Falling for Wales

On the 25th May Nan, Sue and I drove top Wales. Nan had been invited to a family wedding (Nia and Graham’s) and Sue and I were taking the opportunity for a few days walking and sight-seeing. The journey didn’t start well. When we arrived Huntingdon Gardens to pick up Nan early that morning she didn’t answer the intercom system or pick up the phone. Thinking she had nipped to the shop around the corner,  we visited that, but drew a blank. Worrying that she had been taken ill we set off to retrieve the spare keys from home. On the way Sue rang again and this time Nan answered, she had been for a paper and we had narrowly missed her at the shop. On arriving back at her apartment we found her waiting outside with her bags. Being re-assured that she had everything she needed, we set off. The journey itself was uneventful, though we were dismayed to discover that she hadn’t packed her sensible shoes and her walking stick and coat wasn’t with here.  The pick-up shenanigans had prevented us from a thorough check before departure.

We arrived at her sisters in Brymbo around lunchtime and found Josie busy preparing Sunday lunch for eight people. She cooks most Sundays for her those in her large family that wish to come and dine. As Sue and I were staying in Wrexham we left leaving our mobile numbers before they all turned up. We drove to Holt on the Welsh border and parked in the centre of the village and had the picnic lunch that Sue had prepared before wandering down to the river to see the castle. Not much of it was left, but never-the-less it was interesting to read the few information boards there and gaze at the archaeological digging that was going on.

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Afterwards we checked into the hotel, had a coffee and then set off on a wander around the town. How it has changed since Sue and trained in Wrexham in the late 70’s. At times we found difficulty in identifying what were once very familiar streets. We came across an old watering hole, the Horse and Jockey. It was still the same thatched medieval inn of our memories, the only difference being that the doorway wasn’t jammed with youthful merry makers who couldn’t get inside because of its popularity. Deciding to enjoy a bit of history we entered the establishment to quench our thirst. I think it hasn’t changed at all, but I am not too sure; in the past it had always been a fight to get to the bar and one never really got a full view of all the rooms and decor because of all the other sardines squeezing into such a small cupboard. However today was very different, no young tight skinned individuals rubbing up against bar, mates or would be girlfriends apart from around 8 other customers, all our age (I guess the same clientèle that frequented the place in those halcyon days and have never managed to find their way out), quietly chatting with some very subdued 70’s music playing softly in the background (Blackberry Way!!!!!). Finishing our drinks we left quietly to be greeted outside by a stream of scantily dressed youth and overdressed police walking purposefully towards the High Street.

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Wrexham in the 70’s had a reputation for being a rough/tough place to party in and students were wise to avoid the town centre as individuals for fear of meeting the local thugs. It seems not much has changed as the closer we got to the High Street the louder the music emanated from the many once reputable banks which are now bars and night clubs (at least you get something tangible in return for your deposits) and the numbers of constables increased exponentially as did the strutting and cavorting youth of North Wales. Once the Horse and Jockey was THE place to be, now it is the High Street Banks! Weaving our way through the crowd we returned to the Wynstay Arms Hotel, conveniently situated at the end of the street. We later ventured out and had an Indian meal at a nearby restaurant before returning to the hotel and having a surprisingly quiet and comfortable nights sleep.

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After breakfast we drove over to Chirk to begin a walk I had plotted into my GPS. We parked in the Bridge Inn, put our boots on and then set off in what was a lovely sunny day. As expected the scenery was outstanding and after not too long we arrived at Chirk Castle. As it was a Bank Holiday weekend we did not have the place to ourselves and as in the High Street the night before, we had lots of company but this time sober, quiet and appropriately dressed. As usual, Sue read every information board (and there was a lot), we visited the little workshops and small retail outlets and then walked up to the main part of the castle to take a few photos.  As I stood in the portcullis to scan the scene for a good shot I was confronted by an elderly country gentleman of Old Etonian background who in no uncertain way told me to stay exactly there and not to move. I was joined by a quizzical Sue who was interested in what trouble I had got myself in to. The said gentleman began to gather other hapless visitors around us before he explained in a rather military, no-nonsense voice that were going on a tour of the castle. This we did. He certainly knew his stuff and obviously got great joy from imparting his knowledge and woe betide any one in the party that didn’t for a moment look enraptured by the history around us. Even Sue got picked on when he spotted a sneaky yawn and she had to point out the lead guttering up by the battlements (he, he,  he!) I of course have developed the Homer Simpson technique of being somewhere else in the mind yet giving the impression that I am at home. To be fair, during those fleeting moments when mind and body were as one I did find the history of the place fascinating and the gentleman’s sense of humour , if not a little  quirky and very old-school was rather entertaining, though disappointingly I didn’t get his farewell joke of the tour, but then I guess neither did any one else, but like me we all laughed, not daring to anything other.

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From the castle we continued our walk and eventually returned to the pub where we had lunch before setting the SATNAV for the Minera Lead Mines, it seemed a quite appropriate place to visit as  Sue was now able to identify at least on use for the metal. We set off.

We arrived not at the Lead Mines but at a country park on the Wrexham to Mold road. We gave it a brief visit and then set the SATNAV on my phone for the Minera Lead Mines. We set off.

We arrived not at the Lead Mines but at Nant Mill near Coedpoeth. It appeared to be a lovely wooded spot with a visitor centre, so we read the information boards, looked inside the small Educational Block and then set off on a rather muddy circular walk through the forest. On return we looked for the remains of the mill and after quite a lot of searching managed to find part of a wall by the rather picturesque ford. It was beginning to get dark so we headed back to Wrexham.

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After changing in the hotel we embarked on a rather convoluted walk to find a Chinese restaurant that was open on a Bank Holiday Monday. After several inches of shoe leather had been worn away we found one across the street from the hotel! Very good meal, well worth the trek to find it. After paying the bill we walked to the local Odeon Cinema in the shopping mall and watched Godzilla.  Quite enjoyable. It was midnight before we returned to the hotel.

After breakfast we checked out and walked across the road to the church to pay it a visit. Sue had been there in her college days (RE mains) but I in my youth I had failed to see the significance of these historical buildings and had neglected to pay it a visit in the three years that I was there. It will still have to remain a mystery as it was shut! From there we drove over to Cartrefle (where Sue and I met). It has now long gone and is now a school, Leisure Centre and Medical Centre. We did find a sign on the entrance gate post indicating its past (which was nice). After a walk around the grounds trying to locate the position of buildings long since gone and gawping at those still standing we returned to the car as it started to rain and set off towards Liverpool.

The journey went well until just outside Liverpool we were caught in a traffic jam and crawled along for nearly an hour. We were staying at the Adelphi Hotel in the centre and I had been worried about the horrendous one way system in operation in the city, but the SATNAV took me straight there without a hitch. Strange it couldn’t find a mountain the previous day! We parked in the substantial hotel car-park and then decided to explore the city before checking in. Sue wanted to visit the radio tower to see the city views. Finding it was easy, finding the entrance was another story, after much wandering and seeking of advice we broke the code, sang the incantation and the doorway magically appeared. We paid the wizard and accompanied by two Liverbirds ascended in the box of mystery with slidy doors to the top of the tower. The views were excellent, a definite must for any first timer to Liverpool, all can be seen from this once revolving restaurant on a stick. We thought we were lucky in that our two accompanying Liverpudlians gave us a friendly running commentary on all the buildings we could see. One of the ladies admitted to going to school with John Lennon. We were later to discover that all Liverpudlians are of a similar nature with most being related to the Fab Four in some way or other.

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Now that we were armed with the knowledge from the sky we visited St. George’s Hall and then booked a couple of tickets at the Royal Court theatre to see ‘Sex in the Suburbs’ that night before returning to the very impressive hotel and checking in. The Hotel was built/refurbished to serve the passengers on the Titanic, and much of the interior reflects the opulence of that short-lived liner. All the rooms are of enormous proportion, sumptuously furnished, marble is everywhere.  There are apparently 5 swimming pools somewhere situated in the the massive building. However, the hotel is past its best and you can see that the management and staff struggle to keep it as it was once. Never-the less, it still remains the on place that you can go to stay that gives you an insight into what life must have been like for the extremely wealthy during the early part of this century without having to imagine too hard. Now they take coach parties.

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That evening, after dining at the hotel we walked to the theatre. We had booked a sofa for two (very civilized) and were surprised to discover that a couple on the next table to us at dinner were just a couple of sofas away. The play was a comedy, cleverly done and situated in a local radio station. It was being recorded for live radio and we were encouraged to laugh and cheer in the appropriate places, but it wasn’t really necessary as it was very funny. Afterwards we had a late night wander around the city and then returned to the hotel for a decadent nights slumber.

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It was raining when we checked out after breakfast and as Sue wanted to visit the Albert Docks we headed in their direction. If the rain hadn’t been incessant we would have stayed longer, but we got the feel of the place and agreed we shall visit again.

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On return to the hotel I got a phone call from Josie informing me that Nan had fallen and was in a bad way, but not to worry as she didn’t require hospitalisation. We set off through the Mersey Tunnel towards North Wales. On arrival in Brymbo we found a sorry-looking Nan sat on the settee trying not to show the pain she was in. It turns out that she embarrassingly  fell backwards onto the toilet seat on the Monday night after the wedding reception back home at Josies’. The loo handle had dug into her rib cage and caused some quite nasty bruising and considerable pain. Of course the lack of sensible shoes, walking stick and the four Martini and lemonades had nothing to do with the incident. With difficulty we shoe horned her onto the back seat of my car and set off back to Harborough.  Thankfully the journey went quickly and without further incident and after a nice cup of tea we left Nan in bed with some pain killers.

The rest of the week saw me getting up early and helping Nan to get out of bed, and make her meals, the rest of the family chipped in with tidying up, shopping and covering when I wasn’t around. We had the doctor to see her on the Wednesday and he confirmed that it was just bruising and gave a prescription for more of the pain-killers that we had given her. She now has a brand new mobility walker, complete with shopping basket and it was christened last Friday when she came for a family BBQ. She seems to have recovered from her ordeal, hopefully more the wiser, though I must confess she does now look considerably older and vulnerable than before her trip to Wales.

During Nan’s rehabilitation, Charlotte and family returned from their terrorist activities in Egypt. They had a splendid time and came back suitably bronzed and full of stories, the principal one being that they were restricted to the resort by the authorities because of the unrest in the country and associated dangers for Europeans.

Though technically Sarah has not finished Uni,’ all her dissertations were presented ages ago (final one got a 1st) and she has sat her exams, she decided to joined the rat-race and started her job as a Support Worker for disaffected families in Shepshed. I was looking forward to treating her with a trip to Thailand after her course, but sensibly she has taken the opportunity to earn some money.

*It should be noted that we haven’t acquired a new family member, it is just that Sarah has changed her hair colour. If I hadn’t known and met her in the street, I am afraid I would not have recognised her. I guess that may come in handy when dealing with some of the families at work!

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A couple of weeks ago, Sarah had an interview for Northamptonshire Police. I drove her to headquarters and waited while she was interrogated. They are still interviewing into July and don’t appear to know how many (if any) posts they require. Last week she drove to Holloway Prison in London and attended an assessment day, which appeared to go well. Again, the process is long and no specific posts were open. No doubt time will tell, but she is quite enthusiastic about her current job and enjoys talking about the cases she is dealing with. This week she is on a training course in Nottingham and is staying at Lee’s to save petrol money. we have been promised we will see her on Thursday.

We only have brief visits from Jamie, he is involved with work, friends and cars. I popped around a couple of times for coffee after visiting my allotment and was surprised to see Harley on both occasions, it appears she had cooked his dinner. His car was in the garage for a couple of days and I gave him a lift to work and back. I was surprised on one trip, when his boss came out to introduce himself. He seemed pleasant and appeared to want to chat though our conversation was brief as I had to get back to Harborough.  A couple of weeks ago on one fine, hot, sunny day Jamie brought quite a few friends and their children around to swim in the pool. Though the day was hot the pool was quite cool in comparison, but they seemed to enjoy themselves splashing about and bouncing on the trampoline.  Afterwards they politely thanked us for use of the garden and we said they could come again.

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On the 4th of June it hammered it down with rain all day. That evening I was picked up by Jim and friends and taken to the Langton Brewery for a BBQ and tasting. The rain didn’t let up for a second, luckily the BBQ was in the  barn and thankfully the brewery tour got curtailed due to the weather so we were able to give the ‘tasting’ our full attention. I think it was still raining when I got home?

That Saturday Sue, Charlotte and I drove to Birstall for one of the Council Walks. England 3rd team were playing the All Blacks in the first Test that morning and I must confess I was more keen to watch that, than walk with a bunch of geriatrics. The weather forecast was dreadful and I woke that morning with the hope that the walk had been cancelled. No such luck. Plan B came into operation, I got in some vital early practice walking to the Angel Hotel. Luckily, they were showing the match, and even more luckily, quite a lot of my friends were there. I watched the match until half time when Sue and Charlotte turned up on our pre-arranged rendezvous. We then drove to the Old Plough in Birstall listening to the match on the radio. Again, luckily Birstall RUFC were watching the match at the pub, so to be social, I joined them to see a rather disappointing end to the game. On joining the rest of the walkers outside, a few drops of rain began to fall. As we set off on what was most probably a very scenic trek through the water meadows of Water Mead Country Park, the rain came down with a vengeance (drat, 2 hours too late!) By the end, those who didn’t have appropriate gear got drowned and those of us who did got soaked. We saw a lot of nonchalant ducks, got within a few metres of an old heron who sat disinterested on a branch, waved to to some lonely scouts that had unfortunately picked today to hold their fund-raising fete and saw a lot of ponds. On return to the pub we tucked into to some rather good grub before returning through clearing skies to Harborough.

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On the Sunday the Rothwells came over and picked Sue up. It was National Open Farm Day and they went to Farndon Fields farm. While I cleared out the back of the shed, mowed the lawn and cleaned the pool they sat on tractors, sat on combine harvesters, looked at various farm animals, sniffed various crops and ate a lot of huge strawberries. They stayed for lunch and for dessert ate more huge strawberries.

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100_6962 100_6963 100_6964 100_6965 100_6966BREAKING NEWS: Sarah rang last night to inform us that she got a 1st in her exams. Well  done Sarah, wonderful news and a just reward for all that hard work.

10418860_10152018193271157_7084440563705216000_nThe moment of finding out.

 

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