13 August 2006

Townies Vs Surfies

This was the classic rivalry when I was a kid. If you were from the west side you were most likely a 'Surfy' and if you were from the east side you were a 'Towny.' Battles were fought at the Mumbles carnival in the fields of Oystermouth Castle. If Townies were iin hot pursuit of you and your surfy mates you'd have to seek sanctuary in the closest surf shops. Years later I ended up working with a group of 'townies' as a basic skills teacher. I helped tutor a group of teenage boys basic literary skills. Sometimes I would show up for work after surfing and they would give me no end of shit. It was classic banter, that I pulled from to write this extract from Surrendering To The undertow.
The above photo was swiped from BBC Wales, taken by a Barry Norris. It is a classic Swansea Bay by night shot. The lights in the background illuminate the housing estates on Townhill and he city below, the foreground is the surfy territory of Mumbles.

I was cycling along Swansea Bay towards Mumbles on an early summer Saturday night, with the working class housing estates on Townhill to my rear. Further east, the lights of Baglan Bay began to twinkle through the smoke and fumes of the steel works. The tide was full and gently bouncing against the sea wall that protected the village from flooding during the inevitable winter storms. Several young hooligan kids were jumping off the sea wall into the bracing sea. Their skinny white torsos, covered in shitty homemade Swansea City Football Club tattoos, shivering as the dirty sea water dripped off their pale bodies onto the promenade. Half empty cans of cider, and crumpled packets of fags resting on the sea wall. These were “townie” kids and you’re supposed to hate townies if you are from Mumbles. Townie, usually meaning people from the housing estates up on the hills of Townhill, Mayhill, Penlan that looked down on Swansea from the east facing westward. Ten years earlier I would have cycled full speed right passed them, fearing for my life, unless I was with a crew of friends. “Surfies” and “Townies” despised each other when I was a kid but there and then I was tempted to take off my clothes and join them jumping in the sewage water that is Swansea Bay, drinking extra strong, filthy chemical ridden cider and smoking damp cigarettes.

“Orite Mush?” One of them offered, looking to me as if he wanted to get confrontational.

Weighing about as much as two of them put together, I offered a knowing grin and replied, “Orite there lads?”

“Aye, what’s it to you then?

“Nothin’. You asked first mate.”

Ignoring my last comment, the spokesperson continued, as his followers lurked behind him, giggling.

“Nice fuckin’ bike.” He said laughing at my bone-shaker of a bicycle.

I just laughed, “How’s the water then?”

“fuckin’ beee—uuuu-tii-fuull mun. Jump on in!”

“Nah, s’orite. Bloody filthy in there, boys. See the sewage pipe over there.”

“Ahh fuckin’ chicken you-ahh. ‘fraid of the sea innit?” One of the other urchins gained some confidence from the example his friends piss taking, at my expense.

“No. I’m in the sea everyday actually.”

“Oh aye, doin’ what then?”

“Surfin’ boys. Surfin’”

“You a surfy, are you?”

“Somethin’ like that.” I was beginning to enjoy the banter and was waiting for the inevitable expression of disgust at me being a surfer.

Instead, “Nice one! Do you know Mike, surfs Langland all the time?”

“Mike who?”

“Mike, you know, long black hair, drives a fuckin’ Golf, with one of the back windows smashed in. You know Mike, fuckin’ Williams. That’s it Williams”

“Oh aye, I think I know who you mean. Surfs a longboard?”

“Aye, his board is fuckin’ ‘uge innit? Yeah, well he’s my sister’s boyfriend ‘ee is.”

“Oh, nice one.”

“’ere you are, ‘ave a swig a that?” as he handed me his can of cider.

I took a big mouthful of the horrible booze and handed it back. “Jesus Christ that’s fuckin’ disgusting.”

“Aye, well does the trick dunnit?”

“Orite boys, well I’ll leave you to it. Take it easy.” I motioned to leave. I could have stayed and swam and drank with these skinny and shivering fifteen year olds all night but I didn’t. I didn’t want to ruin the moment.

“Orite then surfy boy, take it easy mush.”

My night was made then and there. There is nothing like sharing strong booze with dirty hooligans who you are supposed to dislike.

I walked into the pub to be greeted by group of people that I suppose were my friends.

“What time of day do you call this then?”