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  • Writer's picturehuw79

Magnetic Sundays

This was a day where nothing happened. Where nothing was open, well almost nothing. Of all the twenty something shops, fooderies and bars who served our community, there were only five who opened their doors on a Sunday. Two of these were paper shops, for which you had to be an early riser to catch, or at least one of its paper boys/girls. Kitted with a 45lb too-heavy-for-kids luminous yellow/orange satchel, which stank when it rained (it always rained). The other three of course were clubs. Where, between six and eleven, for anyone with a hint of a mustache or gravelly voice, who needed to soak their gullet, here there was the warmest of welcomes. But this was no place for a child. 

Every Sunday, guaranteed. My mother would wake me up early and ask me to go up to Towyn’s paper-shop and get her Fags. I hated that, it was even worse if it rained. His shop felt like miles away when we were kids. But he was the only one open on a Sunday, wasn’t he. I would jump on my bike, headphones on, and ride as fast as I could, in the hope I wasn’t soaked. But I could never beat the rain. Eirian Roberts (Xennial ‘77)

Being an official church day, this was a day dedicated (w)holly to the man upstairs, and his son Jesus, of course. It was not a day for us kids. Particularly on the ‘box’. We knew this because it began with a morning of song and prayer, with no beats or catchy riffs, to which its significance was regarded far greater than any other television scheduling. Even that of He-Man, which of course to us was blasphemy. He-Man WAS a god too, but with better music.   

Sunday was also an official bath day. A day were all was cut, washed and groomed. Where the potatoes that were reportedly growing behind our ears where plucked and then, as I assumed, stored with all the other new potatoes ready for Sunday dinner. Another delight associated with the day of the sabbath. Gazumping weekday delicacies such as findus crispy pancakes or frozen pizzas, this was a day that called for small dry tasteless potatoes, sprouts, cabbage, and tangy swede. This was a day to be thankful, and we were. If only for the gravy that gave life to such a bland nitty-gritty of vegetation. For the smell however, a lingering, pungent and meaty scent that wafted from every house in every street beyond, the whole community could be thankful that it was bath day.      

We tried to make the most of the last day before school. Walking, yes, physically walking to our friends houses, to call for them. Getting a good bit of play going before it ended with the sonic waves of my mother shouting to get in for bath time. Happy days. No matter where you went you could always hear your mother shouting for you. Gavin Phillips (Xennial ‘80)

Ringing loud and clear, the church bells which chimed through the entire village, shushing every sound, reminded us that this was the the day of rest. Not that we needed reminding, of course, how could we forget? There was only rest left to be had. There were no sweets, no crisps, no pop (fizzy drinks), and often, as it was the end of the week there were no nice foods left in the house either. With nobody to blame accept ourselves, apparently, who were always said to have devoured everything in sight. It was regularly proclaimed in our household, almost always on a Sunday, that if things were not hidden up one’s proverbial, there was eff-all left by the the weekend. If you wanted anything on this day, it would be a virtue best known as patience, for shopping day was not until Monday. And, the end of the week was as we knew it, the end of the world.

You could never forget that it was a Sunday. There would always be something to remind you. I once remember my father telling me to be home by 7PM. So I was. I was only about ten or something like that, and as I walked through the door I could hear the theme of Antiques Roadshow. I fucking hated that show and it’s boring song. I still do. Gavin Thomas (Xennial ‘78)

Television was no sanctuary either. Long before Netflix or Prime TV. Beyond the hours that followed the school bell on a weekday, which signaled ‘home time’, or those glorious breakfast hours on a Saturday morning. Our feeble four channel TV, on average had very little to offer most kids, and Sunday was to be of no exception. Unless you were in tune with the Boswell family in ‘Bread’, or watching three old men looking for kicks in Last of the Summer Wine, you were bang out of luck. Sometimes we were fortunate enough to catch a rerun of Terror Hawks, but, if you were looking for your prime time heros with fast bikes, stealth choppers, talking cars, or armoured vans, with a razor sharp electro-soundtrack, you just had ride it out until next Saturday.

However, Sunday, the true redeemer always had a trick or two left up its sleeve, bringing a balance back to the universe. One of these being Balbini Ice Cream van, who was the bringer of all things great when all else had been denied. Pop, Crisps, sweets… Cigarettes, and of course ice cream. But the one thing this day had that no other day could compete, not even Balbini. The one and only, Radio One Top Forty. A complete rundown of the forty best hits in the music charts. Long before MP3s, Downloads, Spotify or iTunes this was our saving grace. Between four and seven PM, the children of the Gwendraeth Valley, along with the rest of the nation, were glued to their stereos with their finger on the ‘Rec’ button, ready to mix their tapes.   

Start/Stop. We listened intently as the new sounds hit the waves, hanging on every word. Track after track, we waited for the end of every song, ready to cut the DJ’s voice from our carefully crafted magnetic playlist. These hours were spent dedicated to track lists, titles, even tape covers. Sometimes we even included the words of their greatest hits. Stop/rewind/start. Until every lyric was clearly spelled, and could be sung out loud.   

We taped things off the radio to save spending our pocket money. Trying to stop the tape before the voice came in, so that it sounded like an original copy, but we could never do it. The voice would always come on before the end of the song saying something like… that was Madonna at number ten… arrrr. We had to get on a bus, then. Off to Woolworths to buy the Single, it was only about 99p, but if we bought every song in the charts!!! I remember once, I had tape copies off someone for my birthday, Bad and Thriller, I mean who gives tape copies as a birthday gift, but people did. That’s how things were back then, no one would do that now. Gemma Davies (Xennial ‘78)

Hitting the decks in 1978, led by radio stars Bates, Brookes, or Goodier, the Top Forty rundown ran unrivaled for well over a decade. Only receiving a run for its money by one competitor, in a whole generation. A pirate station. Known then as Atlantic 252, these radio rebels transmitted their long waves across an entire continent, stealing the glory and winning the ears of every kid, teen, or music junkie within its frequency. Playing the best tracks all day and every day. Allowing us to record till our hearts were content. 252 had etched its numbers into the very core of our memory. However, there was only one ‘chart show’ that counted. The official top forty. And every sunday, Radio One had our ear bent to the tracks, waiting to find out which of our favourite hits had battled it out to the top spot. And our tapes were always at the ready.           

Now, many a year onwards, troubled less by the inevitability of the week ahead, or the change that will often be bestowed upon us, such as Radio One’s decision to move its onetime trail-blazer to a Friday afternoon spot. I am half content in the notion that some things simply do-not change. Sunday is still the day of worship, and it is still what many would deem to be a good day to bathe. Our doors remain closed, at least for some of the time, for us to take that well earned break. And, a dinner, although less socially redulant, is still the order of the day. Television might have taken a turn for the better. However, in the age of the ‘instant’, where we have all we demand, on command. Where we wait for nothing, we start to long for nothing, for ‘nothing’ to happen. It is then I am reminded of simpler times. And that is when I remember, Sundays. Our Sundays. Magnetic Sundays.  

We used to go to my grandparents in Drefach every Sunday for tea. My grandmother’s hands were crippled with arthritis but she would still make homemade cakes, and we would eat them until we were sick! I’d spend the hour and a half that we were there counting through money my grandmother had saved in an old Lyons Syrup tin, and then record Bruno Brookes top ten on Radio 1 on my her tape/radio. I would then learn the words to these songs during the week so that I knew them all off by heart. I Still get annoyed when people sing the wrong words to songs! We’d all then settle in the evening to watch Bullseye. I remember Darrel (brother) and I would shout “Mine!” at all the prizes to claim them, pointless game really, but very important to us at the time. Dawn Carby (Xennial ‘78)

Morning started at Sunday school at Bethel Chapel, then out at the back of High Street and down the Line making dens, riding bikes or climbing trees. Followed by Chicken dinner and then out again to play some more. Sometimes we’d venture down to Penparc or to see my grandparents in Rhos Newydd for tea of golden syrup or banana sandwiches and cake or rice pudding before my grandmother would be driven to Chapel for the 6pm service. Then it was bath night and Last of the Summer Wine before bed. I loved Sundays. Melonie Sheppard (Xennial ‘78)
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