On Saturday, I took part in the first Llandudno 'Photomarathon', another inspired initiative by CALL (Culture Action Llandudno). I'd not heard of photomarathons, but as the blurb said, "Photomarathons are popular across Europe, with regular events in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, France, Russia and erm…Cardiff. And now we’re bringing this event to Llandudno for the very first time." The Llandudno one involved getting 8 topics, and taking 8 photos in the order of the topics, in 8 hours.
Hmmm. Or not. I had a plan: walk North from the google centre of Llandudno, take the first 2 pics, then walk south and do the same, then east, then west. I had a plan not to focus on the picturesque, but the hidden details...
But found myself so engaged with Somerset Street, upon which I found myself, I didn't move on from it. The street - or technically 4 streets, running into each other - runs between the main shopping street (Mostyn Street) and the sea front. It used to mark the boundary of the conservation area. In the image below, it is obliterated by the lower arc of the boundary. It is a kind of strange in-between world of the backs of the sea front hotels and the backs of the high street shops. It's bizarrely quiet. And rather shady (in both senses of the word).
While attracting the attention of various security guards ("are you a spy?") as I loitered along the street (it had turned by now from Somerset to Bodafon Street), I met a man with a strong Glasweigan accent, accompanying his dog, Stan-the-Man. They on their daily walk along the street to a raised patch of grass where Stan-the-Man could relieve himself without the owner having to bend down too much to bag-and-bin. We got talking. Others joined us, including an American tourist staying in the Imperial Hotel.
This blog - in the form of walking tour that you could try, if you find yourself in Llandudno and motivated to do so - is dedicated to that chance encounter, and the mysterious but symbolic world that lies at the centre of Llandudno. You may also spot the Photomarathon topics that I was chasing: the topics included: Yellow; I can see a creature; connections; the one and only; sanctuary; old; common ground.
By the way, I learnt a lot in that Photomarathon, not least that a) it is really good fun, and great to have a brief to work to and b) I was shockingly unable to choose 8 images from (the erm... 300+) that I'd taken. I ended up pretty much randomly deleting in a frenzy of trying to meet the deadline.
Walk the four roads of inbetween.....
1. Start at the Google Centre of Llandudno, 6, Somerset Street. Just type in Llandudno to google maps and it’ll take you there.
You will find yourself between the M&S store(s) and M&S storage and distribution. If you loiter here, you will be asked what you are doing. They seem concerned about spies, but in a friendly way. Look for clues. You may try to deduce why this is the centre. Stan-the-Man’s owner says it was because it used to be the front, before the sea-front buildings came.
2. Travel South-East-wards along the street. To your right, the rear end of the consumerism of goods. To your left, the back side of the consumerism of leisure. In between, what? Restricted access, peace, hardly anyone passing. Occasionally someone comes out for a cigarette or a lunch break. Houses in transition. Fire escapes. Danger of death. Spot the monsters. No more.
3. Stop outside Punchinello cottage. Punch and Judy’s family lives here. Stan-the-Man lives next door. He is very proud of the connection. Stan-the Man moved here from Glasgow because his owner’s daughter "married a welshman and moved to Rhyl. We are old, so we moved too". He says (but I don't know if its true) that the Punch and Judy family is allowed to live at Punchinello on the condition that they continue to keep it as it is. The road is full of other prohibitions, restrictions, conditions. How many can you count?
4. Stop at the back of the Imperial Hotel. You may be surprised to find no sign to say no stopping. It is fun to stop - and walk - in the road. Car park is strictly for residents. Wait to meet one. If they venture out of the enclave (eg assisted by having Stan-the-Man whom they are very fond of petting), talk with them. Share stories with them of Llandudno. Ask them about their reason for visiting. Stan-the-Man is a great way to meet tourists. Stan’s owner has picked up six different languages from talking to tourists. In how many languages can you say hello? Behind you there is a giant post-box in front of a house. Why so big? How have connections changed over time? You are at the centre of the world here.
5. Dream scapes and havens on Adelphi Street. Which would be yours? Is exclusion necessary for peace (of mind)? There are signs of transition here, lines and signs no longer stack up. One is covered with a traffic cone. It looks beautifully orange against the blue sky. Things are starting to escape. Even plastic chairs. I wonder where we will be going. And who will be allowed?
6. Stop at the Troop Café. This used to be a chapel. It reminds me of the chapel built by Italian Prisoners of war in Orkney. Spot the crosses. Look at the pictures inside. Marvel at the empty car park. Or the full one. Or the semi-full one. Contrast to the busy-ness business of the main streets. Stan-the-Man likes to relieve himself on the raised grass here, so his owner doesn’t have to stoop down to bag-and-bin.
7. Visit the back of Venue Cymru if you wish, then retrace your steps all the way back up the streets, heading North West, past the Google centre. Can you spot Pack Lunch Pete? The Tree of Life Project? Things that people have done to bring the sea back to us? The original conservation area boundary used to run along this street. It was a wiggly line. What would you keep in, and what out?
8. Continue back along the road (you are still heading North West) to Back South Parade and go round in the circle. Havens here too – gardens and garages and basements. Could you make a movie here? If you go round fast enough you can spin off into your own world… or head off to the sea.