Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Why I'm Not Fishguard's Biggest Fan.

This is an incredibly difficult subject to make clear to people, so forgive me if it seems like I'm spitballing, but Fishguard, while scenically beautiful, with live music, some good theatre, and lovely baked goods, is, like much of Pembrokeshire, decidedly... Cliquey. I write this, because more and more, I'm seeing people who have moved to good ol' Pembs, and had an extremely hard time getting to know people... And it's not just a case of "I don't think it would be cool to just go up and say 'Hi!' " It's a lot more pervasive than that, more subtle, and, in its own way, quite, quite scummy.

Yes... Welcome...

Part of it, it must be said, is a problem endemic among many modern nations: We are educated to fear strangers. This, in and of itself, introduces some awkward mental patterns that people can fall into (and reinforce with their children). My favourite example of this is that if you have shoulder length or longer, fairly straight hair, and a beard of some sort, you are automatically "Jesus" ... And no, despite what TV or the internet may tell you, that isn't restricted to young oxygen-thieves. But prejudice is a common thing, and while there is a fairish amount of that in Pembs, it's at once both a lot more subtle, and a lot more pervasive than that. There is a sort of stagnancy in Pembrokeshire that permeates every aspect of life, and if you don't fit with that pattern, then you are subtly excluded. I'll try to explain it as best I can.

Like many other places in the world, Pembrokeshire has many little subcultures, not all of them in a form you'd recognise. Some of them are only tied as a group by things others would consider quite minor (Hating Pembrokeshire because "There's nothing to do" counts... And that particular group irks me most of all. We'll see why that's amusing in a minute). You have at least one subculture among builders. You've got various flavours of goth, emo, scene, punk, and chav. Pembrokeshire doesn't lack in variety for subcultures (and yes, I'm fully aware that in some cases, I'm using subculture a little erroneously. But we'll get back to why I've used it for builders and the like as well as musical preferences and boy-racing). Before I go back to Pembrokeshire, though, let's briefly mention three places I either lived, or frequented quite often: Swansea, Cardiff, and Bradford.

Swansea. Not without its problems, but...

In all three of those cities, you have not just multiple subcultures, but multiple cultures. Bradford, especially, boasts Polish, German, Hindu, Sikh, Chinese... A lot of cultures. And they mix, although imperfectly. The point is, they do mix somewhat. Rockers may not always talk to Chavs or Ravers, but Rockers, Goths, and Metalheads (to use a few examples) mostly get along just fine. And that web of subcultures means more safe spaces for folks.

In Pembrokeshire... The best way I can say it is that they react more. A few years ago now (probably as many as five or six), there was a state of near warfare (fights, beatings, lots of harsh language thrown around) between... Emo kids and Goth kids. "Big whoop," I hear you say "Those two subcultures take the piss out of each other a lot."

Yes, this is true, but it doesn't often escalate to violence. This one did, and lasted around two or three months. It sounds almost paranoid to say it, but if you don't fit into a neat little box in Pembs, most people will put you in one, and if it's one they don't like? You'll get shit for years. And it can be anything different. I draw on the rare occasions I'm out drinking. It slows down my drinking, lets me chill out, and sometimes, people give me practice without the awkwardness of asking by the virtue of people just coming up and saying "Oooh, draw me!" (I'm not good at drawing from life, but believe me, I welcome the practice so long as you don't judge.)

You can tell I'm there, by the way. Just follow the occasional stares to the bit where, if it's nearly empty, next to nobody goes near unless they're being drawn, and if it's packed, where very few people are standing. Why do I mention this in particular? Because Pembrokeshire quite naturally attracts all sorts of artistic types, by virtue of its lovely coastlines (There's a few examples in the blog already, and I'll probably post more over time)... So it's rather odd to me. Then again, you'll find our local galleries very quiet places 90% of the time, for some reason. If it were isolated to just that, I'd be fine... But it happens often, and is largely unrestricted by age, gender, or what I happen to be doing at the time.

Like I said, Fishguard is *scenically* quite nice...

There's also this negativity, which I sometimes agree with, but for different reasons. Here's an exchange I couldn't help but overhear (Main road, Saturday... I'm sure you understand.)


On the one hand, I perfectly agree with the sentiment. Pembrokeshire's not a wealthy place by any means, especially with the fact that it mostly relies on the tourist trade (not a consistent source of income at the best of times), and the fact that we're slowly trying to come out of a recession right now (emphasis on trying... Not succeeding.) On the other, though, there is little sense of co-operation. A good past example of that would be The Globe Inn under its previous management. They had live music of many varieties, and for a while, it was good. It was, after all, a natural lodestone for people, and music has this effect of sorting who comes when (not totally, but enough that you're always guaranteed someone to talk to!)

Alas, it was not to last, as a series of nearby folks moved in, complained about the noise (the sort of thing you'd think a seller would mention), and... Moved out almost as soon as the complaints were processed. So the houseowners came and went, but none of the complaints were retracted, and eventually, the place lost its live music license. Goodbye, pretty much the main source of rock, blues, and other stuff that isn't either folk or jazz (which is what you'll mostly find in Fishguard unless Ffwrn has someone booked... Ffwrn is, as an aside, a wonderful place. The Globe is also a wonderful place, but alas, more for great cooking and atmosphere than live music and a pool-table.)

There's more examples, I'd suppose, but it's one of those things you genuinely wouldn't believe until you encountered it. And it's one of those things that doesn't help with the depression, either. Suffice to say, even though I'm sure there will be people who will find issue with one example or another, next to nobody seems to disagree when I say "Pembrokeshire is terribly cliquey, isn't it?"