06 March 2006

foulweather: Stairway To Nowhere

foulweather is my little publishing project. I am going to use this blog as an effort to explain what it is, where it came from and where it is going.

I suppose I'll start at the beginning. Swansea, South Wales. "The Graveyard of all ambition" as Dylan Thomas once proclaimed. Dylan Thomas is perhaps Swansea's most famous son but obviously he had an uneasy relationship with the city. Anyway, that is where I'm from. It is where I was born and where I want to end up slowly rotting on the beach, being pecked away by sea birds.

Dylan also described Swansea as a "Pretty Ugly Town." Swansea, as much as it wants to relish in Dylan's celebrity has always been uneasy with his descriptions of it. Consequently, when one walks out of the train station and looks down at their feet, they will find engraved in stone the words, "Ambition is Critical." In the mid 1990s a film called Twin Town was set in Swansea. During one of the opening scenes the lead characters discuss Dylan's description of Swansea while walking over the "Ambition is Critical" engraving. "Lovely Ugly Town?" One asks the other, "More like Pretty Shitty City" is the reply. Anyway, the above photograph was taken the last time I was back. I call it the Stairway To Nowhere. Not very subtle, I know, but sometimes there is no room for subtlety.

Swansea is the end of the line both geographically and metaphorically. The end of the railway tracks and the end of the M4 (well that goes all the way to Carmarthen these days but we'll ignore that detail for now). If you ever drive or catch the train into Swansea about ten miles east you pass by Bagaln Bay and its monstrous industry. At night it looks like some form of dystopian city, with the gas and steel works glowing in unnatural oranges and white, fire and smoke bellowing above the black sea. It looks like a scene from Blade Runner. Not coincidently, Ridley Scott was reading Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, as he once went past Baglan Bay on his way into Swansea or so the story goes. Whats more, Terry Gilliam once stopped in Baglan on his way into Swansea. You see, Monty Python's The Life Of Brian, was actually banned in the City of Swansea and he came into town to defend it. For whatever reason he stopped in Bagaln, perhaps just to walk on the beach. On the beach with the massive cooling towers to his rear, an old man with a stereo walked by as Gilliam looked out to sea. The old man was carrying a radio and on it crackled some distant sounding Brazilian music. Gilliam was so struck by the juxtaposition of the imagery before him that he went round the bend and came back again with this film called Brazil. You may have heard of it. You may even have seen it. If you have you will surely remember the torture scene at the end. Well that is set in the very cooling towers that look out from South Wales into the Bristol Channel and beyond, out to the Atlantic. This is where foulweather came from. Coming and going to Swansea.

Finding prettiness in the shittiness. Beauty in the filth.