Well, I am angry, Dear Readers – angry with myself for stupidly not saving what I had written when I closed my documents the other night. Buggeration.
Sigh. Anyway, here we go again.
We came home on Saturday. The end.
No, not really… Saturday morning dawned dry and sunny. We were up early so we could have breakfast, perform ablutions and pack the car (I say “we,” but Drew likes to pack the car by himself and has it down to a fine art.) The request is that holiday makers vacate the bungalow and drop the front door key off at the handyman’s house by 10.30 but we have never achieved that goal. I don’t think it’s too vital to be out on the dot and I imagine that the families that come with lots of kids find it hard to achieve anyway. But this year we had left, locked up and Drew was popping the key through the letterbox at the handyman’s by 11.15.
You see we don’t just leave, we go through the place cleaning and hoovering and making sure everything is back where it should be (when we arrive we snap photos so we don’t forget where things have to go because there are things we move to dog-proof the place. This year we slightly re-arranged bits of furniture to suit our needs, so we wanted to make sure there was nothing out of place when we left. This leaves Handyman little to do, but that’s fine by me, I think it’s a matter of courtesy to leave it as you find it. He’ll change all the bed linen anyway (although we take our own) and the grass needed cutting before the next lot of people arrived, so he’ll be busy enough. According to the lady who owns it, not everyone in the past has been so thoughtful and the bungalow has been left in a terrible state.
Drew’s Mum took a great pride in making sure the place was spotless before she left, so we intend to keep up her standards!
It is our tradition that before we drive out of Fairbourne for the last time we take the dogs for one last walk on the beach. In fact we used to go for one last walk in the B.C. years so we could breath in some of that Welsh sea air, so now we have the dogs with us it makes even more sense to do so – they get a chance for a wee and/or a pooh and to stretch their legs before being cooped up in the car for hours.
Because we’d managed a walk on the beach the evening before we decided to go up to the Point, so we could walk from the car park, round past the station cafe, along the sand (if there was any exposed by the tide) and then back to the car. It seemed that a lot of other people had woken up that morning and made the same decision because the car park was very full but after a moment’s panic we managed to squeeze in without a problem.
But once we were out of the car we discovered that despite the number of vehicles there the number of people wasn’t overwhelming; some were just sitting in their cars looking at the views and several were up at the station waiting for the little train to arrive. To my own joy we had arrived at precisely the right time to watch the train round the bend and draw up at the station, and then the engine move from one end of the carriages to the other ready for its return journey.
We were also lucky with the tide. It had been going out for a while so although it was not out to its full extent there were still acres of sand to walk on. The Girls were happy to run about and we were happy in the sunshine. In the distance there were even horses from the nearby riding school moving across the sand. How I wished even more we could stay.
But we took more photos, untangled the girls who had woven their respective leads into an awkward mess, sighed wistfully, and returned to the car.
Barmouth across the estuary.
The first part of the trip was uneventful. Lola, as usual, hated being in the back of the car and not in the front. She ran through her entire repertoire of attention seeking noises and wriggled about, but we resolutely ignored her and she almost settled down. Charley, seasoned traveller that she is, relaxed straight away.
There’s not much to relate about the drive. We listened to and sang along to the playlist I’d made for the entire holiday (predominantly 80s music, with the old singalong track from the 70s added in, there was nothing earlier than 1974 and nothing later than 1989) and enjoyed the fact that we there were no snarl ups anywhere. We stopped off at one of usual places, Dinky’s Dinah which is situated in a layby immediately off the main road. Always busy with bikers, car drivers and their families and lorry drivers, the place looks like a series of old sheds nailed together, but they do great, basic food – we had bacon butties! There are also some toilets (always handy) and a small path round a low mound covered in trees which makes an ideal short walk for the Girls. (Internet research reveals that the tree-covered mound is what remains from the layout of the area when a long-lost railway line crossed the area.) We stopped there for about half an hour to eat the butties and get some fresh air as well as to use the facilities (I chose not to wash my hands at the sinks in the toilet block – they didn’t look very savoury to me, so when I got back to the car I slathered loads of hand cleanser all over my hands. Drew DID wash his hands but discovered that the whole sink was only loosely attached to the wall making the process a tad nerve-wracking) Then we set off – next stop Birmingham.
Sometimes the traffic in Birmingham and its environs can be appalling, but it was flowing with no problems when we got to the outskirts and we got to Selly Oak, where Drew used to live with his parents, without incident. Here we stopped at Sainsbury’s (a supermarket) so Drew could nip in to get some odds and ends as well as flowers for when we went to the cemetery for our annual visit to his parents. The Girls weren’t very happy about this, though Lola wasn’t as loudly distressed as she has been and it was Charley who seemed the most uncomfortable. In the event, and despite it being very busy, Drew wasn’t very long and we drove the mile or so to the cemetery.
When Drew’s parents both passed away I said to him that it didn’t matter when, if he felt the need to go and visit the place where their ashes are buried, we would go. If he wanted to set off in the middle of the night, then we would. So far he has not felt the need in that way, but we visit the cemetery on the way home every year. It’s lovely to go and see them, but as you can imagine it is very hard for him because, as he said this time, it makes their loss very real. His body language changes in that short drive from supermarket to cemetery – I’m not sure anyone who doesn’t know him as well as I do would notice, but I see him tense up, grip the steering wheel more tightly and hear his voice become tight.
I cannot pretend to imagine how he feels because I am lucky enough to still have both parents alive, although in the past year I have become acutely aware that they won’t be here forever (as have they!) We had to leave the Girls in the car as, unlike the cemetery at home, dogs aren’t allowed in and somehow Lola’s unhappy yipping and Charley’s distressed howling made the whole visit even more agonising (although we noticed that when another car parked near ours their nosiness outweighed their other emotions and they went quiet!)
Drew placed the plant he had bought on their headstone and we stood there for a little while, with the breeze blowing the flowers and trinkets that families had brought to decorate their loved ones’ headstones. Only when the Girls went quiet, heralding the arrival of the other family, did we stir and go back to the car where the Girls were hysterical with joy at our reappearance. Moments later they were not so joyous when Drew got out again, this time by himself, to place another plant on his grandmother’s grave.
Then we were off again; another short drive to Drew’s brother’s house. This is another post-holiday tradition, although originally we stopped at Drew’s parents’ house not only on the way home but on the way THERE!! Drew’s brother and sister-in-law lost one of their elderly dogs, a spaniel, last year and still have another one who, despite various age-related complaints, remains, unexpectedly, in relatively robust health. But they also have just acquired two very gorgeous black and white spaniel puppies. They’re still at the eat, sleep and wobble about stage and are entirely beautiful. It was interesting to see how our two reacted to them. Lola just wanted to play, although she was a little wary from time to time, but Charley was not sure at all. She doesn’t like the quick movements puppies make, it unnerves her. She was intrigued, but took refuge on Drew’s lap for most of the time.
We were there for a couple of hours before setting off again. It was nice to sit drinking coffee and chatting in their back garden while the dogs played, very relaxing and of course a break for Drew from the driving. Once we were back on the road the traffic remained steady with no delays at all and we arrived back at home within minutes of the time Drew had predicted, making him as accurate at the end of the holiday as he had been at the beginning.
The land gets flatter as we approach home.
After a bit of confusion I managed to phone our order for Chinese food through to our new favourite takeaway while Drew unpacked the car, and we rounded off the evening by watching Doctor Who and eating more food!
The next day, Sunday, we had been invited by my parents to a meal to celebrate my brother’s birthday, which had been while we were away. This was at the Four Horseshoes a beautiful old pub which has been an inn since the twelfth century! We’ve been there once before, for my sister-in-law’s birthday late last year and it was as fantastic this time as last. We could have taken Charley and Lola, as dogs are permitted in the pub, but we knew that they wouldn’t really like it, would bark if there were other dogs around (there were) and anyway it was quite nice not to have them there after two weeks of worrying if they were okay. Foodwise, other than my sister-in-law who is vegetarian, we all went for the carvery option, the choices being pork, gammon and turkey this particular week (I chose pork) and as before the portions were more than generous. We ate indoors, but went out into the pub’s garden for our coffees where the sun stayed out for some of the time but where the children were able to play for a while.
The Four Horseshoes.
There is a page of photos of the inside here including one of the internal well.
Close to the pub, perhaps a mile away if that, are the Thornham Walks which has been created in the grounds of the Thornham Estate, owned for centuries by the Henniker family. Going for the meal and then the walks with the family was a lovely way to round off our two weeks of holiday time and was a buffer between freedom and real life. Just what we needed.
The hermitage in the grounds of the estate.
After our walk we had more coffee and some cake at the tea room.
And so now, here we are, one week later and things are back in their usual groove. Work has been okay although I was dreading returning. The long day I worked was bearable, helped by there being enough staff for a change, but I’m still pleased I won’t be doing many more. The June rota is completed and there is one for July but it isn’t official yet, but I have no long days in July and also no night shifts.
I’ve got at least one supplementary Welsh holiday post planned, so you’re not free yet!
And finally, pictures to illustrate our pie and chips for slmret:
Equally as nice with gravy.