There is a word in Welsh - hiraeth - that has no direct translation in the English language. It describes the deep yearning a Welshman feels for his Country. That hit home to me yesterday when I found this montage of my hometown on YouTube. It brought back many wonderful memories - the Neath Abbey ruins, the old railway station where I spent so much time with my dad as a little boy (I loved trains), the historic Castle Hotel (where the Welsh Rugby Union was formed in 1881) and the old canals that wind their way through the Neath valley.
My parents live less than a minute from the beautiful park (Victoria Gardens) shown in the video. The St David's Church clock overlooking the park is the defining landmark of the town - it is the first thing I used to see when traveling home from England.
I recognize many of the streets as part of my old running routes, and the last few minutes show off the wonderful trails of the "Gnoll woods" estate, with the cascade falls and the oh-so-familiar Gnoll pond (spent many happy hours playing in the Gnoll woods as a boy). I ran these trails almost every day when we visited home last Christmas and they are every bit as beautiful as they look.
Yep, Neath is a beautiful little town and a great place to grow up in. Of course, many things have changed since I lived there - my old school is gone, replaced by a police station and holding cells (not much change there then), and what was the old police station is now a trendy wine bar - but the essence of the town remains. The quirky characters and the quiet Welsh humor is still the same. I always enjoy my visits home.