Thursday, 3 September 2009

How green is my valley?

Well just about as green as it gets. We took a holiday in Wales, on the edge of the Snowdonia National park. I’d been to Wales over thirty years ago and remember its beauty then. We’d planned to go away but couldn’t decide from the many great areas around Britain and Ireland. In the end we plumped for a beautiful cottage in a lovely village called Llanrug, ideally placed at the edge of the Snowdonia national Park. Now folks Llanrug is one of the easier Welsh names to pronounce but forgive me any Welsh Gaelic speaker who may be reading this but let’s face it, when it comes to naming places, someone just chucks a pile of letters in the air, lets them land and that’s it, named. A pile of consonants spewed out one after the other that only another Gaelic speaking nation could understand. To make matters worse, there’s rarely a vowel in sight and before you know it you are hoarse trying to pronounce a bunch of names that require the skill and dexterity of a voice coach on the X-factor teaching the tone deaf to throttle out a note or two. It is the closest I came to getting a grip on what it must be like to be severely dyslexic but it just ads to the quaintness and uniqueness of this wonderful country.

That aside, what an amazing place to spend a week of your life; Snowdon as the highest mountain in the UK outside of Scotland, is fairly impressive and it can be walked up in four hours and down in three. But knowing my lack of ability to walk back down without tripping over some weedy twig, losing my footing and rolling down at a thunderous speed threatening to wipe out flora and fauna, wildlife and eventually a human or two as I bowl on into them, I’d do it in a fraction of that time. Alas none of us were fit enough for the descent let alone the whole climb but we shook on oath that next year we would return and take on the challenge. So, as a compromise we took the Snowdon Ranger trail, a gentle rise named after a ranger John Morton who was an early mountain guide, and walked as far as our unfit bodies would take us, just to say we’d done it. I stopped before the others and sat on a rock surrounded by mountains nestling a valley with a lake of tremendous proportions. The colours of the flora and fauna and in particular the purple heather were outstandingly beautiful. The silence and exquisiteness of that moment will stay with me forever. And the sheep, dear God, the sheep! I think there must be more sheep in Wales than there are people. That reminds me of an old joke...

Q - What’s the Welsh for foreplay?
A - Here sheepie, sheepie, sheepie!

And just in the spirit of fairness here’s a couple more.
Q - What’s the Scots for foreplay?
A - Urrr ye sleepin’?

Q - What’s the Irish for foreplay?
A – Brace yerself Maureen

And just to end the theme of sheep...

Q – What’s the Scottish version of Silence of the Lambs?
A – Shut up yous! (Ewes, geddit?)

Jokes aside, I discovered that North Wales is truly one of the most beautiful parts of our country. Time and again I found that I could have been home in Scotland as so many places reminded me of its breathtaking scenery and in particular my beloved Loch Lomond which is only a short drive from the city of Glasgow. Each day was a discovery of wild rugged beaches with huge arching waves the hue of slate grey edged with blindingly white foam surging towards the beach carrying surfers brave enough to embrace the icy cold water of the Irish Sea. We walked for miles in warm sunlight and sometimes bracing winds, foraged in the sand dunes with the dogs, poked around the rock pools for signs of life and I imagined a heroine nestling a broken heart taking the same route as she came to terms with her loss and need for solitude. And so it was for my lovely sister in law who had come with us and is indeed searching for answers with the sudden, unexpected and unexplained abandonment of her by her paramour.

And castles! We drove into pretty town upon town, unspoilt and basking in the glory of a majestic stronghold. We regularly stopped for lunch in cafe’s that welcomed our canine friends and the quality of the meals were surprisingly good in these tourist areas. We all agreed that a must see was the village of Portmeirion which is located on the coast of Snowdonia on the estuary of the river Dwyryd, (see what I mean about those names? Not a vowel in site and God knows how you pronounce it). For those of us in our fifties and over it was the location for the filming of the cult 70’s TV series The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan. It was a pleasant surprise to discover the architect of this wonderful coastal village of Arts and Crafts style constructions which were later contrasted by classical and Palladian constructions was devised and designed by a Mr Clough Williams-Ellis, a great environmentalist who was born and grew up Northampton, a town where ‘Himself’ was born and not far from us today.

At the end of each day, dogs exhausted and able to be left in our homely cottage to snooze, we strolled somewhat stiffly and slowly to the local pub, a mere one hundred yards away, to imbibe is some amazing repast and a couple of glasses of wine where to Himself’s delight the extra cold Guinness was only £3 a pint! We talked easily; read books, looked only at the TV for the weather reports to adjust our plans for the next day should storms of driving rain be expected. But we were very fortunate indeed as mostly the sun shone warmly just sealing the deal on one of the best holidays we have ever had.

And so we are home, rested and in awe of a country of hardy unique people who cling to and celebrate their language and individuality, a country of sheer beauty where progress meets tradition and is seamless in its execution. My sister in law found no real answers for only the absconder can give her closure but she came back with more understanding of perhaps why he ran away; returned with a sense of family and friendship to retreat to whilst her heart heals. And us? Well, it’s back to the diet and into the gym on Monday because we shook on a deal to climb Snowdon next year and it’s going to take that long to get in shape.


Anonymous said...

So glad you had a lovely time, sounds very memorable too. You describe the Welsh mountains so well and Snowdonia has a special place for me. It was where my dad used to spend weekends with the "Scout Dads". They used to stay in a little white washed cottage just outside the village of Betsy-coed (sp) and he loved it.

Thank you for those lovely memories.
CJ xx

auntiegwen said...

Sending much love to your sister in law, I hope she found some peace of mind. Sadly so many of us have known that pain xxx I'm glad she's got you xxx

Mopsa said...

Welcome home MOB. I hate the uphill bits, can walk on the flat for miles, but I've never pictured myself rolling full tilt to base camp quite like that!

Sandy Kessler said...

You are feeling your oats sounds very special !!1Uplifting sandy

Anonymous said...

Glad you had a good time :-) I have Welsh ancesters, and would love to learn the language - looks a bit hard though!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

What an afternoon treat to be able to read your post! I am readying the park for the Labor Day onslaught and promised myself just one read before I get back at it. Glad you had a great vacation and that you are back safe and sound.

Maggie May said...

Wales is a lovely place.
Glad you had a really great time there.
I guess we all have come back to normality now that Autumn is upon us.

willowtree said...

Q: What unsuccessful Rolling Stones song was written by a Scott?
A: Hey McLeod, get off of my ewe!

Bella said...

it sounds absolutely gorgeous and acc. to the pics it is indeed! I know what you mean about feeling the out of shape way myself. I have got to get something done, as I am feeling "rounder!" but round is the middle aged shape, isn't it?! I hate this aging stuff...

ethelmaepotter! said...

I knew from your title this one was going to be about Wales. My mother was reading that infamous book when she was pregnant with me, thus my middle name became Bronwen. I'd love to visit Wales one day. Thanks for taking me along on your travels.

DJan said...

My grandfather was Welsh and reading these make me remember reading "How Green Was My Valley" which remains one of my favorite books of all time. And thinking of your SIL, and what it is like to grieve and recover. It helps to have someone like you to help with that...

Teresa Ashby said...

It sounds so beautiful!

I loved the jokes - you've made me sit and titter over my toast!! And I've now dropped crumbs all down my front.

I had a dream about you last night - I was holding a book in my hands and your picture was on the cover and I said "So that's what MOB looks like!" Then I came on here and there was a lovely new post from you - cue Twilight Zone music . .

Jennyta said...

So pleased you enjoyed Snowdonia. We are lucky enough to live on the edge of that area. Welsh pronunciation isn't difficult - 'w'is 'u', so it's treated as a vowel, two vowels together are pronounced separately - 'ai' would sound like 'eye' for instance and 'u' is pronounced 'i'. I won't go one, your eyes are glazing over already. ;)

Carol said...

I know exactly what you mean about North Wales!! It's a beautiful part of the world and when we visited we were also reminded of parts of Scotland!!

We went for New Year about three years ago, hired a cottage and
spent New Years Day in Portmeririon (had a wonderful meal in the hotel there!!). It's a magical place isn't it!! (We bought The Prisoner Box set when we got home :-D)

I'm glad you had a lovely time and I'm sending hugs to your Sister-in-Law I hope her heart heals soon!!

C x

Edward said...

Sounds like a wonderful break - a friend of mine recently ran(!) up Snowdon in some mad race or other. I (like you, I suspect) would prefer to walk up and take the time to enjoy it. But you've certainly awakened an enthusiasm to follow in your trail.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Crystal – it was paradise sitting in those mountain ranges. Betws-y-Coed is just lovely. You cannot fail to have a wonderful experience in such a place of outstanding natural beauty. Your dad sounds like such a lovely person.

Auntiegwen - She’s such a strong character that I had nothing but admiration for how she is coping. She talked about it when she wanted to and we left it alone when she didn’t want to. We took our lead from her. She is such a nice girl and wasn’t at all morose. We had a great deal of laughter too as she has a keen sense of humour. She has a busy career so I think she will immerse herself in that for a while until someone who deserves her comes along.

Mopsa – believe me, I can trip over the pattern in the carpet as my dad used to say.

Sandy – nope didn’t have any oats at all!

Jo – I truly wished that I could understand the language a bit too. Perhaps for next year I’ll make an effort.

Kathy – oh Labor day holiday – you must be tearing your hair out. Hope it went well for you.

Maggie – yup reality bites yer bum when you get back! But I have a newly found deep affection for a country that is stunning.

Willowtree – brilliant, hadn’t heard that one!

Bella – oh yes middle age but I guess it’s better than the alternative! Good luck getting rid of the roundness!

Ethelmaeporter – Bronwyn – such a great Welsh name. It is a wonderful book and now you have part of its legacy!

Djan – a good Celtic heritage! Yes I loved the book too. Re my SIL, she is immensely strong and keeps busy. She did appreciate the company and the talks and the walks and we will no doubt do this again. I hope I was a help to her.

Teresa – Oh lord! I hope you are a prophet! What a nice thing to say and I was chuffed to bits. One day eh? But I think I might put a photo of Barbara Bach or someone less jowly on the cover!

Jennyta – oh you are so very fortunate to live in paradise like that. Now I was delighted with your explanation of your language – I wish I had known something before I went. But it was such an eye opener for me. I am going to have to learn a few things before we return next year. Luckily you guys speak English too so we got by! I could have easily read a lot more from you about how your language is constructed – fascinating and thanks.

Carol – oh what a great suggestion for New Year’s Eve and day. The village is stunning and such an architectural joy. I was itching to get inside to see the layouts and furnishings but of course they are holiday lets so no chance. We watched an episode of the prisoner on ITV3 the next morning before we went out for the day – such a treat after touring the village. Thanks re my SIL, maybe all this goodwill will reach her.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Edward – I suspect that I will need a team of paramedics standing by with oxygen when I have a go. My God – to run up Snowdon is inspirational but as old Confucius says – every step starts with but one step so who knows eh?! Oh you should go, it is life affirming.

LittleBrownDog said...

Great to see you back blogging, MOB - I do enjoy your writing. Only you can juxtapose descriptions of such breathtaking natural beauty with rude jokes that set me off sniggering immaturely behind my laptop screen. Snowdonia sounds gorgeous, and I know just what you mean about the language - throwing a bunch of letters up in the air and seeing where they land just about sums it up. Still, it means it's no more difficult to navigate when you've had a few.

The Woman who Can said...

It sounds idyllic, apart from the pronunciations, which scare me.

Sandi McBride said...

Wish I'd been with you on this one. My lovely friend, Audrey Mason lives in Wales and I'd give a ton to see her again!
Glad you enjoyed your trip!

Suburbia said...

Sounds a fab time. Would like to visit there myself sometime.

Love the jokes!

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

LBD – I couldn’t resist the jokes! I’m not a joke teller as I can never remember them but these few popped to mind when I mentioned the sheep!

TWWC – Wales, see it and die! Well, after Mauritius of course, and Tibet and the Andes etc etc etc!

Sandi – Oh to see old friends again when there is such a distance between you is always a wistful pastime. Hope you get to meet up again soon.

Suburbia – juvenile jokes are always the best! Especially if you’ve had a pinto of wine first!

Robynn's Ravings said...

Well, we've missed you in Blogsville but happy for you to have had such a wonderful vacation. (The castles link was interesting as well.) Sounds like the perfect time with such cooperative weather.

I, too, am determined to be fitter a year from now so started the 30 Day Throw Down! Lots of people are doing it along with me so I have begun a new blog dedicated just to getting healthier. Come join us! It's perfect with your one-year-away goal. It helps to know others are working with you. But I'll still be a huge fan even if you decide to go the opposite direction and eat donuts all day! :)

French Fancy said...

I've had a few hols in North Wales and agree with everything you've put. I particularly love Betwsy y Coed (and I can even say it like a Welsh person).

We could never leave our dogs in a holiday cottage - at the first sign of us leaving them behind they would start crying and a nosy Welsh neighbour would pop up and alert the owner.

Anonymous said...

I love the way you write. Now, after reading your post I'd like to see Wales, but it's a long way from my home in California. Maybe some day.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

RR Haven’t had much time for blogging as I am busy writing and reading, I ma reading posts though but have been sparing on the leaving of comments as time is tight! I may very well get over and have a look at your site and thanks for asking. Going away for a couple of days to the New Forest in Hampshire so I promise to pop over and have a look when we get back. Lovely to hear from you again. Hope all is well in the Ravings household!

FF – oh bad luck on the nosey neighbours – we all have them from time to time. Betsy is just fantastic, I fell in love with that who area of North Wales. I ashamed to say that I still cannot pronounce the Welsh names but I will make an effort for the next time we go.

Marylinne – thank you for such a nice comment. Funnily enough of all my years hopping in and out of the States I never made it to California. Time and money eh?! It is on our list of places to go as I hear such great things about the state. Maybe one day Wales for you I hope.

Flower Power Mom said...

Hello MOB:
I've been following your blog for many months now. I'm a MOB too, only I decided to have small children in midlife, so hormones and babies combine to make what I call a "Momotov Cocktail".
Like you, I studied Psych at university (you'll still be crazy at the end of it!), lived in the UK for many years, although now in California, USA.
I've just launched a new site for moms having kids after 40 at "The truth about motherhood after 40". (I'm now 49.)
I would be delighted if you'd check it out! Would it be ok if I put you on my Links page? I'll be starting that part up in the next few days and I think my readers are going to need you as much as I do for medicinal" laughs!
Angel La Liberte

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Flowerpotmom – I love the term momotovcocktail! God knows how you cope with the conflicting hormones being menopausal and a late mum. Re the psychology – a lot the people that I met doing the course were clearly doing it to try to understand themselves. What a bunch of no hopers some of them turned out to be and for the love of God – they were intent on going on to be therapists to help other people!

I had a look at your website but it is still on restricted access so when you get it going let me know please. Thanks for such a nice comment and good luck with your blog.

Flower Power Mom said...

Thank you so much for your reply--it was great to hear from you!
I'm confused and concerned, however, that you're having a challenge accessing the Flower Power Mom site. Can you tell me what happens when you go My mates in the UK seem to be getting on it ok. I'd be grateful if you can just highlight the problem for me so that I can ensure others can see the site too. Moreover, I really do value your opinion! :-)
Regarding school, I can still remember the first day of Abnormal Psych 101 in the big lecture hall. The prof opens his mouth and says: "Now during the course, you're all going to think you have one or more of these mental illnesses. Just remember that most of you don't!"
That's when we all started looking at each other, heh heh.
You're right, I agree. Sadly, the great majority go so they can figure out how to fix their own engine. Makes you think twice about therapy, doesn't it?
Thanks again, MOB. You're a star!

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Flower Power Mom – I got through to you but I couldn’t leave a comment. I then tried to add you via the follow blog feature but it says it can’t find a feed for your site. I am going out to dinner soon so I will look at it again tomorrow. Glad we agree on the nutters studying Psychology! I was one of them!

Flower Power Mom said...

Thanks, MOB. I've got my web guy looking at it right now and hopefully it will be good for tomorrow. Also, he's going to set up the links section so I can get you on too.
Yes, I guess we were all nutters, but it sure was fascinating. I did the 4 year degree and then stopped there after visiting a real nut house on a field trip.
I really did help though when I went on to do other things in life.
With my kids, 3 and 6 years old, I now know what crazy means. Help, I think I need a psychologist!:-)

Neas Nuttiness said...

Found you via Raving Robynn.
Woman - you are as funny as Ladybird
Mother to the World!

clairedulalune said...

MOB, you dont half make me laugh! I love Wales, the most beautiful place i have come across yet! So glad you enjoyed your self! Your word verification is polowlwr, it sounds like somewhere in Wales!

PurestGreen said...

If you climb Snowdon next year you must post photos! I would love to be a hillwalker, except I hate walking uphill, which is a problem.

Sounds like a grand adventure, despite the wrestling with all those place names.

Flower Power Mom said...

Hey MOB, I think I've got it all sorted out now. You can post comments and I've got you in the Links section. Also, you should be fine with RSS feed too. Sorry about the hassle and thanks for patience for giving me a hand with trouble-shooting! (In case you haven't figured it already, I'm technically illiterate.)

Lena said...

It really sounds ideal. My twin used to go to Wales every year when the children were younger. I might try it someday - but I'll be careful with the consonants! The lake and all around must have been breathtaking!

I'll look forward the Snowdon climb blog! And methinks you're sis-in-law has a great one back! Loved the jokes. I'll try to remember them for tea-time!

Mo said...

Oh you are the medicine of the day. Just picked myself off the floor (no from laughing not from tripping on my zimmer frame). Other half is about to spend a week or two in Wales. Have suggested your course in language training. What do you suppose happened to the vowels in that region did they eat them or some such thing.

Keri said...

That was splendid reading, my Friend. Thanks for sharing, I love the way in which you write in pictures. Keri from

Brighton Mum-Teenage Angst said...

I once walked up all 3 peaks in my younger, fitter days, in a week! ABSOLUTELY no way I could walk any of them now. Snowdon is a favourite of mine. I agree, the beauty of the place is just astounding. When you have a sec, pop over to my blog to pick up your 'I love your Blog' award.

Steve said...

Am very jealous - the wife and I used to try to get to Wales twice a year every year but since the little 'in arrived our hillwalking days are temporarily put on hold... we usually plump for mid Wales - the Dysinni valley - which is a bit of a hidden treasure. I certainly recommend it and you are ideally placed for Harlech and Machynlleth both worth a visit!

Flowerpot said...

Sounds great - I last went to NOrth Wales over 40 years ago but would love to visit it again. And cheap booze must be a bonus!

Sandi McBride said...

Just dropped by to have a cup of was well worth the reread!

Wildernesschic said...

Hi just fell on your blog by accident .. as you do. I am from North Wales I love your post on Snowdonia. We are so lucky where we are I just love it .. I am near the Denbigh Moors close to Ruthin a medieval town.
I love Portmerion like I used to love the prisoner.
Glad you enjoyed it. I will be checking back I like your blog x