To be fair to myself I was rather preoccupied with my new book, The Hungry Writer, a 'best of' compilation of posts over the last five years from my blog of the same name. While it's not entirely Port Talbot/Wales based - it covers the years I spent in France as well as stories from my home in Kent - the balance does swing towards 'the home country'. Stories about a tipsy insurance man at Christmas, a St David's Day concert at Tirmorfa School and the iconic 'Sandfields Estate Mousse', a mainstay of my childhood parties. You'll recognise it I'm sure: evaporated milk whisked with jelly to create a squeaky multi-bubbled dessert.
In his book, Profile of a Welsh Town, Ivor Hanson talks about the annual Christmas tea-party given by Miss Emily Talbot (1840 - 1918) in the Servants' Hall of Margam Castle for the children of Margam Sunday School and Groes Day School:
... and during such occasions she would address the children, in her quiet way, and then present them with lengths of cloth sufficient to make dresses for the girls and suits for the boys.
I am sure the cloth would have been very welcomed by their mothers but equally convinced that the childrens' hearts would have been hoping for something less 'useful': a spinning top, a cup and ball, lead soldiers, a penny doll.
I wonder if they sang Christmas Carols? And I wonder if any of them - who, like me, would have learned the words by rote, repeating lines aloud after a teacher until they were committed to memory - wondered who exactly was that little boy and why was he faithful in 'Oh Come 'Ollie' Faithful'!
It's the end of another year soon. And that marks three years' worth of blogposts that have dipped in and out of our town's history and my memories so I'll be taking a break from regular monthly posts. But the blog archive will remain here and I'll be back from time to time when Port Talbot's rich history and evolving identity surprises me into sharing my thoughts with you.
Happy New Year. Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.
The Hungry Writer and Real Port Talbot are available to purchase at Taibach Community Library and at Port Talbot Library in the Aberafan Shopping Centre.