August 26, 2012

Wales


Sunday morning started by herding cows up the lane to the cow sheds ready for the vet on Monday morning. Leah called them and they came to the gate readily. They all knew where they were going and we just followed waving our blue plastic sticks bravely in case any of them wandered out of line. The bull and a cow with wonky horns looked about the most fearsome. We had nothing to worry about though and walked gently, with a lot of bellowing, up a lane overflowing with ferns and tall spikes of pink flowers (the name of which escapes me for the moment).


Ty Glyn Walled Garden later that morning was a sheer delight. With practically no signposting to its whereabouts, it is almost a secret garden. Off the beaten track and down a narrow lane, it would escape the notice of even the most seasoned traveller unless you knew it was there. Beautifully laid out it was overflowing with abundant beds of colour and scents. A very tranquil place to be.

The Welsh drizzle (English rain) came and went in dribs and drabs and never really affected us all week. When it rained we were indoors and when it didn't, we were outdoors and we were outdoors most of the the time.

Aberaeron is a delightful little town with pastel coloured houses and a beautiful harbour where the Aeron flows into the Irish Sea. We bought fish and chips here to take home. There is a lookout point built on the edge of the harbour, but it wasn't clear what we were supposed to be looking out for! We looked out anyway. Sue and Leah stayed down below and chatted with no idea that we were looking out above them. We didn't see anything of significance, except the Irish Sea.

Kidwelly Castle (yes, really) is the best preserved castle in Europe. Built overlooking the River Gwendraethit has well-preserved walls and a tower with a stone roof remaining in place - the only tower we could climb to get a view of the surrounding countryside the rest of the castle. A sculpture exhibition here included a small play castle festooned with kids' wellies!

The reservoir at Llyn Briane is beautiful (show me somewhere that wasn't on our travels). Dubbed 'Little Switzerland' it is about 250 feet deep at the deepest point and stretches a good couple of miles through the valley it flooded. Driving back through the Cambrian Mountains it became clear how isolated this area is. We drove for about an hour along narrow single track roads and passed about 3 cars. People who live out here need large freezers and large pantries. At a crossroads in the middle of nowhere we passed a phone box (no phone in it) and postbox.

The RSPB bird reserve at Gwenffrwd-Dinas was lovely but we didn't walk all the way round as it was wet and rugged and Tim wouldn't have made it.

August 17, 2012

Roots - Knowledge or DNA?

Some years back I visited Kenya and Tanzania. I had never been before - although I had spoken at length to someone who lived in Kenya during the 60s and left when he was 16 - and I had no idea what it would be like apart from the descriptions of another person living there. I've never forgotten the feeling when I stepped from the 'plane in Nairobi and felt very strongly that I knew this place. Somewhere deep inside me I felt as though I had come home.

There were things I recognised that could not have been explained to me in such a familiar fashion; the smells of the land and the populated areas, air humidity and the temperature, the sound of the Serengeti and the villages and towns, voices. It was at once strange and unfamiliar and yet known and familiar. I could not explain it.

As distant as it seems, a visit to Sutton Hoo in Suffolk gave me a similar feeling. The link we share with Angles, Saxons and Vikings as peoples of these island countries is evident from their history and their legacy. Our language, eating habits, laws and customs, all share a commonality with our ancestors. I felt the past sweeping up behind me and knew the ground I stood on as my own. This I can explain - I am English, born and bred. What this doesn't explain is why I feel these things and how I could feel them, when I stepped from the 'plane in Nairobi, for a land that isn't mine.

Or is it?

Is my sense of place and the subconscoius memory of where I come from contained in my DNA? Where did the strength of feeling for a country I have never visited before come from? If I felt it in other places I could understand that it may be a vicarious sense of belonging rather than a real one, but I do not feel it in other countries I have contemplated living in - Italy, for instance. I love Italy, but I do not feel as though I have anything other than wonderful memories of the country. I have been to France so many times there are areas that are extremely familiar to me, but I do not feel as though it is home. The sense of coming home I felt in Africa seemed to be ancient and deeper than that, something below the ancient, deep sense of home I experience in England.

So where does that sense of belonging come from in England, in the place I call home? From the land around me; the Estuary and its tides, the stark and beautiful landscape in winter and the richness of it in summer. From a knowledge of my local area and its history, and from the people who surround me; friends, neighbours, family. That sense of belonging extends to the shores of this island, the commonality of language and shared customs, and a history that has made us who we are - generally speaking.

Perhaps it is that one is a learned belonging; something that grows and develops within the sphere of existence and awareness that I inhabit.

But what of the other?

August 07, 2012

Henschke 2001 Chardonnay

The wine was rather beautiful, by the way. Drinking it out of the right glasses added to the experience.

August 05, 2012

Decadence

 The sound of a Villeroy & Boch wine glass empty.

 The sound of a Villeroy & Boch wine glass containing Henschke 2001 Chardonnay.


August 01, 2012

An Unexpectedly Large Uninvited Garden Visitor

It's not every day we see this strutting about on the bathroom roof as though it owns the place. We think it must have been looking for somewhere to roost and got lost. Apparently there has been a peahen in Goldhanger for about 2 months now - so the one Stephen saw in the street a couple of weeks ago wasn't imagination after all!

The cat might have needed long-term therapy had she seen it, but I don't think she had. In any case she stayed indoors well out of harm's way. The peahen would have probably come off better in any altercation between them anyway.