Shining Brightly

I stumbled upon a news article about a best friend I haven’t seen for a very long time. It turns out that our life journeys continue to share similarities, even though our paths split. 

I read about the support he had put in place for his parents during their ill health, and his brilliant fund-raising for the charity that provided the support. He was always a brilliant shining star who lit up every room. Reading about him reminded me why I gravitated to him in the first place. It was a welcome reminder of the qualities in all of my friends, those still in my life and those that aren’t.

Looking at the photos in the news article, my friend hasn’t changed. There are signs of his continuous re-invention: a handle-bar moustache and spectacles that illustrate his tastes and interests, but it’s still recognisably him.  

I wondered if he still wore a hearing aid.  Being diagnosed with hearing loss at a relatively young age (no surprise considering the night-clubbing we did), he shrugged off the fear that a lot of us would have felt and decided instead to fully embrace it; make a feature of the new addition to his body; turn it into a talking point.

It was comforting to read that he hadn’t lost that determination to turn adversity and fear into hope. A brilliant shining example to us when going through similar life events.

My reminiscing ended on a less serious note as I chuckled about a one-night stand my friend once recalled, on the theme of hearing aids.  He had taken a member of the Deaf community home, only to be reduced to fits of laughter every time the lad got close to him, as the lad’s hearing aid emitted a high-pitched whistling caused by interference from the multiple metal piercings in my friend’s ears, nose and tongue.

333 Cowbridge Road East and Sophie Rogan

Sophie Jennie Frances Rogan was the Head Teacher at Lansdowne School while my mum and her siblings were there in the 1940s and 50s. Sophie was living at 333 Cowbridge Road at the time, having moved there sometime between 1921 and 1939 with her widowed mother Julia Phebe Rogan. Their live-in domestic service Phyllis M Suchecks (Sheppard) also lived there.

Sophie was born in Brighton in 1893 to Julia and Alfred John Rogan. Alred was a Marine Engineer whose work took him to Cardiff. The family moved to 289 Cowbridge Road in time to have a second daughter Margaret Dora in 1897

Alfred was out of work at age 60 and the family spent some time at 9 Grosvenor Street before moving to 333 Cowbridge Road. Alfred died aged 76 in 1937 and Julia died ten years later.

Sophie spent her career teaching at various schools in Canton and achieved the position of chair of the Cardiff Head Teachers’ Association before retiring in 1959 aged 66. She spent the next two decades living at 333 Cowbridge Road before moving out in the 1970s and spending her remaining time at Ty Gwyn Nursing Home in Penarth until December 1981

Margaret Dora had become Cowburn through marriage and died in Blackpool in 1978

333 Cowbridge Road was built in the late 1880s on what was formerly Ely Road. The occupiers before Sophie Rogan were families with the names Davies, Stephens, Hann, Jones and Lock. Following Sophie, the house was occupied by families with the names Champion and Hill.

Cowbridge Road around 1915, showing 333 on the left
Cowbridge Road East, August 2023, showing 333 on the left
Canton – A Winter Scene by Charles Byrd, showing the rear of Cowbridge Road East

My Dad – An Introduction

My dad can do anything. He created the house I’m sat in right now. He didn’t build it, but he gradually over three decades and shifting trends removed each wall, each ceiling and each floor, replaced them or moved them, sometimes by just inches. The mid-eighties ground floor had an uninterupted view from the front to the rear via archways and a worrying absence of load-bearing walls.

No wall or floor in the house is level, but that’s no surprise as it’s a late Victorian-period house without foundations and it moves regularly.

My dad worked with – in fact relished – these quirks. He was constantly changing and extending out of a passion for doing, or maybe just boredom. It wasn’t his profession but he could construct, demolish and plumb water, gas and electric.

My passion for electrics came from him. He made me a plug-board to play with at the age of 18 months to stop me toddling around the house plugging in appliances. The final straw was my mum waking up boiling hot because I’d plugged in the electric blanket while she slept.

Back to the quirks of this house. I have professionals in replacing the bathroom. In the process of correcting a far from straight wall, they are battening and boarding and shaving a few inches of precious space away, but I understand. The previous incarnation of the bathroom was fascinating in the tiles arrangement due to my dad working with what he had. Hind leg of a dog more than plumb line.

The work under way will take two weeks, and rightly so, it will be a professional and quality job. I joked with my dad as the team clocked off at the end of the first day of work, at 2:30pm I have a stream of memories of dad working on the house until midnight. Once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. I walked into the kitchen one Sunday evening at the age of twelve to see dad in the bathroom above, balancing carefully on the joists because the floor-boards had been removed. “Just replacing the floor, won’t be long, you’ll still have your Sunday bath.”

As we joked about the 2:30pm finish, dad got his serious face on and said to me: “Make sure they use marine ply in that bathroom. It must be marine to withstand moisture. That’s what I used.” Through the early stage of dementia comes recollection, good sense, experience and care. Lots of care.