When thinking of what to write about today, I glanced at a picture in my kitchen that I absolutely cherish.
I realised that at this time, the subject matter is topical and relevant. It gave me time to pause and reflect.
It’s one of those pictures that you either love or hate – it’s not pretty, it’s gritty.
It shows a row of miners, underground, sharing a break together.
The miners are from South Wales and the artist is Valerie Ganz who specialises in this kind of art. Do look her up.
I’m no art critic but I love this picture because it roots me in my past, my father, grandfathers and great grandfathers were all miners in the Somerset coalfield.
In fact, one of the miners even looks like my grandad so it warms my soul to look at the picture.
So it won’t surprise you to know that my heart fell as the story of the tragedy at the Gleision Colliery in the Swansea area unfolded a few weeks ago.
My thoughts go out to the families of those killed – Charles Breslin, David Powell, Phillip Hill and Garry Jenkins.
And the three men who survived – I’m thinking of them too.
I say that for a good reason.
This is an industry, a job, a career which requires great endurance, great courage and generates huge camaraderie and love, in spite of the risks.
My grandad, who served as a miner for 50 years in the Somerset coalfield, would often cry over Christmas dinner for his mates that were killed in the mines.
It was, and is, an industry which miners loved but which was brutal.
I know that during his long career, my grandad saw his best mate killed beside him when a rock fell on his head, and once he was caught in a rockfall which trapped five fellow miners. He was one of the first to go back down to rescue them – but it was too late. They all died. Even now the Braysdown Pit accident is recorded on gravestones in north east Somerset.
It’s when you see the tragedy recalled in the eyes of someone close to it, someone who was affected, that the enormity of the event comes home to you.
It’s not just an etching on a mossy gravestone, or a dispassionate write-up in an old newspaper article. It’s about real people, real families, terrible pain.
In the coming weeks and months, these families will live through funerals, inquests, hearings, media attention and nothing can spare them.
In a sense, nothing should spare them. Everyone wants answers, wants to know that their loved one mattered, but it’s just the pain that all of those things carry with them that’s hard to face. It’s a long hard road to walk.
As a child, I remember looking at my grandad (who died at the ripe old age of 88 in his bed) and thinking he was a bit mad to be crying over Christmas dinner.
Now, as an adult, I know better.
ted the gift of family, the gift of time spent and enjoyed together, and he remembered those who were denied that gift.
So to all in Wales and beyond affected by this tragedy – there are some out here who don’t know you – but who have noticed and who care…