don’t forget I’m working on Saturday.’
‘That’s alright. I’ll move the main furniture on Saturday morning, and maybe we can go back for any of your bits and pieces on Saturday night, because the other people are moving in.’
Now, at last, Wat and Di have a semi in a posh part of town, a car and two vans in the drive and a good neighbourhood in which to plan a family. ‘Are you ready to think about starting a family, Di?’
’Well you’re away so much and so tired every evening, I’m not sure we can manage it,’ Diane retorts, rather suspiciously, Watkin feels in his bones.
‘You haven’t touched me for weeks, and you know how lonely I get in the house on my own all the time… ’
‘All the time? That’s not what I’ve heard.’ Wat complains, his arms around her and an affectionate tone still in his voice.
‘Being Welsh’ Watkin goes, back at the Dowlais clubhouse, ‘It’s so wet. I was eight before I realised you could take your anorak off,’ he jokes to some amusement.
‘In the bible it says ‘God made it rain for forty days and forty nights.’ ‘It was still the best Summer on record,‘ he chuckles.
Drawing on his fag, he continues ‘Good God, ‘That year was one of the best summers we’ve ever had, we had to go down Caswell swimming to get wet, and there was even a hose pipe ban!’
‘The Welsh are such optimistic people. Every day they go out without a hat or an umbrella, and every day they get soaked to the skin’ he says reaching for his pint.
‘It’s so wet in Wales, my toes have turned into webbed feet,’ he goes, showing his foot to the crowd.
Trying harder this time, he goes hand on head: ‘It’s so cold in Wales, I didn’t know you could go swimming without a hat and scarf.’
‘I thought I’d join the navy and see the world. Go somewhere drier!’ he carries on, still dragging on his Woodbine.
‘It’s not easy, you know. My wife run off with the milkman. He turned up on his electric milk float and off they went. It was the worst three hours of my life. They stopped at every house in the street,’ Wat says, still wondering about Diane. ‘When I was born, my father took one look at me and left home muttering dark things about my family,’ joked Watkin, in his bell bottom, flared jeans and Cuban heeled shoes.
‘I’ll take you to the Shirley Bassey concert at the Empire theatre in Cardiff.’ Watkin consoles Diane, and offers to drive her to Cardiff on the following evening. They take an early evening dinner at the Castle hotel and go on to the well attended concert in Shirley’s home town afterwards. Shirley, who’s from Tiger Bay’s most memorable song is ‘Goldfinger’:
‘He's the man, the man with the Midas touch.
A spider's touch,’
©Sony/ATV Songs LLC
which Wat loved, followed by ‘This is My Life’ which had Diane in tears:
‘Funny how a lonely day, can make a person say:
What good is my life
Funny how a breaking heart, can make me start to say:
What good is my life
Funny how I often seem to think I'll never find a dream
In my life
Till I look around and see, this great big world is part of me
And my life
This is my life.’
© S.I.A.E. Direzione Generale
Shirley does one set in her tight fitting, red, sleeveless dress and another in her shimmering, full length, sequined, evening gown with a train. She brings the house down with the performance of ‘La Vita’, the original of ‘My Life’, and her exuberance, vocal power, and energy is enchanting. After the show, they go to the stage door to cheer Shirley as she emerges into her limousine, and she graciously signs Diane’s concert programme ‘To Diane With Love from Shirley’ with a proffered biro. ‘You know Shirley’s daughter, Samantha, and my niece Emily are friends in school at Cheltenham, Di?’ Wat suggests.
‘Have you heard this one, Di?’ Wat says in the car going back on the A48 via Bridgend and Cowbridge to Swansea: ‘There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman and they were sent to prison. Each was given a last wish that they could choose one thing that they were promised they would be allowed to take with them into prison. The Englishman chose a woman, the Scotsman asked for whiskey, and the Irishman, cigarettes. When they came out, fifteen years later, the Englishman had a lot of babies, the Scotsman was drunk and the Irishman said ‘Have you got a light…’’
‘We’ll stop off at Ron McKay’s all night café ‘The Macabre’ in Mansel Street for a final coffee’ Wat offers. ‘It’s a weird place with coffins for tables, skull and crossbones on the walls, imitation cobwebs made from netting hanging from the walls and solemn and eerie music piped from the loudspeakers that I put in,’ says Wat.
‘How did you enjoy the show, Di?’ Wat asks, above the noise of the late night morticians. ‘Loved it’ answers Diane, ‘Especially ‘This is My Life’ that made me cry.’
‘Why was that, Di?’
‘I feel so lonely these nights when you’re away.’
‘All right, Di I’ll change, don’t worry. Cliff will be doing a lot of the evening work now, and I’ll be at home more. I promise.’
‘O K, then Wat’ Diane confirmed.
‘I’ll go and see Reg Bateman, the travel agent who does all the Butlins holiday camp bookings and we’ll go on holiday to the Filey site in Pwllheli that Billy Butlin took over from the Admiralty after World War 11 to build two new holiday camps,’ enthuses Wat, but still worried if he can work a reconciliation of Diane’s problems with him.
Now Watkin has got a new job at Merthyr rugby club who play in the East league. It’s maintenance of the stands, but he doesn’t mind, because it’s good solid work. Back in the clubhouse, Wat does another stand up.
‘Before I start, I have something to say.’ he begins. ‘My name is Wat, and I’m a comic. I wasn’t always a comic, of course. I started telling jokes very young. As an adolescent I had a few weak jokes. My early Christmas jokes went down quite well, so I started telling jokes on my own. At birthdays, and at a wedding, I embarrassed myself by telling something a bit too strong. I felt terrible the next day,’ he gulps. ‘But that didn’t stop me much. I began joking earlier and earlier in the day. I even did jokes in the toilet for myself. I was turning into a jokeaholic’.
Then Watkin adds. I even applied to be admitted to a joke free zone, and that’s why I’ve been in Merthyr rugby club ever since.’ ‘No, no boys I’m only joking…’ he counters:
To the tune of ‘Sospan Fach’
‘Don’t hit me,
I am begging you please.
Don’t punch me,
I’m begging on my knees
A'r gath wedi sgrapo Joni bach.’
‘I’m selling these radios below cost price,’ he continues.
‘’How can you make money like that?’ one of the punters enquires.’
‘He said ‘repairing them.’’ ‘And I laughed so much I nearly bought one.’
‘I’m running a sperm bank but business is very slow,’ he offers. ‘Nobody gives a toss.’
‘People from Cwmbran are very easy going, Wat goes, sipping his usual pint. A woman invites in a man, Dai Hopkins, who is her neighbour, and they end up in bed. The wife is bare on the bed and suddenly, unexpectedly, the husband turns the key in the front door lock and comes in to collect something. She hides Dai in the wardrobe quickly, closes the door, and then tries to dress. The husband enters the bedroom, and finds the woman undressed. He goes ‘What are you doing?’’
‘He opens the door of the wardrobe and finds Dai and says… ‘Hello Dai. How’re you?’’
The redcoats at Butlins holiday camp have a good line in patter, too. ‘Hello campers. Welcome to Butlins, Pwllheli. Heidi Heidi Ho! Have a nice day!’ they call over the tannoy. Moved into the chalet, Watkin and Diane get settled in their bunk beds. After high tea in the mass dining area, where at communal tables brown bread and butter and cream cakes are served by waitresses on tiered cake stands and huge, brown pots of tea are poured out into china mugs. And when it’s time to go out for the evening, they join the karaoke sing song and joke festival.
One of the redcoats starts the evening with Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly with Me’, ‘Fly me to the Moon’, and ‘Chicago.’ ‘Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town’ / Chicago, Chicago, I will show you around.’
Another redcoat lady does Liza Minelli’s ‘Cabaret’:
‘I used to have this girlfriend called Elsie
With whom I shared a sort of room in Chelsea.
She wasn’t what you’d call a blushing flower
As a matter of fact she rented by the hour.’
© Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd.
The chief redcoat, Bertie Dean, takes off on his routine:
‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Butlins holiday camp. We hope you enjoy this evening’s entertainment. Tomorrow we have the Butlins holiday bathing beauty contest at the outdoor, full length, Olympic sized, heated swimming pool, followed by the children’s races.’
‘There’s Ivy Greenstreet from Norfolk, she’s a bit flat.’
‘We have Holly Grey from Priory, South West Dorset; she’s something of a monk’s habit.’
‘There’s Jane Plowright from Exeter, she’s a Devon cream tart. Ha ha ha,’ he went.
‘After the knobbly knees competition, at 2 p. m. the Boy Scouts band will be making an exhibition of themselves on the recreation area. And at 3 p.m. there’s the Punch and Judy show and music at the playing field with Randolpho and his orchestra. Then the Jayne Mansfield lookalike competition is taking place in the ballroom,’ he continued.
‘That reminds me’ he says. ‘There were these survivors on a life raft and the boat was sinking; so they had to decide who to throw overboard to save weight. There was Mickey Mouse, Jayne Mansfield and Winston Churchill. Who did they throw out? Jayne Mansfield – she’s got built in water wings.’ That got a good laugh.
’Then, folks, at 4 p.m. it’s the gymnastics from the boys in blue gymnastic team.’ In the evening, it’s a choice of the Hawaiian Night or jiving to Clive Silver’s rock ‘n roll band,’ he concluded.
Di and Wat opt for the Miss Butlins beauty contest, and Wat says ‘Shall we have a swim at the pool, and after that go jiving?’ Di is sweetly compliant, ‘Yes, Wat, that’s fine for me,’ she coos. Their day results in a feeling of harmony and enjoyment. ‘Are you are happy at the holiday camp, Di?’ and Di says ‘Yes,’ and after a moment’s thought, ‘I love you, Wat. I can’t wait to start a family.’ They spend the last night, however, on their individual bunk beds in the chalet, exhausted from their jiving and an energetic day out in the open. They leave on the camp bus on the Saturday morning for Pwllheli station and take the train via Telford, Shropshire, Hereford, Newport and Cardiff to Swansea. Arrived home, they make long passionate love,
‘Yes, Yes, Yesss, Oh Wat…’
and Di falls asleep, tired and satiated. Wat, strained and concerned about the future, dozes only intermittently.
Back at work the following Monday in Merthyr rugby club, Wat does a morning on the maintenance with Cliff and goes:
‘I’m into fine French wines now. There’s Vouvray, Montrachet, Dubonnet, but my favourite little wine is a Welsh one: Pont ar du lais.’
‘I had a dog once. A Rottweiler. Well, it was half Rottweiler and half sheepdog. It used to round up the sheep together – and then kill them.’ ‘No, no,’ he insists looking around to see the reaction.
‘I came home last evening, Wat continues, ‘and my wife was in tears.’
She said ‘I made you a lovely meat pie, and the dog has eaten it.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘We’ll get another dog.’
‘This girl meets this boy and she says ‘My boyfriend’s a brain surgeon. Only trouble is, he’s just an apprentice and he has to start at the bottom – he’s a hospital porter,’ he continues with Cliff laughing appreciatively.
Wat explains to the club members in the bar, ‘I had to fill in this form and it said, ‘Sex?’’ ‘I put ‘Yes, please.’
After an interval for a few pints, Wat comes out with one of his favourite gags: ’What’s the difference between a bishop and a man taking a bath?’
‘One has got his soul full of hope…’ he pauses, ‘and the other‘s got his hole full of soap’ he chuckles.
'Mr Davies, we're terribly sorry, but we have lost your father after the operation,’ the matron at Singleton hospital, Miss Charles, in starched tunic and white headdress, explains to Watkin and Diane who have attended an appointment to discuss the progress of their parent who is undergoing an operation for cancer.
‘He was doing well with the radiotherapy, but the surgeon found an inoperable carcinoma in his bladder the size of an egg that has resulted, unfortunately, in his death under the anaesthetic.'
With a sob, Watkin attempts to say something in reply to her.
‘Thank you, Miss Ch...’ but is overcome with emotion. Diane asks 'Wasn’t there anything they could do?'
'Sadly with the present state of the cancer technology, we were unable to save him. In a few years’ time the medical procedures will undoubtedly be improved, but I know that is no consolation to you, Mr and Mrs Davies,' Miss Charles offered, sympathetically, straightening her tunic and headdress.
‘We’ll have to look after my Mum a lot more now, and what with there being no inheritance – Dad was with the council and there is only the burial fund,’ Wat explains travelling back to Wimmerfield Avenue in the car, Diane sobbing silently.
One year later, Wat has been presented with a new son and heir. He’s taking a short on his way home from a job in Carmarthen at the ‘Marquis’ in Fforestfach and back to his old form: ‘My wife’s just had a baby’ he goes, sipping his whiskey. ‘They showed me around in the maternity ward at Fairwood Hospital, and I saw all those babies bawling their heads off with their mouths wide open. They asked me to select mine. I chose a vase.’
‘But I still enjoy sex after the baby was born, Yes, next door,’ he continues on his second whiskey.
‘A man goes to the doctor.’ ‘I'm afraid I have some very bad news, the doctor says. ‘You're dying, and you don't have much time left.’
‘Oh, that's terrible! says the man. "How long have I got?’
‘Ten,’ the doctor says sadly.
‘Ten?’ the man asks. ‘Ten what? Months? Weeks? What?’
‘Nine, eight...’ Wat goes, looking at the second hand on his watch.
Ordering a third whiskey, Wat continues, ‘A married man was having an affair with his secretary. One day, their passions became too much for them and they went to her house, where they made love madly all afternoon. Exhausted from the fantastic sex, they fell asleep, awakening around 7pm. As the man put on his clothes, he told the woman to take his shoes outside and rub them through the grass and mud. Puzzled, she nevertheless agreed to do it. He slipped into his shoes and drove home. ‘Where have you been?’ demanded his wife when he entered the house.
‘Darling, I can't lie to you. I've been having an affair with my Secretary and we've been having mad, fantastic sex all afternoon. I fell asleep and didn't wake up until seven o'clock."
His wife glanced down at his shoes and said, ‘You lying bugger! You've been playing golf!’
In reality, Diane was in tears at Mount Pleasant hospital, where the baby was born. ‘What’s the matter, Di, Why are you crying, love?’ says Watkin who’s been waiting outside for long hours before the delivery. Men in those days were not allowed in delivery wards, and were expected to wait in corridors.
‘They’ve given me the wrong baby. That wasn’t our baby, Wat. They made a mix up and handed me the wrong baby. I’m sure of it. Our child has blue eyes and I’d remember that little face anywhere.’
‘This is your infant, Mrs Davies,’ said chief sister Evans. ‘Apparently, there has been some confusion over the names of Davies, a common name in this part of Wales, on the little name tag around the baby’s ankle.’ And, although traumatised and highly emotional, Diane accepted her child into loving arms and cradled him in a swaddling band that she had kept for so long in her trousseau.
‘Oh, Watkin, you know I’m using the Hoover twin tub washing machine’ she goes at home a few weeks later. I have to haul all the wet clothes out of the washing section and dump them into the spin dryer section,’ Diane bemoans. ‘How can I get supper ready when I’m up to my elbows in nappies? I have to soak the used ones in Milton sterilising fluid in the plastic bucket and wring them out before I can put them in the machine. The kitchen windows are all steamed up and there’s water all over the floor. ’ So Wat pops out to the ‘Commercial’ in Killay for a quick pint, a sausage roll and a bag of Smith’s crisps, the ones with the blue twist up packet of salt inside.
Whilst there, finishing his sausage roll and carefully spreading the salt on his crisps, he cracks his favourite Les Dawson mother in law jokes, ‘I haven’t spoken to my mother-in-law for two years. We haven't quarrelled or anything, it’s just that I don't like to interrupt her,’ he goes, crackling his crisp packet.
‘I really do have a soft spot for my mother in law. It's out in the garden behind the shed’, he continues with a chuckle, although he wasn’t feeling in very good humour inside, due to Diane’s complaining.
Carrying on nonetheless with the Les Dawson patter he goes, ‘I was out shopping the other day, when I saw five women beating up my mother in law. As I stood there and watched, her neighbour, who knew me, said, ‘Well, aren't you going to help?’ I answered, ‘No. Five of them is enough.’ After a few more jokes, Wat potters back up the Gower road to the house and takes an early bed to get away from Di’s continuous nagging - about the nappies, the housework, and the lack of leisure time as she sees it.
When Watkin was in the ‘Marquis’ in Fforestfach, he’d met Mike Rabbaiotti, the race manager of the greyhound racing track in Ystrad Road, who’d invited him to install outdoor lighting at the stadium. A very big and long lasting job raised Wat’s hopes about the future. It meant constructing lighting pylons around the dog track, and fixing the installation of the mechanical hare that the dogs dive out of their stalls and chase around the perimeter of the track to the finishing line. Down at the dog track one evening, after a successful bet at 4/3 on ‘Prince’ in the 7.15 and an excellent shot in the 7.30 on ‘Daddy’s Boy’ at 13/2, they all adjourn to the track cafe.
‘What’s a husband’s definition of safe sex?’ Watkin starts, pocketing his excellent winnings. ‘When the wife’s away staying with the mother in law,’ he jokes thinking about Diane.
‘My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we married. A good wife always forgives a husband when she’s wrong. My wife dresses to kill. She cooks the same way,’ he rattles them off.
‘If your wife is shouting at the front door and your dog is barking at the back door, who do you let in first?’ he asks the betting crowd. ‘The dog’, he answers, ‘at least he'll quiet down after you let him in.’
Watkin concluded his ‘act’ with ‘You know being a comic is the one job where, if you perform badly, people won’t laugh at you.’
‘Hi Di, I’ve bought you a colour TV and a VHS video recorder so that you can record your favourite TV shows, you know, the European Song Festival, and your favourite song, ‘Puppet on a String,’ Watkin goes returning home in the Capri.
I wonder if one day that, you'll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I'll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string.
Love is just like a merry-go-round
With all the fun of a fair
One day I'm feeling down on the ground
Then I'm up in the air
Are you leading me on?
Tomorrow will you be gone?
I wonder if one day that, you'll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I'll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a ... string.
c/o Berman Entertainment and Technology Law
28 2nd Street, Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
You can record old songs by Petula Clark, Lita Roza, Anne Shelton and Frank Ifield; for the kids, [they have two now, Jason and Tracey]; you can record ‘Thunderbirds’ for when they come home from school, and there’s ‘Pan’s People’ on ‘Top of the Pops’. If you want to record something serious there’s ‘All Our Yesterdays’ with Brian Inglis, Watkin continues delightedly. Things are going well at the race track, and his winnings on the dogs are multiplying. He owns a Ford Capri three litre, has installed a disco ball in their bedroom, and his business employs five more men.
Back at the Fforestfach track the hare mechanism is installed and the lighting pylons are going up well. Watkin obtained some of the pylons second hand from Mervyn Jenkins, and he told Cliff, ‘I suspect that Merv’d taken them down from another venue and sold ‘em to us cheap. Typical Merv,’ he said.
In the cafe that afternoon he goes, ‘I like to have a cigarette after a good meal. Thanks to my wife, I don't smoke,’ smirking, and thinking about Di’s cooking which is not too bad.
‘What is green and turns red at the flick of a button? A frog in a liquidiser,’ he starts his 70s routine. ‘What do you call an epileptic under a pile of leaves? Russell.’ Not a joke that could be repeated in contemporary politically correct times, however. ‘What do you call a man with a spade in his mouth? Doug,’ he rattles on. ‘What do you call a man with no spade in his mouth? Douglas.What do you call a man with a seagull on his head? Cliff’ he continues in fashionable 70s style.
‘I’m married to a lady optician,’ Wat goes, a la Bob Monkhouse. ‘In bed she asks, ‘better like this? better like that? better like this ...’’ The crowd laugh, despite having heard it before.
Now he’s on a roll, Watkin can’t stop. ‘This man,’ he says, ‘goes into a pet shop to ask for the pet monkey he’s bought.’ ‘ I’ve cleaned your cage out,’ the assistant goes.
‘You cheeky bugger,’ he retorts.
‘I’ve got a Scots terrier’ he laughs. ‘So easy for cleaning the car’ he demonstrates with his hands in a waving, washing the car motion.
‘This man goes to the doctor. He says ‘I’ve broken my arm in several places.’ The doctor says ‘Don’t go to those places, then...’’ It gets a good laugh, but Watkin is beginning to worry about Diane. She’s been wearing a see through blouse and short miniskirt that’s quite revealing, and Watkin tells Diane ‘I don’t think your skirt and top are suitable for working in a shop.’
That evening, in an uncharacteristic fit of male chauvinist rage, he burns Diane’s skimpy, transparent blouse in the coal fire and rakes up the ashes in the hearth. ‘Why are you burning my clothes, Watkin?’ she screams, but to no avail, and they spend the night in separate bedrooms.
‘I’m sorry, Di. I don’t know what came over me,’ Watkin begs in the morning. ‘Next winter I’ll take you to Austria skiing in the Tirol, and I’ll make it up to you somehow.’ ‘OK, then, Wat but I don’t see the problem with what I’m wearing, all the other girls are dressed like it, this is the ‘seventies for God’s sake.’ Wat continues to the greyhound track at Fforestfach, and sees to the mechanical greyhound. In those days, the dog owners would encourage the hounds to chase the rabbit by feeding them fresh meat at the end of the race to assuage their natural instincts of the chase, when the dogs would want to tear the mechanical hare to pieces.
Back in the cafe, Wat starts his patter with, ‘My wife phoned me and said she had water in the carburettor. ‘Where are you?’ I said. ‘In the river’, she replied. ‘I went to the dentist’s the other day and he said ‘Your teeth are alright, but your gums have gotta come out.’’ ‘I was in the dentist’s waiting room reading the magazines. They were so old, I went ‘Wasn’t it terrible about that Titanic.’’ ‘Ha Ha. Not like that ... Like that,’ imitating Tommy Cooper, with a characteristic gesticulation of his arms.
‘I bet on ‘Lucky Boy’ at 20 to 1 and he came in at twenty past four.’ That got a good laugh among the gambling fraternity. ‘That joke was so bad, I got a sitting ovation’ he says. ‘I went out one dark night and this bloke says ‘Is there a policeman round here.‘ ‘No,’ I said.’ ‘Stick ‘em up!’
Watkin, Cliff, Mervyn and the other Swansea Sound boys are off to Stradey Park on October, 31st 1972. Llanelli, coached by Carwyn James, beat Ian Kirkpatrick's All Blacks 9-3 in a famous victory against the touring side. The pubs famously ran dry by 6pm that day and Watkin and the boys certainly contributed to the drought at the ‘Bridge’ and the ‘Half Moon’ in Llanelli. ‘Roy Bergiers scored a try from his own charge down and Andy Hill scored a terrific long-range pelanty,’ Watkin recounts afterwards. ‘Watkin explains to anyone who’s listening that ‘the captain, Delme Thomas was carried from the field aloft by fans, and local boy, Phil Bennett, had an outstanding game.’
The boys didn’t have tickets for the Barbarians v. New Zealand match the following Spring, but watched it on colour TV at the ‘Poundfold’ in Gower. Watkin recounted that ‘Phil Bennett sidestepped his way past three outflanked and outrun All Blacks. The ball was transferred to JPR Williams, then to hooker John Pullin and on to John Dawes, bypassing Gareth Edwards. John Dawes's dash up the left touchline gave the move terrific momentum, before a burst from flanker Tom David with a long pass out to Derek Quinnell who had numbers, another long pass and a skilful pick up for Number 9, Gareth Edwards, resulted in a diving touchdown.’
After the match there was a singsong with:
Mae bys Meri-Ann wedi brifo,
A Dafydd y gwas ddim yn iach.
Mae'r baban yn y crud yn crio,
A'r gath wedi sgrapo Joni bach.’
This was followed by Hymns and Arias:
‘Well we were singing hymns and arias
Land of my Fathers,
Ar hyd y nos.'
Then Swansea’s own Badfinger’s
No I can't forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that's just the way
The story goes
You always smile but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes it shows
No I can't forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrow
When I had you there
But then I let you go
And now it's only fair
That I should let you know
What you should know
I can't live
If living is without you
I can't live
I can't give anymore
I can't live
If living is without you
I can't give
I can't give anymore’
© 2000-2015 AZLyrics.co
Watkin is crying at this one, because he knows it’s nearly over with Diane. She’s been seen out with a handsome, local insurance agent and one evening, on returning home from the dog track, he just spied Di in her yellow Mini Minor travelling up the Gower road. He follows her to see if she’s on an assignation with him, but she catches Wat’s brown Ford Capri in her rear view mirror. Reaching Upper Killay, she turns back and drives to the house in Wimmerfield. On reaching home, Wat enquires peremptorily ‘Where have you been’ and Di replies blushing, ‘I went up to see my friend, Elsie, in Derlwyn, Dunvant.’ Wat says, ‘I don’t believe you. You’ve been seen on the dunes on Swansea beach with him and now you’re up Fairwood Common to see him. What’s going on?’ A terrific row ensues, Diane walks out taking the kids, and again ... separate bedrooms.
So for a few nights it’s,‘Hello walls, hello ceiling’ by Wily Nelson on 78 rpm on the Philips portable record player in the back bedroom of the deserted house in Wimmerfield.
‘Hello walls (hello) how things go for you today?
Don't you miss her since she upped and walked away
And I'll bet you dread to spend another lonely night with me
Lonely walls I'll keep you company.
Hello window (hello) well I see that you're still here.
Aren't you lonely since our darling disappeared?’
© 2003 - 2015 Letras.terra.com
Wat’s jokes have now deteriorated to the point where he’s reciting nursery rhymes at Bridgend rugby club:
‘The boy stood on the burning deck
His feet were covered in blisters
He had no stockings of his own
So he had to wear his sister’s.’
Or the alternative rhyme:
‘The boy stood on the burning deck
His feet were full of blisters.
He tore his pants on a rusty nail
And had to wear his sister's.’
Quite out of sorts, he continues to few laughs:
‘Jack n’ Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jill came down with half a crown
But not for fetching water.’
Downing his fourth pint he goes:
‘Hickory dickory dock,
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one
And down he run
Hickory dickory dock.
Or the other version,’ he goes:
‘Hickory dickory dock
Two mice ran up the clock,
The clock struck one,
And th’other scaped wiv minor injuries,’ he slurs to no laughter
Disappointed with his lack of success with his jokes, he crawls home to his lonely bed and then resolving to do something about his marriage, he drives around to the mother in law’s place in Brynhyfryd to where Di had decamped with the kids. Wat goes, ‘OK, Di. I’ve fixed up with Reg Bateman for our package tour holiday in Kitzbühel, in Austria.’ Wat has memorised the brochure that Reg Bateman has given him: ‘Few ski resorts have the charisma of this iconic resort, with its celebrated downhill slopes,’ he repeats.
Diane somewhat reluctantly agrees to join him, and two weeks later they take off from Cardiff airport with Lufthansa to Munich from where they travel by air conditioned coach with piped music and onboard toilet to the ski resort.
‘Don’t go up on those high slopes with all them Germans’ Wat goes, but Di doesn’t listen and joins in a skiing party from Stuttgart and has a morning skiing with them. That evening they enjoy the gluhwein that is issued after a day on the slopes, at one of the ski hut bars.
Watkin is now back in form with all his jokes. He starts, consciously targeting the Germans drinking their Löwenbräu. ‘What's a geriatric?’ he asks the assembled drinkers. ‘A German footballer scoring three goals.’ ‘There was an awards ceremony for adverts on TV last week. I fast forwarded the whole thing,’ he continues, sipping his mulled wine. ‘There was a subliminal advert on TV for underarm deodorant. I tried it, but the trouble was it only lasted one tenth of a second.’ Now he has a go at the French people drinking there. ‘I’ve been learning French. My teacher asked me to decline something in French. I said I wouldn’t have a Renault for a start,’ again: ‘My wife said: 'Can my mother come down for the weekend?' So I said: 'Why?' and she said: 'Well, she's been up on the roof for two weeks already'.
‘How did you enjoy the skiing, Di?’ ‘It was OK, I suppose’ says Diane unenthusiastically. However, the cold Austrian nights did not result in any real reconciliation in the bedroom with Diane, and they take the return coach and air trip back to Cardiff, from where they travel by road.
Returned home, a fortnight later and working at the Samuels Crescent, Whitchurch rugby clubhouse, Watkin, on his fifth pint, resorts to visual descriptions of his favourite comedies:
‘Did’u see the Benny Hill Show last night on Thames TV, boys?’
‘You’re all against me’, Wat starts insinuatingly, ‘Did you see the way he pulled the guy in the rubber water ring’s wig off with his golf club? Benny changed his cricket bat so slickly with the other chap, and did you see how the golfer got his own golf club tied all around his neck, then Benny Hill broke the strings off a tennis racquet and threw the frame around the man’s neck like a hula hula hoop,’ he explained laughing.. ‘The footballer got it in the goolies, too.’ ‘Here’s a little outfit you don’t wear when it’s cold...But Lo and Behold’ Benny said about the terrifically beautiful girls on his show,’’ Wat drools.
Feeling tired now, Wat says ‘Cheers lads, have a good one,’ travels back home in the van dropping Cliff off on the way and arrives to find Di and the kids gone, the house deserted and not much of their furniture there. Di has brought a van with Roger, the floor walker from Lewis Lewis’s department store, and taken the kids with all their stuff to somewhere down in the Gower where Wat won’t be able to find them. ‘Even the garage doors have gone,’ says Wat, unable to resist a joke. Wat collapses onto the remaining divan, though, and asks himself in tears ‘What Have I done to deserve this? Is it my drinking and joking, or does Di need a better man than me. She didn’t stop with that insurance guy, so perhaps she’s got someone else.’
After crying nonstop for twenty-four hours, there’s a knock on the door, ‘Can you judge the August bank holiday street party in Wimmerfield Crescent on Monday afternoon, Mr Davies?’ ‘Of course,’ replies Watkin. ‘Please come in and give me the details’, he struggles to reply.
‘Yes, Watkin, if I may call you that, there will be a street celebration, and a fancy dress competition for the kids. Are your kids coming?’ ‘Uh? Oh, no, Jason and Tracey are away on holiday,’ Watkin lies. ‘Thanks Watkin,’ the organiser says, and Wat promises to attend at 2.00 p.m. on the Monday afternoon. ‘This is going to be my salvation,’ thinks Watkin, who hasn’t slept for nights on end, and is suffering severe depression.
On the Monday, Wat is dressed and ready, his shoes shined and a last, fresh shirt put on with a neat tie. The judges assemble to view the fancy dress parade and there are a sailor boy, a policeman in a helmet, a Chinese so called ‘coolie’, a nurse in full uniform and headdress, an African warrior all blacked up with burnt cork and a spear, a Hawaiian hula dancer with grass skirt, a so called ‘Red Indian brave and squaw,’ a boy on roller skates dressed for baseball, an organ grinder with a monkey, and a girl in evening dress in a top hat and a moustache. After the fancy dress competition, the children sat in rows out in the street and are served with jelly, custard, cakes and lots of ‘pop’.
Giving his judgment, Watkin tells the children one of his favourite kids’ jokes. ‘Do you know the one about the man who was writing a letter to his gran? He said ‘I’m writing this letter slowly because I know you are a slow reader.’’ He continued. ‘Bill knocked on the door of his friend's house. When his friend's mother answered he asked, ‘Can Johnny come out to play?’ ‘No,’ said his mother, ‘it's too cold.’ ‘Well, then,’ said Bill, ‘can his football come out to play?’’ It got a good laugh from the older kids.
In the evening, at the ‘Black Boy’, Wat tries out a few tentative jokes as part of his rehabilitation from the depression. ‘When I was a baby, my mother tried to kill me. She denied it. She claimed she’d put on the plastic bag to keep me fresh.’ ‘My mother was a ventriloquist. She could throw her voice. As a matter of fact, for ages I thought it was the dog telling my dad to shut up.’ His next one was heartrendingly difficult to tell:
‘A young man agreed to baby-sit one night so a single mum could have an evening out. At bedtime he sent the kids upstairs to bed and settled down to watch football on the TV. One child kept creeping down the stairs, but the young man kept sending him back to bed. At 9pm somebody knocked at the door, it was the next-door neighbour, Mrs. Morgan, asking if her son was there. The young man roughly replied, ‘No.’ Just then a little head appeared over the stairs and shouted, ‘I'm here, Mum, but he won't let me go home.’’
Walking home from the pub after a long day out Watkin feels much better, and sleeps well at last. The following morning he pops up to Derlwyn, Killay to see Diane’s friend, Elsie. ‘Your wife has gone to stay in a boarding house in Gower with the kids. You need to go down to Oldwalls and you’ll find them there, if I‘m not mistaken,’ she kindly reports.’
Enquiring with a local solicitor for information, he asks Diane, when he’s made contact, ‘What’s going on Diane?’ ‘It’s no use Watkin. I’ve had enough of your drinking, late nights and incompetent, inefficient attempts at being a husband. I’m going to get my own place in Dunvant, and I’m moving there with the kids.’ ‘Oh no you’re not.’ Wat contradicts her, barely able to contain his anger. ‘I’m going to the High Court to get custody of Jason and hopefully Tracey, too.’ Their meeting finishes inconclusively with a tearful Jason begging his Dad to take him home. ’Not today, Jason, but you’ll be coming home very soon,’ Wat promises.
Now that Wat has more free time available to watch the cricket, he goes to Gnoll Road, Neath to watch Glamorgan v Gloucestershire. Glamorgan choose to field in the 40 overs match and Gloucester make 156 for 9 wickets with forty overs bowled, Don Shepherd from Shepherd’s the Parkmill store taking the Bissex wicket for 7. But Glamorgan can only manage 154 for the fall of ten wickets for forty overs. Wat Is disappointed and sees Gloucestershire walk away with the 4 points for the match.
The Swansea Sound lads accompany Wat back to the Castle hotel for a few consolatory pints of Double Dragon Felinfoel bitter, and Wat soon takes off on his usual routine to cover up his domestic misery, ‘I’ve got a pal who’s a long, tall blade of grass. He’s easily swayed.’ ‘I bet you can’t name a famous Egyptian landmark. That’s what you Sphinx.’
The next one is an Old Wild West joke Wat does in his fake cowboy accent, ‘A dog walks into a Texas saloon bar and says ’I want the man who shot my paw.’’
He follows up with ‘A boy and a girl walk past this restaurant. The girl says, ‘There’s a lovely smell, I’d like some of that.’ The boy goes ‘I’ll treat her tonight. We’ll go and walk past it again...’’
"Wat finishes with one of his all time favourites: ‘A woman goes to the doctor’s and says ‘Doctor, I can’t stop singing ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home.’’ ‘You’ve got Tom Jones syndrome,’ the doctor points out. ‘Is that common?’, she asks. ‘It’s not unusual…’ Wat sings rendering the Tom Jones number.
‘It's not unusual to be loved by anyone
It's not unusual to have fun with anyone
But when I see you hanging about with anyone
It's not unusual to see me cry,
Oh I wanna' die
It's not unusual to go out at any time
But when I see you out and about it's such a crime
If you should ever want to be loved by anyone,
It's not unusual it happens every day no matter what you say
You find it happens all the time...’
Copyright: Valley Music Ltd.
Wat’s feelings are prescient, for it transpires Diane is seeing a carpenter from Dowlais who she’s met in work in Lewis Lewis’s. ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘Tom Jones was born in the same hospital in Mountain Ash as my cousin, Geoffrey. It was on June 7 1940, exactly one year after Geoffrey. He’s always on about it every time Tom Jones is singing. Tom Woodward, as was, came from Treforest and always wanted to be a singer after his two years’ convalescence from T B as a young boy. What a voice, and no wonder they call him Jones the voice, round here’ Wat says, getting sloshed on the strong Felinfoel ale.
‘Not a lot of people know’ says Watkin ‘about Harry Secombe’s charitable giving and good works in the area.’ Wat is at a dinner in Morriston golf club thrown by Harry Secombe and hosted by his wife, Myra Atherton: ‘In our business, we do good deeds with an ear splitting stealth, folks,’ explains Harry. Wat has been invited as a member of the Honourable Order of Buffaloes, the Buffs, which he has joined to socialise more since Diane left. ‘The Secombes are a large, warm family. Harry's father had six brothers and sisters, ’Wat recalls.
Harry gets up: ‘They call me ‘Sir Cumference,’ he jokes about his enormous size, ‘I have more chins than the Hong Kong telephone directory.’ He does his famous patter, ‘I come from mixed parentage, one male, one female.’ Referring to his recent illness from a perforated colon, he goes, ‘I was suffering from punctuation.’ Laughing, he says, ‘I don't mind dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens. After five days in hospital, I took a turn for the nurse.’ Harry had shed about 5 stone and looked a new person. ‘I saw my knees again for the first time in years,’ he jokes.
His next one is for the Scots in the audience, ‘Is there anything worn under the kilt? No, it's all in perfect working order.’ Then talking about different kinds of cigarettes he goes, ‘These gorillas are strong! Here, have one of my monkeys - they're milder.’
‘When I sing and have to do my top Cs’ says Harry, ‘we call them ‘the cruel seas.’’ ‘When I was a boy, I was told I should get my voice trained. So I got myself a chair and a whip ... and some newspaper.’ ‘When I was young, I did impressions of everybody, the milkman, the milkman’s horse...’ ‘I was playing cards on the liner to South America to find gold. I had a good hand...four fingers and a thumb.’
Reminiscing about his time in the army, Harry Secombe says, ‘The first time I was in action we fired at them. When they fired back, we had a bit of a shock. It was a different matter altogether, folks. We were five miles from Tripoli, and we had to get out a bit quick then. They were firing at us, and we had to get them out. We left chocolates out for them, but they wouldn’t come out. I was looking up in the dictionary ‘I’m on your side, mate.’ Then this bloke came up to us and said, ‘Anybody seen a gun?’ It was Spike Milligan.’
Then he starts his show business lines from the Goon Show. Acting as Neddie Seagoon, he came out with his hilarious lines, ‘He's fallen in the water!’ He includes his ‘Hello folks’, ‘Needle nardle noo’, ‘What,what,what,what,what’ and ‘I don't wish to know that,’ to rapturous applause from the Swansea diners.
‘Jason, I’m taking you down to Bill Edwards’ sports shop to buy you your cricket bat and your kit,’ Wat tells his son, of whom he now has custody from the High Court, after a tortuous time with legal arrangements, solicitors and court appearances in London. Bill is in fine form as usual and decks Jason out in his pads, gloves, trousers, support, wicket keeping gloves and a brand new red leather cricket ball made to MCC regulations. Bill, ever generous, goes ‘pay me later,’ as usual and just then who should walk in but Tony Lewis, the Glamorgan cricket captain and the only Glamorgan cricketer to captain England. He’d made 2,190 runs, including his only double-century. He’d scored 223 against Kent at Gravesend after Glamorgan had followed on. He captained them from 1967 to 1972, and with his help promoted the county to its second championship.
Tony, who became a sports commentator on the BBC, is rather dour and solemn as usual, but on Jason’s introduction to him he is warm and friendly, encouraging him to become a county cricketer. Just after Jason went outside to try out the bat and pads, he cracked one of his close friend Richie Benaud’s jokes, ‘He’s usually a good puller, but he couldn’t get it up that time,’ he laughs, repeating one of the best known lines from his BBC commentaries. Another one was, ‘Laird has been brought in to stand in the corner of the circle.’ ‘Incidentally,’ Watkin tells Jason ‘Tony Lewis commentated on the Garfield Sobers six sixes in the match with Glamorgan against the West Indies, and was the first captain of England to defeat India in more than twenty years.’
‘I was travelling up by train on the GWR to London, Paddington, to visit the High Court and, when I entered the buffet car, who should I meet,’ Watkin tells Jason, ‘but Cliff Morgan the Wales captain and BBC commentator.’ ‘Cliff was part of the Grand Slam team of Wales in 1952,’ Wat explains to his son, who has now inherited Watkin’s interest in sport. ‘The following year he played for Cardiff and Wales, helping them to famous victories over the All Blacks. He was part of the successful 1955 Lions’ tour of South Africa. The Test series was drawn 2–2, and Cliff Morgan outshone everyone when he eventually captained a skilful Lions backline that included Arthur Smith and Jeff Butterfield.’
Cliff, modest, unassuming and friendly as always, tells Watkin about his try in the first Test at Ellis Park, in front of a contemporary world record crowd of a hundred thousand, helping the Lions to make a fantastically close 23–22 score. ‘I made my move from a strike against the head by my fellow Welshman Bryn Meredith. I stuck my neck out and rocketed past the great Springbok wing forward Basie Van Wyk to level the match.’
‘You know, Jason, he was on TV in ‘A Question of Sport’ and on the wi’less, he benefitted from his knowledge of music because he presented the Radio 2 series ‘These You Have Loved’ from 1970.’
’We chatted on the train for about half an hour before Cliff departed to his duties in the BBC,’ he tells Jason, who cannot believe how much his Dad knows and who he has met in the world of sport.
‘But that’s nothing Dad, we had Gareth Edwards down our school and he is Wales's youngest ever captain, first becoming the captain at twenty in the Number 9 shirt. He led the Welsh side that dominated the Five Nations Championship, and they won the title seven times, including three grand slams,’ reports Jason. ‘He started with Cardiff.’ ‘And,’ Jason adds, ‘he had twelve seasons for Cardiff, scoring sixty nine tries in 195 games. He represented the British and Irish Lions ten times.’
He told us all about ‘that try,’ for the Barbarians. ‘It started with a penetrating kick from the New Zealand winger. The ball dropped towards Phil Bennett near his try line. Bennett sidestepped and avoided three tackles, in turn passing the ball to JPR Williams.’
Gareth told us that he ‘was absolutely breathless and really needed a moment's rest. When the ball went deep and I saw Phil was running back, I thought, 'Thank God for that, Phil will know exactly what to do. He'll kick it to touch. But he didn’t, and he just stood there turning it over in his hands and I said ‘he’s going to run it.’’
‘Then Gareth Edwards told us, ‘All of a sudden I was thinking, 'If there is a breakdown, I had better be there.' I was really just concentrating on getting to where the ball was going to be and trying to anticipate if there was going to be a tackle. So I turned around and started to run thinking to myself, 'Oh God, I had better get going.'’Jason said Gareth reported that he (Edwards) 'was coming up from behind. I could see that the full-back, Joe Karam, had his eye on John. So by the time Derek had the ball, I shouted at him in Welsh, ‘Taflwch yma! Taflwch ef yma!’ (Throw it here! Throw it here!’)
'The rest was history and I’m through the gap and it was then just a question of 'Can I get to the corner?' ‘I was mindful that out of my peripheral vision, their wing Grant Batty was coming over as cover. My old PE master always said to me: 'If you are close to the line, dive in, because it makes it harder for them to tackle you,’ so I did and that was that. It was just a try,’ Gareth so modestly said.’
Watkin’s next job involved work at Newport stadium where the stand was rather primitive, with seating to the rear and terracing to the front. There were rows of thin supporting pillars running across the middle of the stand. It didn’t run the full length of the pitch and had a portion of open terracing on one side. Watkin, Cliff and the other men had to replace the planking and the runners with what they thought was new wood that they’d bought from Mervyn Jenkins. ‘I’m wondering about the safety of the spectators, though,’ Wat tells Cliff. Watkin, who has turned over a new leaf since Diane left, and has given up the joking, decides to change the whole stand section with brand new decking obtained from Mon Timber in Newport.
In the clubhouse, Watkin tells everyone who wants to listen that he’s going to the Japan v Wales rugby match. The journey by air to Tokyo takes 18 hours and Watkin attends on 21 September 75 at the Kintetsu Hanazono rugby stadium, where Wales beats Japan 12 - 56. He returns to Tokyo for the match at the Olympic stadium on 24 September with the Japan national side, who were beaten 6 – 82. It wasn’t classed as a full international by Wales,’ Watkin recounts on his subsequent return to the club, ‘who fielded a Wales XV, not the 1st XV,’ he continues.
‘We’ve signed a new one year contract for the sound system at the Empire Pool, Cardiff’ Watkin tells Cliff and the others from the firm. Wat explains that ‘the construction of a new pool was not effected until Cardiff was picked to host the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth games.’
‘The location of the pool is right next to Cardiff Arms Park, which was the main stadium for the Games,’ Wat added. Wat mentions that ‘it has an international standard swimming pool, which measures fifty five yards by twenty yards (50.29 x 18.28 metres) with a depth of between three feet and 16 feet. (0.91 x 3.65 metres) The lads take the opportunity for a swim in their break times and enjoy the refreshing and not too chlorinated water of the pool. Wat shows off with his diving, and Cliff surpasses himself with the over arm crawl, completing the pool length in thirty-five seconds. The lads even manage an impromptu game of water polo, with Watkin now in goal and Cliff scoring all the points.
‘Daddy, Daddy, I’m having fun on this trampoline,’ cries Tracey who Watkin has collected for the weekend from her mother, who is installed in a terraced flat in Dunvant with her new lover. The whoops of joy and delight coming from Tracey in the garden fill Watkin with pleasure, and promises her ‘Next week I’ll take you to the bouncy castle and we can watch the cricket in the afternoon, then it’s down to Joe's ice cream parlour in the yard of the Oystermouth train station on the Mumbles railway. Joe is sure to give us some great knickerbocker glories with raspberry and chocolate topping. Did you know, Trace, that Mr. Cascarini from Italy started his cafe because all the workers didn’t have anywhere to go in the mornings when they needed a refreshing roasted bean coffee?’ Wat asks Tracey. ‘After that I’ll take you back to Mummy, and on the way we’ll pop in and see your Gran in West Cross,’ Wat plans ahead, thinking how much he misses her in the week.
The following weekend, after the bouncy castle and the cricket at Singleton Park, it’s the promised visit to Joe’s ice cream parlour. ‘Would you like a strawberry, raspberry, vanilla, or chocolate flavouring on your dessert, Trace?’ The parlour, in an old tin shack converted into a cafe, is commodious enough and Tracey goes ‘Dad, this ice cream is the best in the world. What’s it made from Dad?' Wat explains,’ It’s a family secret handed down by Joe Cascarini to his family ever since and it’s one of the best kept secrets in the trade.’ ‘Jason, you can get a vanilla, lemon crisp, a blackcurrant cream, a lemon meringue, a double raspberry ice, or even a blueberry chocabockerglory.' Wat enjoys a plain vanilla in a dish with wafers and nut topping and after a chat about the cricket with Cliff, who happens to be there with his family, they depart for the visit to Wat’s Mum.
‘Look at all those lovely seagulls, Trace.’ ‘Where, Dad?’ Tracey asks. ‘Over near the Mumbles Pier,’ Watkin cries out aboard PS Waverley. They are on the paddle steamer ‘Waverley’ that was rebuilt on the Clyde after the original one was destroyed at the Dunkirk evacuations. ‘We’re going to be in Ilfracombe, Devon in three hours’ explains Watkin to the kids as they enjoy the bracing sea air and enjoy wandering around the paddle steamer, looking at its enormous wooden paddle on each side of the boat and the onboard, coal fired steam engines, sending out hisses and snorts as it works. Right out at sea in the Bristol Channel, Wat says ‘You can see Flat Holmes and Steep Holmes where Saint Gildas lived when visiting his friend Saint Cadoc, and view the welcoming cliffs of Devon,’ he added.
They have time to finish some homemade sandwiches that Wat has managed to prepare, and Jason carries the bag with the Smith’s crisps, and pickled onions and lemonade from TT Thomas, of course. Arrived in Ilfracombe harbour they can only fish the lower section of the pier for a couple of hours before low tide, and Jason manages to catch a few flounders. ‘Come on kids, it’s time for the return trip’ Watkin explains, and they leave Ilfracombe harbour and set out to sea for Swansea docks and Mumbles pier.
‘We’ll buy some lavabread, a delicacy made from seaweed, in Swansea market’ Wat tells Jason ‘and we’ll have a good fry-up with bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausage, fried bread, beans and mushrooms.’
‘Did you know, Jas, that the original, dome roof of Swansea market was made from the remains of the Brabazon aircraft that was built in Filton, Bristol at the British Aircraft Corporation factory,’ he explains to his son, who is quite interested in aeroplanes. ‘Actually Jason, a Brabazon airliner prototype, at the time one of the largest aircraft in the world, first flew from Bristol over Swansea and back,’ Wat says on the shopping trip to the market.
‘We’ll go fishing in the River Loughor,’ and next they are out wading in their thigh high rubber boots obtained from Bill Edwards’ in the amazingly beautiful waters of the salmon and sea trout river. ‘We’ll try a number 3 fly, and did you know there’s some fantastic fishing on this river.
It’s very popular for the night fly fishermen,’ Watkin continues, ‘and it gets to produce double-figure sea trout every year without fail,’ Watkin mentions. ‘D’ye know Jas, years ago, the fish that was caught in the Llwchwr river was carried on ponies via Dunvant and Olchfa in to be sold at Swansea Market; as well as the cockles from Penclawdd that were carried on donkeys, and on foot by women.’ They return home with four trout and all fall to bed wet, tired, exhausted but happy.
‘We’ll do eighteen holes, Cliff and then we’ll stop off for a jar in the clubhouse’. The Langland Bay course is a premier Welsh course with spectacular ocean views that Watkin and Cliff enjoy all afternoon on their round. Cliff, the real sportsman and all rounder, manages a par 3 with his handicap of as much as five, and he wins the game easily. Wat plays a relaxed round, now that the kids are his, and manages a par 4 but did slice a few into the rough, the rough being the Bristol Channel at the edge of the clifftop.
He reflects on the future back at the eighteenth hole and envisions a more settled and contented life without too many of the distractions, griefs and worries that marriage had brought to him, deciding to play life straight and walk the walk instead of talk the talk.
Tony Lewis with Ajit Wadekar, Captain of India.
By kind permission of Glamorgan Cricket Club
Gareth Edwards breaks through v Llanelli at Cardiff Arms Park 23 February 1974
Cardiff wing forward Stuart Lane, 1978. Swansea defenders on the spot.
Stuart Watkins’ 100th try Newport v. Cardiff Rodney Parade November 1968