A Welsh Interlude

Fearing the heat, I set off even earlier than yesterday for a walk to Pomport and back.  As I began my return journey I could see rainclouds over Sigoules, and very soon the lapis lazuli canopy under which I’d begun my outing had turned into a slate roof.  The sweat I’d engendered on the way up had become decidedly cool.  Now I feared for the washing I’d left out in the garden.  No rain came, and the sun soon re-emerged.

Donkey and goats 8.12I met the donkey with its goat family mentioned on 8th. June.  In order to be more precise in the preceeding sentence, on my return I attempted to ascertain the sex of this creature.  Although I swear all I’d done was stand and stare s/he seemed to take exception and started up an horrendous honking until I moved on.  Quite fearsome really.

Further up the hill, still lies the memorial described on that same day, although the floral tribute is missing.

As Charles bears witness, vines are strung out all around Pomport, which is a most attractive village.  Walking through it, I was surprised to see an antique Austin car standing in a covered alley beside a house.  Wandering inside, I encountered a group of four having their breakfast.  They were English.  Unfazed by my intrusion, one of the men proudly informed me that he had renovated the vehicle, ‘every nut and bolt’, himself.  I should have asked him what model it was, but I expect some of my readers will know.  He then opened a garage door and proudly displayed a vintage Vauxhall that he planned to drive back to England next week.  I think he was rather pleased someone had taken an interest.

People were playing tennis in the now half-completed Leisure Centre in the valley between Sigoules and Pomport.

Last night and this afternoon I was deeply engrossed in ‘A Welsh Childhood’ by Alice Thomas Ellis.  This is a very well produced Mermaid publication enhanced by Patrick Sutherland’s evocative black and white photographs.  I imagine my friend Alex Schneideman, himself a first-rate professional, would find these illustrations inspiring.  The writer’s descriptions of her childhood, and diversions into Welsh myth and legend, are enthralling.

Given Ann and Don’s nineteen years in N. Wales; the family in whose company I spent last evening; and the many holidays I have enjoyed, and occasionally endured, there, the book, donated by Don, is rather pertinent.  It will stay on the coffee table in the sitting room of No. 6.

What I was quite unprepared for was the similarity in style of a well-known writer to that I have been cultivating in my blog.  Many of her memories sparked more of mine, for which I may find future space.  Today I choose to recount some with which I believe Ms. Ellis may be out of sympathy.  Although she loved the thrill and freedom of playing in the hills, she doesn’t seem to have appreciated sport.  In this she is not alone, but I make no apologies.

I enjoyed numerous training runs in the hills around Gaeddren, Ann and Don’s Welsh home.  (If necessary, correct my spelling, my old friend).  Perched on a hill above Cerrigidrudion, this house was an ideal point from which to engage in fell running.  Since I used the roads, this wasn’t actually fell running, as I had done in the Lake District, but it felt like it.  Watching the changing light as I ran up and down roads cut from this rocky terrain, passing streams and rugged trees sometimes indistinguishable from the granite they clung to, was a truly exhilarating experience.  It was on one of these two hour marathons that I felt my only ‘runner’s high’.  No pun intended.  Please don’t think I could, even on the flat, run a marathon in two hours.  Here, I use the word figuratively.  A ‘runner’s high’ is a feeling of intoxicated elation, said to come at one’s peak.  No further pun intended.  Well, I never tried LSD.  I did, however, find it useful pre-decimalisation.  Pun intended.

When I did seek an even route I ran the complete circuit of Llyn Tegid, known to the English as Lake Bala.  Having three times, once in 88 degrees fahrenheit, managed the Bolton marathon, which ends with a six-mile stretch up the aptly named ‘Plodder Lane’, with a vicious climb at the end, I thought I might attempt the North Wales marathon.  Imagine my surprise to find it boringly, unrelentingly, flat.  Here I will divert, as I once did in the Bolton race.  My grandmother, then in her nineties, was seated on a folding chair in order to watch me come past.  I left the field, nipped across, kissed her on the head, and quickly rejoined the throng.  She seemed somewhat nonplussed, as did a number of other competitors.  After all, why would anyone willingly supplement, even by a few feet, a distance of 26 miles 385 yards?

The other day, in Le Code Bar I had met an Eglishman with a Birmigham accent.  He had bought a house in Fonroque because he had a French girlfriend.  Feeling sure Judith would know him I mentioned him to her.  She did.  When he turned up for a meal this evening, I saw what had attracted him to France.  As they were glancing in my direction I got up from my usual table and approached the couple.  I told the gentleman I had a friend who knew him.  He didn’t know what I was talking about.  He was French.  Whoops.  Undeterred I told him he had a doppelganger.  Since Flaubert’s use of the word is the same as the English one, confirmed by my dictionary, I thought I was on safe ground here.  I wasn’t.  Fortunately the beautiful woman he was with translated and told me it wasn’t a problem.  I slunk back to my duck fillet and chips followed by creme brulee, and found the two glasses of red wine quite comforting.

Reminiscing With Don

Don sleeping 7.12

Tomato plant 7.12First thing this morning Don gave me a lesson in pruning tomatoes, to give me the best chance of producing a crop from my compost bin.

We then spent several hours continuing last night’s reminiscences.  Don and Ann shared the Soho, Furzedown, and Lindum House Years with Jessica and me.  We shared their time in Finsbury Park, Cerrigidrudion, and Bungay.  During the next week we will have thirty-odd years to talk about.  Much of what we ranged over is not suitable for a blog, but there is plenty that is.  Taking Michael, Matthew and Becky from the mews flat in Horse and Dolphin Yard off for a day in the country at the Essex show springs to mind.  Bringing happy townies back to The Smoke after a day in the verdant sunshine brought a pleasant end to a satisfying day.  Don was later to help us move from Soho to Furzedown in S.W. London.

We were frequent visitors to N. Wales after Don took early retirement and he and Ann set about renovating their house on a Welsh hillside and converting the attached cowshed into a very attractive home.  Many of the trees Don planted in the ‘parc morc’ (pig field) were saplings from Lindum House.  Don, an accountant from Cheam, soon became a champion dry-stone waller.  Ever modest, he jibbed at my calling him this, but he cannot deny he has trophies to prove it.  In fact, when my family are amused at my signing off my posts with what I had for dinner I always say it is my version of my friend’s teapots.  He always left some container in his walls for birds to nest in, or to bear some memento from his life.  He told me today he only ever put in one teapot.  I had managed to convince  myself it was always teapots.  Just as a child to whom you give one good experience will magnify it into a regular event.

I remember one particular barbecue in the pouring rain in Cerrigidrudion just after they’d moved there.  The subsequent conversion was still a cowshed, which was just as well because that is where we shivered under comparative shelter and ate chicken, sausages, and cuts of meat with our fingers in a smoke-filled atmosphere.  Much more conducive for such an event was the weather at the French gite we shared on a later holiday. Ann & Don 9.82 Don was master of the coals.

I have mentioned that holiday before, and will save the climax for a further post.  Don did remind me, however, that it was then that Sam received his first cut.  I still remember my sadness at my beautiful boy having suffered his first blemish.  During Siesta time, when, of course, nothing was open, we came across a broken shop window.  ‘Don’t’, said I, as our four-year old made a dive for the broken glass.  Too late.  He grabbed it and brought some away in the palm of his hand.  Which I could not get him to open.  Even if I could I would need a pair of tweezers.  We found the duty Sam 9.82 001chemist which was open. Sam 9.82002 She had some tweezers.  But how was I going to get Sam to expose his palm?  She smartly provided the solution.  Out came a bag of sweets.  Our lad could not resist one.  Poised, tweezers in hand, I knew I had, at best, one chance.  Sam’s fingers spread and snaked out for the sweet.  I swooped with the tweezers.  The implement secured and withdrew the shard of glass.  Sam ate his sweet and we bade the woman goodbye.  Ann bought an ice cream and provided a cuddle, and all was well.

Ann and Don were frequent visitors to Lindum House.  When I spoke of the neighbourhood children sliding down the wide staircase on a mattress, frequently knocking the valuable painting off the wall at the foot of the stairs, Don said: ‘I bet Louisa was behind that’.  Too right he was.  He knew her well.  Every time that painting came off, so did a section of its ornate plaster frame.  Ann and Don would, in later years, stop off en route to Don’s family in Norfolk.  They’d spend the day with us, sleep in their caravan on a local site, and press on to visit Don’s daughters.  The couple are both in the group photograph of Michael and Heidi’s wedding which stands on the sitting room table in Sigoules.

After several hours in the garden sunshine, Don went inside for a nap, and I started writing, before our trip to Le Code Bar.  This evening’s repast was steak and chips for me; salmon pizza with a white sauce for Don; Stella and Liffe respectively; and creme brulee for each of us.  Don proclaimed the creme brulee ‘the best in the world.  No wonder you have it after every meal.’