Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Buckets of new friends – not all of them, Welsh

An hour or so after I had downed that beer, I got a call from my host-to-be (for the next 2 night) when he arrived back in town a little earlier than he had anticipated. Iain (ex-Chief of Carmarthen Police) Sewell is a character (he’ll appreciate the pun that is there) and we took off for a couple of pints at one of his favorite watering holes – the Thomas Arms. Aside from the pleasantries of the pub, I was delighted to hear that my host-to-be had just the right ‘gadget’ to get my laptop ‘plugged and charged’.

The next morning, after I had toured the stores in Llanelli’s market and bought a creamy doughnut that probably had ½ a day’s worth of my calorie allowance, my host-come-tour-guide picked me up for our schedule lunch engagement with Welsh author, Gaynor Madoc Leonard in the famous Queen's Arms in Carmarthen – Wales’ oldest town.

However, I was first treated to a tour of Burry Port, where Amelia Earhart once landed – as did a disorientated Luftwaffe pilot, in WWII. The latter had inadvertently provided the RAF with a complete Messerschmidt for their perusal.

As I was whisked away through the Carmarthenshire countryside, I must have seen a whole harem or two of sheep! What a sight for a lonely Welshman! And you silly buggers think the ‘collective’ for sheep is ‘flock';  look again!

Gaynor, author of ‘The Carmarthen Underground’ – you must read it – graciously gave me autographed copies it - and its two sequels – 'A Meeting of Dragons', and 'Darkness at Dark Gate'.

After a nice chin-wag, lunch of gammon-steak with peas and chips, a pint or two, we bade her farewell and after a walk around some sights of  Carmarthen – including the statue of Merlin (of Arthurian fame), we headed back to Ian’s abode in Llanelli.

Iain (a Scot) and his wife, Susie (a Cockney) are two people upon whom I would bestow, were it my power, the titles of ‘honorary Welshman / Welshwoman’. They each know more Welsh words and phrases than I can muster. Never mind that they hatch their own eggs – well, I mean they hatch the eggs of their own chickens – but they also make their own wine and are heavily (as in a 6-G force) involved in LARP. Huh?  L-A-R-P - ‘live action role play’ – as where you may see hundreds of characters (remember paragraph one?) cavorting around in mediaeval or fantasia-style costumes doing all sorts of world-saving things; I think that’s what Ian said it was all about. Not my bag, but they're ‘tavern-visitation’ involved, so it has to be good! Search for his blogs and website using 'Crimson Moon' as your search word.

That evening, Iain and I were joined by ‘Farmer Dai’ (identity to be revealed in a subsequent blog, but seen here in his 'fashionable' blue-jeans) to quaff a few ales, lagers and a Guinness or two in two notable Llanelli pubs.

First, we tried the Collier’s Arms - famously named in an irreverent rendition (as a Welsh rugby song) of a traditional Welsh Hymn, ‘Cwm Rhondda’, more reverently known for its words, ‘Guide me o, thou great Jehovah . . . ‘.

Sadly, it was lacking atmosphere – perhaps an effect of the recent dismantlement of the nearby, famous, Stradey Park rugby stadium. So, we made the long journey to the other side of the road and into, what else? ‘The Stradey Arms’; complete with its ‘board’ announcing the players who participated in that most famous of all rugby events in Wales – the day that the Llanelli Scarlets beat the world-renowned New Zealand All Blacks.

Not only did the victory make the headlines, but because of it, the date and event will be forever known throughout Wales, as ‘The day the pubs ran dry’ - more for your JFGI homework.

After being treated to a breakfast of ‘real bacon’ the next morning, Iain and Susie were about to head off to Swansea for medical appointment – planning to leave me wander about Llanelli (or whatever I wished to do), but decided to take me on the trip (all 12 miles) with them. Whilst Ian was getting his back ‘worked on’, Susie toured me around Swansea then decided to head to Mumbles. Before we got there, I pointed out various landmarks that I had encountered in my youth, and pointed in the direction of the neighborhood of my ‘Once and Future Housemates’. More on that in a later blog too! ‘Long-story-short’, as they say, Susie suggested that we go to meet my friends who were to be my hosts immediately after I was to leave Llanelli. We did; we had a ‘cuppa’ and headed back, after retrieving Ian, to Llanelli.

That night, Iain had another commitment so I arranged to meet up with a famous Carmarthen-area-blogger – name of Robert Lloyd.

We walked past ‘The Kilkenny Cat’, a public house that I either might regret, or be glad of, not having entered. Robert chose take me to The York Palace (a Wetherspoon pub), in what used to be the Odeon Cinema – just a short walk down the road. Robert had been a volunteer throughout the 2012 Olympics, during which time I’m not sure how the many clients he ‘promotes’ in his blogs, managed to survive without him. A nice 90 minute chat and a couple pints later, we walked back up the road where we parted at the gate to Ian’s house.

Before leaving for my meeting with Robert, Susie had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a fellow LARP-er from England. Finally, ‘Daz’ arrived. We chatted for a while, ate a nice dinner (thank you, Susie) and sampled some of our host’s home-made wine. Daz, who I think really believes he is ‘the original goblin’ latched on to a half-filled (half-empty - your choice) 2- gallon glass-jug of the white wine. When I arrived back from my evening of chat and drinks with Robert, Daz had removed any dispute as to the jug’s psychology-puzzle. The blydi thing was decidedly now 90% empty! Iain arrived back shortly afterwards and the conversation drifted even more deeply into the world of LARP and Daz drifted into the door post and bookcase as he took 90% very close to 99%. It was way past midnight and we all had to be up early-ish in the morning, so we did what was prudent.

To be continued.

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