Archive for October, 2009

IOM 2009

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Then. Island living. You make your own entertainment. Long winter nights radiating around coal fires in smoky-dark front parlours of elbow-worn public houses.

The road outside leads grimly to the tidal harbour, lashed full of herring boats battened down against the storms that visit now as regularly as tourists in summer.

There is little movement during the shortened days. Beds stay occupied when there is no fishing and the nets have been seen to. Oil lamps supervise the weekly news from the rest of the island. Shadows are cast and the narrow cobbles between the houses rarely see direct sunlight.

Quilts are stitched and there is the unvarying routine of keeping the household going. Fireblack, scrubbing the doorstep, breadmaking, the Monday washroom mangle, the gossip over the doorstep with the neighbours.

Sundays present little variation to the theme. Some tidy up and in their best suits pay homage to the All Powerful, praying perhaps for a gap in the weather.

Now. The jungle is long tamed and grows tidily in pots and on trellises seen through French windows. Concessions are made to island life. The internet brings a choice of entertainments and world news updated by the minute. Virtual escapism.

Beds stay occupied when the storms lash the golf course though nowadays the Church only half fills. The occasional sortie to Safeway replenishes supplies and the hatches are closed again.

There is little fishing except in the long summer days when generations come to visit and chaos reigns. The noise and the laughter evokes memories of other times.

Walks down to the promenade and the lifeboat lead to a spot of rock pooling around the castle. Ice-cream parloured sticky- faces complain about sandy feet and want lifts back up the hill.

Maturer beer-stirred relaxations outside the marina facing Creek Inn are followed by gourmet dinners back at HQ.

Visits all too short though as long as anyone can cope with.

After early morning goodbyes, it grows quiet again and a deep peace settles over The Grove. Old friends, the couple, fifty years young, reflect on the harmony of their half century together and smile.

For Alun and Eileen Davies

Dolgellau 1961 – 1967

Friday, October 30th, 2009

They made it. Across the Cambrian divide and with it came total immersion for her in the language of the hills. The lush surroundings a fertile backdrop for the young couple with a growing family.

Friday night out with the boys, Saturday mornings refereeing rugby matches. Nursing, the stroll down the hill into the village, post office and corner shop, Christmas came with Babycham and bottle top badges proclaiming Pale Ale by the crate.

Mountains were climbed, sandcastles built and long, cross country journeys spent in the car back to the coalfields.

Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Lampeter, Cross Hands, bus trips into Llanelli, Carmarthen and Swansea.

Carwyn James, The Farmers Arms. Slack coal on tips picked with Rachel Mary drws nesa’. The shed with the gas mask and world war two helmet. Bryn’s pop factory; coloured bottles that could never be successfully hidden from small prying eyes. Welshcakes, visits from Uncle Glan and Anti Lilian, Cei and Clarice.

John the baker and the co-op van vied with the mobile library to provide distraction. Tenby. Cricket in the back garden, hide and seek in the front. The tin bath in front of the fire, the cupboard under the stairs and the cold, dark, downstairs toilet out the back.

For Alun and Eileen Davies

London 1959

Friday, October 30th, 2009

He set off, it seems like yesterday. A valley born boy from the western edge of the South Wales coalfield, the census reported religio-mill-working-mining stock with a farming heritage.

A strong community held together by hard work, hard living and a religion. The green valleys scarred indiscriminately by industrial activity shaped his mindset. Echoes of the chapel pulpit bounced off the walls of the cottages lining the road to the pithead where he lived.

He arrived. The dirty, humanity littered streets didn’t feature in the ad. Still it was an adventure. An adventure mapped out by a job offer and piece of paper with an address to hide in.

Everyone succumbs, for at least a part of their lives. Some make it, some don’t. Those that don’t stay trapped, cage-bound in suffocating concrete, bars gripped desperately through which the stares of the lost meet but don’t see.

Outside these prison bars was a jungle. Stark inner city schools and hospitals, emerging still from a bombed-out, war-ravaged London. National service fresh in the mind, petrol rationing a periodic feature, grey surroundings with splashes of occasional colour relieved the monotony, the smog smothered red of the Routemaster bus.

Nurse! An Irish country girl with a strong character that the convent couldn’t kill. A large family meant farming out the kids. Childhood meant driving the donkey and cart into the town dairy to deliver milk. Green fields the playground unaffected by the war that waged on outside the dream.

Country migrants with eyes open wide and gaping mouths learned the language of the streets. They found new words that spelt feelings. There were moments. Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele and the Two I’s coffee bar, rock and roll and the sound of skiffle.

They met and lost touch. An age sped by and the jungle forced them together again. Age old instincts cut through the formalities.

19th December 1959, Ammanford Roman Catholic Church. Interdenominational with a hint of inter-racial. It rained. It could rain all it liked. No-one cared. Then back to reality and the return to the city. The time stamped struggle of a young family fighting their way upriver.

For Alun and Eileen Davies


Friday, October 16th, 2009

How many times (in nearly a decade)
Did I hear him raise his voice?
And while others raucously their views made
Not he, ‘twas not his way nor choice.

Rather, he liked to take the middle ground
To mediate, to quell and smooth
The clanging cymbal of the “I am” sound,
Conflict?  He’d rather deflect and soothe.

I did hear him raise his voice to sing of Love
And although no Caruso he,
God and His angels rejoiced high above
“A Christian sings! Praise be! Praise be!”

He wondered long at the limitless sky,
At hands that flung stars into space.
Together we’ll sit and watch Red Dwarfs die
When we meet in another place.

I read a poet called Whitman who wrote
“A reasonable man achieves naught”
But JW realised something of note
When those to the Cross, he brought.

Leek Pie for Two

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Leek Pie for Two

“Back to the future” they say
Surely they mean back to the past?
When two suddenly became three –
And another was place set

Eighteen brief years
Of that extra place mat
And then a lifetime
Of cooking for two

“As long as he’s happy, we’re fine”
“We can do what we want now”
But what I want to do
Is cook again for three

Just in case…..

Monday, October 5th, 2009

If your room goes away again, there’s a spare here.

Function room

The function room is back!

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

It’s been a while.

Sometimes you get a feeling and when it comes you just have to follow your instincts. It works for rooms just as much as the punters that occupy them.

So we lost the function room.

It went, disappeared, vamoosed to a place where function rooms go where no-one even knew it was there, where nobody could book it or ask questions. Can we change the seating? Do you do food? Can we have a late bar?

What went wrong?

No-one knows for sure. We got there for early doors one evening and there was the sign: “Function room closed until further notice”. What had happened? Human curiosity took momentary hold but none of the bar staff would come clean. Perhaps they really didn’t know. It was a mystery.

It was there one day and gone the next.

It spent time out of our lives which were poorer without it but we coped. We soon forgot it had been there at all. Occasionally someone would bring it up in conversation but by and large it had gone. Then we stopped talking about it and went back to our usual beer-inspired bar room banter. Where’s the cheapest place to buy car batteries? One hundred and one ways to cook with mushrooms. Guaranteed ways of getting an upgrade to business class on a long haul flight! Not!

Where did it go?

Only it can tell us that. Function rooms are notoriously discrete. What goes inside a function room stays inside a function room. It’s part of the contract. It’s what makes the relationship work. It’s kind of special. And anyway it wasn’t there for us to ask.

Then one evening we came in.

Something was different! Something had changed. We looked around. The condiment tray was there in its usual place on the mantelpiece. The blackboard had a different list of guest beers but that was normal. Guest beers come and go.

I looked at the notice board.

I probably stared at it for some time before the realisation hit me. I was only half concentrating, listening to the conversation at the small round table where I was sat. There it was!  A new posting  shouting at me in bold  black lettering on white paper .

“The Function Room Is Back”

The staff carried on as if it had never been away. Nobody mentioned that time in our lives where it had not been a part of our lives. We still carried on talking our undoubtedly witty conversations, the meaningless drivel that should stay inside the pub, where it belongs.

But now there was more.

Christmas Parties @ The Victoria. Bookings now being taken. Speak to the events coordinator at Charlotte House (or Neil).

The function room is back!

Guest Beers, Victoria, Union Road, 2nd October 2009

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Phoenix Arizona (4.1%) £2.95
Brewster’s Decadence (4.4%) £2.95
Everard’s Sundance (4.0%) £2.95
Potbelly Aisling (4.0%) £2.85
Weston’s Traditional Cider (6.0%) £3.00


Thursday, October 1st, 2009