Saturday, 30 June 2012

North Wales Coast

We’ve brought the caravan to Abergeli, a temporary site we’ve wanted to try for a few years. The main attractions are proximity to home (only 40 mins) and the access to the North Wales coast.

It has occurred to me that I have, at different times, walked most of the north coast of Wales. It was never something I deliberately set out to do, it just worked out that way. We have done the walk from Colwyn Bay to Llandudno many times, it’s one of our favourites. We’ve also picked off Caernarvon to Bangor, and from the other side, Llanfairfechan to Bangor; Penmaenmawr to Conway and Conway to Llandudno. So apart from the short stretch from Llanfarfechan to Penmaenmawr we’ve done everything West of Colwyn Bay. So staying at Abergeli gave us the chance to chalk up another three or four miles eastwards.

The camp site is close to Gwyrch Castle. There’s no public access to the castle, which is a pity because from a distance it looks like a wonderful place. It is in the hands of a preservation trust right now so hopefully they can do something with it. I can’t help thinking the National Trust should get involved, it would be a terrific draw for them, given a bit of investment.

Our walk took us, about a mile, down to the coast. I didn’t expect much, to be honest, and to begin with the walk was indeed pretty dull. But it soon became varied and interesting and Sarah was amazed at the wealth of wild flowers we saw, especially the sea holly (pictured), swathes valerium, and hundreds of pyramid orchids. She was in her element and had her sketch book on the go every time we stopped.

There was a lovely little cafe/bistro nestling in a caravan park near Llanddulas along the way, and it was just in the right place for a rest and a cup of tea. The path continues along the coast until it drops onto the end of Colwyn Bay promenade and from then on becomes our often repeated walk along the bay, stopping off for lunch in the Forte cafe in Rhos-on-sea, before continuing on, over the Little Orme and down into Llandudno. It’s about 12 miles in all, and the great beauty of this route is that we were able to jump on a number 12 bus in Llandudno (after coffee in Waterstones) which brought us back to a stop right outside the castle gates, near our camp site.

An excellent day. Tomorrow I have my eye set on heading east, to Rhyl, because right now the game is on. The whole North Coast is within reach.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Hay Festival

I always worry a little about going away from home for a few days. But I take precautions: I double lock the house, I have a good alarm system and I set timed security lights.

I noticed my house keys were missing from my fancy snap-lock key ring. Ah, well, they'll be in the caravan somewhere. Then I got a call from my father-in-law. He'd been passing the house and noticed my bunch of keys lying on the driveway in front of the house. OMG! I lock the place up, make it secure, then leave the bloody keys outside for any passing brigands to collect, take away, then return later with his Luton van and colleagues to help with the heavy stuff. I think I need a new key-ring system.

It rained in Hay yesterday. When it rains here it doesn't do it by halves. Hay rain is serious, committed, professional rain. It rained all day and the ill-prepared, most of us, got very wet. Did I care? Well, not much. We had some good sessions at the festival site, especially Susan Greenfield, the neuroscientist, who, in just under an hour, managed to rewire my brain into buying her book. I swore, before I came, that I had more than enough books – at least forty must-read-next titles on my shelves. What I don't need right now is another one. But I am no match for a neuroscientist. Not only did I buy her book but I got it signed. An excellent read it is proving to be, too. I am most interested in her take on computers and IT and social media and how they will change our very identities. For good or ill? I'll finish writing the blog before I read that bit.

Today, Monday, was dry and at times, sunny. A lovely day. Two excellent talks at the festival, a fine meal at The Granary, and... well, I bought some more books at the Hay Cinema Book Shop. I am weak, I know, but I found a David A Hardy book of science fiction art, 'Visions of Space', for only six quid, and it is just fabulous. It's from the era of SF illustration that I most love, elegant cigar-shaped moon ships and Chesley Bonestell wheeled space stations. Wonderful stuff.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


We're in Hay-on-Wye for our seventh visit to the annual literary festival. Things didn't start so well for us. We arrived in the evening, had a late tea, then set the bed up for an early night, and found that the locker where we store all the bedding was full of water. The duvet and pillows and pretty-much everything else was soaked. We salvaged what we could and spent the night with just one, single-sized, paper-thin blanket and a cotton sheet to protect us from the harsh mid-Wales June climate.

So this morning I set about tackling the problem. It was, of course, the water heater – the cause of so much woe in recent weeks. I thought I'd fixed it. It worked fine in Cheshire. I left Sarah to wring-out the bedding and drape it around the inside of the car, out of the rain, while I completely dismantled the water heater and scattered bits of it all around the field.

Turns out the 'O' ring, which connects the main tank to the wall fitting, had a kink in it. I smoothed it out, refitted the unit to the wall, connected up the pipes and switched everything on.
"I can smell gas!" shouted Sarah.
I sniffed around the gas fitting but could smell nothing.
"There's gas in the caravan!"
Nonsense. The gas fittings were outside by the... ah. I'd forgotten to reconnect the pipe to the unit inside the van.
So we opened all the windows and let the rain in while we ventilated the caravan. And I reconnected the gas pipe.

But everything seems okay now. Water heater is re-assembled. No leaks. No gas. Bedding is steaming away nicely inside the car.

All ready for our first event in the How-the-Light-gets-in philosophy tent, a discussion about time's arrow. This is what I'm here for. A bit of brain food. Escape from the real world.