Cwmdonkin Drive, No. 5

A fine day for a hike up a steep, breath blasting hill, that leads to Cwmdonkin Drive. No 5 was nearly at the crest, overlooking the Cwmdonkin Park that had Dylan Thomas spouting out, loud and shrill, over the red chimney pots of his 1920s’ Swansea home town.

I arrived at the gate, peeked over, re-arranged my wind-swept hair with one hand, whilst patting my chest with the other, and blowing out wind chimes that set my breathing back to a normal rhythm.

I took my time reading the info just inside the gate, as my interest had already been sparked. I had discovered Dylan in my teens but had written some text about him in my later years whilst attempting my BA degree in Trinity College, Carmarthen.

I knocked the door and quietly walked into the hallway. I heard voices. There were a couple already in the front parlour listening to the tales that I would a few minutes later, be imbibing. Geoff, the house guide, ushered me in and gave again the story to my stealing ears. I hoped to digest hunks as I explored but there were little crumbs left for my own writing. It was all for Dylan, who was born, and later scurried around in this house. His early life was hunkered about this place where he garnered the husks of his later published work. I was mesmerised by the visions he would have seen from any window he cared to look out of and from the whisperings around him; and so he created his scribbles, hidden in pages and turned over from prying eyes.

To sit in the front parlour where straight-backed aunts and uncles of Dylan’s had sat and where Dylan himself must have hovered, on the edge, behind half shut doors. In those days, parlours were for gatherings of family, perhaps when a wedding or a funeral was to be attended. I tried to imagine the Christmas of Dylan’s Story and that parlour where many tears were shed.

I ploughed upstairs to the room where Dylan was born in 1914, a large bay windowed comfortable place. From here, I wandered around the other accommodation from the cherry carpeted landing. The room that held my attention the longest, was, of course, his bedroom. What a mess! Just like, as I imagined, lots of boys’ rooms still are. Bits of paper and sweet wrappers everywhere. Crumpled notes, and the spent matches and empty cigarette packs that would show that he was no different to other boys of his generation, experimenting with that illicit habit (hidden no doubt as a boy, but on display as he became a man). The room was much as he would have left it, during his adult years with the fag-ended Players discarded into a corner. In this room he wrote his sea shaker poems and the tales of the horse-back hills in the villages of his relatives. These seeds of verse from his twenties would have been watered and eventually germinated into the writings of his later life.

The room was just as if he had stepped out; almost as if he would he be back any minute. I gathered up the information with my modest eyes, as if Dylan himself had spread it out, for me only.

All through the house, Dylan’s sense was there for me to see, in all its glory. There were the pots and the pans of the domestic, the dark knobbly keys of the Underwood typewriter, the shiny black piano where his sister practised her scales, and the wooden desk where, sitting beside her, their father would have marked the ink-blotched exercise books, one by one.

I concluded my visit by standing still and imagining the sounds and smells of Dylan’s 1920s’ Swansea and dreamed of exciting phrases that I could create, if only I had his imagination, but I left them “among the cigarette ends and the glasses.”

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