Cloggau Gold (Born to Run)
By: Philip evans
Posted in: Humor
Newly expectant Father Declan Anthony Pod paced nervously in the corridor of the Maternity Wing of Llanelli Hospital.
The Year was 1972 and like every Rugby Union Fan in Wales, he secretly wanted a son to follow in his on-field footsteps and play rugby first for the Scarlets and then for Wales.
The timing of his Wife’s labour couldn’t be any worse, as on this very day, Llanelli were playing host to the International Touring Team New Zealand.
The Grand Stand ticket in his shirt pocket was burning a hole in his heart, as he was caught in the horns of a dilemma.
Did he sneak off to the big match? Or wait in this draughty corridor for the 24 or so hours the Doctor said it could take for his first-born child to enter the World?.
It had been a cruel twist of fate that had led to this situation, as his Wife’s due date had been the following Monday but her water’s had broken that afternoon and all the women of his backward West Walian village of Llareggur (that had inspired Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood) had warned him that the child would be born on the real Sabbath Day.
Times were so different in the early 1970’s for men and the maternity process.
There were no ultrasonic pictures, no amniocentesis or health testing.
No-one except for God knew back then the sex of the baby.
Going in to the delivery room was unheard of and taboo to the local midwives, who considered that ‘real’ men fainting was just another hindrance to their work.
Dec had prayed in his local chapel for a little boy to carry on his Surname, which was dying out in West Wales.
Other than him, the only other Pod was spotted in Carmarthen Bay- so he felt a sense of ‘porpoise’ about the whole issue.
His wife, Blodwen was considered old, as she having their first son at the age of 40, which back then was pretty unheard of.
The idle tongues of the village doorsteps rang with rumours that the Dec was not the true Father of the child, but that the local milkman used to deliver more than milk to that Cuckold ‘Blod Pod’ around the front, with the Coal man using the back entrance too.
Although in Llareggur, the whispers had be kept quiet, as it was still legal in West Wales to use the ‘Scold’s Bridle’ to stop women from gossiping maliciously.
It was hard too for women back then, as there was precious little to do- they only had the Water Mill, the Flour Mill and the Rumour Mill to entertain them.
True, there was sewing, crocheting and of course, the Chapel twice on Sunday, but there was little else for women of the village to do- so they either became a scrubber or cleaned their front step.
Whilst having a dalliance with a gentlemen friend was bad, having a dirty threshold was worse still and considered a sin in the eyes of God.
Was it was pure coincidence that all the other desperate Housewives and Rugby Widows of the village, at 10.00am every morning (save as to Sunday of course)?.
Back in 1972, there were no mobiles, no facebook or twitter, the only way to communicate was over the garden wall whilst hanging out the washing.
Dec the Collier, continued to pace the corridor nervously, waiting for news of his child and Mother which was relayed gruffly by the Matronly Mid-wives, who seemed to hold the man responsible for getting their patients into this predicament.
This whole process reminded him of disasters at the local collieries, waiting for news of which of his Brothers-of the Dust had been taken down to the other Pit.
He knew he was obligated to ring his Father-in-Law on the payphone in the Llareggur Inn Bar to update him as to events.
They in turn would ring the Sub-Post Office in Llareggur with the news, as they were the only one in the village who had a phone and then the ‘jungle drums’ would beat and news of the labour flashed like a ‘wildfire’ from doorstep to doorstep for the women.
If he had heard the word ‘dilation’ once that day, he had heard it a hundred times.
It didn’t help his cause to continually hear how many pints of ‘Felinfoel’ Ale that he had consumed in anticipation of the big match.
He was feeling foul enough already.
Worse still was the drunken singing in the background which reminded him of a scene from John Wayne’s ‘The Quiet Man’.
“ Any news yet?” slurred his Father-in-Law in the request for the hourly update.
“ Ten minutes to go in the Second Half…he said looking at his waistcoat pocket watch …are we still up 9-3?” asked Declan getting his priorities right.
His Father-in-Law nodded which wasn’t much help when he was on the telephone.
He hadn’t got the hang of these new-fangled devices yet in Llanelli.
“ Any news your end?”
“ No… but there are two nurses in there now and both are busy with cold water and flannels!” said Dec.
Suddenly, Dec heard his name being called by the more masculine of the two midwives called Miranda.
“ You can come in now!” she ordered.
Dec said “ Got to go now….something is up or more likely down…I will ring you back shortly!” as he slammed down the receiver in haste and headed for the delivery room.
As he entered the room, he could see that his Wife was holding a little bundle of joy in her arms, all wrapped in swaddling white clothes and from the look of her demeanour, she had been through a real ordeal.
The Midwives had cleaned up all the blood and shit from the bed, so that the physical evidence of the struggle in bringing his child into the World had been hidden.
The only sign was etched on the ashen face of Mrs Blod Pod, which was masked by a smile, as she cuddled the reason for the pain that felt like pushing a coconut out of a hole the size of a walnut.
“ Declan… this is your Son… .meet Trey….!” She said proudly, smiling up first at her husband and then down at the babe in arms.
“ Trey….I wanted to call him Barry John!” said Declan.
The look from the faces of the midwives meant he was outvoted.
It was only fair after all that effort that his wife get to name him.
Even if that name reminded him of the man from the Dairy- Trevor who always seemed to call when he was in work or in the pub.
All he could think of with the shadowy figure was ‘Milk Trey’ but he didn’t want to ruin his Wife’s moment of glory- especially as he wanted to go to the match.
“ That’s for your tea!” she said nodding at the afterbirth.
He ignored the remark- even if he was starving.
“ All your Father wants to know is has he got ten little fingers and ten little toes?....as the entire pub keep singing that song!” said Declan.
“ Well, actually that’s something I wanted to talk to you about !” said Blod.
She peeled back the covers to show that the baby was in fact Male.
“ Look at the size of that thing….he takes after his Father and is definitely my child now!” boasted Declan staring down at the baby.
Hang on he thought….there are more than ten little fingers and ten little toes.
In fact there were 25 digits in total.
“That’s not normal is it?” asked Dec of the midwives- as he had only ever lived in Carmarthenshire.
“ That’s why I decided to call him Trey!” said Blod.
“ Not Jake?” stuttered the shocked Dec thinking subliminally of the Rolf Harris song.
“ No!” spat back Blod.
“ Nor Peter the Metre either because he has three feet!” continued the Wife.
“ How the Hell could this happen?” asked Dec.
“ Is God punishing me for all Triple Crown beer I have consumed on a Sabbath?” asked Dec.
“ No….Dr Ganesha has been sent for and he will explain the situation to you!” said Miranda sounding like she had bollocks.
“Rejoice Dec A Pod…. you have a healthy son …who in time will be able to run faster than
Roger Bannister!” said Miranda falling over the bedpan.
Declan was ushered into a side room so as not to disturb the bonding session between Mother and new baby.
Dr Ganesha sat him down and delivered the news. “Your son has been born with an extra leg and my assessment of how this has happened is that he must originally have been one of a conjoined twin but that the other twin did not form properly when the egg subpided but was fed by the umbilical cord and attached itself to the correctly formed twin!” said the Medic.
“Please be assured that such birth deformities, where I come from make your child special and an object of worship!”
“ But you come from Carmarthen!” said Dec still open-mouthed at the surprise.
“ In my culture, this event is a blessing and will prove to be lucky- as during his lifetime, he will be adored by thousands!” said the Doctor as if he was experiencing a premonition .
“ So he WILL get to play for the Scarlets!” said Declan taking in a huge sigh of relief.
“ I don’t know much about rugby…I am more of a cricket fan but he would make a marvellous wicket!” said Dr Ganesha smirking.
The comment was lost on Declan, who was puzzling about the effect the birth would have on HIS life.
“ But hang on….I have a more immediate problem… where am I going to nappies to fit
Dec had an even bigger problem, as he suddenly realised he had missed the closing minutes of the big game .
He rushed back into Maternity, kissed his wife on her sweaty forehead and the baby and shouted out before she had time to reply.
“ I’m off to the pub to catch the match and to wet the baby’s head!”
The look of disgust on the Midwives’ faces mirrored that of his Spouse but Declan felt that he had been through an ordeal too and needed a pint to restore the balance in his World.
Never the quickest on the uptake, Declan puzzled to himself, as he headed for the local pub with news of the new arrival.
“ What did that Doctor mean by a ‘marvellous wicket’?”
As he reached the Llareggur Arms, in complete contrast to the new arrival everyone was legless.
The Llanelli Scarlets had beaten the All Blacks touring team 9-3 and everyone was elated.
Only Dylan, the Pub owner behind the bar was sober.
“ Pint of beer please Dylan!... I have good cause to celebrate!” said the new Father proudly.
“ Sorry there’s no beer left!” replied Dylan.
“ What do you mean there’s no beer left?” asked Declan.
“ Don’t you know Llanelli beat the All Blacks 9-3!” said Dylan even more proudly.
“ Yes….but you must have some beer…..what about your cellar?” asked Declan hopefully.
“ I have run out….no pubs in Llanelli have any left….don’t you think I have rung around?” said Dylan
“ So what have you got to celebrate my new special baby….born to run on the wing for the Scarlets…not just two legs like everyone else….my son has THREE LEGS….he will be a LEGEND!” said Declan.
“ I have only one bottle of Babycham left, two packets of Leek and Onion crisps and some pork scratchings… nothing else!” declared Dylan.
“ Till is loaded mind you…mostly with IOU notes from your Father-in-Law, that he said you would settle up when you arrived!” continued Dylan.
“ Cheeky Monkey!” he said in a strong West Walian accent last used in Hinterland.
“ Well what did you expect?... this is Carmarthenshire after all !” said Dylan.
Handing over most of his weekly pay packet, Declan sipped on his Babycham, trying to look as manly as a Collier above ground could.
After all years of those of firing blanks, he had finally found one good swimmer in his family.
“ Where is he then? Asked Dylan enquiring after his Father-in-Law.
“ Ty Bach!” replied Dylan.
“ Give me those notes from the till , he might need some paper!” ordered Declan.
“ Nice Try!” said Dylan.
“ Yes….slurred one of the pub regulars…the kick was charged down by Bergiers in midfield and he ped over for the first score!” said a regular who had that afternoon changed his name to Phil Bennett.
Declan just looked at him in horror, as he had just like in the classic Likely Lads episode, ‘Benny’ had just ruined the repeat on BBC Sport for him.
He made his way through a tangle of bodies lying on the floor, that was like a scene from Georgie Best’ bedroom that Morning.
He found his Father-in-Law where all men should be, at the top of the beer garden trousers around his ankles in the outdoor toilet giving birth to offspring of his own.
Declan knocked on the rotten wooden door.
“ Bugger Off…it’s taken!” shouted back the distinctive voice of his Father-in-Law.
He knew it was him anyway by the odour and the green fumes seeping under the door.
“ Dewi….you have a new Grandson called Trey!” announced Declan proudly.
“ Are you shitting me?” came the reply.
Dewi didn’t wait to wipe, but pulled up his trousers and pants and opened the door.
He hugged his son-in-law wildly.
“This calls for a celebration!” said Dewi…” Your round!” he continued.
“ There is no beer left… you lot drank it all!” said Declan
“ All well then home time!”
As the pair walked through the village, news of the three-legged baby had already filtered through to the women of Llareggur, who didn’t raise their heads up from their doorsteps in shame, as the pair walked past.
There was no internet or social media at the time but never underestimate the power of West Walian womens’ tongues.
Forward a decade for Declan and young Trey was now ten years old.
His birth defect was largely now ignored by the village children having grown up with his deformity.
1982 ushered in a war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, which caused a degree of concern for the village as some had relatives in the biggest Welsh-speaking community in the World, including Wales, in Patagonia.
Declan was too young to go but many of the village men had joined up, as there was little work in these parts following the closure of the local creamery due to competition from the European Union.
Declan’s colliery had been put on notice it would be on the rumoured McGregor and Thatcher Pit Closure List- as it was an uneconomic pit.
Trey however, was insulated from the rigours of the adult World, he was just your average ten year old boy with three legs.
It was however, time for the end of ‘tag’ rugby that had been invented by a Merthyr Man with an electronic tag.
It was time for contact rugby- or as Declan put it Man’s rugby.
Sizing up his son, who was smaller than average for his age, he spoke with the coach for the Scarlets youth team who suggested that he would be better placed in the pack with his special ability.
What Declan hadn’t realised was that his three-legged son was a perfect natural hooker.
Two legs to steady himself in the scrum and his middle one to hook back the ball into the pack.
Trey was an instant hit.
“Trey-mendous!” in the words of his coach.
‘Cloggau Gold’ due to its lucky strike abilities.
The Scarlets had never won so many balls against the head and having the lions’ share of possession meant they went on an unbeaten run for three entire seasons between 1982- 1985 which had not been seen in Wales for many a year.
They didn’t even need to nobble the referees for a change.
Trey was also handy in the line- out, being semi-skimmed and light with his extra leg, he could be lifted into the air just like the milking stool he had been conceived upon.
But Trey didn’t only excel at Junior Rugby, he was brilliant at athletics and his ‘Triple Jump’ broke all County records before him, with his landing in the sandpit easily identifiable.
And just like his real biological Father, he was also talented in other ‘fields’.
His speciality was spotted in Junior school and put to good use in drama and dance.
On many occasions, he had his frizzy dyed green and with brown drainpipe trousers, as he was perfect for the background as a copse of trees.
But Trey’s three limbs would not tree limbs for long, as he was destined for greater things.
Out of mighty acorns Oakwood Parks are born.
No sooner than his teacher Miss Fame had realised he could dance too, then he was invited to do the chorus line, and later the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks which was followed with great hilarity and eventually a handwritten invitation to join a dance troupe at the forthcoming Eisteddfod.It was then that the Cloggau Gold dance ensemble of ‘Legs & Co’ were formed and named in Trey’s honour.
It was a marvellous site for a proud Blodwen Pod, as her son danced in a production of the ‘Riverdance’ in wooden clogs of all things.
But despite his dancing and sporting accomplishments, life was not all a bed of roses for Trey.
With every growth spurt, he was costing his Mother a fortune in having to buy new shoes and as money was tight in Llareggur- in keeping with the people of Carmarthenshire- his Mother had taken to shopping in Swansea- buying a pair from Clarkes but then pinching the third right, right shoe from the white rack outside the front of the shop.
But it was much harder to swipe rugby boots and therefore Blod was delighted to have come across a single ‘golden’ Gilbert boot sticking out of a landfill tip like it was Excalibur waiting for King Arthur to come along.
It was way too big but Trey would grow into it.
Luckily for her, CCT cameras were not invented in 1985- and not used in Llanelli with the arrival of electricity until 2017.
Trey’s shoe demands were not always down to his adolescent growth.
He was also busy wearing the soles out on his bicycle.
Most children of his peer group in the early Eighties had Raleigh bikes with bold Red Indian names like Chipper and Tomahawk that had stopped selling in the rest of Britain in the 1970’s.
Regrettably due to his extra leg, Trey was unable to ride a convention bike and was forced to stick to the Penny Farthing bicycle his Father had used in the 1960’s to get to work to the Pit on.
He was now using his third leg and shoes as a braking system, much to the annoyance of his parents.
It was from this regular occurrence that an event in 1985 was to change the course of little Trey’s life.
Chasing after the pack of cyclists, as he was unable to keep up on his Penny Farthing and despite being warned by his parents to keep away from it, he foolishly decided to freewheel down ‘Dangerous Hill’ near Tumble.
He found out why the village was so called, as he accelerated downhill to speeds in excess of 60mph with only his middle leg to stop his contraption.
He may have been alright, if he hadn’t collided with that Council Workman cutting the hedgerows.
The Insurance Company refused to pay out too, as they didn’t believe the claim, as they hadn’t heard the words ‘Workman’ and ‘Council’ in the same sentence before.
Trey in the accident lost his leg and despite still having two left, he was unable to regain his balance.
It didn’t help that Declan had whilst his son was still in his hospital bed, told his son to ‘grow a pair’ and that he would now have to ‘stand on his two feet‘.
In West Wales, they were very unforgiving of people who had not suffered their own work experiences.
As Declan had been forced down the Big ‘Cloggau Pit’ since he was Fourteen to feed his Family, he had becomes harder than the seam he cut coal from.
At 13 years of age, Trey’s rugby career was over, as he joined the world of biped after the bicycle crash.
The hokey-cokey would never feel the same to him again.
But the Scarlets Junior Section did him proud.
They set aside a glass cabinet on the portakabin wall for Trey’s amputated leg with a sign which read simply:-
‘Cloggau Gold’- in memory of the ending of the Minor’s Strike 1985’.
As predicted by Dr Garnesha all those years ago, Trey had become a living Leg-End.