Merthyr Valley Homes Capturing Memories

Through August and September 2013, inhabitants of three residential homes in Merthyr: St Tydfil’s Court, Haven Close and Cae’r Wern enjoyed two visits per home from performance poet Mike Church.

The Capturing Memories project in Merthyr Valleys Homes Sheltered scheme looked at the problems of social isolation as well as health and wellbeing – mental and physical. Poor mental health is linked to suicide and in Merthyr Tydfil the suicide rate is 13.7 per 100,000 people compared with the average of 12.1 per 100,000 across Wales. This project was a good stimulus for particiapants – keeping the brain active, allowing them to share and capture their memories, thoughts and dreams in poetic form.

The project will culminate in the production of a booklet of poems and a celebratory sharing event.

The Saturday Matinee

We remember the Saturday matinee

At the Castle Cinema

Riding along on the crest of a wave

You’d go on the stage for your birthday

And if it was a Western

You’d gallop up the hill all the way home

With Roy Rodgers and Zorro

We were miners of the ABC

Lining up for the Saturday films

Queuing right up the High Street

And on the back row seats

There was a record for who had the most kisses

We remember the Saturday matinee

We had five cinemas in Merthyr then

Although a couple were fleapits

No backs to the seats in the Cosy in Penydarren

And they’d throw apple stumps to the front

Never the apple always the stump!

You’d go home with popcorn stuck to your back

And nobody used the toilets in the Cosy

You’d need willies in the front row

And go splashing on the way out

But nobody wanted to miss the film

We’d see Charlie Chaplin on a first date

And the manager at the Palace

In his black suit, dicky bow and pencil moustache

Usherette torches would shine in your face

With cries of, ‘What you doing there?’

Stampeding with swords on the way out

Whatever happened to the Saturday matinee?

Those good old days

Simple days, happy days

Where are they now?

We’ll have to wait till next Saturday to find out!




Those happy schooldays

When we had respect for teachers

It was ‘Mr’ this or ‘Miss’ that

There was a time when women who married gave up work

We had teachers that kept their eyes on you

Inside and outside school We had boys’ schools

And girls schools

One day we bunked off to go sunbathing in the park

Until a teacher appeared with his class on a trip

We had to hide quick in the rhododendron bushes!

There were coal fires and ringing school bells

And using the mantelpiece clock to time the lessons

Until the day Thelma Powell wound the clock on

If you were in Thelma’s gang you were ok

We had a teacher called ‘Froggy’

Because every time he caned you he jumped up and down

We had those third of a pint silver top milks with straws in

Melting by the fire on cold winter mornings

And we had a little sleep on campbeds

One nameless girl always made sure her bed was next to John Evans

We had a teacher who looked like a witch

We even looked for the broomstick

There was Peggy Longdrawers with the loose elastic

And second hand Rose

Who got her clothes from her sister

We’d wear our Tams on our heads

And have our daps in our dap bag

In those happy old schooldays


When We Went A Courting

Courting was always nicer in the dark nights

It was like that in Georgetown

The suspender belts and dark discreet nights

We’d go in the garage if it was wet

And then the roof leaked

Monkey parading up and down the High Street on a Sunday

If you didn’t pull by 9pm you might as well go home

Boys one side girls the other

That was the very early days of Facebook

When we used to eyeball them instead

‘Are you serious?’

‘Are you spoken for?’

‘What’s your house like?’

My eyesight was better then

In winter we had hot vimto together in the café

Raspberry and ice in the summertime

My sister in law said ‘It wont last you know’

But 60 years later it’s still going strong

We had commitment then

The posh china would come out

Even the cakestand and the tablecloth

Youngsters today don’t make love

They have sex

Do they respect their bodies?

We do wonder sometimes

We feared pregnancy

And built friendship first

Like Cinderella we had to keep an eye on time for home

They wouldn’t call it courting now

But back then

It was proper commitment



When We Were Children

When we were children

If you ate the pips

A tree would grow out of your head

We played marbles and hopscotch

A crowd of us would play on the mountain

And wait for the two o’clock hooter

We’d play five stones

And my father would warn us

Not to go to Dai Cabbages

When we were children

Birthdays were basic

You might get a book

Maybe a Beano Annual at Christmas

With an orange and a bag of monkey nuts

When we were children

We’d have whipping tops and hook and wheel

Sent down the park all day

With water and sandwiches

Last on the bottle would get the floating crumbs

We’d all get dirty

With muddy knees, mud pies and roly polys

We had immunity to germs back then

When we were children

We didn’t eat apples in the dark

Just in case of maggots

We had pantries and larders

And bread and dripping with salt n pepper

We had water from the well

And milk in aluminium cans from the house down the road

We had crackling and proper home cured ham

And there was the day the donkey ate the napkins

When we were children

They were good old days

And we were allowed to just be a child


Back In The Day

Back in the day community

Was leaving your door open

Trusting people

Helping people

Children would be left to play

Always given a helping hand

People knew their neighbours

Back in the day

Families were bigger ,everyone belonged

People didn’t move away

There were lines of prams outside Woolworths

Communication by chatting not texting

A bit of gossip worked wonders

There was neighbourliness

No retail parks the corner shop had it all

People would look out for children

Look out for Alzheimer’s sufferers

Look out for each other

No cars outside schools everybody walked

Sheep roamed the roads

Back in the day

You didn’t hear foul language

People held doors more often

And the policeman seemed six feet tall

And knew everyone

Sorting out things on the spot

They’d drag children caught smoking back home

Teachers had respect

Back in the day

Community was different

Was it better?

You decide…..



No More Work In Merthyr

There’s no work in Merthyr now

Part time only if you can get it

In time gone by

You could go from one job to another in a day

Finish at Luptons one day

And straight to the Button Factory the next

Now it’s all Call Centres and different accents

There’s no work in Merthyr now

And if it’s a Glasgow accent it’s even worse

No chance of knowing what’s said

Everyone has to leave Merthyr to find work

Some even get by painting and decorating in London

We had the Labour Exchange

And jobs in factories and shops

People in Woolworths were looked down on

By those who worked in Boots

There was always a job

Now all the factories have gone

There’s no work in Merthyr

Kayser Bonder gone

Triang Toys gone

Teddingtons gone

Thorns gone

BSA gone

Hoovers gone

Button factory gone

And of course the mines gone

But we remember those days of work

First wages of £3 or 10 shillings a week

Bringing home £10 from Triang and thinking you’d won the Lottery

Then the days out with the Labour Club

The trains so long to go to Barry

The back end would be in Merthyr

The front would be in Pentrebach

Factory fortnight when everything shut down

Heading to the Costa Brava of Trecco Bay

Sitting in the sun in black coats and black hats S

weating on the beach

Then the knotted handkerchiefs

In those carefree, safe days

We didn’t know we were poor

As everyone was the same

Working in the bakers and put in to the ovens

On a piece of sacking

When children never said ‘I’m bored’

We remember the days of work

The days of nothing

The days of plenty

But there’s no work in Merthyr now



Let Me Tell Let me tell you about courting

The war meant a lack of men

Meeting men at Chapel ‘

That boy over there fancies you’

‘I’m not going out with him

Look at the size of his nose’

We’ve been married 46 years now!

Gangs of boys and gangs of girls

Went monkey parading

Pairing off in dance halls

A terrible disgrace if you were left on a chair

For the last dance.

Saving for shoes then sinking in mud

Gallantry and good old days

Three boys and three dances

And at the end of the night

All three waiting at the bus stop

Wanting their kiss

So sneaking home alone

Needing a father’s permission

Then meeting over the bacon slicer

And other romantic places

Let me tell you about courting


Our Days Out

We loved our days out

Charabang trips not coaches

And only once a year

The Sunday school outings

Never had a holiday

Maybe a picnic at Pontsarn

Looking forward to Barry Island all year

Then it rained

Barry Island, Porthcawl or Bristol Zoo if you were posh

We loved our days out

And on that one day a year

We’d have sandwiches on trestle tables in a church hall

Then down the beach

Being polite passing cakes down the line

Never to see them again

It doesn’t always pay to be polite

Nan in her coat on the beach and thick stockings

Sweat breaking out under that hot beret

Booing the Prisoner of War camp at Bridgend

On the way to Porthcawl

We loved our days out

Girls club, girl guides and brownies

And a father who made wooden swords for street fights

Crawling through the old mine workings

Scrumping apples from the teacher’s garden

And when teacher appeared I’m stuffing apples in my knickers

And waddling away as fast as possible

By the time I get home the knickers

Are two sizes too big

We loved our days out

Playing kiss chase in the street

Running backwards to get caught

We loved our days out

Wind berry picking up the mountain

And up to Snob Hill for the watercress

The open air Lido

With ice cold water

And sliding down the hills

With a green bottom to show for it

Scared to put your knickers in the wash

With holes in them

And still two sizes too big

The ferns on the hillside could tell many a story

We loved our days out



Remembering The Old Schooldays

Ah schooldays…

In the old days we had the cane

And then a good hiding at home

The cane for being in a train carriage with boys

The cane for sitting at the front

Teacher said we’d have talked if we were at the back

You could hear the ticking of the clock

Detention and lines ‘I must not speak in class’

Nora the nit nurse

Nitty Nora the boogie explorer

Who’d give a nod to the teacher

And everyone knew who had them

Ah schooldays…

In the old days we had

Slaps on the head and facing the wall

Today teachers are afraid to touch a child

It’s the pupils telling the teachers what to do

Children wanting school to be Disneyland

And we had the Cogi Bach

The Traunt Officer

And a Truant School in Treharris

You simply had to go to school

Or the Cogi Bach would get you

Nobody would talk to you if the Cogi Bach went to your home

Ah schooldays….

In the old days there was no computers or cookery

We had short hand typing, needlework,

Cork work and patchwork quilts

Making the sign of the cross to get your sums right

A coal fire in every class and warming quart bottles of milk

That froze in winter

Ah schooldays

In the old days we had semolina, tapioca, porridge and cardboard flan

‘And if you don’t eat your semolina I’ll tell your mother when I get home’

Stews with pearl barley, suet dumplings and carrots

For afters an apple, maybe an exotic orange or  banana

But on Mondays Jam Roly Poly or Spotted Dick

(You can’t say that in schools now!)

I cried when someone ate my brown parcel of bread and jam

And slept on camp beds in the afternoon

Times tales and proper conversation

Ah schooldays…

Those really were the days



Children Of Today

Children of today get too much

We were more responsible and carefree

We used to play hopscotch in the street

And take pop bottles back for cash

Go to Saturday matinees with my brother

And roller skates were a luxury

Sometimes you’d get to wear just the one for 50 yards

Children of today get too much

We got evacuated from Birmingham to Aberdare

We were swinging from ropes round lampposts

21 coaches to Barry Island once a year

Skipping in the street

There were no cars then

Children of today get too much

We were courting up the mountain

Picking wind berries and spinning whipping tops

Throwing jacks

And lighting papers and shoving them up drain pipes

The rag and bone man would give you a goldfish for buttons

Even if you’d taken them off your father’s best funeral shirt

And had the hiding of your life!

It was charabangs not buses then

And waiting for the horse to deliver instant manure

Children today get too much

My knitted orange swimming costume came off in the sea

And we nearly drowned in the Lido spring water

Proper cold water not heated

The teachers in coats as the children turned blue

Scrumping apples

We’d never seen a banana

Ate my first one peel and all

In the old days when everyone shared

We were one big family

But the children of today get too much




I didn’t like myself as a teenager

I was the ugliest one around

And found to have rickets

So bow legs

That needed pegs

To sort them out Cod liver oil too

A spoonful good for you

I didn’t like myself as a teenager

I wanted to change the world

Don’t we all

You could call

Us aging hippies

Down the chippies

Idealistic with peace and love

That went hand in glove

With a cup of cocoa on the barges

It wasn’t courting cos it was missing

All that kissing

We were innocent then

Going to church and chapel

Giving teacher an apple

Then day trips in a charabang

And how we sang

All you need is love

But I’ll wager I didn’t like myself as a teenager

But then does anyone?

Thank god those days are gone….

Dorothy Perkins and Karen Moore


A Sweets and Spangles Childhood

Sweets and spangles

Jingles and jangles

Five boys chocolate

And sherbet with yellow fingers

Lick them while it lingers

Black Jack and Fruit Salad

Sour Salt that cuts your tongue

Lumps of crystal

A pennorth of this

And a pennorth of that

Pink and white sweets

All shelved and neat in the Sweet Shop

The top shelf for happorth specials

And gobstoppers that was proper danger

And no sweets from a stranger

But it’s not the same today

We had Dolly Mixtures and Jelly Babies

Childhood back in the day

Playing hopscotch and a Diablo made of wood

Catching it on the string

And bring back

Stuck in the mud

And rat a tat ginger

They don’t have that childhood now

They’ll shut the door in your face

The human race has moved fast

But back in the past

It was simple and plain

And it’s not the same

Bring back sweets and spangles J

ingles and jangles

And with all that she has seen

Make Dorothy Perkins our Queen!

Karen Moore and Dorothy Perkins


Life’s Too Short To Clean The Cooker

As I contemplate the swiftness of the clock on the wall I wonder, should I perhaps make a will? There’s not much time left for us all Life’s too short to clean the grill

And as I lie here watching the birds flying by, Oh how I love to hear them sing A philosophical thought catches my eye Life’s too short to clean the oven rings

We waste so much time cleaning, trying to stay ahead All you get in the end is ‘dish pan hands’ Better by far we should enjoy ourselves instead Life’s too short to clean pots and pans

I enjoyed myself when I was young Yes back then I was a real looker But I’m still not too old to have some fun Life’s too short to clean the cooker Karen Moore


The Suitcase

Go and open the suitcase

Maybe inside you’ll find

A knitted swimming costume

Or a ventriloquist’s dummy

Maybe you’ll find some wet grey trousers

Or some much needed dried milk

Go on open the suitcase

Maybe inside will be

A ticking grenade

Or a ration book and identity card

Maybe inside will be

Some French knickers made from parachute silk

Or a person in pieces

Go on open the suitcase

Maybe inside will be

Old books, a Bible and magazines

Or some Spanish Root

Go on open the suitcase

Maybe inside will be

Nothing at all

Or some well off parents

Maybe they’ll be a feather duster

And a ten shilling note

Go on open the suitcase

Maybe inside will be

An old inkwell and pen

A winning Lottery ticket

Or a cupful of sympathy

Go on open the suitcase

Let’s see what’s in there

No on second thoughts leave it be

It might be Pandora’s Box



The Suitcase

If you looked in the suitcase

You might find

A change of clothes

Or a pressed flower

Or a lot of unpaid taxes

If you looked in the suitcase

You might find

A Spy Kit with two spies and invisible ink

There might be a dictionary of poems

Or a bible black bible

You might find a toothbrush and toothpaste

Or a dead body and a hacksaw

Go on look in the suitcase

You know you want to

You might find

A photograph of family

A radio transmitter

And hard core drugs

Go on look in the suitcase

You might find

A piece of string for repairs or to hang yourself in emergencies

You might find much needed whisky

And a strong piece of cheese

There might be a cushion you should never be without

Or the innocence of a child

There might be the barking of a dog

Or there might be nothing at all

Unless you open it you’ll never know

But then again

It might be a bomb!