… is how Tim Moore describes Merthyr Tydfil and on leaving the town, he writes: ‘I couldn’t help feeling that I’d now seen the very worst my nation had to throw at me, that there were no fresher hells to experience, that from here on things could only get better’. (Moore, 2012, p.260 and p.267). MT is a strange place and I’ve certainly seen a lot worse. But then, unlike Moore, we didn’t feel the need to stay in the worst hotel or drink in one of Britain’s toughest pubs. The casual visitor can feel the tension between those trying to pull the town out of the hell that Moore describes and those resigned to languishing in a town of “money shops”, betting shops and boarded-up buildings. The original architecture is stunning, but alas, most of it is now in ruins. There is an odd juxtaposition of smart beauty parlours, nail-bars, hair-dressers and tanning salons interspersed amongst the dilapidation; there is a big bustling Costa; it is one of the cleanest places I’ve ever seen and the people were super-friendly. So, on the strength of our visit, MT is not being consigned to room 101.
Moore, Tim (2012) You Are Awful (But I Like You): Travels Through Unloved Britain. London, Jonathan Cape (Kindle Edition).