I know the name in English of my bolthole on the Maes, but I am none the wiser. It is the "stack annealing basement".
In my family, thanks to my father's job at ICI Fibres in Pontypool, our industrial talk was confined to the properties of nylon. Could a human body levitate, we wondered, on a force-field of static electricity after sliding at full speed between two sheets of said fabric?
It means that the processes of making steel remain a mystery to me. The stack annealer basement has nevertheless become a little underground haven for a head scorched overground by the sun ripping through the thin air above the old Ebbw Vale works. The SAB has been transformed into Y Lle Celf, a home for delicate art on walls thick enough to make China's Three Gorges dam look like tissue paper.
I say that only to be able to use the only long Welsh word I know, in admiration of the gwrthgyferbyniad between concrete and canvas. And I love the lle, especially the long ramp going past the trio of canvasses by Manon Awst and Benjamin Walther. "On the Way to History" is my favourite, although I am still spooked at the point by the Paper Chain Dolls by Wendy Mayer. In any language these are troubling figures.
Paper Chain Dolls by Wendy Mayer
Next door to the Lle Celf is an even quieter spot, the community garden. On Saturated Sunday, when 25,000 poured gloriously through the dust storm, I found myself alone in the garden with a local woman and her dog. "He's misbehaving," she said, sitting her mutt down and giving him a hug.
I reached out a hand and he growled. I returned to the photos of the works in their heyday and in decline. They made nearly 17 million tons of steel at Ebbw Vale before they tore down the blast furnaces. I found out what they did in a stack annealing basement: heat great coils of steel to soften them before rolling.
Now it's an art gallery that pulls me back, past the disturbing paper chain dolls.