First steps

The other day I parked up to take my dogs over the viaduct a few miles up the road. I’ve walked it a few times, as I put my handbrake and looked across I noted there wasn’t anyone else on there. A few canal boats bobbed quietly along the left hand side but there was no sign of any humans which was unusual for this normally popular beauty spot. The dogs excitedly barked as I park up and jump over the drivers side as I open the door on to the green verge beside the canal. It’s a bright sunny day, a picture postcard type of day where the green of the canal boat gleams against the sparkle of the blue sky reflecting in the water. We cross over the small lock to the other side, unfortunately the canal boat that sells coffee isn’t open today so we head on towards the viaduct crossing. The dogs spot some innocent ducks and make a pathetic run towards them knowing that they won’t get anywhere near them and the ducks are unperturbed, confident in their safe surroundings.

I look at the viaduct outstretched ahead. The 126ft high viaduct. First I walk past the four canal boats while trying not to peer in, I am so intrigued by the long wooden vessel that house wood burners, flat screen TVs, flowers and kitsch curtains. It’s eerily quiet and I wonder for a moment if I have actually come out earlier than I thought due to the recent change in clocks, but I haven’t. I get closer to the viaduct and as I approach I began to feel a little uneasy, nervous.

 

I’m a bit perplexed by this, although I know many many people who won’t walk over it due to the height, I haven’t ever been one of those people. I have been the encourager. I have been the one saying… oo look at the other side where there’s no barrier. I’ve been the one happy to step to the narrow edge for a pram to get past. I’ve been the one to bravely let my dogs run over off the lead, trusting them.

 

Now as I take my first steps where it still feels relatively safe, I start to feel, yes, it definitely is nerves. I ponder this as I look over the metal railings towards the stunning golden and green view and I realise why I am feeling nervous.   I have never walked over here on my own. What’s the difference in walking here on my own and walking over here with someone else? Turns out, quite a lot.

 

Not one to give up I tell myself to look ahead and remind myself how long this viaduct has stood the test of time, there are no boats going across the water and no people walking on the path, I begin the narrow walk telling myself I am simply walking on a path!!! I’m a quarter the way over and I look to my right, the view is absolutely breathtaking particularly on such a lovely day, I spot sheep that look like small cushions of snow and hedges that appear unreal, like lego.

 

I’m beginning to get so far that there’s little point now in considering not to walk the whole thing so I carry on. Slightly disconcerting is the fact that every twenty steps or so there’s a grid and every time the dogs get to the grid they stop and consider what to do, they then decide to jump over every grid and I can’t help but wonder that they know something I don’t – so I of course also avoid contact with the grid.

 

As I get to the half way point I notice that my legs feel different, my legs have become jelly-like and I am now in no doubt that I have become scared and on top of that a slight bit of vertigo has set in. I am half way over so I can’t go back and at this point I don’t much feel like going forward, I do know though if I carry on going forward I am also going to have to come back across unless I want to walk fives miles out of my way. I’m totally bewildered that I have found walking across (did I say it is 126FT up in the air!!!) the aqueduct such a different experience because I’ve done it on my own. Continuing to look forward and avoiding the aforementioned grids I breathe a sigh of relief as I’m two thirds over and the distance between myself and the ground becomes shorter and my breathing begins to normalise.  As I feel the safety of land without the threat of imminent death… I ponder this strange change that happened inside my mind and the physical changes that took place in my body – simply because I did something alone.

 

The fact we can get such strength and confidence just from being with someone else was quite a revelation to my independent mind however I also gave myself a virtual round of applause that I did not shy away from it, despite feeling scared and worried and wanting to run back, I didn’t. Through the week it made me consider how we normally do things with others and how ‘brave’ it can feel to go it alone. It’s great to be in a couple, be with friends and family but it’s also really important that we can face and manage challenges by ourself too – to live the life we want.

 

Happy Sunday XX

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Hiraeth

I’m in Greece, on Skiathos Island in a small village. An absolute beaut of a place, the weather is even warmer than back home but we don’t have to do much while we are here bar sip a Gin Fizz cocktail, swim in the empty pool, decide which lounger we’re going to reside on for that day and apply a good measure of sun cream.

When we are working, we dream of this. We dream of doing nothing, we dream of relaxing of not having to get up, of getting away from the chores and the stress of daily life. We can’t wait to get away from the 9 – 5 drill, hang up the iron, no more emptying the dishwasher or doing the weekly shop.

Skiathos is absolutely stunning, I will definitely return to the village just outside that thankfully feels very Greek. The villas where we have been luckily enough to find ourselves have no more than nine or so apartments, vines of grapes hang from the roof of the foyer and colourful plants surround the pool. The locals are very friendly. On more than one occasion I tried to pay for something (the magnet that I clumsily dropped on the floor and broke), the use of a toilet in a cafe that I hadn’t bought a drink from only to be firmly told NO but that I could use the facilities anyway. If I went to the local supermarket the cashier rounded it down. A woman served us and dropped a cocktail all over poor S, quickly putting another together she refused to take payment at the end. It just seems so very very friendly and it didn’t feel like it was because we were tourists on holiday and therefore had some money to spend, it seemed for no gain other than being friendly, being nice, it felt like it’s an attribute deep within their culture.

The sea water was just cool enough and it was so clear you could see the grains at the bottom where your feet melted into the sand. Tiny fish swam by. Yachts adorned the turquoise water and speed boats gathered waves as they moved away from the Island. We found a cove between rocks with nobody on it, a few metres wide with two worn sun loungers where we took our shoes off and paddled with the sunshine pouring on to our pale skin.

We treated ourselves one night visiting the restaurant that had been recommended on our way here by the guide on our bus, it’s hard to describe the place as anything less than a piece of paradise. The sky blue decor of wooden tables perched on a brow overlooking the still sea, boats rested in the distance, almost nothing moved as we ate our delicious food and drank some fabulous wine. The waiters were attentive but not overly, the bill arrived in a tiny treasure chest and we were provided with a chocolate ice cream dessert to share, just because.

I managed to sneak a bit of left over chicken (not mine!) as after a few cocktails the night before I had promised one of the dogs that frequented our path home that I would indeed bring him some chicken the next evening. As a vegetarian I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to happen but luckily one person at our table couldn’t quite finish their dish. The dog in question duly was waiting, his scrunched up face clearly was used to this routine as was the three cats that appeared and the rather nervous smaller tan dog. Tan dog was frightened of the cats, the cats were quite happily pawing at my hands to get to the chicken, scrunched up dog was happy to take what was given but tan dog kept running away so we had to coax the others so we could get within a few feet of him and then throw him some food which he gladly accepted. None of the animals looked in bad health, I think they had simply become accustomed to being fed by strangers.

In the evenings we found a bar, we played cards, we played songs, we chatted, we laughed, we debated, we talked, we chose new cocktails and we met new people. We got to bed late and we got up late, we ate breakfast on the veranda, the sea was in the distance, the chickens clucked, the cockerel crowed on occasion, there was a slight breeze as we ate watermelon and bread and cheese.

So. In all this glory how did this happen? By day five it first hits me. I have a spot of Hiraeth. Hiraeth – there is no equivalent to the word in English but it basically is the Welsh word meaning – a longing for home. I missed my son, now too grown up to want to come abroad with his mum. I missed my dogs that were being pampered and loved by a friend who seems to have understood them like I do so I knew they were looked after but I MISSED them so much! I missed my home! Oddly when I’m away from home my hiraeth for Tes also grows, it’s something about being away from where I feel she is I guess. But I miss her being here too, I imagine her at the pool as a 20 year old, I imagine her drinking cocktails with me and it makes me feel so bloody very sad that she isn’t. I miss home. My brain has finally relaxed for the first time in months. I miss what’s missing. I end up texting my brother worrying that there is something wrong with me!! Five days away and I miss home!! I’ve been away for 12 months as a youngster travelling, what’s wrong with me? He assures me that this is perfectly normal and that he ‘always misses Wales’ when he’s away.

Of course.

I am again then just so proud of my Welsh heritage, of my home. There’s nothing like it. Of course I’m going to miss it!!

It is something to be so grateful for. Coming away to a beautiful exotic Island of colour, friendliness, calm and beauty yet still missing my home, my tiny part of Wales. In many ways, how lucky am I!

Hope you are enjoying your Sunday wherever you are today XX

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The great outdoors

On Wednesday I had a meeting in mid-Wales. I got up at half 5, walked the dogs, hoovered, put some washing out and left in what I thought was plenty of time. 5 roadwork stops later and trying to get through the building of a new by-pass I arrive. Flustered. Hot. 20 mins late.

The journey home was a bit better but as I got in I was feeling tired, unmotivated and unenergised.

I thought of trying to coerce the dogs into just a bit of ball throwing so I could crash on the sofa but instead I headed out with them and found myself heading for a walk to a place I can see around me but haven’t been to. The panorama.

Half way up I realise I’ve forgotten my camera and I’m annoyed. It’s a glorious calm electric blue day, the sun fills my face with warmth and as I get to the narrow road at the top I climb a little higher and turn around. To the view.

It’s completely incredible. 30 minutes ago I was all urgh from my day and now I feel euphoric. The view! It’s exquisite. I am actually buzzing inside from the natural drug around me. The outdoors. The great Welsh outdoors.

I had no camera so can’t show you it. So this is the photo in words.

It’s green. So so green. All kinds of shades of green emerald, jade, light, dark. The trees look like they’ve been painted to perfection, they almost seem pretend because they shine and they’re still and uniformed. The river glistens and winds quietly through this picture of natural beauty. The road is far away and a few cars can be seen. The town looks so small from here and there’s an inner realisation of how tiny we are on this huge planet. There’s not a cloud in the sky.

Close by the sheep wander happily eating the sumptuous grass amongst the silver grey rocks. As I look up the rockface leans over me the size of a high rise and huge boulders stand with seeming trepadation about whether they may decide to move at some point. The forest to the left of where I am feels different and I realise it’s because I’m standing with the tops of the trees. I look down to their roots where the sun can’t quite get to. I realise too I’m not alone as I spy a motorbike in the distance, parked with two helmets alongside. The riders sit precariously on the edge of a cliff. Daredevils.

I’m actually whispering to myself. Look at this. Look at where I live. I live here!

So. I couldn’t take a photo but I hope I did it some justice.

That’s it this week. Just a little story about how this beautiful place we live in can transform how we feel in a few minutes. If we just picture it.

Happy Sunday xxx

Simply. Being Welsh

I was telling someone today that I didn’t think I’d write my blog for a while as I wasn’t feeling ‘it’. Funny how a conversation can change your mind. It’s not my usual kind of blog, maybe that is why it was easier to write. 

I was chatting to someone earlier who was trying to explain a woman in her evening class to me. She’s nice she said, you know, she’s Welsh. You have to hug her when you see her and she’s kind and she’s chatty. You know what I mean. She’s Welsh!

 I knew what she meant. She’s Welsh!

 As I drove home I pass through the village just before mine and I see someone walking with his back to me. He can’t see me but I find myself waving anyway. I sneak a look in the mirror and I know he’s going to wave back. He doesn’t know I’ve seen him. I didn’t know he might see my wave. But we wave. We’re Welsh!!!

 So what else does it mean to be Welsh?

 These are ten things that immediately sprung to my mind.

 1. You cannot pass ANYONE without saying hello. Ever. This reminds me of my very good friend Ann who as a teenager said hello to an elderly lady in town one day. Do I know you?? Shouted the woman. Most disgruntled. No, replied Ann. The woman walks away shaking her head!

2. You are chatty. You cannot stand next to ANYONE for more than 1.5 seconds without having to start a conversation. Recently I drove to work and there was a very annoying set of traffic lights that had appeared, hindering my journey. I sat there for fifteen minutes. The guy who had the exciting job that day turning the sign from stop to go caught my eye. I made some remark out of my window about being late for work. He sauntered over. By the time the sign was turning back to go I knew where he lived, that he loved the seaside and that he normally wasn’t the stop and go guy amongst other things. We have to chat!

3. If you EVER hear anybody speaking Welsh when you are on holiday, you HAVE to tell that person that you are also Welsh. No question. It has to be done.

4. You went to school and were forced to speak Welsh and hated it. As an adult you LOVE the fact you can speak Welsh, no matter how little, we speak two languages already! It’s FAB!

5. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to speak English to someone that you have always spoken Welsh to. I fear this is where the idea that Welsh people are ‘rude’ or ‘talking about you’ comes from. It is actually almost impossible. As soon as you start in English it feels stilted and wrong so you just roll back into Welsh. Bizarre but true.

6. If you were born in Wales you will probably never say you are from the UK or Great Britain, you will always say you are Welsh and from Wales. Outside of Europe people think you are a town near Liverpool but nevermind!

7. This could be me but you sing your HEART out to the Welsh National Anthem but probably don’t know every word and either hum or mouth part of it. Just as enthusiastically mind.

8. At the end of the night in most pubs you HAVE to sing  either Calon Lan or something by Dafydd Iwan before you can leave the pub. Quality of singing can be of differing levels. As long as you sing.

9. You WILL have competed at an Eisteddfod at some time in your life and you would have thought it was completely normal to get up to sing and recite on a stage in front of lots of people. It was only when the X Factor came along that I realised other people thought it was a big deal!

10. You almost definitely play an instrument of some kind. Even if it is the recorder. Or the triangle. If you didn’t your grandparents wouldn’t talk to you*

 

 *don’t take any of this too seriously – all opinions are Welsh, and my own*