Reflections of Tenby
Story and artwork by CHRIS LANGLEY
I remember that day as if it were yesterday. July 1972. I went on a day trip to Tenby, with my schoolfriend Neil and his family.
Neil’s dad, Peter, owned a car! Not everyone did in those days in Pontypridd. A Hillman Imp, it was. Neil’s mother, Audrey, his younger sister, Alison, and baby brother, Robert; we all fitted in. Don’t ask me how.
Tenby was a long drive in the Seventies with little or no M4 or dual carriageways. As Hawkwind’s Silver Machine sounded over the radio, we zoomed down the A roads past Cowbridge, toward Swansea, then on to Camarthen. Tenby soon followed.
We arrived in Tenby hours later, nearly lunchtime. The sky was a brilliant, cloudless blue. The sands on the beach were bright yellows fading into shades of beige. Fishing boats lay on the sands, their bows leaning; bright red buoys rested on the sterns, waiting for the tide.
The aromas of the harbour and of the sea greeted us. We found a café overlooking Tenby harbour. Lunch was tomato soup. I thought, “This soup is very nice” – different to the Heinz Cream ofTomato Soup I always had at home in the Welsh town of my birth, Pontypridd.
My father, Welsh diving champion W. Harry Langley, died at the young age of 49. Cancer, with complications after an accident at a fire, we were told. A Royal Navy Second World War veteran, he was a local fireman in addition to being an award-winning long-distance swimmer.
He also painted in oils. No work of his survives, yet his unique paintings were on proud display all over my family home, as I was growing up. I remember the styles and subjects. Seascapes. Landscapes. A large painting of Christ on the Cross hung on the landing wall; quite graphic in its subject and detail, yet my dad wasn’t, to my recollection, a religious man.
Holidays, before and after my dad died, were taken in the seaside town of Porthcawl, on the South Wales coast. Always during the first two weeks of June. Porthcawl has sweeping miles of beaches and dunes to explore; framed by acres of caravan parks, which thousands of holidaymakers populated during “miners fortnight”. The sea was brown, as a result of proximity to the Bristol Channel estuary. You couldn’t see anything under the water while swimming; or even paddling!
Imagine my utter surprise when, back in Tenby, on the pristine West Wales coast, the sea was totally clear! I looked at my feet in wonder as they stood on the cool sands beneath the turquoise-green waves, lapping at my waist.
Neil, Alison and I played all day. On the beach, in the sea, exploring the rock pools. The end of the day soon came, and it was back in the Hillman ready for the long journey back to Pontypridd.
I felt the sunburn on my back for days afterward! The memory of that one amazing day will never leave me – way back when I was just 10 years old.
Every time I visited Tenby periodically in years after, the memories of that day always flooded back. Wandering around the picturesque town, looking through adult eyes, I noticed the architecture and historical buildings. The quaint houses which frame the harbour so well; painted in uplifting colours. Yet more has Tenby to offer.
In 2017, I revisited Tenby in the July. The light was very similar to that the boy of 10 saw. I took a series of photographs; intending to try to capture those precious memories.
From those photos, I was inspired to create my Reflections of Tenby series of paintings. They are titled Reflections of Tenby, Coloured Houses of Tenby, Tenby on Gold and Over the Harbour Wall.
Many have said over the years how they, too, have memories my paintings have rekindled.
Today, I am still in touch with Neil. His parents, Audrey and Peter, are still enjoying life now, in their eighties, living in a lovely bungalow with sea views in Dorset. I am forever grateful for them giving me those memories of that hot and sunny day in 1972.
From the quaint harbour scenes of Tenby to celebrity portraits, meet contemporary Welsh artist Christopher Langley.
Internationally recognised, award-winning contemporary artist Christopher Langley has been painting all his life. Inspired by his father, who painted in oils, he launched his first solo exhibition in 2012 in his home town of Pontypridd. Since then Christopher has exhibited work in New York, London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Newport
Today, he specialises in private and business art commissions. He gives art demonstrations and workshops to societies and schools, in addition to donating work, such as signed portraits by Alun Wyn Jones and Lord Alan Sugar, to raise funds for charities such as Cancer Wales and AFB Soldiers.
His work can be seen at Christopherlangley.net