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Back to Bangor

From Planet 215

Tony Conran worked on several projects in his last years including his autobiography in which he writes vividly of his upbringing in Liverpool and war-time Colwyn Bay as a child with cerebral palsy, his student years, his apprenticeship and life as a poet and teacher. This chapter is about his return to Bangor following time working in England. As a poet he was perhaps best known for his ‘Elegy to the Welsh Dead in the Falkland Islands, 1982’.

Working as a clerk in Chelmsford, I used to travel back to Bangor every opportunity I had. I’d rush out of the factory gates on the Friday afternoon, catch the train to Liverpool Street, then a tube to Euston where I’d just about find the 7.20 to Holyhead getting up steam to go. Coming back was more of a problem as I quite often missed the last connection to Chelmsford on Sunday night and had to spend the night perched on a bench in Liverpool Street Waiting Room. It was quite an interesting place. All manner of folk would end up there, some bona fide travellers, quite a lot not – drunks, layabouts, tramps, huddling in the dim hall to keep warm in the winter nights. Good seats, particularly by the fire, were at a premium. One needed sometimes to walk about, to go to the toilet, get a cup of tea from the machine, or simply stretch one’s legs and speculate how long dawn would be. Usually people were friendly and would keep your seat for you if you asked them. But one night I went out to pee and came back to find a woman of about forty plonked in my chair. She had a bottle of beer in a brown paper bag and swigged at it from time to time. The ritual was more elaborate than you’d imagine, involving opening the bag, crooning at it sotto voce words of love, getting her lips round the top of the bottle, gurgling, belching gently, and then in slow motion reversing the whole process.



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