March seems to have flown by really quickly this year. Spring is now well and truly with us, or it should be! I’ve patched up the strawberry patch, had the last of the winter stews and in just under a week it will be time to plant this years bean crop. I bought some interesting looking French ones this year. Round these parts I’ve been doing what I have called the ‘Welsh March,’ articles and posts that are all about Wales. And yeah, I do love that pun! For the last of this years troop (More next year? Definitely!) I have decided to talk about a few of the places that I love, the places in Wales that I could never grow tired of… Not that I could ever grow tired of Wales anyway. As our erstwhile grumpy friend Dr Johnson almost said, ‘He who is tired of Wales is tired of life!’
Here we are then, the last dive into Dr Johnson’s ‘Journey into North Wales.’ It is finally time to say goodbye to Dr Johnson and his merry band of fellow travellers, travellers who include a woman he’s more than likely having it off with, Mrs Hester Thrale, her husband, Henry, their daughter, Queenie, and (most probably not) a priest bought by Dr Johnson in Pwllheli. I have to say I’m going to kind of miss the old grump and his pompous, over the top bitching about other people’s furniture but for now let us take one final trip together, the journey home…
This place is too noisy. I sit at my desk becoming increasingly irritated by the constant noise of building work from next door, of people driving down the road with their foot firmly pressed to the clutch and their headlights glaring forth in broad daylight and massive lorries trundling down here thinking that the road is a shortcut. At night come the shouting and screaming yobbos, yet more incessant noise from next door, the slamming of car doors and whatever other noises this dump cares to throw my way. And when the current rigmarole of noisy building work stops then someone else will start up somewhere nearby… It never ends.
I would much rather be somewhere else… As the stupid hammering starts up again and I wonder what the hell someone could be hammering for FOUR DAYS solid, I dream again of home, of Cymru and of Bangor. I long to take the rails west almost as far as they can go. I’m longing to skim through England’s last outpost, Chester, and cross the border to the land where the rails hug the coast and pass through all the places with names so familiar to me- Shotton, Flint, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Abergele and Pensarn, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno Junction… And then as the rails again dive away from the coast and slide into deep, dark tunnels the announcer makes her last announcement- ‘We will shortly be arriving at… Bangor.’ They might as well just be saying ‘welcome home.’
I fell in love with that city from the moment I first clapped eyes on it, from the moment I stepped into the magnificent main university building. It is so long ago and so much has happened in that time, so much thanks to Bangor. That place changed me for the better, opened my eyes to so much that I wouldn’t have otherwise even given a second glance to. It wasn’t just the lectures which I sat and slept and doodled through or the seminars where I hardly dared speak a word, it was the people I met, the places I saw and the fact that I was just there that did it. It was also thanks to the many amazing things I did when I was there. I came out again, degree in hand (metaphorically speaking) and I was a completely different person. Bangor changed me… Cymru changed me.
Who was I before I first came there? I don’t really recall. I didn’t have much confidence I know that much. I wasn’t really a sociable creature either. I was never going to become the most confidant or sociable person but by the end I had more confidence and was a lot more sociable than I had been at the start. I was also cooler, older and wiser by the end. I was a far better person overall.
I saw and did amazing things. One week after I arrived I was climbing the highest mountain in Wales and the day after that I ended up in the middle of Llyn Padarn with all my clothes on. I lost a soggy sock somewhere on the way home that day. I explored and got into scrapes. I wandered into a funeral in Holyhead, got shot at by a farmer, slid down scree slopes on my backside and almost ended up as an ice cube trying to reach the peak of Llewellyn. I’ve never been more active than I was in those days. If I hadn’t visited somewhere yet and I could reach it within an hour or two I’d try and get there, by any way possible. Even then I didn’t see everything I wanted to… Thanks to the bus breaking down in Caernarfon I never actually got down to Porthmadog to explore the Llyn peninsula. I never got to Ffestiniog and there were a few other places I missed out on too, much to my own disappointment.
Everything I did was set against the gorgeous backdrop that is north western Cymru… Mountains to the left of me, a land of ancient secrets to the right, Anglesey (or Ynys Mon, as it is known in Welsh) The land inspired me in a way that no other place has… It still inspires me and it has never once stopped inspiring me. There’s a magic in the air around there, an ancient and intangible magic that calls out to someone like me. Like a lover she wraps her arms around me and whispers sweet nothings in my ear, seducing me. She makes it impossible for me not to love her, not to whisper back and run my fingers through her hair. And when I’m not with her it is like a part of me is missing, like I’m not whole. It’s the oldest romantic cliché in the book… But in this case I don’t care because it couldn’t be more true.
I think about her everyday. I think of her myths and her long history. I think of her mountains and her seas, her ancient secrets yet to be discovered. I think of the time we spent together and I wish it could have been longer. I wish I could be with her again. Life with her, though there were problems and annoyances, was tolerable. It never seemed so bad as it does here. It was like we were perfect for each other.
But that didn’t stop me leaving. I wanted to move on to new adventures, new pastures… I thought, foolishly, that I wouldn’t be stuck around here in this dump for very long. I thought there’d be a call from somewhere new, somewhere I could fall in love all over again. I didn’t realize how much I would miss it. I thought very briefly about staying. The day before I left I did my last radio show and I held it together until the very end. As Days by the Kinks played I sat in my coat, waiting for the CD to finish playing and to switch the playlist to automatic. I did that and as soon as I got outside I burst into tears. I didn’t want to leave… I didn’t want to go. What the hell was I doing? I stood for a while at the gates, wondering if I shouldn’t go back and declare ‘NO! I’m staying. I don’t know where I’m going to live or how I’m going to live but god damnit I AM staying.’ I didn’t do that and I walked back home still crying. I passed a few people and one of them made a snooty comment.
‘Why is that guy crying?’ she asked her friend. I didn’t say anything but I was crying because it was the end of three of the happiest years of my life. The next night, in the same attic room I‘ve occupied ever since, I cried again.
Then as the days rolled by and what was meant to be a few weeks turned into a few months and then years, I started to realize the mistake I had made in leaving. Cymru and I were perfect for each other and I should never have left. When I went back for the weekend last year it hit me full force in space of one night… This was my home and I belonged there. Somehow I had to get back.
Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it is gone. I had something outstanding, the makings of a very beautiful life out there beyond the mountains. Then I let it go, thinking I could go anywhere I wanted and have the same sort of thing. I was so wrong and I’ve spent a lot of time since regretting that decision. I’ve been dreaming of returning home for what seems like forever now and with each passing day and each lorry rolling by and each hammer blow from the noisy builders I dream of getting back there more and more. Some days it feels like I’m getting close but others like I’m further away than ever.
One day I will make it though… I’d like to live in a house with a view I think… A view of either the mountains or the sea or both if it’s possible. But until I get that room with a view I will just have to keep dreaming.
I drew this map for the Pobol Y Bangor stuff and I couldn’t help but label my favourite places on it as well as the fictional ones. This is my home. This is what I dream of.