A heroic trip to Swansea’s Quadrant Bus station

Last Tuesday (21st February), BBC Radio 4′s pm programme broadcast a memorable interview. It was part of their ‘take a leap’ campaign, challenging people to do something extraordiary on 29th February and tell the programme all about it.

The interview in question was with Jeffrey (I am merely guessing the spelling) who suffers from a severe anxiety disorder and therefore hasn’t managed for four years to take the half hour bus trip from his home to Swansea.  (EDIT: the BBC has now put a clip online: listen here, from 2:00)

Today, on Wednesday 29th February, he is planning to get on that bus and visit the Quadrant bus station in Swansea. He reckoned that he might even be able to get off the bus and have a coffee in the adjacent shopping centre before he travels back. It sounds like such a simple thing to do – but he described his condition very graphicly and it was quite clear just what a heroic feat this will be for him. If listeners’ reactions are anything to go by, ten thousands of people in the whole UK are now rooting for this one man to get to  Swansea’s Quadrant bus station today.

This story made me think back, too … Jeffrey hasn’t been to Swansea for four years - so he’ll still remember the old bus station: I hope the thought of that alone doesn’t keep him away.

It’s worth sometimes to remember the bad old days, just to keep appreciating that things can change for the better.

So here I am, remembering the old Quadrant bus station.

Oh the horror…

Swansea - old bus station

Swansea - old bus station. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

- The sheep pens to control the queues.
- The drafty doors which would blow open to let in cold blasts of wind and rain as a reward for those who dared to be first in line.
- The strategically placed ledges for the pigeons to do what pigeons do when people walk past underneath.
- The floor which seemed to be specially designed to be slippery when it was wet which, due to the leaky roof, it almost always was.
- The clock which had stopped, probably years ago, and had never been fixed.

And at night… – well, you didn’t want to be there. Somehow you sensed that in Quadrant bus station, nobody would hear you scream.

It’s worth remembering sometimes just how bad and soul-destroying architecture can be.

I still have the occasional flashback when I walk through the shiny new bus station, with its bakery, cafe and shop (open late, so the whole place feels safer), with its spaces fit to accommodate humans rather than sheep.

The new bus station

Swansea: new bus station - actually fit for humans.

It’s amazing how much difference architecture can make. It’s just one of the major changes which have happened recently in this devastated city - and yes, to give credit where it is due,  much of this happened with LibDems in charge (I can’t remember a Swansea run by anybody else, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course).

Still in spite of all efforts, Swansea was (and is in many respects) home to some of the worst urban development disasters I have ever seen. The old bus station was the very worst, though – as if Thatcher’s notion that anybody over 30 using a bus must be a failure had been cast in grey concrete, with the special aim to make those pathetic pedestrians suffer for their failure, too.

It’ll be a very long time before Swansea’s urban environment lives up to its amazing topographical setting. But a lot has happened since I moved here seven years ago – and in those four years since Jeffrey last made it to the Quadrant bus station.

Good luck, Jeffrey, with your trip today. I hope you make it, and I hope you will be pleasantly surprised!

EDIT: The BBC now has a full report of Geoffrey Harris’s story:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17233500

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8 Responses to A heroic trip to Swansea’s Quadrant Bus station

  1. Gaynor says:

    So, did he get on the bus??? It’s driving me mad that I can’t find out. I googled it and yours was the only mention I could find on line. I do hope that you know and can tell me.
    Many thanks

    Gaynor

  2. Maria Pretzler says:

    Gaynor,
    I don’t know, either, and I really want to know, too!! They promised an update in tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) programme – and if they really have an update, I’ll certainly post about it.

    I hope he made it, and I hope he can make himself let us know how it went.

  3. Gaynor says:

    Thanks, Maria. I’ll be on my own in the car tomorrow so I’ll be able to listen. If I find out I’ll post it too.

  4. Maria Pretzler says:

    Thanks!!

  5. Amanda says:

    Ha Ha,
    So funny and SO true about the old Quadrant.

  6. Maria Pretzler says:

    Jeffrey actually made it.
    And yes, he was surprised about the new bus station: he says that it looks like an airport!

    He got on the bus and made it!
    He had a coffee in the new cafe in the station!

    And he actually enjoyed the trip. A wonderful story…

  7. Gaynor says:

    Oh, fantastic! I didn’t get chance to listen to the radio after all, so thank you for letting us know. It is a great story and I’m so glad it had the right ending.
    All the best to you (and to Geoffrey!)

  8. Maria Pretzler says:

    I am sure it’ll be in i-player – it was right at the end of the progamme, about ten minutes from the end. Nice to ‘talk’ to you, Gaynor!

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