July-August 16

10th August 2016
July-August 2016

Here I am on platform One, Borth station. There is only one platform, so I expect that the old sign is a bit of fun. If the train goes right, it's for Aberystwyth. To the left, then Machynlleth and beyond, here I come, heading for Paris.

An age of queues later, the shock of sunshine, and a hat still at home in dreary Ceredigion.

No hat, no shade.

Paris = strikes, and so it was that I had to walk a long hot way to my petite hotel room in Bercy, which was just a few hundred yards from Bercy Village and the restaurants and twee shops.

If I hadn't been so tired I would have visited the BnF, an old haunt of sorts, where unbelievably, in a dimly remembered life, I once presented a multi-media paper to an international conference. Now it's come to this!


There's a clue to my present visit in the morning paper.

Failing to get a direct return ticket from the UK to Lyon, I opted for a flight to Paris, travelling between the capital and Lyon by train.

A couple of hours out of Gare de Lyon, via beautiful views (and only one small wind farm - so different to Wales) and I arrive in the comparative furnace of Lyon.

Metro, funicular, a steep walk and I arrive at the hastily booked 'last room available in the universe' hotel. Or is it a cathedral? Or perhaps it's a mirage.

A stroll back to the church that overlooks the city to find a cheap sandwich and hopefully a hat. I found both, so didn't have to eat the hat, or rather cap, which has 'Lyon' stitched along the rim. I'm very taken with this new cap.

The panorama as seen from the cathedral.

JPii looks upon us all.

A small crew from Llanfaircaereinion wave the flag, and are inundated with requests for a photo. Everyone wants to be Welsh on this day. Someone tries to explain to a Japanese tourist how to visit the gang's website. Their approach eventually is to repeat the incomprehensible instructions very slowly and quite loudly. 'LLANFAIR-WITH-A-LION-ON-THE-END'. I tried the address: it didn't work.

Down the hill the city centre streets are ribbons of red, as Wales and Portugal supporters sing and dance and drink their dream. A police van pushes forward through a big group of Welsh and Portuguese who are dancing and singing together, totally blocking the road. Blotto to any differences, bound by happiness and released by beer. In the main group of reds, an over exuberant fan, unaware of his own physical frailties, performs a striptease, all the way down to where, from the lighter shade of pale made visible, the sun aint ever shone. An embarrassed young lady remonstrates, and within a second he's sober, hobbling from foot to foot trying to get his legs through his Y-fronts.

"Don't take me home" wherever that might be.

Lyon stadium, complete with, erm, lion.

Round he rolled his baleful eyes that witnessed huge affliction and dismay... (or something similar).

Wales are now 'A' list as far as the bank of press 'togs are concerned.

Stand and deliver the anthems. Ours seemed very 'out of sync'. A bad omen.

The end. We lost. They were better. Ronaldo was Ronaldo. Happy, sad, and everyone remains to sing. Outside, a hoarse, cyclical one verse rendition of 'Calon lân' is absorbed into the night air.

Squeezed into a tram, surrounded by Welsh fans from London, Dublin and New York and Cardiff, I get into the city centre eventually, only to have missed by a long while, the last funicular. So a very long sweaty climb up to the hotel, crossing from side to side to avoid the very drunk and the very dodgy, but not the corpsed young Frenchman unconscious with his legs in the road. The most dodgy of the dodgy topless young turks comes over, and we wake the corpse up, and they're both away at speed, each propping up the other. No agro, no hassle, just blokes looking out for each other.

At the hotel, I stand still at the desk for as long as it takes to get my key and say thanks for the complements 'You have inspired us. We are so sorry that you lost...' Cold shower. Bed. Two seconds of sleep and it's time for that buffet (i.e. stuff yourself 'till you're on the brink of throwing up) breakfast.

Standing in the queue at check-in for over two hours as a lone Flybe lady millimeter by millimeter, processes our sweaty hoard, makes my big breakfast the best idea of the day. Another hour or more of queuing for scanners and we're suddenly fast tracked through passport control. My feet are grateful.

Airport, design defeats utility.

Days of numbness pass, until eventually it's time to check-in my voucher at Gwesty Cymru. The voucher had run out due to me being unable for well over two months to eat properly. However, now minus a tooth, I was able to enjoy a sumptuous meal. The pudding, a blackcurrant / redcurrant concoction was sublime. If you're visiting Aber, book a table.

Duty calls and a couple of thousand years worth of lives from the local chapels are bussed to y Bala. As we depart, the driver receives a call to say that his mother has passed away. A subdued start to the day, no sing-song, not even a hymn.

Everyone behaved in a relaxed, contented manner on the train trip along the lake. However, the teddies placed on a seat opposite us by a couple of English train buffs looked a little stern. The 'daddy' had a large linen bag which eventually revealed another teddy, to whom he spoke in a daddyish way, and the little teddy was allowed to hang out of the window to enjoy the view. Perhaps the other bears were jealous of this gross favouritism.

Canolfan 'Byd Mary Jones' celebrates the bible society, and tells the tale of Mary Jones, who walked barefoot across the mountains to reach Thomas Charles (a famous preacher) at y Bala, to purchase a bible of her own. This act prompted the formation of what eventually became the Bible Society. The place new and spangley and full of tech, and is definitely worth a visit.

Nearby was the grave of 'Bob Tai'r Felin' a popular folk singer of my parent's generation. He is immortalised as 'Taid' (grandpa) in the film 'Noson Lawen'.

Back at the ranch, a Red Kite has taken to resting on a fence pole to the rear of our house. A few years ago this would have had me erupting in conservational delight, but now it's just rather ordinary and commonplace.

A nice evening at last, and kids from the holiday caravan park at Clarach enjoy a cool drink as their parents watch the sun sink into the golden sea.

Another evening at the same spot, and as the sun settles to bed, a dreamy mist floats around Craig y Fulfran.

Surprisingly, I did manage to do quite a bit of work during and in-between all these little jaunts. One trip on the most glorious of our summer days was to Pembrokeshire, to photograph two locations for my next book. Marian and I set off early to make a day of it...



Trwyn Strwmbwl

Garn Fawr

Melin Tregwynt

Y Stryd - Abereiddi

Diving at Abereiddi. This is the 'Blue Lagoon, a disused slate quarry right on the coast, which is used as a location for adventure sports and coasteering. A few years ago it was used as a venue for the Red Bull diving challenge.

Kayaks on a silver sea, Abereiddi

Porthgain, time to turn back home after a portion of fish and chips at the award winning quayside cafe. A few years ago this charming place was very Welsh (language), but it now seems very anglisized and in the throes of gentrification. Perhaps I'm wrong.

Next a trip to London - V&A and Proms (Marian). Rushing together down the street I noticed this, and there are no prizes for guessing the tune that re-embedded itself in my ear.

After London, a blast of fresh air at Ynyslas. There were lots of coastguards about, marking unexploded ordnance with blue tape. Not that these dogs were worried.

The downside of having a Red Kite on a pole in the field, is that the local rabbit population shifted to the comparative safety of our lawn.

Another nice evening, though surprisingly cool, and a jaunt around Nant-y-moch to Cwm Ceulan. This beautiful valley, above Tal-y-bont, is not for the feint hearted and definitely not for those who cannot reverse. Be warned.

All of a sudden i's August, and time to visit the National Eisteddfod at Abergavenny.
The volume 'Llangrannog a fi' Steff Jenkins had arrived in the post, and I wondered how the photo I took for the cover would work in the midst of hundreds of other books, in drawing attention and sales. (It is, I'm pleased to, say nearly topping the current bestseller list).

On the way down, we stopped at Trefeca to see the Hywel Harris exhibition, and had a lovely and informative chat with Richard, one of the custodians.

Nearby was Llangorse Lake, which has an ancient man-made island. And ducks, a great many ducks.

Our accommodation for the duration of the Eisteddfod - a lovely apartment right by the falls at Llangynidr.

We ventured via shuttle bus to the Maes, in good time to sign copies of 'Ceredigion: at my feet' at the Welsh Books Council stand. Thanks to all who purchased copies - I really hope you enjoy the volume.

I was there too to support the launch of 'The Archaeology of Upland Gwent' by Frank Olding, with excellent photographs by Toby Driver.

Who could this be, fiddling with his phone - a message from Jeremy perhaps?!

I venture to ask Eurig Salisbury, winner of the Literature Medal for his volume 'Cai' for a picture.

The next day, around and around I go, seeing what's to be seen on the Maes, hoping for a photographic muse...


Robin Huw Bowen

Y Lle Celf (Art pavilion)

Mari Thomas reflecting

Ruth Jên

Debbie Edwards - crown maker

A hat by Alison Todd

Lady Llanofer

Towards a gig by Huw Chiswell

Fans of Band Pres Llareggub

Band Pres Llareggub

Huw Chiswell

Saturday morning and time to depart our lovely riverside digs, and embark on a single track journey over the hills to Hay on Wye, and then home.

The Usk river at Crughywel / Crickhowell

The famous bridge

Partrishow church

The crooked church at Cwmyoy

Llanddewi (Nant Hodni) / Llanthony

The Priory

Llanthony show

An aptly named local ice-cream van

Capel y Ffin church

Baptist chapel, Capel y Ffin

We couldn't enter the chapel, as it was firmly locked, however I took this (somewhat poignant) photograph of the fresh cut flowers inside a window, pressing against the flowered panes.

The Gospel Pass from Capel y Ffin - revealing one of the best views in Wales. It's said that you can see nine counties from the highest point.

Wye Valley

A quick coffee and ice cream at Hay, and the dark clouds roll in. Back to a rather cold and dull Ceredigion. 'Don't take me home, please don't take me home...'

Thanks for reading this far, and as a reward, another beautiful Clarach sunset to close

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