Sunday, June 03, 2007

Deja Vu

Deja Vu, "as any fule nose", is the feeling you get when you've been somewhere before. Sometimes you don't actually have to have been there and sometimes the feeling is associative through evocative memory rather than actuality.

I experienced it at Penarth, a small seaside town south west of Cardiff when I saw the Pier Pavilion building. I quickly made the connection- the 1999 arts film House! used it as the exterior of a former theatre turned cinema turned bingo hall. (The interiors used a Miners welfare Hall elsewhere). House! is set in South Wales and is a rather sentimental (to me) story about the decline and unexpected resurgence of a building after an unfortunate series of events. It is rather funny, tastefully made and well worth getting. (It is tricky to find on Amazon, so here is a link).

It hadn't been obvious to me that it had been a pier pavilion building in the film, but on rewatching key scenes, it is obvious in hindsight, particularly the two wings.

The exterior gives no clues at at to its current use. The Directors' commentary on the DVD referred to it being in use as a gym, which I took to mean a health club.

Peering through a fire escape window, the reality is even more surprising- it is full of artistic gymnastics equipment like parallel bars, balance bars, high bars and lots & lots of blue mats.

The hall is rather squalid internally, although it does have a gallery at land end, but surprisingly, not a stage at the sea end. A curved glazed lounge complements the entrance area on the opposite end of the building and the turrets are matched.

This was a steamer pier rather than a pleasure one and has been damaged a couple of times over the decades, as is often the fate of most seaside piers. It does, however, seem to be fairly popular and not specifically threatened. (There are even plans to restore the interior, pdf here
The beach is a bit of a letdown though- shale even coarser than Brighton. Throwing rocks into the sea is a Junior's idea of heaven though!

Five miles further round the coastline lies Barry Island, renowned for its golden sands and Fun Fair.

The beach is really nice and the Prom spacious. (The strange tubular object bottom right is the top of the telescope that I used the housing for as a panorama tripod).

I imagine that Barry island is to a Cardiffian (?) what Whitley Bay is to a Geordie- full of happy memories but now past its best.
The entrances to the Fun Fair promise a lot, but the delights within are something of a let-down.

The Fun fair was a big disappointment, half the rides were closed or not even there. The Log Flume looked attractive, running over a (closed) river caves type ride next door...

But the rest of the park gave way to spartan touring rides and scattered sideshows.

David loved the beach though!

Deja Vu at barry- for the Spanish City in Whitley.
Girl you look so pretty to me,
just like you always did,
Like the Spanish City to me,
when we were kids...

(Tunnel of Love, by Dire Straits, decrepid image of the crumbling Spanish City found on Google Images from Radio Paradise)

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