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Jul 2014
Every Sunday without fail,
my father would set about getting us on the
family visiting trail.
A picnic was packed, along with our macs,
(Just in case of the rain) and into the car
we were packed.
A beautiful drive through winding roads,
over a bridge that made your tummy lurch,
onwards, to the Pen-y-Fal psychiatric hospital.

The Tudor Gothic style hospital loomed large to a
child in a car. Like a silent waiting beast from afar.
A Charming gathering of gables and chimneys,
disguised the interior of quite simply "the madhouse".
Set in grounds of 75 acres, patients played bowls, cricket,
and croquet. I thought the people and the grounds magical.
There was this secret place with adult children,
smiling, and talking to the trees, knowing of fairies,
I never heard their pleas.

As I grew older, I grew bolder, the same Sunday jaunt,
to our familial haunt, but now I was an explorer.
I was allowed in. In to the centre of the Gothic beast.
Green tiled, with brown heavy doors, antiseptic smell
that clung to every pore and cell of you. Stark walls,
scrubbed nurses, white coated Doctors and thuggish orderlies.
And after your eyes took in those sights, your nose that smell,
the noise crashed into you. Moans, cries, wails and pleas.
The sound of a thousand lost minds.

My aunt was one of the lost.
She never went home again.
She never visited her children.
She never visited her eleven siblings.
She stayed, stayed with her friend Pearl.
Who once told me I had Vivienne Leigh eyes.
She stayed with the randy Italian, the piano player,
the Downs people given to that 'hospital', that smell, that Hell.
She was in the belly of the beast.*

The Grade II Listed Building has been converted into luxury accommodation now, but would you sleep there?
12 initial wards
210 initial inmates
1881-83 an epileptic ward was built
Between 1851 and 1950 over 3,000 patients died at the hospital.
Pen-y-Fal Hospital it held up to 1,170 patients at its peak.
Written by
Camellia-Japonica  F/Wales
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