Monday, 25 November 2013

Beaumaris / Biwmares

This is a lovely, quaint little town which was a major sea port in times gone by. The name comes from the French. Of course. They called it beaux marais. Beautiful marshes. Of which there are fewer today, methinks. Still, the beauty remains.

One of the central features of the town is the castle built on the orders of Edward I of England. To keep the Welsh under control. One of a chain of castles he had built across North Wales for this purpose. By the French. Some at least. Who then named the town. Et voilà. It's a particularly stunning castle. With a moat. And really is a must to visit.

The town also boasts a Victorian jail (known as the gaol) and a Court dating back to 1614. Both are huge tourist attractions. I know. We were taken to visit them by my primary school. I can still recall how creepy they both were. The gaol was dark and grim. Full of chains and fetters. Stories of punishment and hangings. Then into the prisoner's room of the Court. Hearing more stories of more criminals. I still have photographs of us all in the dock. Not a happy place. 

And let's not forget the ducking stool. Which incidentally I never have. It was my first encounter with the horrifying consequences of superstition, prejudice and fear. Ducking women suspected of being witches into water. Their death proving their innocence. Too much for my ten-year-old - and very just - mind.

Thankfully things are so much more civilised in the town today. Tea and coffee shops galore. Gift shops and novel boutiques. Quaint streets, cute cottages. And a stunning view over the Menai Straits and across the Snowdonia Mountain range. It's hard to believe there could ever have been anything bad there at all.



A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it - George Augustus Moore

I had an interview today at a recruitment agency. With a really lovely, lively lady. Who likes rugby and has tickets for next week's game. She is officially my new BF.

The interview was on the other side of the island, in Beaumaris. It was one of the most beautiful of days. Crisp and clear. Bright autumn sunlight. Magnifying the Snowdonia mountain range stretched out before me. Snow kissed and stunning.

I haven't been to Beaumaris since I was in school. How is that possible? It's so beautiful. All coffee shops and quaint pubs. Small streets and cute cottages. I walked along the coastline and drank in the fresh (very sharp) air, the glassy straits, the mountains out yonder. Then finished up with a hot chocolate and toasted tea cake. Yummy!

This also gave me the opportunity to drive across the island on the new A55. Well, not so new. At least not to everyone else. It was opened in 2001, replacing the A5 as the main road from Holyhead to Bangor. It was an interesting experience. Quick and easy. Direct and efficient.

Still, I couldn't help but miss the tortuous and frustrating A5. With its tractors and lorries holding up traffic every 10 minutes. Ahh progress, eh?!

Anyway, the interview went well enough. Although my wait for work continues. In the meantime, I won't be bored. I have curtains to hang, a pet gate to attach, lampshades to put up. Oh, and CVs to send out. Of course...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Anglesey / Ynys Môn

So let me tell you about my new home. The Isle of Anglesey sits in the Irish Sea, off the North-West coast of Wales. It's a beautiful island of approximately 276 sq miles (714 km²), home to just under 69,000 people.

Ynys Môn is its Welsh name. I read on numerous websites that the name was apparently coined by an Irish princess called Monna who married a Welsh prince. I know no more. But I will look into that sometime...

Otherwise the island is also known as Môn Mam Cymru - Môn, mother of Wales. Due to its productivity. But possibly also due to its uncanny resemblance to a woman's head with a hat on. A Welsh hat, of course. Look at a map and you'll see what I mean. 

A huge percentage of the island residents speak Welsh. 60% according to the Key Statistics for Isle of Anglesey of April 2008. Compared with 21% of the whole of the country. Impressive, eh? Life expectancy is also higher here. For women mainly. Good move for me, then, huh?

Much of the island's beauty comes from the rolling hills and fields of farmland. With lots of cattle and sheep. Of course. It's Wales. So many  sheep indeed that our local newspaper used to run a competition based on sheep and sheep dogs. Or the lack of them. Spot the Dog. Instead of Spot the Ball ,you understand.

The Britannia and Menai bridges link Ynys Môn to the mainland across the Menai Straits. Menai Suspension Bridge is the more attractive of the two. Built by Thomas Telford in 1826. By the by, it was apparently the first modern suspension bridge in the world. In 1855, the Britannia Bridge was designed and built by Robert Stephenson as a tubular bridge to carry rail traffic. A fire in 1970 called for the bridge to be rebuilt and it emerged from the flames transformed to carry both road and rail traffic as (I am assured) a two-tier steel truss arch bridge. It really isn't the most attractive of bridges, but it's truly functional and helps us all to get on and off the island efficiently. Except when the winds are high. Then it's just plain scary!

And finally, there are some well-known islanders to take note of. Such as Sir Kyffin Williams, author of some the most stunning landscape paintings ever produced in Wales. Now no longer with us. But his legacy remains for all to see. Then, Dawn French was born here. As was Aled Jones. Tony Adams (of acting not footballing fame). Hugh Emrys Griffith. Hywel Gwynfryn. Who came to my primary school. And was a very nice man.

You may know also that Prince William and Kate have been living here for the past three years. Little Prince George came too. And then they all left just as I arrived. Although we're trying not to read anything into that...

And finally George North (go George!) went to school here. And I met his mum in Tesco last week. A defining moment for me. If only for realising that I can still be star struck at my age. Even when the star is not present. Hmmm. Something else to work on, methinks...

Monday, 18 November 2013

I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I went shopping yesterday. On a Sunday. To Tesco. Taking along my cousin whose car is temporarily out of action. It's been a long while since I shopped on a Sunday. And I must admit that it felt a tad bizarre.

We weren't the only ones shopping. Indeed, there was quite a crowd in there. But after a decade of Sunday closing, it still felt strange. Almost sacrilegious. For a while at least. I soon got over it and came out with (another) bag full of treats. Nothing important. Just chocolate and bread and baked beans. More cheddar cheese, vegetarian sausages, Branston pickle. And one or two other treats that I haven't got used to having permanent access to just yet. I think I'm only eating at the moment for the sake of delighting in the memories. Fun. Just not so good for the thighs...

And certainly not so good following an afternoon sat in front of the rugby with my dad and beer. Although the afternoon was really good. Homely. Finished off with an Indian take-away. Huzzah!

Serious things are also going on though. I'm still spending hours applying for jobs. Hours. I won't go on again about how long it takes. Although I'd like to. Because it does. I've been back and forth to charity shops this week, getting rid of anything excess. I've advanced with a whole host of (more) paperwork that needs to be done now I'm back. And at home, my father has been helping out with odd jobs. That would be helping out by doing the jobs. While I observe. Just in case...

I've also started re-discovering my environment. Walking around town and countryside and seaside. Allowing the sea to revive my deepest soul and refresh my very being. Wondering how I could possibly have thought the area dull in my youth! I will share my rediscovery with you in future posts. With photographic evidence. To revive any souls out there that may be flagging. :0)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes - Marcel Proust

It's a bracing, sunny day today. The sea is gently agitated, crashing waves against the rocks. Refreshing. Stimulating. Beautiful.

I couldn't take the grin off my face driving around the coastal road to visit my family. Listening to Ella Fitzgerald. In my car. My very own car.

Yes, I have taken possession of my car and am enjoying getting used to it. And to driving on the left-hand side of the road. You'd think it would be the most natural thing in the world. Having learned to drive on the left. Yet my right hand keeps looking for the gear box and finding the door handle. Either years of driving on the right have contaminated my learning or it is indeed more natural to drive on the right. A matter I disputed during my whole time in France. More to annoy the self-righteousness of those arguing the case rather than from any deep convictions of my own. Still, I'm beginning to think they may have had a point.

I put petrol in the car today too. And don't mind telling you that I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Your money doesn't go very far these days, does it? I need to get a job...

But I'm enjoying popping in to see people. And having them popping in to see me. I forgot how comfortable it is to pop. Is it so very British? Or just not very French? Whatever. It's a long-time since I popped, and it's one more thing I'm enjoying re-discovering.  And a bonus of my popping has been to be given part of an allotment. Just over the road from my home. By my cousin and her husband. Finally I will be able to get outside and try my hand at gardening. Growing my own vegetables. And flowers. With lots of help and direction of course.

And so things are falling beautifully into place. My broadband is installed. My furniture has arrived and is (more or less) sorted. After four solid days of working on it. And three sleepless nights organising it in my head. I'm settling in. Nesting. I've just put my bins out for the first time. Bins for rubbish, for paper recycling, for bottle recycling. Even for battery and specs recycling. How efficient. How environmentally friendly. How cool.

All I need now is the job. Did I mention that I don't have one yet? After hundreds of applications? Onwards and upwards. Everything in good time. All good things come to those who wait. As they say. Whoever they may be...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Once you'd resolved to go, there was nothing to it at all - Jeannette Walls

We had the mother of all storms last night. I'd forgotten how bad they can be here. I watched the waves crashing on the shore from my bedroom window. And wondered if they couldn't cross the road to get me. And fretted a tad over the strength of a very angry wind. Banging at the Windows. Rattling the building quite impressively. Scary, I tell you.

I didn't see how the upstairs windows could survive. But they did. Thankfully. The flowerpot by the front door was less successful. And the bins made it down to the end of the garden.

Still, we all made it through. And in the way of island life, we awoke to a lovely, blustery day today. With a hint of sunshine. In blue skies. So I wandered along the shore, taking photographs and breathing in the sea air. Fresher and saltier after the storm.

It was bliss. As was taking coffee on the way back at my friend's mother's house. Sitting around the fireplace with my friend and her brother. As we had done so many times before. Over twenty years ago. Snug. Nice...

And so things are starting to come together. Life is starting to settle down. A little, at least. I'm sleeping tons. Catching up, methinks. Especially now that the heating and hot water in the flat have been fixed. And by a jolly nice plumber too. Who in his spare time volunteers for the local lifeboat. From the goodness of his heart. Risking his life in the dead of night. And the dead of winter. During storms such as we experienced last night. Isn't that something? Total commitment, total selflessness. I could only listen in awe to his accounts. Stated simply, factually. At my prompting. No boasting, no vaunting. Nothing special. To him, at least. But isn't it really special? The height of humanity? I love island life...

Saturday, 2 November 2013

He lay awake, dreading the dawn when he would have to say good-bye to the small universe he had built for himself over the years – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

So I'm home. Really and truly home. Months of planning and organising have come together, and I write from my very empty, but very lovely new flat. Looking out over the sea. Through the rain. Of course.

The journey back was long. In so many ways. I fretted a tad throughout the night and was up before the crack of dawn. The few things I had meant to carry with me had become a few more than anticipated. And possibly a few more than necessary. So it took longer to organise myself. But we got there. The drugs were administered to the confused cats. And we were off.

And so the fun began. Monty was indeed calmer than he would normally have been. Thanks to the drugs. Milly, on the other hand, was not. She became almost unrecognisable. Vocal and anxious. Agitated. Almost wild. Attacking the carrier. The blanket inside. My hand. The drugs for her were a huge mistake. Huge. I spent the first 6 hours of the journey to the ferry fretting and worrying. Soothing and coaxing her. She was on my knee, on the seat. Back in the carrier. Out again. She finally decided to get in alongside Monty in his carrier. And calmed down. A little, at least.

The consequence of all this stress? I barely noticed the journey. Barely reflected on the destination. The departure. The move. I was more concerned with being a bad (cat) mother. A cruel human being. Abusing the animals in my care. I felt bad. To say the very least.

Only arriving at the flat and watching my cats eat and snuggle and settle did I even vaguely relax. They won't be fully right until the furniture arrives, methinks. Still, in the meantime, there are huge windows. Plenty to see. And the seagulls are particularly entertaining.

I am now losing myself in paperwork, trying to establish my presence. I figure life will be improved over the next 10 days when telephone lines, broadband and various insurances kick in. Although I wake up every day now looking at the sea. Does life really get any better than that?