The Welsh Squelch

The Welsh sojourn comes to an end. I am in Cardiff and just waved goodbye to David after he spent 3 days with us at the conclusion of the London season of Driftwood with Casus. He is staying on, rehearsing with the two troupes in Cardiff, before further touring in Europe. Rosie will take a side trip to Bristol, tomorrow, to attend a one day philosophy conference that happens to be about one of her favourite philosophical topics – maternity – with one of her most esteemed, living feminist philosophers. And me? The more mundane part of travel, I will drive the rental car back to Heathrow and then make my way to my sister’s place in de Beauvoir Town (sounds quaint – it’s pretty much near where we were staying in London a week or so ago).

This morning we were driving through the Brecon Beacons in the driving rain. There were mountain scenes with waterfalls and steep gradients that had us exclaiming in awe and imagining that it was Middle Earth or some other mythical land. It was not to be this trip that we would walk within the National Park but I would like to another time when I am kitted out for muddy, wet adventures. I have fond memories of the walks I did there nearly 30 years ago… a particularly vivid one of a high mountain woodland carpeted with flowering bluebells as far as the eye could see.

Wet, windy Wales it has been since I last posted. It has been weather that led to cosy fires in our cottage and perhaps less adventure beyond the walls than if we had had endless sunshine. But despite squalls and heavy rain we managed to explore Cardigan and a bit of the Pembrokeshire Coast, about an hour’s drive from “home”. We had set out with the intention of finding an award-winning farmer’s market in St Dogmael’s. We arrived towards the end of the market so made the rounds and bought some foodstuffs for a picnic lunch. It included a fresh loaf of wholemeal bread made from flour milled but metres away in the olde worlde water mill, replete with millpond with ducks. We had sun at this time, so perfect for our lunch adjacent to the market and the ruins of the abbey from which the village takes its name. Then a wander through the ruins and through the gated wall to the newer church that is right next to a phenomenal 500 year old yew that looked as equally revered as the old stone buildings, if not more. What sights that old tree must have overseen in its life, the passing stages of the human life cycles of the people of the town. It was like a wise old, wizened sage enthroned between the graveyard and the church door.

I seem to never tire of seeing the tiny, barely significant vignettes of a contented village life; a baby blue painted wall set against a big blue sky or an attic window incoherently stacked with books as to block out light, but creating a blind of interest for those on the outside, or a tiny cottage with a tiny plaque “Lucky Cottage”. The charm of these hamlets and villages of West Wales are endlessly beguiling. Who knows what it is about them that interests me so. Perhaps the pictures that have been imprinted on my consciousness from childhood story books or films and TV shows. They do invoke in me a sense of timeless ordinariness that is deeply calming, satisfying and appealing.

We made the most of our drive that day by taking an unknown path towards the Irish sea, and found ourselves at the rugged headland of the River Teifi. Well, nearly at the headland but we were at a weird kind of farm/petting zoo with other holidaying things to do… so peculiarly British! Slightly hesitant about the kind of dagginess of this tourist extravaganza, we had a pot of tea in the vast barn space before we decided… “in for a penny, in for a pound” – pay the entrance cost, buy some animal feed and let’s go feed some goats. It was a bit of fun… goats are funny, right? There were other farm animals, and even a lone emu that was forlorn in his alien home… we gave him some Aussie vibes. Further on we walked to the cliff edges (fenced, gratefully) as we pushed through the gale force winds to view the seals. The views of the coastline, the islands, the bird life and bobbing seals was worth the superhuman efforts required to battle the head and crosswinds… (did I say it was windy?? I even had my glasses blown off my face).

A further ramble after our journey home to enjoy the delightful sunset and survey the swollen river, and pass by some now familiar landmarks, including the elder bush where we had picked the blossoms a few days before. This reminds me to update you on the elderflower cordial… yes, it was a success! All consumed as an additive to various drinks including a superb small-batch “Sly Gin” (infused with lemon verbena) purchased from the GinHaus in Llandeilo (imagine… a fairly remote village in west Wales having a bar/deli that sells over 150 types of gin!) 

And isn’t that a fine way to end this…

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