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Frequency


I remember ‘Dai’ wheeling his TV in and out of other people’s houses. If anyone had a whiff that the TV licence guy was coming around with a van, they were off, boy. People rarely afforded anything more than a Black and White portable when we were kids, let alone a licence. If they did have a licence it was often a BW one, so if the Licence van was coming, it was off with the coloured box and out with the BW portable. That’s why TV’s, I assume, always had trolly stands. They were much easier to transport up to Mr. Jones house. He had a colour licence. Huw Davies (Xennial ‘78)


Born to a generation recovering from a knock on effect of the free love sixties, and the jet lagged seventies. The kids of the 1980s, in Tumble, were about to get plugged into a whole new experience. Tapped into the Americana like a needle in the vein. An overdose of new wave musical energy and visual candy. Slam dunked, post punk, into the MTV generation culture shock. This stuff came down the wire at breakneck speed, and us kids, we just could not get enough. It promised it all, and it delivered everything.

Video games, Atari, Sega, Nintendo. Wrestling, bodybuilding, baseball and basketball. Nike, Reebok, Jordan and O’Neal. Disneyland. Florida. LA. The city of angels. NY, The big apple. The city that never sleeps, 24/7. 7/11s. Vagas. Cable TV. Hundreds of channels. KFC. McDonalds. The wild west, west side, east side. Grand Canyon, Death Valley. Cowboys and Indians. American Ninjas. Bruce Lee, Arnold, Knight Rider, Rambo, A-Team, Airwolf, Street Hawk. And it just kept coming. Wave after wave, weaving itself into the very fabric of our culture.   

Up until this point our aerials (antenas) had struggled to receive just three channels. Most households were still consuming such content through small black and white portable TVs.  Music was available through limited outlets, that being: radio, records, top of the pops, or songs of praise (a Sunday delight). Most things were nine till five, and everything was closed on the seventh day, which was of course, the day of the sabbath. If you needed anything during this time you would simple have to go with out. Even cash, an essential part of our day-to-day trading. There were no ATMs or cash machines back then. If we needed money fast and the bank was closed, we asked a neighbour, put it on a tab, or wrote an IOY. 

Our parents never bought our TVs then, they rented them. But we didn’t pay direct debits or pay monthly. We had a coin meter, built into the side of the telly. A big metal box with a wind key, almost the same size of the TV.  Everyone had one, so it never looked out of place. We always loaded it up with coins. 50’s first. Then later on they became pound coins. I hated it when it ran out of money. If we didn’t have any coins in the house we had to go out asking neighbours if they had change. I remember once trying to get into it with a kitchen knife. Many did this when they were skint. It was like a piggy bank for some”. Eirian Roberts (Xennial ‘77)     

After midnight, however, on any given day, you could forget everything. All bets were off. For this was what Jack Wadel (the local barber) called the “ungodly hour”. Here, at this time of night, even the TV became redundant. A static state of despair. Scratching and hissing until the sunrise returned a signal to its shiny screen. Condemned to a boredom only thought to be possessed by death itself,  those early long hours were better filled with dreams, the American dream. A dream of a distant future. A future in full colour.  

Then, 1977 happened.  Year of the Xennial. The Year of the artificial heart, personal stereo, fibre optic communications, linked ATM, and the very first Atari console. It was the year of Star Wars, Rocky, Superman. And, this was just the beginning. Everything that followed for the next seven years would change the course of history forever. 

Along with the Sony ‘Walkman’ (personal cassette tape player) and the world’s first laserdisc, 1978 landed with a gaping hole in the ozone layer, influencing the first ban on CFC Aerosols. In 1980 we saw the birth of  Pac-Man, the Rubik’s Cube, and the IBM PC. Then in ‘82, things stepped up a gear. That year we got E.T, Spielberg’s non binary representation of suburban dreams. Followed by the first compact disc player, and lest we forget, the mighty Sinclair ZX Spectrum home computer. And If that wasn’t enough, we also got a whole new television channel. 

Well, technically we got two channels, Channel 4 and S4C all rolled into one. S4C programs in the day and Channel Four programming in the night. This was the very first Welsh/English bilingual channel, which came with a long line of Welsh programs including Noson Lawen, Cefn Gwlad, Dihirod Dyfed, and the very first Welsh language soap-opera, ‘Pobl YCwm’. S4C had given Wales a voice. An outlet. A media it could relate to, and with it came a whole host of Welsh characters such as Dai Jones, Ifan Gryffiths (ma Ifan ma), Densil ‘Pobol y Cwm’ (Gyn Elfin, now a local vicar in Tumble), Jeivin Jenkins (look him up), Huwcin Falabalam, Sali Mali, Super Ted, Sam Tan and much much more. All of which had a deep impact on our culture. Our Identity. Our psyche. And our wider understanding of the world beyond the Gwendraeth Valley. What was hard to fathom however, was that people were watching this stuff beyond its intended audience. Especially ‘Popol y Cwm’, which was being watched all across the country, even in Ireland.  

I once auditioned for ‘Pobl y Cwm’, when I was in Primary School (1980s). It was in Stepney Hotel in Llanelli. I didn’t get the part mind, they didn’t think my Welsh was up to standard, but I did get a five-pound voucher for WHSmith. If I remember correctly, I bought a Ghostbusters book. Michael ‘Bugs’ Ditch (Xennial ‘77)

It was at this time, unbeknown to the bedazzled who had fallen prey to their mind-numbing new toys and visual media, witness was also about to be borne to the new millennia. Conceived long before its birthday bash of 1999, the twenty first century came in installements, like parts for which to build your own future. The first constituent came in 1983 in the form of a mobile phone, referred to by many as a brick in a briefcase. Not that Tumble had noticed however, as many here were still using CBs and walkie-talkies, hooked to huge aerials, rubber-knecking on police channels and truck talking with anyone that could talk the lingo. Then, just a year before the Garbage Pale Kids frenzy, the concluding parts of the hereafter arrived in exactly, 1984. With one of these being an Apple Mac computer, and the other being its next generation human-counterpart, the Millennial. However, not that we weren’t interested, the component that was about to have the greatest and most immediate effect, at least for a jilted generation that hoped for a little immediacy, was the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder). And with it came, what was about to have the most profound effect. The Video store. 

Me and Wayne went walking down Bethesda Rd one afternoon, and in the distance we could see this huge aerial sticking out the side of this guys house. It was a CB aerial. So, us being the way we were as kids we just knocked on his door to ask what he used it for. It turned out he didn’t use it for anything. In fact he didn’t even know it was there. So we asked him if we could have it. He said carry on. It didn’t take us long to get that think back to the shed, it was up and running that evening. We started a CB gang that week. Leah Mudd, was the first girl in the gang. We drew up some rules and layed down the law. It was brilliant. I started talking to this Australian guy one night. I couldn’t believe it. I was calling everyone in. One by one the shed was filling up to listen to this guy. He was telling us he was from Perth. It was like we were talking to Crocodile Dundi. All us kids were hanging on his every word. It turned out, up the fucking road he was. He was puting on an accent. We were gutted. Glyndwr Davies (Xennial ’83) 

* Come back next week where Existentialist will be looking at the introduction of the Video store and the effect it had on us kids in Tumble.