A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

From the prose work a ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ by Dylan Thomas

Audio https://youtu.be/Hv4-sgFw3Go

Chapter 1

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six. 

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen. 

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero’s garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers.

But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters,

Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared. 

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows – eternal, ever since Wednesday – that we never heard Mrs. Prothero’s first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor’s polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder. 

“Fire!” cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong. 

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room. 

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, “A fine Christmas!” and smacking at the smoke with a slipper. 

“Call the fire brigade,” cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong. 

“There won’t be there,” said Mr. Prothero, “it’s Christmas.” 

There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting. 

“Do something,” he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke – I think we missed Mr. Prothero – and ran out of the house to the telephone box. 
“Let’s call the police as well,” Jim said. “And the ambulance.” “And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires.” 

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on.

Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always.

She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said,

“Would you like anything to read?” 

To be continued.

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About Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas was born in Wales on 27th of October 1914 at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea, Wales United Kingdom. One of Wales greatest sons. His life includes many great written works of prose and poems which remain so popular throughout the world. Works include; ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Death Shall Have No Dominion, Fernhill, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight.’ And he is also famous for ‘Under Milkwood’ in his play from which was broadcast by the BBC in 1954. It was debut one year after his death. Dylan Thomas died 9, November 1953.

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Hafod Defined

Places in Sketty- Singleton Park

Parc Singleton Sgeti (Welsh)

Near Wynberg House in Sketty Swansea is Vivian Road and Sketty Green.

The village of Sketty is centred on Sketty Cross which are the junction roads to Gower Road, Vivian Road, De-la-Beche and Dillwyn Road is the amazing historic Singleton Park.

When you enter Singleton Park from Gower Road in Sketty; there to the north is a walk that leads down a shallow green valley, it’s open to beautiful flanked trees belted by wide open rolling hills of green spaces.

Those along the east are ancient lime, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut and pine trees. To the west of the walk is the Gorsedd Circle of stones.

The stones are known as the Gorsedd Stone Circle. It was erected in Singleton Park, Swansea in 1925 for the National Eisteddfod of Wales’ Proclamation Ceremony.

To the south of the Gorsedd Circle, set in the bank below the east side of the old kitchens and gardens that once served the Vivian Copper Barons of Swansea. Just below is a semi-sunk, water wheel in a stone pit that brought the water up to the house.

There are orchards of trees on the bank; mainly horse chestnuts, sweet chestnuts and conifers. Their fruits have fallen, some still green into the shade labored underneath its branches.

A small stream bed, with some rocks, runs southwards to a damp area made into a bog garden. A gravel path winds along the slope.

Near the south side of the botanical garden are the footings of a stone wall, probably the remains of the south wall of the original Veranda garden.

A flight of concrete steps in the middle leads down to a path flanked by fastigiate yews and a gravel terrace with seats. On the south boundary is a fence and hedge.

All this was part of the Veranda House was first built in 1799-1800 on land which had been part of Gwerniddiff Farm, on the site of the farmhouse.

The Singleton Estate as it had now become had amalgamated some 12 farms to amass 250 acres. By 1851 the Walled Garden had become the kitchen and flower garden that once served the needs of the Vivian family.

The property where the Botanical Garden is now of 44 acres includes the garden grounds, and former Vivian plantation. The seeds that were planted have sown, taken root in soil lined essays and poetry of the earth; Tended to with great care.

In 1847 John Henry Vivian purchased Veranda House for his son Henry Hussey Vivian and his wife Jessie. Within a year Jessie had died after giving birth to their son.

Henry was distraught and resolved not to live in the house and by 1853 only the estate lodge remained, the principal part of Veranda having been dismantled. St Paul’s Church Sketty, was built as a memorial to Jessie.

The approach is the main and service drives from the north, a branch from the main drive leading to a small, rectangular walled garden to the west.

There are grounds to the north of the house that remain today and a narrow garden area, bounded by a wall, to the south. To the south of there was a rectangular orchard.

  • The old Veranda garden wall was retained, but a bigger area of c. 5 acres was enclosed to its north by a high; a curving wall, most of which remains today with a round tower.
  • The inner (Veranda) walled garden survived until at least 1914. It was situated on the area now occupied by the gardeners of the botanical garden. Its north wall is incorporated into the walled garden.

    The footings of the garden’s south wall have been found in a flowerbed in the botanical garden.

    The modern Swansea botanical garden has been developed on the part where the old Veranda House and Singleton Farm is now thanks to the Vivian Family.

    Singleton park was originally part of the Vivian family Estate, which was purchased by Swansea County Borough Council in 1919 for use as a public park.

    This is where I walk almost everyday. It is so beautiful I had to find out how it all became this and wanted to share the wonders of this place.

    The brilliant legacy of Singleton will never fade. A fragile memory still lingers here in the colors of the trees and in the People who once call it home.

    References;

    http://orapweb.rcahms.gov.uk/coflein//C/CPG252.pdf

    http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/19964/details/singleton-farm