Tuesday, March 31, 2009
A trek to the wilds of Welsh Wales
Last weekend was a discovery in more ways than one. I left Holland with Mo on Thursday evening on a ferry bound for England. We travelled overnight in stormy seas; they were rough, rolling and very uncomfortable. Still, I managed the trip without hurling anything, thanks to the power of some small white pills that kept my stomach stable but my head somewhat spaced out! I did it though, which I have never succeeded in doing before, and the fact that I could was the first discovery.
The second was a rediscovery of how beautiful England is. Having arrived and docked, Mo and I separated: she for the north and Scotland and me for the south west and Wales. I'd hired a small car, and in the brightness of a clear, sunny morning, I drove down across Yorkshire, across the magnificent Pennines to Manchester, and then south through the almost painfully lovely Shropshire to the ancient town of Ludlow. The weather stayed unusually fine, soft and warmly sunny the whole way and I realised I'd forgotten how rolling and green the hills of England can be, and how stunning is the light that falls on their crests with the shadows in the valleys throwing all into glorious relief.
The third was another rediscovery, and that was of the great friendship that still exists between me and my old college friend, Ali. We were very close as students and shared a flat with our respective boyfriends. We were both always in trouble for getting up to nonsense which annoyed said boyfriends immensely, but we were always in it together and had endless laughter as our reward. This was the first time we'd met in nearly thirty years, and it was as if the gap had never been. It was just a marvellous weekend.
What made it even better was that Ali and her husband Jon took me for a drive across the border and into Wales, a land that I have loved since I was a child when we went there every year for our holidays. It is every bit as wild and dramatic as I remember, and we stopped to visit the most ancient church I have been to in a long time, and one that is in process of sliding down its mountain. We also climbed to the summit of one of the Black Mountains from which the view over the Wye Valley is breathtaking.
The last discovery was not so palatable, and that was that England seems to be in the process of being 'brought under control'. Well, that's how I perceive it. I have never heard so many ads on the radio concerning 'desirable' public behaviour as I did on this visit. Ads about watching neighbours for suspicious behaviour, ads about following socially correct behaviour, ads about adopting green behaviour - all issued in honeyed tones to make the listener believe this is all normal and quite natural. I found it rather disconcerting as a development.
Nevertheless, it was a fabulous trip, and the thirty six hours or so that I spent with Ali and Jon in their picturesque country village with its cast of characters that could have been from an Agatha Christie novel or a Midsummer Murders episode was free of any contact with TV, Internet or radio and as such it was bliss!
Thank you Ali and Jon and I promise it won't be another thirty years before I see you again..if it is, we might be on another plane altogether....
Anyone interested in watching a slideshow of all my photos of the trip can click here