Friday, 16 May 2014

Travel brings wisdom only to the wise. It renders the ignorant more ignorant than ever - Joe Abercrombie

What is it about chips from the chippie? There's really no explanation why they are so good. But they are. The whole experience is so good. The smell, the feel, the paper. The nostalgia. A great Friday night dinner.

And digesting my chips, I've been reflecting on the past few weeks. Full of activity and entertainment. But of very little writing. I had an abundance of inspiration. Just no desire. Would this be the infamous writer's block? Methinks not. I'd have to be a writer for that, and I would never be so bold. Still something was blocked. Somewhere. But let's not dwell on that...

Anyway since my last entry, spring has certainly sprung and life is everywhere. Flowers and colours decorate the landscape. Animals are out in the fields, birds are singing gaily. And there's lots of road kill.

The rabbits continue to multiply amidst calls to manage them. And we now have calves on the farm. Cute and vocal.

But my most delightful experience of the recent weeks was watching a foal being born. Yes, really. In the field by my office. Before my very eyes. And no ordinary foal. A shire into the bargain. A beautiful, big, bouncing boy. It was totally amazing on all levels.

I learned more in that day about horses than I've ever learned in my life. I was taken into the field during the day to see the pregnant mare "waxing". I have to admit that I was a tad trepidatious standing alongside this huge beast. So huge she could rest her chin on my head with little effort. She was untethered. I was unprotected. She nibbled my shoulder as I scratched her neck and I nearly had kittens. Apparently it was a sign of affection. I understood that it was so. I just couldn't believe it. 

She stayed extremely close during my visit. Even when I tried to give us a bit of space. I'd step away. She'd step closer. And then she walked me back out of the field. I was trying to read her expression. To see if she was happy. Of if she was just playing with me. But apparently she genuinely liked me. Apparently.

Still when she finally went down to give birth, she was so dignified. In spite of the (rather overexcited) audience. I was so impressed. I watched the forward hooves of the foal come out first, followed by the long, and very big, colt in its white sack. Thoroughly amazing. I don't think I've seen anything born in my life. I was awestruck. Amy, the mare, sat up and ate, while we fussed, and took photos, and watched her youngster try to gather his ungainly legs to stand up. I've never had such affection for a horse before. I think I want one. To add to  the lambs and chickens and rabbits on my dream small holding...



Monday, 31 March 2014

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone - Wendell Berry

Spring is here. Sometimes. When the rain stops and the fog lifts. It really is beautiful. The daffodils are out in force, the lambs are still prancing. I've been enjoying just driving around the island, taking it all in.

The foghorn took some getting used to again. Although there's something quite melancholy about it. For the most part. When it sounds first thing in the morning, before I'm out of bed, it can put a downer on my day. Knowing I'll open the curtains to a blanket of swirling white. And a long, slow drive into work.

I'm watching Lambing Live. On iPlayer. It's one of the best programmes I've seen in a long time. Informative. Refreshing. Cute. I want lambs. Maybe a pig or two. Chickens. A dog...

In the meantime, I content myself with my cats. And the rabbits that run past my office window at work. Against the backdrop of Snowdonia mountain range. Not bad, huh?!




Friday, 7 February 2014

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not - Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the more challenging aspects of living and working here again is the language. Welsh. Cymraeg.

It has always been my second language and so I can hardly say that I have ever really mastered it. Still, some of my best memories of song and poetry from childhood are in Welsh. And the little I knew is stored somewhere in my brain. Deep, deep down. But there all the same.

Now I take phone calls on a daily basis in Welsh. And though I struggle somewhat to reply, it is coming back. If slowly. How alien a language can feel in your mouth. 

That said I have to laugh at all the French and Russian words I've slipped in to these conversations. Out of habit. Or voids in my Welsh memory.  Indeed words that I'd searched and searched for when I really needed them in French or Russian conversations seem readily available now. Just pop into my head involuntarily. Thus far everyone has been too polite to point out the anomalies. But it gives a whole new sheen to the phrase: "excuse my French"...

But back to the sheep. Defaid. Or rather the lambs. Oen. As promised, here are some photos of the first lambs in the fields. Taken this morning before work. The ewes shouted a lot at me. Just trying to keep me at bay. At least in the first field. In the second, they all came over and stared at me. Either trying to frighten me with their steely gazes. Or just because they found me a bit odd. Either way they made me giggle. As did the gambolling youngsters. Full of spring and joy. Truly delightful.




Saturday, 1 February 2014

Holyhead / Caergybi

In the wake of today's Six Nations Welsh victory, I feel inspired to tell you about Holyhead.

Now let's begin by acknowledging that over the years Holyhead has been subject to a more than dubious reputation. Been much maligned, one might say. And yet this is as unfair as it is unfounded.

Holyhead is a port town. It is the end of the (rail) line. Any further, and you fall into the sea. But this does not make it a bad place. Indeed, some of the nicest, warmest people I have ever known are found right here.

Holyhead is the largest town in Anglesey. In the county of Anglesey, as opposed to on the island of Anglesey. In fact, Holyhead is not on Anglesey, but on Holy Island. Still, its size belies its power. Administratively speaking, at least. The ruling Council is in Llangefni not Holyhead.

But Holyhead doesn't need power in order to influence. It has its own resources. Firstly, Holyhead has a mention in Jane Austen's Emma. For being a port to Ireland. But all the same. Cilla Black also came by to celebrate the island's character during her days on Surprise, Surprise. Hurray for Holyhead, I think she called it. Now that's enough for me. But maybe others need more. So here goes.

In the middle of the town centre is the Church of St Cybi. A rather attractive structure built within a Roman fort. Hence the name Caergybi. Cybi's fort.

The ferry port serves Dublin and Dun Laoghaire through the operators, Irish Ferries and Stena Line. Ever busy, it provides an important link for surface transport to and from Ireland. But this is not the limit of the town's maritime heritage which dates way back and is celebrated in a local museum. Which I shamefully haven't yet visited. It's on my list...

When the A5 was built in the 19th century by Thomas Telford, it secured a major route for transporting the Royal Mail by stagecoach to London from Dublin. In fact, the A5 road runs from Marble Arch in the capital, to the Admiralty Arch in the port.

I am told that Admiralty Arch was designed to commemorate a visit by King George IV in 1821 on his way to Ireland. He is not the only member of royalty to have graced the town. Most recently, William and Kate were here. Prince Charles arrived at Holyhead on his first visit to Wales as crowned prince. The Queen came in 1977 for her silver jubilee. I was in the crowd that day. She came over and spoke to me. Can't remember what she said. But I have photographic evidence to prove that she said something to me.

Otherwise, the town is a busy, sociable place. Less overtly so than in years gone by, it might be said. And it's difficult to argue if you walk through the town centre.  Indeed, the town centre itself almost died a few years back. A few times, at that. Yet an element always remains and activities here simmer on, waiting for the economic boost that will give the town a proper kiss of life.

As in many places, Woolworths once formed the centre of its (shopping) universe. No-one went to town without visiting Woolies. Such that the workers were almost part of everyone's family. Most recently, the shop was usurped by a myriad of supermarkets and charity shops. And then, of course, it closed. Its demise left a hole. No replacement has fully replaced it. None has captured the community and warmth that was Woolies. A particular favourite in my life history as it funded me through school and college. And taught me many a thing into the bargain.

But along with the myriad of supermarkets out of town, even McDonald's has arrived in Holyhead. Some would call that great progress. I'm never so sure. 

Still, there's more to this town that I can tell you about here in one go. So I will return to it on numerous other occasions to share with you its depth. In the meantime, I leave you with some photos of the town to ponder on. Enjoy.











Thursday, 30 January 2014

One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things - Henry Miller

Lambs are here! Lots of them. Everywhere you look, there're more and more. And more on the way. How cute are they? There are black ones and white ones. Fat ones and thin ones. I nearly crashed the car this week, straining to see one particularly cautious, cute one cuddling up to its mother.

I also nearly crashed into a sheep this week. Thankfully I drive slowly because of the tight, country lanes. And as I journeyed away from work the other day, I came round a corner and face to face with a beautiful, white and fluffy sheep. She was totally unperturbed by my presence. Or by my car's presence, more to the point. She did accept to move when I flashed my headlights at her. But thought about it a moment before she did.

Indeed, I've been encountering a good deal of wildlife these past couple of weeks. Rabbits scampering about the lanes, the audacious sheep in the lane. And lots of impressive birds. Dancing starlings aside, I have been privileged to see a number of larger birds of the preying variety. None of which I'd dare to name as I am no bird watcher. But I keep seeing them sitting along the roadside. Or hovering over a nearby field. Hunting, I imagine. Or maybe just watching the world go by.

I will try to keep my camera with me in the future to share these wondrous sights. And to educate myself on the bird front.

Monday, 20 January 2014

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign - Robert Louis Stevenson

Time is certainly flying. I can't believe how quickly it goes by. And while on the one hand I am settling matters galore, on the other hand there is still so much left to sort out. Such is my life at this present time.

I continue to settle into my new job. My colleagues are lovely and welcoming, the clients are charming, the environment delightful. I also continue to settle into my new life. Calm, fulfilling, enchanting and fun.

I'm re-discovering more and more old acquaintances. And making new ones. My books on allotments have arrived in preparation for sowing the first seeds. My wellies and gardening gloves are at the ready. I'm also baking bread again. Kneading and pounding like a pro. A fairly mean fougasse being my latest triumph.

But not all goes so well. There are obstacles to my total contentment.  An application I made for a particular bank account was refused. It would seem I am not a safe bet. Shocking to hear, I might tell you. Certainly as I have never owed a penny to anyone in my life. Who'd have thought that could be detrimental. Apparently, there's little trace of me in this country over the past decade or more, good or bad.  Which makes me a risk of some sort. Never mind. Such are the trials of an expat.

I will say though that bank appointments are some of the most tedious meetings ever. That said, my last one was a tad more lively once I knew the counsellor loved photography. Our time was pleasantly interspersed with photographic exchanges of great value. To me. He was a whizz with a lens. Once I saw his work, I was ashamed to admit that I had a camera, never mind used it. And extensively. So off I go to practice some more. And then some more again...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move - Robert Louis Stevenson

Storms continue to batter the country at large. The island. My home. However, my immediate vicinity seems to have been spared the worst. Apart from my guttering. Which flew past my window and across the road during the worse part of the gales. Much to my dismay. And that of my neighbours, in whose garden it landed.

I did witness some of the more dramatic damage on a drive around the coast hours after a spell of heavy rainfall. Some parts of the road were flooded. And seaweed strewn. Still passable though, at that stage. Methinks they are not so passable now. And far more dramatic.

But I enjoyed the run round. I was showing the island to a friend of mine. Showing it off, indeed. She arrived in the morning to grey skies and drizzling rain. But after a good, hearty pub lunch, the clouds cleared away and we could stroll across the beach under blue skies and a few rays of sun.

It was a good day all round. Lovely to see her. Lovely to share my new environment with her. Lovely to be out on the beach.

But down to more serious things. I start work this week and am a tad nervous, to say the least. I did a dry run drive over to my work place this weekend. Just to calm my nerves. Or at least try. I do so dislike first days at work. I've had a few due to my propensity to move around a fair bit. And yet I never get accustomed to them. I likely won't sleep tonight. Won't manage breakfast tomorrow morning. And will worry my way through the whole day. But then it will be over. Hopefully for a long, long while.

It was wonderful to remind myself of my new working environment. Beautiful as it is. And while many parts of the island are sitting under water, these fields seem untouched. As green as ever. And full of sheep. Of course. 

I have a good feeling about it. I really do. Let's hope my instinct is trustworthy. It hasn't let me down thus far. So let's see. Watch this space...