Sunday, 30 October 2016
Hadrian had walked the length of several carriages before he found somewhere to rest his weary metals. He was excited, that much was true, for this was his first time away from home. Hadrian was the apple of his father’s eye due to the fact that he was the first of the TickTok family to go to college.
His mother had wanted him to study, ‘RobRep’ – the robotic repair science – she had always wanted a doctor in the family. His father, on the other hand, had pushed his son, ever so slightly, in the direction of ‘EngRob’ – Engineering and Robotics.
As his father had wisely said:
“If we don’t create, we won’t survive.”
But his mother was also correct in stating that a robot family that can’t repair itself won’t survive either.
Hadrian had decided on none of these options - his fascination was not with ‘HistoRob’ – the history of the robots, but with a more secretive line of study.
Hadrian wanted to find out about the ‘time before the robots’.
When Hadrian had been about 5 revolutions of the Sun in age, his grandfather had taken him for his first visit to the seaside. They had both oiled themselves to prevent Sun damage, and then they had perambulated along the beach. Moving across sand wasn’t so easy, but perhaps that was half the fun.
It was while his grandfather had been checking for old metal pieces washed up on the shore, that Hadrian had found the special thing. He wasn’t really sure what it was at first, just that it wasn’t typical metal – it was a more pale material, perhaps with a trace of calcium - but a voice inside told him to hide the object and not to let his grandfather see it.
All the way home, Hadrian would take the object out and stare at it, and when he got back to his rest-pod, he hid the object in his old money bank.
He hadn’t the first clue who to ask about it, but he’d heard there was a Bot in Churchill Heights who knew almost everything about everything. This Bot would normally charge a fortune for the help, but Hadrian thought it worth it.
He arranged to meet the Bot around 14 hours past sun-up in a small café at the back of Trans Street. Hadrian paid the Bot two pieces of plutonium, as requested, and the Bot seemed to relax.
“So show me what is so important that we have to meet like this.”
Hadrian showed the Bot the object he had found on the beach. It was obvious that the Bot was trying to hide its surprise.
“Give it to me,” said the Bot.
Hadrian reluctantly handed it over. The Bot turned away and held the object up to the light.
“A-ha!” It said. “Mmmmm.”
The Bot pulled Hadrian over to a quiet corner, and whispered to him.
“It’s what is called a bone. A finger bone to be exact. There are stories, but they are only stories, mind, that a tribe or race lived before the Robots. I have seen them written as ‘humans’ - of course this is all conjecture and they were even called our creators. At that Hadrian laughed a little – only Robots created Robots. Everyone knew that.
“Can I keep it for a few days, and then I will let you know everything that I find out?”
Unsure what to do or say, Hadrian nodded his head.
When Hadrian hadn’t heard anything in half a moon’s cycle, he decided to track down the Bot. He made his way to the small café at the back of Trans Street. It was in darkness, but there was a poster stuck to the window. It read, ‘Due to unrobotic activity this café has ceased to trade’.
Hadrian didn’t know what to make of it all. He kicked about the street wondering what to do next until a small Bot came up to him and handed him a hand-written note (something he had only seen in photos but no one had ever communicated with him by this method).
The note said: ‘After you have read this, destroy the note. The object is a bone from the finger of a Homosapien. They disappeared from the planet a long time ago – more that a 1000 revolutions of the Sun. These were a race of intelligent souls who lived above us and beneath us. Find out what you can for the sake of us all. We will never speak again’. Wrapped in the note was the finger bone. He lifted his head to ask about the Bot but the street was now empty.
Hadrian did as he was instructed. He destroyed the paper and decided there and then he was going to find out about these humans the Bot had referred to. Someone or something out there didn’t want anyone to know about this race. What if they were the Creators?
That was why Hadrian was on his way to college that day. He was going to study HistoRob. At least that’s what he was going to let them think, but his plan was to find out about the race of beings that had once lived in these lands and nothing was going to stop him.
bobby stevenson 2016
Thursday, 27 October 2016
Once upon a long ago, a man walked into a room. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the place – it was just a room. Simple as that.
The first time the man walked into the room, he had spent too long listening to those who talk about darkness. Those are the souls who live, work, breathe, and create darkness. Their glass is always half-empty and it is always someone else who drank from it. They would rather you didn’t smile, after all what have you got to smile about?
Having let all this bleed into his mind, the man walked into the room. In the corner was an old lady with a cat. It looked as if the cat was the old lady’s only friend, she was willing it not to die. If the cat went, so the old lady would probably follow. Across, in another corner was a boy looking out of the window.
The boy looked lost, as if he was searching for something that lay beyond the horizon. Perhaps he was getting ready to jump, thought the man. Lying on the floor in the centre of the room was an old man staring at the ceiling. The man wondered if the older gentleman was looking at something in particular – but the man looked up and could find nothing of interest. Perhaps the older gentleman was depressed and could not find the energy to move? The man, sad and down, left the room and closed the door behind him.
Another man walked into the room. He had basked in the warm sunshine and had breathed the air full of the scent of flowers before entering. In the corner of the room he saw an old woman who was finding comfort and love in a beautiful cat. The animal was just as happy to be stroked and petted. At the window was a young boy who looked happy and excited to watch the sea and the sun create diamonds of colour. On the floor lay the boy’s father who was watching the rainbows on the ceiling created by the sun hitting a little crystal vase. The man smiled at the beauty in the room and left.
In this particular room moments before either of the men had entered, the boy’s father had tripped over his child’s cat and was lying injured on the floor. His son had called an ambulance and was watching out of the window to see when it arrived. The grandmother was trying to calm down the cat who was understandably upset after being tripped over.
And so to the point: there is no right, nor wrong in any place. There is only the truth as you see it.
bobby stevenson 2016
Wednesday, 26 October 2016
The name of the first one was Sadie.
That would have been sometime during the Civil War, probably around 1863. There was a story that some Confederate troops on their way back from Vicksburg had taken the family hostage. When Sadie’s parents heard the news of some stragglers heading towards their home, her father had made them all take shelter in the cellar. It was said that the ‘Feds took the family hostage to ensure their own safe passage back to the South. Now here’s where it gets kind of weird. When they caught the runaways, they had the mother, father and son James in their custody. The troops swore that there was no one else down there in the cellar. Maybe Sadie escaped, maybe she was killed, maybe she’s still down there.
The second one was known as Robert.
Just before the USA joined the Great War in Europe, there was a family called Collins who had lived in the house since the 1880s. The son - called Robert - when he was about 6 or 7 first went down to the cellar to play. When his mother asked him one day who he was talking to, he gave the reply: ‘why, I’m talking to my friend, Sadie.’ His mother put it down to his imaginary pal. Robert’s father joined up with the American army and headed to France to help on the war front. Robert was so upset that he sat at nights looking from his bedroom window, and waiting on his father to return. One cold winter’s evening Robert went down to the cellar to talk to Sadie and was never seen again. The story in the town was that, Robert, being heart-broken, had runaway to see his father.
In the late 1950’s, a father and his twin boys had rented the house for several months. The place had gained a name locally as being spooky and no one had lived in it since the thirties.
The twin boys, Gregor and Eugene, had taken to playing English soccer in the basement. They had painted goals at either end and would spend hours down there. One night when their father went down to tell them it was time for bed, all he found was a ball, and an empty room. Someone had scrawled on the wall in red – ‘Sadie loves Gregor’.
The father was blamed for their disappearance. It was known that he liked to drink and sometimes had a temper on him. The local folks said it was possible that the father had killed his boys. He was executed, February 1st, 1959 still claiming his innocence.
In 1977, a homeless man by the name of Seth, took shelter in the house. It had been derelict for several years by that time. Seth happened to pass another night at Seymour’s Farm, some ways down the track and mentioned to the farmer about the night he spent up at the house on the hill.
“Couldn’t get to sleep,“ he said. “’cause of them pesky kids.”
When the farmer said that no one local went there anymore, Seth was having none of it, and assured the man that local children were using the house to play in.
Around the new millennium, the house was bought by a family that had come from out West. The mother and father both worked for a big new pharmaceutical plant that had come to town. They had seen nothing that they liked in town and decided to buy the old shack on the hill and turn it into a family home. It took them all of 8 months to get the place the way they liked. In that time, they lived in a mobile home on-site.
Sometimes at night, and while the house was still being rebuilt, their middle daughter, Angel, who still pined for her home back West, would take a walk around the new home. The night before she disappeared she told her elder sister that she was 100% sure she had heard a racoon or something in the basement of the new house. When she went down, there was nothing much to show except for a few scratches on the wall. The following evening, Angel went for her usual evening walk and never returned.
Given the fact that they were sitting pretty comfortable money-wise, the family expected a ransom note or something similar to materialise – it never did. Heartbroken, and without their Angel, they moved back West for good.
So this Hallowe’en, me and some of the kids from town have decided to throw a party up at the house. We’re all going as folks from the past. One girl is going as Sadie, me and my brother are going as Eugene and Gregor. One or two of the girls are going as Angel.
I just thought I’d let you know.
I’ll also let you know how we get on.
bobby stevenson 2016
Monday, 24 October 2016
What can I tell you about my uncle that ain’t been said a million times before?
Well for a start he’s been my hero for as long as I can remember. He took up the slack when my father passed and treated me like one of his family, even ‘though he and Jean had five kids of their own.
He isn’t the tallest man in the world, but as he says: ‘they packed a whole universe into a real small body’. When he was a kid he always wanted to do one thing, and that was walk on a tight rope across the Niagara Falls – the Horseshoe ones - not the flat US side.
Sometimes he was out in his yard, and his kids were tired of watching their father fall off a rope strung across the rear of the house – I’d just sit there with and ask him things about the world and the universe – to me he was the most exciting person I had ever met. My uncle would cross his legs, sit down and smoke a cigarette he’d rolled himself, and I would just chill in the shadow of my hero wait for the great man to talk.
Every time I asked him about crossing the Niagara Falls, he’d always tell me ‘next year’. Always the crossing was some ways down the road.
Then one summer’s night – which may I say are the best nights in the world down our way – I walked over to my uncle’s place (Ted’s his name, by the by) but he was nowhere to be seen. I asked my eldest cousin - who was sitting on his daddy’s rocking chair - where his father was, and he just pointed out into the desert as if that explained everything.
I tell you, I went out into that desert all right, ‘cause there was nothing going to stop me, but it was just a weird place to go - especially when it was so late.
My cousin had just said, ‘follow the wires’ and that is what I did. I began thinking that maybe I had missed my uncle and perhaps he had gone home by some other route when suddenly, I hear his whistling.
“That you, Unk?”,I shouted. Nothing came, then I heard the whistling again. “Hey, are you there?”
“Up here,” came a voice from, you guessed it, up there.
As I looked up, I could hardly believe my eyes, there was my uncle walking along the wires that reached from our county to the next.
“What you doing?” I asked.
“Nothing special,” he shouted back.
“Are you coming down?”
“Soon,” he said. “Soon.”
Well every day, when he had the time, my uncle would walk along the wires for a few miles and then come back.
Then one night, me and him were sitting on porch, he was sitting on his rocking chair and I was sitting on mine.
He just looked at me funny like and then said, “Nephew.”
I said, “yep that’s me”
“Can I tell you something - I ain’t going to cross the Niagara Falls.”
“Nope, ‘cause everyone done that. Know what I’m going to do?”
I told him I couldn't guess and then he said, “I’m going to walk along the wires and see how far I get.”
Well you could have knocked me over. “How far do you think you’ll get?” I asked.
“Beats me, little one, beats me.”
The following Saturday he took a little knapsack with some money and some water and he climbed to the top of the pole. There was just me, my cousins and my aunt to wave him goodbye.
“You be sure and write,” shouted my aunt Jean.
“Sure will,” my hero called back.
He’s still up there. Last week I got a card from Albuquerque. He walks most of the days, then sleeps at the bottom of the poles most nights. Sometime a rancher will give him a bed in their barn for the night but from what I can tell, he ain’t going to stop until he gets to the ocean.
That's him - my uncle, my hero. The man who's walking across America on the wires.
bobby stevenson 2016
picture: Mark Brabant
Sunday, 23 October 2016
I guess I could begin this story with ‘once upon a time’ but then that would give the impression that it’s a fantasy - but that’s not exactly true. Well some of it’s not true. You can make your own mind up. Maybe there's a moral to the story - maybe not.
A long time ago – a long, long time ago - all the sunlight had finally been choked out by the smoke, and the exhaust, and those rancid gases which were produced to make the rich, richer.
The stories spread, like most bad ones do, embarrassingly fast around the world (from mouth-to-ear) that the sun would never ever shine again.
Those who were born after the ‘great darkness’ never knew a world that was any different, and therefore didn’t miss the feel of sunlight on their skin. The older generations told stories of sunburn, and days at the beach, of picnics sitting by the river, or of just closing your eyes and listening to the quiet hum of summer under a sunshine haze. The younger souls looked at one another and assumed that the elders were exaggerating or remembering a past through mist-ed minds.
The truth was that no description could ever properly describe the joy of a day packed to the brim with sunshine.
There was one sad soul, Edgar. He was just old enough to remember the wonderfulness of being between his family and sitting in the sunshine being happy. As the sun-light had evaporated, so had Edgar’s happiness.
Edgar felt that the rays of the sun would never warm his face again, and that possibly, happiness would never rush through his blood stream once more.
As Edgar grew older, he became more cynical, more abrupt, and unhappier. He felt that his happiness would only return, if the sun did the same.
Above the hamlet where Edgar lived, there was a high peak, called the Mountain of No Return. This is where folks, who had found life a struggle, would climb up and think about their existence. Some came back down and some did not.
Edgar did what all sad souls did – he started to believe his own thoughts. He started to think that his happiness would never return and hug him once again, that life would be a sunless existence for eternity.
One cold morning, Edgar started to climb the Mountain of No Return. All the way up he tried to size up his life, wondering if he could have changed anything to make it better. Each time he weighed up the black thoughts with the good thoughts, the downside always won.
When he got to the top, he looked down to the dark valley below – the one behind the mountain that never saw sunshine, even when the sun had been sitting in the sky. It was long drop and although Edgar didn’t know what lay down there, he knew that if he jumped it had to be better than living the way he did.
Edgar closed his eyes, whispered ‘sorry’ as much to himself as to his family and friends, and then he stepped off the edge.
About half way down, Edgar felt the heat of the sun on his face as it broke through the clouds for the first time in many years. As he opened his eyes he could see the very bluest of skies above him.
Then he remembered that he was jumping off a mountain.
“Oh crap!” Were his final words.
bobby stevenson 2016
Thursday, 20 October 2016
(for Jims - the King of the Kings Arms)
The two of them sat at the shaky table in the Bright Water Café. They always chose this table as it gave Jake and his grandfather a chance to come up with ways to stop its unruly behaviour. Usually they would stick some folded paper under the short leg, but if they didn’t bother with that technique, then they would see how much of their breakfast they could eat before they spilt something.
It wasn’t a grown-up thing to do, but when Jake and his granddad met up, adult stuff went out of the window. Today they were being spies and Jake’s grandfather was teaching him the tricks of being James Bond.
“If you want to know if someone is watching you, maybe even following you – the trick is to yawn.”
“Yawn, Granddad? That’s it?”
“That’s it. Without looking around, Jake my boy, stretch out your arms, and then yawn.”
Jake did exactly as he was told.
“Now look around and see who yawns – that is the person who is watching you. Because yawning is contagious – if you’re watching someone yawn, then you’ll want to yawn too.
Jake looked carefully around but there was no one yawning, well no one except the man who fried the eggs, he was always yawning.
“So that means that you’re not being followed. Now that’s a good thing, right?”
And Jake had to admit that it was. Many things scared Jake, and being followed was one of them. Noises also bothered him. And busy places. It was all much as the doctors had told his mother and father – ‘your son is Autistic’.
No one knew what that meant at the time, but they did now. It was as his grandfather had said, just another colour in the human experience. Jake was sure that was a good thing.
His grandfather would try to introduce Jake to as many different and interesting things as he could. Sometimes those things worked – sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes the strangest thing entertained Jake. He loved animals, especially birds. Jake would sit and stare at their behaviour for hours. Other times he would grow bored very quickly and his grandfather had to think of something else.
Jake’s granddad did try to keep it to the same times each week, so that Jake could be ready and looking forward to whatever they decided to do; and if they stayed away from noisy, busy places things usually turned out okay.
When Jake’s grandfather started to grow older and found it more difficult to get around, he sat Jake down and told him a story.
“When I was a kid,” he said. “I had no brothers or sisters to play with, and most times, if my pals weren’t there, I got ever so lonely. So what I used to do was a little trick my grandmother had taught me. She’d say, close your eyes, and then shake your body a little to get relaxed, and I would do that. Then she’d say imagine you have the biggest rope in the world, and I would do that too. Then she’d tell me to lasso the moon. That’s it, she’d say, go on, throw that rope, and I would do as she said and I’d lasso the moon. Then when I was sure that the rope was tight enough, she’d tell me to concentrate real hard and walk towards the moon. That way, my little grandson, she’d say, you can be as free as the wind, and that Jake, is what I want you to do when I’m not with you some days. Close your eyes, lasso the moon and then walk to a quiet spot on the moon. Up there you can sit and watch all us silly people down here moving about.”
And do you know what? That is what Jake did whenever he was tired, or afraid, or scared of the noise. He’d close his eyes, lasso the moon and walk to a quiet spot.
bobby stevenson 2016
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
At 9.15 on the morning of October the 21st 1966 a coal tip slides off a mountainside above Aberfan. The slip engulfs Pantglas Junior School and 18 houses in Moy Road. Wives, mothers, minors and teachers attempt to dig the children out. Half the 240 children are safe, the others are trapped or smothered.
9.30am – First outside help arrives from the fire brigade.
9.42am – Merthyr Tydfil police advise Glamorgan Police of the accident.
9.50am – First casualty admitted to St. Tydfil’s Hospital.
10.10am – Glamorgan Police and Civil Defence mobilising to help.
10.30am – BBC News Flash. Offers of help pour in.
10.45am – First broken water main shut off.
11.00am – Last live child brought out of the school. 22 Children and 5 adults admitted to St. Tydfil’s Hospital; a further 9 go to East Glamorgan Hospital. In London the National Coal Board meet. The Director in charge of production prepares to leave for Aberfan.
11.30am – The second broken water main shut off.
12.00 noon – National Coal Board start cutting drainage channel to stabilise tip.
1.35 pm – Prime Minister is informed.
5.00pm – The Prime Minster in a telephone discussion with Secretary of State decides that PM to visit Aberfan right away. 20 bodies recovered; 36 injured in hospital. 150 are missing.
7.00pm – Buckingham Palace advises Lord Lieutenant that Duke Of Edinburgh may wish to visit Aberfan.
8.00pm – Buckingham Palace contacts the Duke of Edinburgh and confirm visit for next morning.
9.40pm – Prime Minster visits Aberfan, leaving at Midnight.
10.00pm – 60 bodies recovered.
October 22nd 2am – 83 bodies recovered.
3am – Lord Snowden in Aberfan for two hours returning at day break.
6am – 100th body recovered.
11am – The Duke of Edinburgh in Aberfan.
2pm – the rain starts.
4pm – Secretary of State gets ready to order an evacuation of the site due to heavy rain. Coal Board engineers give an assurance that recovery should continue.
5pm – Rain becomes heavy , situation becomes serious.
6pm – Crisis point in heavy rain which is aggravated by the number of volunteers. Tip is still stable.
7pm – The rain eases.
11.40pm – First help from Army personnel requested.
12 midnight - 118 bodies now recovered.
October 23rd Lord Robbens and National Coal Board officials say unknown stream was the cause of slide. Disaster fund reaches £5000.
Recorded TV programme made by ATV in the TWW studios in Cardiff. A survivor interviewed on how she had been brought through a classroom window:
Interviewer: What did you see?
Child: We saw all the boys cut and they were scrapped and things.
Interviewer: And where did you go?
Child: I ran home.
Interviewer: What were… tell me about these boys again. What did they look like?
Child: Some were cut on the neck and cut on the legs.
Interviewer: So will you have to find someone else to play with?
October 24th – Inquest opened: outburst by father demanding ‘buried alive by National Coal Board’ on certificate.
Disaster fund reaches £12,500.
Fyfe Robertson interviews the tip charge Leslie Davies regarding the claim by the NCB that the stream under the tip was unknown to them.
Leslie Davies: Well I think myself water running down from the mountain and the brooks.
Fyfe Robertson: Now wait a minute, there has always been a stream near the tip, hasn’t there?
Leslie Davies: Yes, yes.
Fyfe Robertson: Well is there anything different in recent years or months?
Leslie Davies: No, nothing different, the streams have been there, we’ve seen them, we know where they are, the brooks run down the mountains.
Fyfe Robertson: They were normally running down beside the tip, weren’t they?
Leslie Davies: Beside the tip, yes.
Fyfe Robertson: Now, I’ve heard this said and I would like to have your opinion on this, that in the case of the fatal tip the waste was actually tipped on top of the stream, is this true in your opinion?
Leslie Davies: Yes we have tipped on top of the stream, yes.
Fyfe Robertson: Now is this normal practice, have you ever done it before, have you ever seen it done before?
Leslie Davies: No, not on top of a stream. There’s a spring of water coming up from underground which you can’t stop, well, that has been there ever since I’ve known it. We’ve sent men down there to fill our cans with water to boil tea down at that spring.
Fyfe Robertson: What do you say about the statement made by Lord Robbens of the National Coal Board, informed now doubt by his experts that they have discovered an unknown spring inside the tip and that this possibly caused the disaster?
Leslie Davies: Well, I don’t know about an unknown spring, that spring has been there ever since I’ve known it.
Fyfe Robertson: Did you get instructions to tip on top of the spring?
Leslie Davies: No,the instruction I got was tip, that’s all. My instruction to tip muck, isn’t it?
Fyfe Robertson: Did it make you uneasy Mr Davies when you did tip on top of this stream?
Leslie Davies: No, that never made me uneasy because we’ve never seen a thing like this.
Fyfe Robertson: I tell you one thing that puzzles me: if you tipped on top of a stream surely one way or another the water would find its way out again.
Leslie Davies: Bound to, you know.
Fyfe Robertson: Well then wouldn’t that obviate the danger?
Leslie Davies: Well, water is bound to find its way out isn’t it? By tipping muck and rubbish and tipping over it, it blocks it in and so much that the water builds up inside the tip like a dam. Well, it’s got to burst.
Fyfe Robertson: Do you think it was the pressure of this water that caused the waste to spring up before it fell?
Leslie Davies: Yes, definitely, yes.
Fyfe Robertson: How often are the inspections carried out of the tip you’re working on?
Leslie Davies: Well…
Fyfe Robertson: When did you last see an expert come up and have a look at it?
Leslie Davies: I’ve never seen an expert in the village, not an expert.
October 24th Disaster fund reaches £12,500. The newspapers print that the Aberfan tip had slipped in 1944 and 1963.
October 25th - £50 distributed from to NCB to the bereaved. This is the maximum they can contribute without accepting responsibility.
October 26th - First private funerals. Fund reaches £70,000.
October 27th – Mass funeral. Press gag announced by Attorney General.
October 28th – Final body found, death roll of 144. Plus a soldier of 22 newly married, who spent some of his disembarkation time leave on rescue work at Aberfan dies hitchhiking home.
October 31st – Death roll officially established at 116 children and 28 adults. Aberfan parents tell Merthyr Council they will not send their children to temporary accommodation at Merthyr School because of location under coal tip.
November 3rd – Aberfan parents demand majority membership on disaster fund committee. They are allowed one member and one councillor.
November 11th – Welsh Office announces tip clearance unit.
November 24th – Fund reaches 1 million pounds.
December 7th – Ronald Hicks Glamorgan Civil Defence officer awarded gold medal by Institute of Civil Defence.
December 8th – Chief Constable corrects any impression that Ronald Hicks was in overall charge of rescue work.
December 9th – Mayor appeals to the two men to bury the hatchet.
January 31st 1967 – Disaster fund closes at £1,606,929.
February 8th - 1,500 people sign petition demanding removal of coal tips above village. The Wilson Government eventually take £150,000 from the disaster fund to complete this.
March 7th – Suggestion box placed in Aberfan for 3 weeks on ideas how to spend the fund.
March 20th – Jeremy Thorpe MP introduces National Disaster Fund Bill in House of Commons. This will give guidance on any future disasters.
June 16th – Jeremy Thorpe’s National Disaster Fund fails.
June 19th – Mother of survivor receives anonymous letter threatening her child’s life.
July, 1997 – Ron Davies, the First Secretary of State for Wales under
Tony Blair returns the £150,000 taken from the fund. Although by today’s values (2009) it should have been £1,500,000.
ABERFAN – THE DIARY
(all the facts below were reported by different people in Aberfan)
(all the facts below were reported by different people in Aberfan)
Woman: Thursday the 20th of October, 1966. I’m not speaking to Harry. Well to be honest he’s not speaking to me if truth be told. That Alf Garnett nonsense is on TV and I find him ever so rude. So Harry says if I don’t like it, I can lump it or go upstairs. So here I am diary. Oh and the other thing is that Harry still has his England flag flying out the back yard. I keep telling him, I know he’s proud to be English but this is Aberfan and we did not win the World Cup. Besides, it’s been nearly 3 months since he came staggering drunk up Moy road singing ‘we won the cup’. It’s a miracle the locals didn’t thump him one. As it is, the kids all take pot shots at the flag with their catapults. Last Saturday one kid missed the flag and it smashed the window in our hut. Talking of kids, our David is still awake. He says he can’t sleep. I thought it was excitement about Halloween coming soon but he says it isn’t. I know him – he’s probably sneaked a chocolate bar into his bed. I keep telling him he shouldn’t eat before bed time, it gives him wild dreams and I was right. Just ten minutes ago he was at this very door telling me about the man dressed in black standing in his bedroom telling him that he should not go to school. I ask you, what will kids think of next? Well diary I can hear Harry coming up the stairs so I’ll swiftly say goodnight.
Woman: Friday the 21st of October, 1966. Good morning diary and yes it is unusual for me to write in the morning but it’s been such a struggle to get David to go to school. He insisted that the man in his room told him not to go to school. I told him to grow up and not be a baby. He said he wasn’t a baby and he stormed off. He usually wants me to walk him to school. He likes Friday’s as there is no assembly and he has a few extra minutes playing in the boy’s playground. He’ll be back when he wants fed telling me how sorry he is.
I must say I am fed up to the back teeth with all this rain – it has rained non stop for the last six weeks – Harry says the folks in Merthyr have all developed webbed feet.
Ooops, there’s someone at the door I’ll say cheerio for now.
Well back again, that was just Mrs Jones – she asked had I heard anything about the school being closed. I said I hadn’t. I mean it’s only 9.30 now, why would they close the school so early? Anyway Mrs Jones seemed happy enough and walked off for catch her bus to Cardiff. The funny thing is the electric has gone off – I had put on the kettle and it just died. Maybe the school has been affected too.
Writing this by candle light. What time is it? 10.15pm. Harry said I should get indoors and do something to take my mind off of it. He’s gone back out to keep digging. My David is one of the children missing. Why did I let him go to school? About 9.15 this morning one of the tips slipped down the hill. It hit the school and a few of the houses as well. Mister Southford’s wife and children are missing. Nice family. One of the Southford boys was at school and the other stayed at home as he was unwell but the tip hit his home. I heard someone say the wave of slurry was 30 foot high as it came down the hillside. I heard there are about 200 children missing and my David is one of them. Teachers are missing as well. Harry says the tip hit the water mains and the water is pushing the slurry forwards. He says he won’t stop digging until he finds David and brings him home.
Woman: 3.43am Saturday 22nd of October. Someone brought a primus stove to the door, I can’t remember who. So I’m keeping the water warm for a cup of tea just in case Harry comes home. I walked up to the school earlier but the police told me not to get too near. I said my son was under there and a tall police officer, a nice man, said he understood as his two daughters were there also. I could see that all the houses across from the school had also gone. As I walked back down Moy road I met four Scotsman who had come to help. The youngest one told me that they had travelled all the way from Dundee the minute they heard the news. They said not to worry that they would find my son.
Woman: 7.15am Saturday. Harry came in for a change and went straight back out again. I haven’t slept. I was talking to Mrs Smith and she told me that they haven’t found anyone alive since 11am yesterday. Her boy, Tommy, was taken to Cardiff as they had to break his legs to get him out from under a desk. I know my son is alive, I can feel him. Harry said they had found five children alive, bless them, under a teacher. She didn’t survive. She still had the dinner money she was collecting clutched in her hand. She’d thrown herself on top of the children and that’s what had saved them.
Woman: 10.27am He’s alive, our David is alive. Some kind woman, Janice I think her name was told me that David is alive and well in Merthyr Hospital. Thank you God. Janice is with the Salvation Army at the home, The House Of Trees, I think they call it. She said she’d get word to Harry. I said was she sure – she said she’d spoken to David and said that his Mum was Esther and his father was called Harry and they lived in Moy Road. My world is okay. It seems that David’s face was so blackened that no one recognised him. I told Janice that I would like to see him. She said she’d get someone to drive me up there.
Woman: 11.15. You’ll never believe who just dropped in for a cuppa. The Queen’s husband. There was a knock at the door and suddenly Prince Phillip and Lord Snowdon are standing in my kitchen as bold as you like. I told them that Harry was still digging and that David was in hospital. Lord Snowdon said he’d been there all night and had talked to Harry. The men and women were doing a fantastic job. The two of them were ever so nice. Prince Phillip commented on my china cups, said he’d ask his wife to get the same,then he winked at me.
Woman: Sunday, 23rd of October, I’m not sure what the time is, as the clocks all changed last night. It caught most people out this morning but they’ve got more important things to worry about. I saw David and he’s fine. He wanted to come home but the doctor felt he should stay in hospital for another couple of days as he had breathed in a lot of the muck. When I told Harry that David was okay, his face beamed like England had won the World Cup all over again. He told me that they had pulled out 118 dead bodies, children and adults. And I cried and I cried and I cried. Mrs Taylor said that an unknown stream was the cause of the tip moving but she said that the villagers knew it was there even if the National Coal Board didn’t. It’s been raining heavy all night, it just won’t seem to stop.
Woman: Wednesday 26th of October. David is home now. I can’t seem to get him to smile but I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Everyone is wearing black. Today is the first of the funerals. Tomorrow they are going to bury 82 of those poor souls in a mass grave.
Woman: Friday 28th of October, 1966. They found the last body today. That makes 116 children and 28 adults. Mrs Taylor told me that one of the older brothers of a child who survived had died of a heart attack during the rescue, he was only 19. I’ve got my David and my Harry and that’s enough to be getting on with.
Woman: Saturday 29th of October. Prince Phillip returned with his wife, the Queen. He seemed very stern, not the man that sat in my kitchen. As he was moving away he saw me and gave me a big smile.
Woman: November 2nd. They’ve opened up a play centre for the school pupils, so David is now able to get back to playing with his friends. The disaster fund has reached over a million pounds, however the National Coal Board apparently want to take £150,000 to make all the tips safe. I don’t know who these people think they are but the Coal Board want to charge £72 rent for each of the caravans they lent to the folks who were made homeless.
Woman: April 10th, 1967. Today they started demolishing the old school. David has moved to a new temporary one in Aberfan Park. Harry thinks we should go to Tenbay on holiday this year. For the first time, Harry smiled.
bobby stevenson 2016