From Pontypridd to Edinburgh
December 21, 2018 2:50 AM   Subscribe

Vice's Homecoming is a series in which photographer Chris Bethell accompanies writers to their hometowns and learns about what they used to do, where they used to hang out and who they used to know, to see what it reveals about how the UK is changing.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork (5 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I especially like this description, from the Leicester piece: Right at the bottom of the river, under my bridge, it was filthy. Either way, we used to strip off and swim in the river, finding old trolleys and hacksaws and other trash resting at the bottom. I spent all seasons down there; the only thing that could stop me from sitting under that bridge like a little cider troll was when it was flooded. Even then, I tried.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:52 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I went to Emma Garland's piece on Pontypridd (and Ynysybwl) first, as that's the nearest to my neck of the woods, and somewhere I know a little. She writes (of Ynysybwl) that "Vibes-wise, it’s somewhere between the comic nihilism of [the] Heads of the Valleys and the washed-out tranquility of a Beatrix Potter illustration." Hailing from a town in the Heads of the Valleys myself, I would contend that the nihilism there is more tragicomic than purely comic, but, that minor quibble aside, I very much enjoyed her article.
posted by misteraitch at 5:40 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm from Oxford, and have never read a portrait of the town that I actually recognized, until now. Nell moved in different social circles to me (cocaine was certainly nowhere to be seen) but those locations were the backdrop to my life, and the issues she highlights are the real, deep issues that I feel too. This was a meaningful find for me.
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:27 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am from the US, and I am completely loving this series. Thank you for sharing it! Coming from a rural area in the fairly despised southeastern US, I appreciated and recognized the isolation of Pontypridd, the pride in attending state school in Kent, the wonderful mundanity of Leicester, the faded post-industrialness and racist chip shop of Chesterfield, the fond memories mixed with bigotry of Dartford--it all seems quite familiar. But then they mention that the market was founded in 1204 or point out Roman statues, and it is really an entirely different world from mine. And beautiful.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:51 AM on December 21, 2018

Misteraithc and bwerdmuller!
I grew up near pontypridd (tonteg) and then moved to near Oxford (abingdon) so your links were very helpful; in narrowing down just which bits of this article I needed to read. :)

Both articles summed those places up pretty well.
Cowley road is indeed the best (and most ignored) part of Oxford, where I spent quite a lot of time with a girl I was dating at the time.
The Welsh valleys are indeed all built around stuff that used to be there and isn't any more.
Ynysybwl is probably more noticeable in this regard in that it had a coal mine (which was still there, just about when I lived there, and which my dad would occasionally work in)

It's kinda telling how similar both stories are though. There are places that matter deeply because of nostalgia that mean nothing to the wider world. It must be strange to be a person who still live where you grew up. I can't quite imagine it. All the places that were magical becoming just places. Maybe it's not like that?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 12:16 PM on December 21, 2018

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