Dispatches from Purgatory#2: Out on the Village

I’ve saved this from my last visit to Purgatory; did I ever tell you the village is in dying? I was in my early teens when we relocated. I thought I’d died and gone to… well Purgatory. Moving from Islington, London to a place with one bus an hour to nowhere interesting was… well I’m still bitter.

When we arrived they were still building the vast Wimpey housing estates that engulf the village and the population has grown rapidly to 4,239. A quarter are under 19 – poor sods – and 45 percent between 30 and 59. The rest are older people. Born in Purgatory you get out quick – no twenty-somethings – thirty-somethings with kids retreat to Purgatory from the horrors of the city (yeah right). When they’re not looking after the kids or working, these people watch Sky TV. The village is simply a dormitory for the city of Cardiff.

It wasn’t always this way. When we arrived the village had a lively pub, three shops and a ‘constitutional club’ for OAPs who could hardly walk. On my Easter visit we popped over to the Purgatory Inn on a Sunday lunchtime when a village pub should serving traditional roast dinners, children should be running around making a nuisance of themselves and the rest of us downing a couple of pints before lunch. And that’s how it used to be – say fifteen years ago – but this Easter Sunday (when it should be all that and more) Katharine, mum and I were the only ones in.

One of the shops closed some time ago, the one with the post office franchise had nothing its shelves last visit; the remaining shop’s okay, but has given up half its floor space to other uses.

Traditional Sunday lunches have been replaced with tapas. Now I love tapas – Katharine and I went out for tapas last weekend – but the villagers are simple folk. Bizarrely when the regulars told the management they’d got it wrong, most got barred. Having no customers is bad for business, but they’ve got principles.

Purgatory does have some funny characters. There’s a guy who responded to his doctor’s instruction to cut down on alcohol by switching from Stella Artois to Carling. But that’s an old true story now.

Some get their fix from the Constitutional Club – where quiz night revealed the host hadn’t heard of Kylie Minoque (much bigger than Britney in the UK). The unlikely sounding alternative is the café of a nearby seaside trailer park. Ex-Stella-now-Carling-man chooses the trailer park and last summer his wife told me – as we discussed the poor sods who live in the trailers – how lucky we all were to have made it to Purgatory.

The Constitutional Club has a healthy crop of younger regulars – including my parents – in their late 50s and early 60s now. I’ll never forget a meal we had there. Prawn cocktail starter (with fresh side salad); Salmon with vegetables overcooked in the old English style (with the same, now slightly tired, side salad); huge doorstops of cheddar cheese and biscuits (with the same, now dried out, side salad). Musical accompanied was piped through; Chris De Burgh’s Lady in Red on panpipes. Now is that a description of Purgatory or what?

Dispatches from Purgatory#1: Mums & TV……Dispatches from Purgatory#3: Greener Grass

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