Thursday, March 14, 2013

The bucket goes ‘Gog’

What is ‘Gog’?  That is the name given to people from North Wales – based on ‘Gogledd’, Welsh for ‘North’. I arrived in Llandudno Junction about 5:30 pm on Sunday, March 10th and was met by colleague from Southampton University (1965-1967), Allan Brandon. We drove up the Conwy Valley to his home, Bryn Heilig, in the very picturesque village of Rowen.

We had decided to eat dinner in the local pub, Ty Gwyn, but messed that plan up by arriving 5 minutes after the kitchen closed having squandered our time watching a recording of England squeak a win over Italy (18-11) in the 6-Nations Rugby match earlier that day. He won’t admit it now, but I think Allan (a Lancashire lad by birth) was cheering for Italy to win. Oh well, beer is food, so I just ordered a order a pint (20oz) of lager. The pub’s name means, ‘White House’ – but unlike the one in DC, its occupant has not banned public tours; this one at least has transparency!

I no longer have a taste for ales. Within minutes, I had struck up a conversation with 'Mike', one of the locals – no doubt having been attracted to a strange accent in their midst.

The next morning, we headed in to Llandudno, about 10 miles from Rowen, to see the sights of town and the coastal scenery. The wind was howling and whipping the sea into a furious parade of rock-pounding waves when we got to the cove in which seals normally congregate. Not one was to be seen – they must be in town buying overcoats or something!

Llandudno must be packed with visitors in summertime; it has just what a holiday town needs – a big sandy beach, a pier, great views of (and from) the Great Orme - a hilly promontory that has Bronze Age copper mines beneath it - and lots of small souvenir shops, cafes, hotels and a pay toilet! As Allan conducted a little business, I wandered the shops and streets, and inevitably needed to ‘spend a penny’ as the saying goes. The toilet attendant failed to see the humor of the verbal exchange as I entered the ‘loo’. He: ’20 P, please’; Me: ‘But I only want one!’ Daft bugger!

We ate lunch next door to a Welsh Rock and Gift Shop at which I had no success with either my American Express card, or with my Visa card. What IS it with credit card machines in this country? They had no problem with my Visa card in the restaurant next door where I had a nice ‘beef and gravy pies and chips’ and a ‘pot of tea for one’.

Lewis Carroll must have some connection to Llandudno as there a several wooden sculptures of ‘Alice characters’ about town. Glad that was not a rabbit pie I ordered!

Maybe the toilet attendant was the Mad Hatter. Speaking of ‘Wonderland’ – I had occasion that afternoon to wonder how inept I had become at playing snooker and billiards. We had walked into the village (Rowen) to the community hall and Allan spent an hour getting revenge – he repeatedly said that I used to beat him at both games when we were at Southampton University 45 years ago. No pun intended, but today, the tables were turned.

We ate a Tesco curry for dinner and walked 300 yards down to Ty Gwyn where 4 pints of Guinness went down very smoothly, thank you!

Tuesday – none the worse for wear after the indulgences of the previous night, I had a mission to fulfill today. An aged (but very sharp and agile) member of our Welsh society (SDSoGSL) back in St Louis has family ties to the area. Her father was born and raised near Tal-y-Bont, a small village just a few miles from Rowen. Princess Grace, as she jokingly calls herself had given me the name of her only known relative, Rhun Edwards. I asked at the pub if anyone knew him. Mike, the man I first spoke to on Sunday night at the bar, knew Rhun (rin) and that he lived at Tanrallt - a few miles away, near Taly-y-Bont. 'Princess Grace' had always said her father was from Rowen, but looking at an Ordnance Survey map I was able to see places called Rowlyn Isa and Rowlyn Uchaf near Tanrallt, so we headed there. We were lucky to catch Rhun as he was just about to pull away from his farmhouse. After the introductions, we exchanged email addresses and he pointed us to her majesty’s paternal farmhouse – Rowlyn Isa.

Her majesty will be delighted when she opens her next email and sees the various photos I sent her. Maybe I’ll be knighted!

In the afternoon, I was treated to a drive along narrow (9 feet wide) country roads west from Rowen on to the coastal road drive through Penmaenmawr, past Llanfairfechan, to Abergwyngregyn. Near there, are two waterfalls, Rhaeadr Fawr and Rhaeadr Fach. We took the 2-mile round rip hike to the Rhaeadr Fawr falls – the larger of the two. The coldness had caused much of the rock-face to ice over; some pieces of ice shaved off narrowly missing a pair of dopes who had stood too close to the toe of the cascading fall. No, the dope pictured here, is not one of them, but is ‘yours truly’!

Later, I bravely fought another lost cause on the snooker table and after watching a class of locals (mostly 60-something ladies) getting folk-dance lessons downstairs in the community hall, we headed to the local pub, Ty Gwyn, to see what action there may be there. Not much, but it does have a nice ambiance – and a lot of brass Welsh love-spoons on the wall.

Lisa, the landlord’s daughter, was able to get my Visa card to work, but they don’t take American Express.  Groan! After a couple of pints of Guinness, Allan and I headed back to his house where we both nodded off watching a program about asteroids, meteors and comets. Apparently, none landed in Rowen last night! 

To be continued . . .

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