Penrhys, Ernest Zobole, c1951

Penrhys, Ernest Zobole, c1951


Author: Rob Cullen

Written in response to ‘Penrhys’ Ernest Zobole, (c1951)

The black spoils of Gelli Colliery heaped on the hilltop of Nant y Gwyddon dominates the landscape. Three women stand on either side of lower Penrhys Road. Three women are dressed in dark blue coats and dark hats of a certain style, of a certain age. It could be a Sunday but one has a shopping bag that looks empty. The valley sides are green. The tree growing on the side of the road is in leaf so the time of year is either late spring or early summer. And time stands still.

I consider the three women knowing that their coats will waft with the smell of camphor, of mothballs intermixed with Lilly of the Valley, and Rose scented hand soap or maybe carbolic. Memories are raised of that time of austerity when the pre-war style of clothing was still worn. And everything was gabardine. Dark brown or grey or navy. Or coats of blue or black heavy wool worn throughout the year and through the warmest of summers. There was a slowness of time.

Apart from maroon red Rhondda busses there were few cars. People walked the roads, would meet and chat or gossip in no particular hurry. It was a time of full employment – male employment – few men would be seen during the hours of the working day. But when clocking off time came they would teem and rush off the trains and busses and the village would take on another life. And then night time. That other time.

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