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.