Some places find their way into your blood. They aren’t always the nicest places. They may not be the most beautiful or the most affluent, but they hold a personal significance which leaves you longing for them years after you last visited. For me, Rhyl is one of those places.
There are quainter seasides-livelier, more reputable places whose heydays are not yet behind them. I have heard Rhyl described as “a shithole” by people who do not see the appeal. There are undoubtedly some rundown areas and seedy-looking establishments, but then the same is true of most places. For every complaint, I could give you ten reasons why I love the place. I have loved it since we first started going there in the nineties, and I have missed it like a part of myself ever since we stopped. Last weekend I went back for the first time in years, and it proved to be something of a spiritual homecoming for me.
I’d been saying for a while that I needed to see the sea before the summer was out. It had been calling to me for three years, all through the pandemic when we were forbidden from going anywhere. I felt its pull like an unmet psychological need, until one day I decided to do something about it. There was no longer anything stopping me, so where better to go than the place where I first fell in love with the sea?
I was a little trepidatious in the runup to the trip. What if we went back and found it changed to the point of being unrecognisable? What if the charm could only be seen through a child’s eyes? What if it was indeed “a shithole?” All these thoughts went through my mind, but I needn’t have worried. The train ride alone was enough to reassure me that things had changed less than I feared.
As a child, I always knew we were nearing the end of our journey when we passed the abandoned ship. A rusting metal hulk lying static in an estuary, I have often wondered in the intervening years what became of that ship. Last weekend I got my answer: nothing. It’s still there. It was a strange sort of surprise, spying it out of the train window after all this time. I was convinced it would no longer be there, that it would have been moved or scrapped by now. The fact that it hasn’t was oddly comforting, even though there is something sad about the ship itself. Since then I have done a bit of Googling and…