Thanks, Mancs and Diolch, Cymru

I missed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on account of not being born yet. The Coronation of King Charles III was on TV in the background while I was doing other things, such as writing and looking out of the window and making coffee. I didn’t really go out and buy a hat as previously suggested. But Liesel and Jyoti went out shopping and missed most of the so-called Event of the Year.

King Charles and Queen Camilla on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

Liesel collected her new prescription sunglasses from Didsbury, and while they were in the village, she and Jyoti bought treats for me (and for themselves). So we had scones for breakfast on Sunday morning, with clotted cream and jam and no arguments about which to put on first.

Our walk through Kenworthy Lane Woods on Saturday afternoon was uneventful, no moose nor bear encounters.

Jyoti and the scone

No matter how careful you are, you (or is it just me?) always end up with sticky fingers after eating anything where jam is involved.

With our energy levels suitably boosted, we took a bus into Manchester. And yes, of course we saw the back end of a bus disappear up the road as soon as we turned the corner, walking towards the bus stop. Yesterday, when Liesel and Jyoti walked to the village, I said I’d catch up and, for the first time ever, a bus arrived at the bus stop just as I got there, so I boarded it, overtook the ladies, travelled as far as the next stop, disembarked and met them.

Liesel and I enjoyed showing Jyoti the sights of Manchester including the Central Library, although it seemed to be closed. So we mooched around the Art Gallery for a while.

Golden Monkey

You can just see Jyoti’s reflection to the left of the golden monkey, who sits on top of a large urn made by top artist Grayson Perry, and he wasn’t afraid of incorporating images of his own face throughout the design.

In a few galleries, several objects are on display as if they are in storage, still in crates, and grouped together in unorthodox ways, such as by material, by object type, by size, rather than by country of origin or by artist.

Just bung them in here for a minute

Some works of art make us laugh for the wrong reason. For instance, this pot of kitchen utensils is very similar to one we have at home.

Work of art and Liesel’s version at home

One of the coolest items was a dress make up from 43 kg of dress pins.

One dress, many pins

I tried to count the pins, but someone interrupted and I lost count at about 13,000 and I wasn’t even up to the waist.

By accident, we ended up at Gooey, a cake and cookie shop that Liesel was aware of and which she’s been lusting after for a long time. We bought doughnuts and after enjoying mine, overflowing with raspberry jam, I vowed never to look at a Krispy Kreme donut again. And yes, my fingers were sticky.

We paid a quick visit to the Cathedral where we witnessed a small band rehearsing, including a harp player. I’ve never been that close to a harp but I resisted the temptation to wander over and have a pluck. I don’t think Liesel would have let me, anyway, never mind the harpist.

Harp and musicians

We walked towards Castlefield Viaduct, passing a few places of interest, such as what’s left of the old Roman Wall. Rather than sit on this historical artefact, Jyoti chose to sit on the sheep. A premonition, maybe.

Jyoti and the sheep

It was a first visit to the Viaduct for Liesel and Jyoti, and I hadn’t visited since I went with Pauline and Andrew last Summer. It has matured since then, many of the plants are now in full bloom and some of the beds are even overgrown.

Selfie of the day

As you leave, you’re surprised to see yourself in a reflective surface. You’re supposed to reflect on what you’ve seen, the flowers, the local communities and groups that have contributed to the project, the plight of the world what with climate change and all that, but all I could think of was, I look a bit distorted in that mirror.

A quick pitstop at the Museum of Science and Industry was followed by the slog back to the bus stop. Our pedometers confirmed that we’d far exceeded our 10,000 steps today, so the sit down on the bus back to Northenden was very welcome. We dined out at Chennai Dosa before making our way home.

I had a few little admin jobs to do on the computer before packing for a few days away. We d drove off and on a long section of road, we watched as several thousand vehicles were returning from their long weekend away, it was a bank holiday, and they may have all gone to Wales to escape the Coronation. Yes, Wales, that’s where we went, Snowdonia to be precise. Liesel had booked a National Trust Cottage just up the road from Craflwyn Hall. Why this area? Many years ago, Liesel and I enjoyed a Bicycle Beano cycling holiday there during the course of which I undoubtedly had a whinge about the hills. Especially the ones that go up.

Bwthyn Mai is a cute little cottage: most of the pictures on the walls are William Morris prints from an old exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum, the bedrooms are on the top floor, the bathroom on the middle floor, the living room and kitchen down below. Yes, it was built on a hill, a long, long time ago. The doors and floorboards squeak a symphony as you walk around.

And outside, we can watch the sheep as they upturn furniture, take shelter under the picnic table, rub their bums against the fences and gate posts, we can witness the lambs barging into their mums for a quick feed, and generally gambol like sheep do. Jyoti took many, many pictures of sheep. And I took a couple too.

A sheep

The only downside to this accommodation, to the wider area as we discovered, is that there is no 4G coverage, and our cottage has no WiFi either. Not a problem, I thought, but as time went on, we all realised how dependent we’d become on having access to the internet. Someone had left me a WhatsApp message but I was unable to acknowledge it for a couple of days. We couldn’t quickly check the weather forecast. When faced with a problem or a question, the first thing we think is, I’ll just Google it. Can’t do that. When reading a book on my Kindle, if I want to look up a new word, I just click on it and it tells me via a dictionary or via Wikipedia. Similarly if I want to remind myself about a certain character, just touch the name and it tells me. Not now I’m out in the sticks. What’s the news? Probably the same old depressing nonsense  but we shall remain in blissful ignorance.

From my point of view, the worst thing was the possibility of losing my winning streaks on a couple of puzzles that I do every day. This really is a ridiculous first-world problem I know, but this is how tangled our lives have become with the many tentacles of the internet. And I haven’t even mentioned Twitter, Instagram and email yet. Who’s been communicating with me?

On the other hand, what a great opportunity to get away from the modern e-world for a few days. Except, everywhere we go, we’re checking for a 4G or even a 3G signal, and whether shops, caf├ęs, galleries have WiFi.

Chessboard

I asked Liesel whether she fancied a game of chess on this board in the gardens of Craflwyn Hall but she politely declined, which is fair enough: she doesn’t know how to play.

Liesel and Jyoti set off for a walk and I followed a little later. The path was steep, rocky and damp, it had rained a lot overnight.

Steep path

After lunch, Liesel drove us to Rhyd Ddu from where there is a trail leading to the summit of Yr Wyddfa which is the new (old original) name for Snowdon. It started off as a well made path, no water running down this one, and yes, of course, walking up a mountain, it’s going to be steep. Liesel and Jyoti climbed a lot further than I did because, annoyingly, I had to stop due to my old shortness-of-breath issue. Maybe I should have trained longer and harder up hills, not the flat plains of Northenden. Maybe I should have persevered on an inclined treadmill at the gym. In any case, I had to stop and sit on a rock for a while, soak up some sunshine and convince my body that it can manage.

Liesel and Jyoti lead the way

It was a beautiful day, though, no complaints there. I walked back to the car park, slowly: it took a ridiculous amount of time before my breathing was back to normal.

Rhyd Ddu is a station on the railway line between Caernarfon and Porthmadog. While pottering about, listening to the birds, I heard the whistle from a train in the distance. I also saw a red dragon on the platform.

Welsh dragon

Eventually, the train that had been tooting arrived at Rhyd Ddu and I took a few pictures of the engine.

The Harbourmaster

At which point, my phone died. No internet and now, no phone, no camera, no more pictures today, then. So I missed getting photos of the second train as it arrived from the opposite direction. Many people disembarked maybe with the intent of hiking some of the way up to the summit of the mountain. No pictures of them either, some dressed like me, in t-shirt and shorts, some with several layers of waterproofs and a full backpack including a tent.

Liesel, Jyoti and I met up and compared notes, especially regarding tired aching calves. After dinner, we turned the TV on and Jyoti and I watched the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Conest. The whole event is new to Jyoti and semi-finals are a new experience for me. A good nights sleep should have been a dead cert.

The weather didn’t look so good in the morning. Aches and pains determined that we should therefore have a bit of a rest day. Last night, a sheep had a fight with one of the benches outside. The bench lost, and we found it with its legs in the air. One of the sheep was limping and we wondered whether he was the one who beat up the furniture.

We drove to the nearest town, Beddgelert, where we resisted the temptation to have an ice cream. We did buy postcards and stamps and other cards and pottered about a bit. Outside the church, St Mary’s, we saw a well-preserved gravestone for a William Parry and I wondered whether he was a local hero of some description.

William Parry

Many scenes for the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman, Curt Jurgens and Burt Kwouk were filmed in the area in 1958. I wonder if this explains the presence of this Chinese dragon which is stylistically very different to Welsh dragons.

Chinese dragon
Bridge over the river Colwyn in Beddgelert

There was a touch of mizzle in the air and at one point Jyoti commented that she couldn’t understand why I didn’t put a coat on. Well, it wasn’t raining that hard and I didn’t feel cold. I said that, equally, I couldn’t understand how she could keep taking her coat off and putting it back on every time the temperature changes by a degree or two!

We’d been through Betws-y-Coed before, on the occasion of our cycling holiday, so we knew it was a (relatively) big, busy place. Liesel came up with the idea of parking outside the town and walking in. And what a great decision that was because we saw a wonderful heron down by the riverside.

Ooh a heron

We found a place to eat by the railway station and looked forward to using their WiFi to catch up with some totally unimportant stuff. So imagine the heart-wrenching disappointment when we saw this on the wall.

No WiFi here

The food was great though, especially the Victoria sponge. On this beautiful day, we should maybe have done a tour of the the local waterfalls, since they are so well signposted.

Waterfalls

Liesel confessed to her love of bridges, so we walked to Sappers Suspension Bridge, but it’s not open to the public at the moment. Further along the road, (and who would have guessed that we’d ever be walking along the A5?) we saw Waterloo Bridge, a small edifice compared with its namesake in London, but so called because it was first built in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Waterloo Bridge

Even though this was supposed to be more of a rest day following the exertions of all the climbing yesterday, we still did a lot of walking.

Deciding where to visit on our final whole day in Wales was hard, so much depends on the weather and of course, we can’t look up a weather forecast because we have no internet. In the end, we drove to Beddgelert Forest where we planned to walk to around a lake. Well, we never did find the lake. The trail was marked but somehow all three of us, I think, missed a vital pointer so we ended up well off course. But it doesn’t matter, we enjoyed the walk, the views, the weather, the fresh air, the birdsong and the fact that there were very few other hikers, cyclists and no horseriders at all. The forest itself is very lush, so many different greens from olive to almost dayglow.

50 shades of green

Once we realised we were off course, we decided instead to follow the trail into Beddgelert itself. It was a much more pleasant experience than one of our earlier plans which was to walk from the Forest car park to the village along the road, with no footpath. We lost count of the number of streams and rivulets. It’s a very wet forest but today, we were lucky to be out in the sunshine, and the threatening grey clouds never came too close.

Snowdon aka Yr Wyddfa under the clouds

We’ve been wondering which peak was in fact Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, and today a very helpful sign showed us. What a shame the actual summit was shrouded in cloud!

We had lunch at the Prince Llewelyn public house in Beddgelert, grateful for the opportunity to sit down for a while after quite a long walk. Oh, and they weren’t afraid to let us use their WiFi so I caught up on a few things, nothing of any importance of course.

Before setting off for the car, retracing our steps, we had an ice cream. What a joy to be sitting in warm sunshine eating an ice cream.

I heard a dog barking and a man telling it to be quiet. Round the corner, and we saw a flock of sheep in the road.

A flock of sheep

The man had two dogs that very skilfully herded the sheep through a gate. I thought it was unusual to hear a sheep dog being so vocal, though.

Finding another cute little bridge, I thought it would be rude not to take a picture of it for Liesel. So here she is, with Jyoti, about to walk across it.

Bridge with bonus Liesel and Jyoti

By the time we found our car in the car park, we had walked over 20,000 steps, so probably between 8 and 9 miles. Very good training for what we’ll be doing next week. My body behaved much better than yesterday. I found my rhythm and walked up a very long hill and was hardly out of breath when I got to the top, a totally different sensation to the shortness-of-breath episode I’d had yesterday.

Back at our cottage, we had some coffee then supper and in the evening, Jyoti and I enjoyed the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest. I now realise what I’ve been missing for several years!

A good night’s sleep was interrupted by a very early rise and an early departure. One aspect of the cottage that I didn’t mention was the beam in the room.

The offending beam

I must have banged my head on it a thousand times over the course of four days, thus keeping Liesel fully entertained. How I can bang my head, utter ‘ouch’, glance down, forget the beam’s there, stand up and bang my head again so many times is a question that will only be answered by the pathologist who dissects my brain post mortem.

The day back at home was quiet, I worked on a radio show, processed the week’s accumulated mail (one item) and in the evening, we met up with the family for dinner at a pub called The Pointing Dog. Martha was but a small baby when she last met Jyoti but what a fab reunion.

Jyoti, Martha, William and Liesel

As mentioned a couple of times, this is Eurovision Song Contest week, and the competition is being held in Liverpool, on behalf of Ukraine, last year’s winner, and we’ve had a lot of coverage on TV and radio. So of course, my own show on Wythenshawe Radio has a Eurovision theme, and you can catch up with it here.

Oh and by the way, I didn’t lose my winning streaks on the puzzles that I do every day, just because there was no internet access. It seems that if you don’t or can’t attempt the puzzle one day, that doesn’t count against you. Phew, I am so relieved.

And, as I discovered after we returned home, the Wikipedia entry on the Welsh Red Dragon is a fascinating read. Highly recommended.

I could find no evidence that the William Parry whose gravestone we found was a celebrity in any way. But Parry is a very common name in the Beddgelert area, certainly in the graveyard.