Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Am back!

You lucky, lucky people that live in Wales! I have just been there on a long weekend, and it is beautiful – rolling hills, autumn spilling into every corner, gorgeous stone houses and tiny villages. We stayed near Knighton, in a cottage that was advertised as ‘mid-Wales’, although it was within vowel-spitting distance from Shropshire, but that was fine as John sees all distances as relative when he is behind a car wheel. So we explored many a place that made our cottage owner exclaim ‘you went where?’ in disbelief as we recounted how far we had got that day.

Our cottage had a gas stove heater that was thoughtfully (or so I presumed) left on for when we arrived. Yay heating! So I was basking happily until I noticed John was turning lobster pink, so I decided that yes, I could put on a jumper and we could turn the lovely heater thing off, as it was getting a bit too toasty even for me. But the next day we noticed that there was a huge smell of petrol, so we nipped over to the farm (yes, the cottage was on a farm) to tell the owner-man, and he told us that the heater has to stay on, but he will fix it tomorrow.

No need to worry, says he, little knowing I am the type that is already wondering if we will die in our sleep from fumes. Cue first sleepless night. The day after that, owner-man switched the heater back on and said to leave the side window open overnight, to get rid of any remaining petrol smell. Cue second sleepless night with me alternating between thoughts of cottage burning down or mad axe man creeping in the side window. Ho hum...

The first day we went to Lake Vyrnwy to have a wander around, and this was one of the locations used to film The Dam Busters (yes, another wartime connection!), and oh my God, it is a breath-taking view.

We decided to walk around the lake (little knowing at this point this would be a 12 mile hike) and a good way in, we were joined by a dog. We couldn’t see his owners anywhere, but he seemed the sort of dog that knew where he was going and perhaps he often took up with people walking around the road by the lake. Except he had an annoying habit…

He liked to stop cars by standing in front of them, and then trying to bite their tyres off.

The first time he did this, we got a frown from the car owner. ‘It’s not our dog!’ we tried to signal to the dwindling tail lights. The twentieth time this happened, it was like we were in some horrible dog comedy farce. We tried to walk away from the dog, we didn’t even look at him for about a mile in case we were inadvertently encouraging him, we then tried to get him to sit every time a car came along... But still the dog would play its own game of chicken and we would get glared at by car owners for looking like exceedingly irresponsible dog owners, not to say that every time I heard a car I was scared stiff the dog would get run over. It wasn't like there was anywhere else to walk apart from the road, there were no pavements, trees either side, bends, no houses to knock and say hello, is this liability yours? Eventually we tried to make a lead out of my camera strap for our Littlest Hobo, but he saw that noose coming and ran off, hopefully safely back to wherever he came from.

The next day… ever get one of those days where nothing is as it seems? We drove into Snowdonia on the promise of a leaflet that proclaimed its village had the greatest slate mine. Hmm… we got there eventually and was met by something that looked like a fairground ghost train ride, with Health and Safety notices crayoned by the local primary school and a shell-suited teenager picking his nose like he was digging for treasure behind the ticket counter. We stayed precisely 5 seconds, and then were off, on increasingly funnier adventures.

We stopped at an advertised mill that wasn’t really a mill, just a shop for pensioners to buy each other woollen jumpers. We walked down a muddy path to see ‘King Arthur’s Stone’, a sight that was so hilarious I wish I had taken a picture of it (imagine a small lump of rock down the bottom of your Nan’s garden with a plaque on it saying laid in 1994). We stopped in an area that said there was a castle there to find no castle, not a one, and then we drove to find a waterfall and realised it must have been that trickle we saw off the main road ten miles back. Eventually we decided that we’d done our best but the day was not having it, so we drove back through gorgeous scenery and had the world’s loveliest dinner instead.

However, all was not entirely lost as we had spotted a castle (a real one, which was where it was supposed to be) and spent our last day exploring it.

Powis Castle is set in beautiful grounds, all of which were whispering autumn, with magnificent trees and plants, clipped yews and huge holly-hocks. We spent a happy day wandering around, ate lunch in the castle, and then tiptoed around its stately rooms. The main state bedroom was covered wall to wall in musty dusty tapestries, with rich velvet brocade curtains blocking out the light. How did people breathe in those sort of places? It felt grand, but claustrophobic, and of course, all I could think about was tripping with a candle and whom!

All too soon it was time to come back, for me to start feverishly tap-tap-tapping the keyboard with the realisation I really should be on chapter 8 by now, and I’m not quite there. But we did have a lovely time, and I have a feeling it won’t be too long before we go back to Wales, as we kept spotting some lovely houses with For Sale signs... and I know that 'araf' means 'slow' so surely its not too long before I get a handle on the language?

No comments: