Monday, August 01, 2011

Notes from oversea: Wales, Beers, Yorkies at play

ok I had to put something up about the trip - I've been lax, so some notes (actually an e-mail...) below.

All photos can be seen at

Cara, now in a camping ground in Wales, the name has a Y in a proper Welsh camping ground boyo, the only place we could find after driving from Macclesfield where we picked up the motor home. We're sitting here after a day in Conwy a medieval town bordered by turreted walls and bolstered by a castle all built by the order of Edward 1. The castle was pretty well impregnable but interesting to note that it was captured in the reign of lofty Edward IV by Welsh insurgents who had batted and bowled for the other side (Lancashire I think) and Edward had confiscated lands owned by the lords who had then spat the dummy and captured the impregnable castle. Nothing is certain.

So Edward sent his chief negotiator Boris Two Fingers to fix it. Boris in his agreement stated that the lords could expect their pardon and be walking their lands freely but that they would have to hand over a number of their men. Now, it would appear that this proposition may have placed the lords in a conundrum. Which of their men would be handed over? The story as I read it does not tell what happened and leaves open tantalising endings, some perhaps tres tragique.

It seems that all Wales is populated by about 10 major families, these being Jones, Williams, Thomas, Owen, Hughes, Davies, Lloyd, Edwards, Morgan, Jenkins and Lewis. No Fortesques, Montmerencies or Snipes, only unpretentious working appellations, in fact you would not be surprised to find a Hugh Hughes, a William Williams or Thomas Thomas, thus emphasising the Welshness and lack of frills moniker. That said the Welsh seem to be anything but dour. They are friendly and love a laff, as indeed do the Yorkies we met. A double barrelled surname would seem incongruous here yet there was that artist, Reece-Jones, and I wonder if there is a Thomas Thomas-Thomas which would be a sort of train crash of monikers.

We spent two nights at our fine camping ground at Ty'n-y-Groes a comfortable, lush, picturesque spot with mountains in the background and a fine pub within 10 mins walk or 5 minute march. Denise bravely ordered the black beef Welsh curry and I had the minted Welsh lamb and her curry was so good that I ordered it the second night. The award winning fish and chips in Conwy was especially good.

Beers – there are so many in the UK that it is impossible to keep track. I tried numerous Yorky beers and not a bad one among them – one of the Aysgarth was distinctively aromatic. These of course are nothing like the Aussie lager which is bland by comparison, the closest there would be Coopers ale or one of the micro brewery beers- but they tend to replicate the European styles rather than the English which is more of an acquired taste and generally low in alcohol content, although some ales can be table thumpers. Ciders are very refreshing after a long arduous walk.

Wales. The scenery here is splendiferous. We drove from Tin-y-groes down through Snowdonia
where the mountains rear like ancient beasts breathing above and beyond you, hard, jagged and
callous, no compensating vegetation as in the Scots highlands, no soft waterfalls, all grey black fierce rock. They fear nothing and challenge in their inviolate power but are content to sit in almighty ease. They stopped the English for years, We drove through unable to find a place to park our rolling monolith of a motor home and take a photo, however it was enough to see them in their glory on a summer's day.

Another highlight was walking through our first field full of sheep at Grassington. I'd read about an abbot being killed by a rogue sheep in the 12th century – I hadn't told Denise. We were about a quarter of the way across the field, and I think that I may have looked at one while wondering if it was the abbot killing variety and funny thing but some sheep do tend to look aggressive, like pugnacious as if saying ''who you looking at huh, HUH ?'' A wild look in the eye that says ''what's a nice boy like you doing in my paddock.....''

I swear this sheep growled. Anyway they all started making these deep sheepy braying noises, one of them sounding like Tom Waits with a hangover and ganging up behind us, must have been about 20, getting closer, and I said to Denise ''don't look at them....'' Fair dinks it was one almighty racket following us and I was wondering how this old abbot met his demise – was he butted from the rear and pummelled to death or did a mob surround him while he was praying or what?? Forget your ''baa baaa black sheep'', this was a roaring herd of malicious smelly monsters who could read my mind and knew that I had eaten countless Sunday roast lambs, inserting the knife blade and stuffing them with garlic and rosemary, they knew...... I could feel that they knew...

Yes we got through the gate ok but you know I don't think we ascribe enough to animals – they are more switched on than is commonly thought. Rinnie will wink at me. I kid you not. And Darcy, Ted's dog will know, as will Rinnie if you say the word 'walk'. I think they are forbidden in their doggy state to let on that they understand – being transitional from the human world until they become fit to enter back into the human form. Karma, they've done something in a previous life which has caused them to be reborn as a dog. One wonders what. Don't discount the doggie. Now, yer cat.... well some folk are cat folk, some dog, some pro labour, some liberal, some drive Holden and some Ford, some like Aussie Rules and some like rugby. Some like Chisel and some like Oils, Some like Coopers ale and some drink cats piss Tooheys. Guess which is the cat lover.

Another Yorky highlight was taking the bus from Grassington to Skipton. It was filled with Yorkies at play and the talk and laughter was loud and incessant for the thirty minute journey. One old bloke with a face like Michael Parkinson's dad, all smiles and greeting everyone, got on board with his dog and wife – the English are dog lovers to the max – and he stood up there with the driver just beyond the sign that said 'do not go past this point and talk to the driver' and 'wives must be kept on a leash and not crap on the bus' – the English love their signs, - and he yakked away to the driver non stop for the whole journey, turning to his wife at one point who was halfway down the aisle chatting away, to let the bus know 'we're talking about you, not to you'.

Today I found an Owen Owens ale. I haven't tried it yet, maybe tonight. I had a pint of Dragon ale and a pint of Celtic, both quite enjoyable, but the double O moniker impressed me.

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