I used to be terrified of the dark red, hand cranked bacon slicer in Dimbleby’s grocery shop in Chapel Street. The sound it made as it slid through the hunk of bacon – back and forth, back and forth; unstoppable – really scared me. A device right up there in the realms of terror with Poe’s pendulum and Dr Who’s Ice Warriors.
Dimbleby’s late owner lived in a bungalow at the back of our house, near the river. His name was Mr Davies – we called him Mr Davies-Dimbleby – and he bred budgerigars. Even though I was only eight, it seemed ironic that the man who controlled the feared bacon slicer bred budgies as a hobby. He kept them in a walk-in chicken wire cage at the bottom of his garden.
A few years after he’d retired from the shop, he and his wife were away from home when something terrible happened. Abergele flooded. Torrential rains swelled the Gele and a car was swept under the Market Street bridge. This had the effect of damming the river and made the flooding even worse.
I can remember going down to the Gele and being really upset as, with one surge of floodwater, Mr Davies’s budgie cage was crushed by the torrent. Although a few birds struggled away, most were killed. The daughter of another of our neighbours was hysterical. I can remember my father telling her to count to ten and take deep breaths.
Of all the images of those big Abergele floods, it’s the memory of Mr Davies-Dimbleby’s brightly coloured birds trying to escape the rising muddy water that’s stayed with me.