I think we all agree that Wales is the best place in the world to live. So if the recent news that Mumbles is the best place to live in Wales is true, then Mumbles is actually the best place to live in the world!
Early morning Mumbles
I suppose we all knew that Swansea Bay was a pretty special place to live. This week the Sunday Times made the announcement that in their opinion, when all things are considered, like location, community, food and shopping Mumbles is a better place to live than say, Cowbridge or Abergavenny. That’s reason enough to puff out our chests a little bit.
Famous Mumbles residents
When the news went global on Friday morning I got calls from various news agencies. As a Mumbles resident they wanted me to comment. BBC Radio Wales was pretty up front about it. They had tried Catherine Zeta Jones, Bonnie Tyler, Joanna Page and Bob Pugh and I was the only one who would answer their calls. I think they expected me to gush about the news. They expected me to extol the virtues of the region but my first initial reaction was one of disappointment.
We all know that Mumbles and therefore Swansea is an amazing place to live. I told them that for me the trouble with the Sunday Times article was that suddenly now the rest of the country knows. How will we be to try to cope with the influx. Where are we going to park? Will the queue for Joe’s Ice Cream stretch past the new Peacocks, will I still get a table and a copy of What’s On in Verdis? Having resigned myself to the fact the secret was out the rest of my interviews were about what makes Mumbles and our city by the bay so special.
My first thought was that The Sunday Times wasn’t the first to recognise that Mumbles is a special location. Back in 1860 when they started work on an extension to All Saints Church they uncovered evidence of a Roman Villa. With the Oyster Beds and a sheltered bay The Mumbles was the perfect place for your invading Roman to set up a base. In fact the name Mumbles is thought by some to come from the Romans looking at the 2 little islands that stretch out and now house the lighthouse. They thought they looked like breast or mammories, hence Mumbles
Next came the Normans with Oystermouth Castle. If you wander along the ramparts and look out across the bay you can’t help thinking this is the view every local property developer would kill for. The fact that if you look at the castle you can see that there is space for two round towers to have been built either side of the gatehouse. The fact is they just never got round to building them just goes to shows that Mumbles has always been laid back when it comes down to the finer details.
800 years on Mumbles still has that laid back attitude to life. I mean, its not like Haverfordwest where my cousin always told me that they did have a word for Manyana but it didn’t have the same sense of urgency! In Mumbles there is a healthy realisation that when surfs up or the sun shines you have to go and enjoy the beaches because you can’t miss out on the things you really love just because someone else has a deadline, and anyway there’s always tomorrow to do the boring stuff.
Swansea has often been described as a series of connected villages and Mumbles is no different. It’s part of greater Swansea Bay but just like Morriston or Gorseinon Mumbles is a place where you can be Christened, Married and Buried all in the same location. These days it’s harder and harder to do your day to day banking there but you can still use the Post office and do all your shopping without the need of a bus to take you from location to location. All the areas of Swansea have something different and special to offer but what does Mumbles have that creates community.
I think the Lifeboat creates a strong bond in the village. Every time I hear the hooter from the Lighthouse on those misty stormy nights I worry for those brave men and women who could be called out at any time to rescue ‘those in peril on the sea’. Over the years the village has suffered a number of tragedies so those connections and that commitment runs deep. When you walk around All Saints Church and look at the stained glass window and the names of those who were lost at sea, you know this village has history, this village has roots.
Then there are the childhood memories. Growing up in Brynhyfryd going to Mumbles was always a special event for me as a kid. It was always marked by a couple of family traditions. When we got there, we had Joe’s Ice Cream, on the way home we had chips from Dick Bartons. Yesterday, as the radio interviewers asked me what was special about Mumbles talking about Ice Cream and Chips sounded a little mundane but for me Mumbles is the taste of those special Mumbles delicacies that make it stand out, make it special.
Rev Keith Evans who married both of my daughters…and got away with it!
Then there are the people of Mumbles. The BBC wanted to know if what the Sunday Times said was true, did you walk down the streets and bump into Catherine Zeta or Bonnie Tyler? Well no, not every day, but if you bump into Bonnie or Bob Pugh they are just as likely to say hello to you as is Rev Keith Evans from All Saints or Tony Cottle who used to run the printers in Mumbles but now, since his retirement, runs just about everything else in the village.
But again, that could be said of all the Swansea villages. As you think about your special Swansea village you will know the people that you see every day, the ones who will stop and talk, who get involved in running things, who care about their community.
So, Mumbles is the best place to live in Wales. I’m not going to argue with that but if you think it should have been Llangyfelach or Townhill or Tycoch, well I think you’ve got every right to think the same thing. In my mind the prize goes to Swansea Bay. I think that’s a special place and something with which we can all agree.