Billy's coming out of the KD fast with half a kilo of Moroccan Red
making a bulge the size of a bible in his inside pocket. He could
shift, easy, but there's a face at the far end he doesn't like. Safer
in the street.
The KD's got old ladies in fox firs downstairs and mods up. Parkas.
Hoods. Students. Youth.
The guy with the Italian bush shirt comes in bearing a copy of Adrian
Mitchell's Peace is Milk
War is Acid, printed as a folded
handbill by Peace News, sold cheap, in the style, exactly, of the
penny ballads of centuries before. You read the poem. The hairs on
the back of your neck stand up.
They won't have war. These people'll stop it. Girl in the yellow
jeans. The ponytail. Stones haircut. The beard. The round-collared
jacket. The one using the Rizla. The one with the bag from C&As.
Coffee arrives in the national consciousness like a post-war automobile,
desirable shining. The stuff gives the heart a hit into overdrive
but when you're young you don't notice. Not at all.
At the front, overlooking the street, the fifth form trying it with
no money have one tea between six and eagerness like a rainstorm.
Can cope with poetry, the bomb and the Beatles. Easy.
All this'll slide apart when commerce demolishes the walls and inflates
Timothy Whites from small sensible next door into a vast Boots, grown
enormously beyond pharmacy, spread from the JD delivery lane to Frederick
Street and beyond. But that's not yet.
The guy with the guitar in the soft case can't play. Mouth matchstick.
War Resistors International broken rifle in his right lapel. Sports
coat doubling as hipness. Read Howl. Looking for angels.
Queen Street outside full of cars and choke. The stunning space of
pedestrianisation, when it comes, shocking the city into wondering
how ever had they let the past be like it was.
This was Crockerton Street until Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee
in 1887. The KD was a slum of veg sold from pots, stink and bad drainage.
Sludge. Sailors with sticks. Normans with swords.
By the time the bomb had migrated to missile and the ban had seeped
like damp across the West the young had become older and no longer
cared. Upstairs at the back of Boots they'd put in a coffee shop.
Crowds of them in there. Mothers. Bags. Loyalty cards. Pushchairs
with golf-trolley wheels. Cake. Café Latte. No Russian Tea.
Dope elsewhere. Anywhere. Hedonistic Cardiffian nightlife essential.
No cultural trappings. Not any more.
back to the top