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Date: 24/11/22

Ages Of Rock

Photo of rock outcrop on a bank at the side of a road

Here is a rock. A musical rock. Wound up and ready...hang on, I've regressed again...

(<sounds of tape being spooled forward at speed>)

This is a rock. This is an islan...oh, crap! Wait a mo'...

(<sounds of muffled hammering, interspersed with mutters of "...last frigging time I buy a time machine from Argos...">)

This is a rock. In fact, it may well be two rocks, one on top of the other.

This outcrop of sandstone was exposed when Blast Road, Brymbo was widened in the early 1970s by cutting back the bank on its northern side.

I mention all this simply to give you a personal anecdote, of the sort that will be lost to the world when I go.

My father used to get the Daily Mirror six days a week and - given that he was by this time retired from the steelworks - would walk down from our small-but-very-imperfectly-formed council house on Ffordd Owain every morning to the newsagents on High Street (marked as number 6 on the map here) to pick up his daily read.

However, during the school summer holidays (I was about fourteen or fifteen at this time), there would sometimes be a different routine. Having not been interested in sport at all up to the age of about twelve, I had become almost fanatical from that time on. Thursday was the day that the football magazine Shoot! would appear and I - as an avid regular reader - would offer to go and get Dad's paper (if it wasn't raining, of course; that fanatical I wasn't). So I would scramble and skid down The Rocko, cross the road and collect from the shop (I don't recall who owned it by this time; I suspect Bert Evans had retired and it was in the hands of either Harry Roach or Harry Gough).

I wouldn't take the same route home, however. For one thing, The Rocko was pretty steep and this counteracted the attraction of a more direct way home. For another, I wanted a chance to read on the way back. Not to read my copy of Shoot!, but to scan Dad's Daily Mirror, especially its 'Live Letters' feature of recondite facts and anecdotes (a sort of pleb version of the Guardian's 'Notes & Queries' column) curated by a shadowy group calling itself 'The Old Codgers', and for its cartoon strips (most notably the wonderful Perishers).

But how could I read it without the risk of inadvertently stumbling out into the road to be flattened by a Crosville bus?

The solution presented itself to me in the form of a lump of sandstone. I would clamber up from the pavement onto the first shelf of the rock (or the second one if I was feeling energetic) and would sit there for about half an hour examining the ways of the world of 1976 or 1977 and wondering what the hell might be in store for me when I left Stalag Luft 666 (aka Bryn Alyn High School) a couple of years later.

(It having been only recently revealed to the open air, the rock had nothing growing on it at this time; the above photo dates from 2005, by which time Nature had had a good decade or so's chance to colonise it. You should see it now. If you can, that is; it has become so overgrown as to be all but invisible unless you know where it is.)

I didn't read my Shoot! there, though; that was a treat reserved for Friday.

I would arrive home to the customary comment from my father; "Where the bloody 'ell 'ave you bin for that paper, lad? Timbuktu?"

So there you have it. An otherwise nondescript piece of geology, but one of those little places in the world which can assume a significance in someone's life out of all proportion to its size, and something which still causes a smile of reminiscence of times and people long gone beyond every time I walk past it.