Hello & Welcome

to the September edition of TheBAY

This month’s front cover is white in memory of Sarla Langdon who sadly passed away last month after a short illness. In keeping with Hindu tradition, mourners were asked to wear white to her funeral, and so our cover is in homage to Sarla who was a driving force in Bay for over 10 years.

Back in 2009 when we first had the idea of setting up a magazine here in Swansea, I had the good fortune to bump into Marianne Pettifor at a break-fast meeting. On telling Marianne that I was going into publishing, she said that there was only one person in Swansea that I needed to meet and that was Sarla. Just an hour after that meeting, my phone rang. ‘Hello darling, I hear that you are thinking of setting up a magazine. Why don’t you come over for coffee and we’ll see if I can help you.’

I believe in fate and that I was predestined to meet Sarla. She lived in Lon Cae Banc while I was in Cae Banc – we were very close neighbours as the crow flies. Sarla welcomed me in and within minutes wanted to give me food, coffee, cakes biscuits – I gradually came to know that Sarla loved to feed people.

After just an hour or so with Sarla, I had a chef on board – Sam Mullen who would supply me with recipes, and a list of articles that would provide me with the editorial content. Bay was launch-ed, and it had an Editorial Consultant!

She admitted to us earlier this year, that she thought we’d make it to 3 issues but was delighted when we reached 100.

Sarla contributed to Bay every month with her Written World column. Here she reviewed books that she felt were worthy of comment – yes, she was controversial in her choice sometimes – and she certainly didn’t review popular fiction, but her aim was to encourage readers to try some-thing new. Every year she would set herself the task of reading every book on the Booker longlist – publishers were more than happy to send her the books in proof form if necessary.

Heavyweight publications used her reviews in their website blurb. She was once accused of making Bay too highbrow – she took this as a compliment.

She was a consummate professional and took her work very seriously; never missing a deadline. When she was admitted to hospital, she was more concerned that she was letting us down than worrying about her health.

Sarla could be very bossy and opinionated but underneath that steely exterior beat a heart of gold. She was generous with her time and energy – many fledgling businesses would be given her attention – provided the business owner was prepared to listen and act on advice given! Many, many businesses in Swansea have grown exponentially because of Sarla’s business strat-egy and knowledge. She was highly regarded within the business community and sat on many advisory boards. I remember her saying to me that she had to go to London for a meeting and did I fancy coming along. She would be in the meeting for a couple of hours and then we could go for lunch. Where in London I asked – Downing Street she said. She was on a micro-business think tank and would advise MPs on Welsh business affairs in the Cabinet Office.

Sarla’s intellect was vast. I can’t think of a single subject on which she didn’t have some knowledge, which is why she was so interesting to be around. Her taste in music was diverse – she loved Wagner, but I was stunned to hear that she also had Peter Andre in her record collection.

As a Brahmin, Sarla was a teacher and an educator. She taught me how to write with confidence and to be able to edit other peoples’ work. She made me believe in myself.

I have always loved to read, but Sarla has opened my eyes to so many wonderful authors and the quality of my reading has gone up a notch – I am far more critical than I ever was. She even collected children’s books for our grandson – his bookshelves not only hold the usual Julia Donaldson but the works of unknown Russian authors and translations from foreign languages that Sarla felt he should read in the future. That will be her legacy to him.

She loved Simon’s work – when he did the illustrations of her for the magazine she wanted them framed so they could hang in pride of place on her walls. Together they would work on the page layouts – she had a knack of being able to make just a slight adjustment to a page that meant it suddenly looked perfect. She would trawl through national and international publications and find an unusual layout and bring it to the studio – try this she’d say. Her philosophy was that there was nothing new – every fashion would come around again. She often spoke of when she worked in an advertis-ing agency in Bombay – campaigns that she was involved in and the life that she lived at that time. She also spoke often of her meeting with Keith – the love of her life – when he came over to Bombay on business and ended up bringing her back with him.

She had no idea about life in the UK. She told me how the first Christmas she spent in Wales Keith asked what she would like to do on Christmas Day – she didn’t know but asked was it a holiday? Yes of course no one will be working. Let’s go to Stonehenge then she suggested. So, Keith made up some sandwiches and they drove to Stonehenge which was understandably deserted. On the way home Sarla asked what everybody else would be doing now – and of course Keith said well most people would be sitting down to a roast turkey dinner etc. Sarla laughed! – but she was never conventional.

They loved to spend time on Gower and Sarla was even persuaded to swim in the sea even though she said it was freezing! Sadly, they only had a short time together before Keith passed away suddenly. Together they had built up the Swansea Advertiser until thousands of copies were being delivered into homes in Swansea and the surrounding area right up into the valleys.

This was in the days before desk top publishing – our task today is simple compared with Sarla and Keith’s. I am full of admiration for them both. But what Sarla had was the knowledge of all the processes involved in publishing hence her interest in helping us.

Not only have I lost my business mentor but a very dear friend. Every month Sarla would come to the studio to proof read. She’d arrive with a bag of goodies that she had collected in the course of her travels that week. Not only food – Aldi and Lidl’s latest offers, a new cheese that she’d discovered and all manner of savoury snacks, but a collection of pens, pads and post-it notes. Wherever she went she’d squirrel away her loot and then redistribute it among her friends. She loved to share.

Earlier this year she rang me up in great excitement. Darling she said, “I’ve had a cheque from Royal Bank of Scotland, a PPI refund – we shall eat Lobster Thermidor and drink fine wine” – and so we did, and we toasted RBS.

Simon and I will miss her beyond words.

As you can imagine, producing this issue has been difficult. We have been without Sarla’s input since the June issue when she was first taken ill, but we lived in hope that she would be made well again and be back at her place in the studio. Sadly, that was not to be, and we will miss her presence and her invaluable contributions. But Sarla was a consummate professional and I would be horrified if we let our standards slip! I’d like to thank Bethan of Freshwater Interiors and Michelle at Mumbles Flooring for their understanding in not having their usual advertising spots in the magazine.

Our contribution from Swansea Cats Protection this month is on the importance of micro-chipping your cat. At the end of this article I have put a little request. Just before she went into hospital, Sarla put her beloved cat up for adoption – maybe she had a good idea of what was to come. Molly is an elderly cat who is very companionable – she loved to sit on Sarla’s desk while she read. Could you give her a comfortable place to spend the rest of her days? If so, do get in touch either with me or Cats Protection. I would love to take her in myself, but as regular readers will recall, I was adopted by Buddy the cat last year and he is not keen on other felines.

I was contacted last month by Neville Evans who wanted to raise awareness of one of Swansea’s local heroes. Edward George ‘Taffy’ Bowen lived in Cockett and was a member of the same church as Neville when he was a boy. You can read Neville’s article and discover what it was that made Mr Bowen not just a local hero but a national one.

I hope you enjoyed the wine recommendations by Antoinette Milne last month. She’s back this month with her choice of organic wines. To be given the label organic, they must be made from grapes that have been grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. If you want advice on buying wine for any particular occasion and would like Antoinette’s suggestions, then just drop me an email.

Liz Barry always manages to find the sunshine when she goes on her travels with her camera – even in the UK. Last month she popped across the Bristol Channel to North Devon, where she explored the coast from Ilfracombe to Dunster. What a beautiful part of the country, and just a few hours’ drive from Swansea. Isn’t it a pity that the idea of a hydrofoil or ferry from Swansea to Ilfracombe never came to fruition?

Nick Smith ventured further afield when he went to Macau. It is easy to see Macau’s Portuguese connection when you look at the architecture and pavements – you can even buy pasteis da nata or custard tarts there.

I hope you enjoy this month’s magazine. Have fun in September and make the most of all the events going on – Mark Rees has some great suggestions in his Art’s Scene column for things to see and do this month and early in October.