"Valley Rain"

Taken from Chapter 1: The Boy In The Attic

In 1952 Tommy Woodward was diagnosed with tuberculosis. At the time it was a killer disease. For two years he was confined to his home in 44, Laura Street, Treforest. Out of the window he could see his friends playing, among whom was a pretty Catholic girl called Melinda Trenchard. She had stolen his heart.

There is no rain like Valleys rain.

Tommy Woodward hated the rain more than anyone else because he was imprisoned in his attic bedroom, confined by that black spot on his lungs. Two years Tommy Woodward sat in his attic room, two years that felt like twenty, staring at the mountains beyond Pentre-Bach across the Taff valley. A boy with coal black patches hanging beneath his eyes, too weak to go to school, slumped by the window, his face scrunched up against the glass pane. His tiny attic bedroom was strewn with paintings, drawings in charcoal and crayon. All pictures of girls.

44 Laura Street ( where Tom grew up) 1998

 

He was trapped by his body. It changed and grew as he lay there, too feeble to run. A boy too weak to sing but not too frail to dream. He dreamed of a girl playing marbles on a cobbled street corner, a blonde girl in a pale blue dress, little gold rings glinting on white earlobes, bare legs in white ankle socks running up a green hill...

 

The second year he managed to get up for an hour a day, but still could not go outside. "The doctors didn't know how long I was going to be ill. I had to have an x-ray every few months until the shadow on the lung went away." So he sat downstairs - but only if he felt strong enough to negotiate the stairs - and watched his mother rake the coals before baking Welsh cakes on the hot stones. Tommy liked to eat and throughout his illness his mother encouraged him to eat to get his strength back up.

2 Cliff Terrace - where Tom and Linda started their married

life in the basement. Visitors had to bang on the grill

 

"When they finally set me free, the doctors told me not to get too active because my muscles hadn't been used," he said . "I forgot of course and I was running around with the other boys until suddenly my legs seized up, the pain was unbelievable."...

It was the most formative experience of Tom Jones' childhood, perhaps of his life.

What Tom had missed lying in his bed were two things: girls and singing. During those two years he had hit puberty and to the frustration of sexual longing was added the inability of not being able to do anything about it. During those months of exile he had focused on two women. One, his mother, who was at his beck and call, who he could have with the bang of a stick, she had made him the centre of her universe. The other, the object of his desire, he could scarcely see and never touch.

Wood Road Non Political Club - where Tom gave his first paid gig

 

Since then he has always demanded and sought both things. Domestic contentment through mastery. Constant sexual conquest. He possessed the weapon to achieve his ambitions. He had the Voice.

Tommy Woodward had stared out of his window for months without end. As he watched but could not touch he had made himself a solemn vow: "Once I get up from this bed and can function properly I'll never mourn anything else again".

And he never has.

MORE: On Top of The World    The Lean Years   The Making of Reload   Why I Wrote The Book

Robin Eggar, 2000. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in any form.