The Reverend Gareth Powell
University Chaplain, The Reverend Gareth Powell recalls his vivid memories of visiting Cardiff as a child
The Reverend Gareth Powell
Growing up as a child in Neath, Cardiff seemed to belong to another world. A parental love of Swansea meant the only reason to come to Cardiff was to visit those unfortunate family members who were deemed to be in temporary exile. The promise of a visit to the boating lake in Roath Park was considered the only compensation for having to make the journey.
Not only did Cardiff seem far away, but the journey itself was built up to be an adventure taking in all that the A48 had to offer as the machinery of an emerging M4 slowly cut its way through the landscape. A somewhat leisurely sojourn through Bridgend and Cowbridge were all part of getting to this ‘other’ place.
In addition to the visit to Father Christmas in the David Morgan store, it is the getting to Cardiff that I remember most vividly. Appropriately enough it was the introduction of high speed trains on the Swansea to Cardiff line - called 125 trains for shorthand as an indication of the potential speed - that presented the most exciting childhood memory.
At the age of six, boarding such a huge train in Neath station to go all the way to Cardiff represented all that was curious about train travel. Later I would understand more about the possibilities travelling offered by way of extending one’s own horizons in order to encounter difference and the richness of human experience – let alone actually seeing the world from a different perspective. That the train broke down at Bridgend hardly seemed to matter, for the outlook, the newness was what it was all about – not to mention the chance to be on a seemingly futuristic train. How my views on late trains have changed!
My own experience of that short journey and then my time as a student in various places enabled me to realise just how important the totality of a University is to the process of learning and thinking. Cardiff represented a different world as a child. Returning in 1999 after an absence of ten years the whole place seemed to belong to a different landscape. In reality both landscape and passenger had changed and recognising that change would become important.
One of the best aspects of being a university chaplain, aside from being able to ask very simple questions of very knowledgeable people, is to see the transformation that education can and does provide for the human soul; the fabric of society; and, literally the landscape. Here values and ideas, knowledge and understandings enable the creation of a better environment for the flourishing of human kind. That a ‘125’ helped to bring me to this realisation, and take me to a few places in between, seems singularly appropriate even if my understanding of speed has changed.
Journeying hopefully might just be better than arriving for in a University such as Cardiff, it is companionship and possibilities that allow for a different perspective and offer a great deal to celebrate.