What do you mean the electricity is out in the Student’s Union and won’t be back on till Monday? No electricity means no radio and no radio means I have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon- No Past Force! We are going back a fair number of years here to my first year at university, to before that old students union building was torn down to make way for the new and shiny ‘Pontio’ building (which has only recently been completed.) This, therefore, is the story of that Sunday afternoon when the electricity was out and I had nothing better to do. This is the story of how I got shot…
I sit in my dorm room, on my little swivel chair with my long ago destroyed Fujitsu laptop in front of me, staring out of the ground floor window and wondering what I should do. This was before a couple of clowns ruined the window by smearing it with oil so that nobody could see out (you know who you were!) The day is decent, a few clouds and no rain, a warm enough spring day for a walk. And I know just the right place… The University botanical gardens- Treborth! I haven’t been up that way yet and I’m very much expecting wall to wall flowers, huge plants, cascades of bougainvillea and water features crowded by lillies and Forget-me-nots. It sounds great so I get up from my swivel chair and head off into the wild blue yonder.
Or rather I head towards the back of the accommodation site where there’s a cut through into a patch of dark, semi- deep woodland. The dry weather means it isn’t bad underfoot and the canopy above my head is letting in dapples of light and back here everything is lovely… Ok, it’s so long ago that I am just making that bit of rubbish up and I can’t actually remember but that’s the sort of thing that usually happens on days like that. In fact I probably didn’t even notice it. I probably just got on with making my way through that woodland and down to the main road which runs along the eastern bank of the Menai.
There is very little on that road from the point where it turns out of Bangor’s takeaway district until it reaches Telford’s bridge. There aren’t even many views of the straits. There are a couple of houses, the sports blocks for the university and back then some accommodation as well. Nowadays there’s also a ‘football stadium’ but that wasn’t there then- by football stadium I of course mean a patch of ground with goalposts on it. This might just be one of the most boring bits of road in the world. It would be the most boring bit of road if it didn’t end with the bridge. And even from the edge of the woodland, which comes out around a third of the way down it is a really long walk to that bridge. I actually forgot how long it was until I walked it again the last time I was in Bangor… I was going to the Waitrose on the other side of the straits if you really must know. It is so long, that bit of boring road, that before you reach the end you start to wonder why you ever started on this trek in the first place. You begin to dread going back for it feels like civilization is miles away. And then all of a sudden the bridge is there in front of you and it is finally over, usually sooner than you expect if you’ve ever walked this road before.
This day I stay on the eastern side of the straits and pass beneath the frontage of the end house of the bridge. To get down to the botanic gardens you have to go underneath because it covers the pavement. I stop here for a while, admiring it and the bridge, before moving on. I imagine if you’re coming this way in the rain, say for a lecture on the other side, this thing is a godsend because there isn’t anything in the way of shelter on the road leading up to it. Beyond it is an avenue lined with thick foliage and much like the road before it there’s next to no chance of seeing the Straits. But that’s not why I’m here anyway so it doesn’t matter if I don’t see the straits. It would have been nice though.
A little further along I find myself walking into a closed up industrial estate and wonder if I’m going in the right direction. This looks like a weird place and I start to think that the path I’m on will end just around the corner. It doesn’t because, whoop, just around that corner is a gatehouse and a small set of gates. Beyond is a sign for Treborth Gardens so I’m obviously in the right place. At first I think this might be an old gatehouse to the very large Vaynol Estate, which is somewhere around these parts, but it probably wasn’t. From the map that looks to be too far away to have had a gatehouse here.
Treborth botanic gardens is certainly not what I was expecting. When I think of a ‘botanic gardens’ I think of flowers and lots of different plants and different planting arrangements. They’re supposed to be botanic! I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of nearby Bodnant Gardens. I don’t expect a few trees and a bit of grass, which is what this is. There aren’t even any flowers about, no daffodils or anything like that. In mid March there should be something. This is really disappointing and actually quite depressing. I shouldn’t be surprised though as Bangor’s science department, which runs Treborth, has a habit of being a bit depressing. One of their buildings is a super villain’s lair and looks like an enormous bunker, the chemistry department is a ridiculously high sixties tower block and don’t even get me started on the natural history museum!
I meander along through this place, wondering where the proper botanic garden is going to start, wondering where the flowers are and the cascades of bougainvillea and the elaborate water features. And then it all comes to a sudden, short and screaming halt at a fence and a racetrack on the other side. Was that it? A patch of grass and some trees? According to their website they have ‘wildflower meadows’ and bamboo and a ’South African border’ but I see none of that kind of stuff here. Just grass and trees. Nothing of any interest. There’s a road to my left so I follow it, hoping for more, but all this leads me to is the railway line and a bridge across it. So I cross the bridge, hoping that it will lead me somewhere. The botanic garden was a damp squib and there’s still plenty of time left in the afternoon so I might as well explore what lies beyond.
It’s a bit more interesting than the botanic gardens as I soon come across what looks like a house, a mansion of some kind. It’s derelict, decrepit and kind of creepy. It looks abandoned, like a house from the beginning of a crime movie. ‘What is this place?’ I think to myself. I don’t much like the look of it and methinks that I really shouldn’t be here. I’ve seen enough TV and films to know that the guy who goes and investigates the abandoned building is the first to die. I don’t want a bit part of CSI Bangor so I hurry away down a road that continues on past the mansion.
But little do I know that very soon I almost will get a bit part of CSI Bangor. I’m starting to think that maybe I should follow the line of the Menai for a bit, see what is down that way, maybe even see if I can’t reach the Vaynol estate. That’s around here somewhere. I know that if I keep heading in a south western direction, towards Caernarfon, I’ll hit it eventually. Down the road past the creepy mansion I start to look for a road that will take me that way and soon enough I see a sign for a footpath that looks to be going in the right direction. For a while it looks promising.
And then it ends with a stile, which I cross, and then nothing but a field with no clue as to where the path goes. It just leads to this field of horses. Quite literally it was a road to nowhere. I look around, wondering in which direction the path goes and decide I should keep to the edge of the field for the time being. I follow the fence but this goes nowhere… Just an empty corner with no way out. I start to go back the way I came. And then…
Was that a gunshot?
Holy shit, am I being shot at?
I am being shot at. I’m standing in the middle of a field full of horses and someone is shooting at me… Oh god! The only thing to do, to prevent myself from becoming a bullet ridden splatter on the ground is run as fast as possible. I run back down that footpath, back up the road and past that creepy mansion, back through the disappointing Treborth gardens and then finally slow down. I can still hear the shots ringing in my ears. The adrenaline is still pumping and there’s a thrill at having survived being shot at, presumably by whoever owned that field. And maybe that means it is time to get back to my swivel chair!
I look again at the footpath on street view and I see now that whilst it is still there it’s all overgrown and unpassable… The road to nowhere can no longer be travelled!
And whilst we are on the subject of Bangor… Let’s briefly talk my ‘Bangor Stories.’ I’ve decided on a proper name- Pobol Y Bangor. And I didn’t intend it to be any more than it currently is but the latest, Barry Erskine, will have at least second chapter and perhaps more. I’ve started fleshing out a larger plot surrounding the waitress, Maisie Hunter, Erskine’s wife Flo and the sinister ‘Chuckles.’ I’ve also filmed (yes… FILMED) a new Bangor story that isn’t officially part of the Pobol Y Bangor set but which ties in with the second and potential third chapter of Barry Erskine.