Thursday, June 25, 2009

Damp Knickers and Men of Harlech

Theme Thursday and I'm not going to bang on about how our summer is better than yours, or lecture you northerners on the fine art of slip, slop slappin' . . . . .no, little reminiscence so gather round, "Are you feeling comfortable? . . .Then I'll begin . . "

Once upon time, before we emigrated to Australia, it was my mum and dad's thing, to sojourn into Wales each summer for the Annual Holiday. I was only 11 when we moved here and remember at least three annual holidays of this kind. My mother being Welsh, it usually comprised a couple of weeks on the Mid to South Wales coast and visits to ageing aunts and uncles who smothered us in wet kisses and let us pick raspberries in their gardens, play on their harps (yep Aunty Ruby had a huge harp in her parlour) and loaded us with Blackberry and Apple Pies and 'sweeties'.

One year, we rented a little old Welsh Cottage. Clearly there was not Internet to check the accommodation out but we were assured that this sizeable slate cottage was in picturesque Mumbles with ocean views and had plenty of sleeping room for our family of three kids, two parents, Babysis in-utero, one large Labrador and for some obscure reason, my father's parents . My 'always seemed old' yet gorgeous and bossomy, ever-so-clever knitter and cuddler Grandma and blind Grandad who did amazing magic tricks and told tales of times hard and wars fought but shared his egg sandwiches with me on a whim.

I don't remember much about the little house other than I think three of us slept in a large bed, it was damp but being kids we didn't care and it rained a lot. My grandma complained, being in the habit of draping her knickers over the end of the bed, that they were damp in the morning (no credit given to Grandad of course) and for some reason the stove wouldn't cook hot enough to brown chips. Weird what you remember.

Anyway, being the typical British Holidaymakers, hell bent on a good day at the beach and acquiring that oh-so-obvious strap tan . .we wondered down to Mumbles beach. Deck chairs were erected, the gaz stove lit (Can you imagine? Actually making tea at the beach!), the wind breaks fastened and small children cajoled the reluctant old man, who really was very brave in hindsight, to splosh among the breakers in the freezing Atlantic . . or was it the Irish Sea . . either way it was cold!

Grandad was escorted to his chair, dutifully sat and offered a cuppa. The 'ladies' remained on the beach gasbagging no doubt whilst we exhausted our poor dad in the water, made wonderful sand boats and castles and prevented him from actually benefitting from the boiling kettle on the Gaz stove.

Hours must have passed and as the sun faded and even our non responsive nerve endings began to make us shiver . . or was it the ocean washing over our beautifully carved four seater sand speedboat? I don't remember. Either way, the time had come to down buckets and spades and head back for some warmth and succour. Then we saw him . . .

Unused to sunshine . . poor Grandad had been sat in the same spot for over 3 hours and had acquired a delightful duo complexion, red as a beetroot on one side and white as a lily on the other. Clearly the heat wasn't enough to alert him to the fact that he was being burned. Not being able to see, he hadn't followed the path of the sun. God everyone felt awful but he just sat there with an inane smile on his face, he'd had a wonderful day sitting in the sun, sipping tea and listening to the ocean and children giggling and seabirds squawking.

We pulled him out of his deckchair when he finally protested "How much sand is here?" . . my dad replied "plenty why?" Grandad asked: "is it pretty flat?" . . .again my Dad assured him there was plenty of beach . . "Well you could run for a mile without tripping over anything. Why? " . .My Grandad then asked to be pointed in a safe direction and . . .he was off . . he ran . . . he ran as fast as a man of 70 could run . . he did those funny Charlie Chaplin heel kicking things . . he waved his arms . . .his thick mop of white hair springing off his head like the spray from the see . . . this half painted man, red on one side, white on the other let go of the hands that had led him for so long and just ran along the beach. The dog barked, we squealed with delight, Grandma worried. My father ran with him . . .then ahead of him . .and caught this amazing free man in full flight on film.

You know I had to think a bit about this one. I'm very grateful to being forced to write for a theme because it makes me think about things I haven't thunked about for a long time. Watching the video (now transferred from film) of my Grandad enjoying such freedom with no fear of falling, no need of an arm to rest upon was indeed wonderful, even if we had left him out to burn until he looked like 'two-face' is priceless.

Not the best summer I've ever had but when combined with home made buttery 'watch-while-they-made-it, ice cream in Harlech (complete with a family rendition of the famous hymn . . just because!), a nice red-and-white striped, straw boater hat and a lump of Swansea rock . . it wasn't a bad summer at all!



Happy 21st Paduan!

38 comments:

Melanie said...

You kept my attention span from start to finish which is no small feat considering I have trouble concentrating on newpaper headlines with more than 3 words. What a brilliantly captivating snippet of Baino. Cheers!

otin said...

I love it when old memories pop up, or when someone reminds you of something that you have forgotten about!

Don't Bug Me! said...

Reminds me of all the wet, soggy, damp, cramped, chaotic and wonderful family holidays in various parts of England, Wales and Ireland that I had while growing up. I love and cherish those memories, even if they are all a bit jumbled up now and I can't quite remember which memories belong to which holidays.

Ribbon said...

Lovely memories Baino.
Beautiful to read the closeness of your family... in more ways than one :-)

great post ~ and the thought of making tea at the beach is a hoot!

x Ribbon

lakeviewer said...

This is such a sweet memoir piece, worth a second visit.

I came in from Ribbon's blog, and I'm so glad to have stopped to read your story about vacationing in Wales.

subtorp77 said...

Baino, this reminded me of all those camping triips I went on as a wee lad. Did not care for the soggy ones! Great story and thanks for sharing it :)

Kath Lockett said...

This is gorgeous Baino, a really lovely memory to share with us. I'm still chuckling at:
"My grandma complained, being in the habit of draping her knickers over the end of the bed, that they were damp in the morning (no credit given to Grandad of course)"
.....you cheeky thing!

Sarah Lulu said...

That was a lovely lovely story ....
my own parents are Welsh, but sadly I haven't been there yet.

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful memory with us, with such wonderful detail.

nick said...

A wonderful memory. It's easy not to realise just how hot it is. I got badly burnt once at a local beach and was shedding skin for days. Amazing how at one time dogged Brit holidaymakers would sit on beaches in howling winds and freezing cold (some still do) and say they were having a fabulous time.

Baino said...

Why thanks Ms Mel. Strange how I can't remember what I did last week but somehow remember an event when I was about 9!

Pop up's right Otin. It took Theme Thursday to bring it back! I remember soggy chips too and my mother going ballistic because she couldn't get the oil hot enough for crispy jobs! The striped boater is on video so maybe I didn't actually 'remember' that.

Sounds like me DBM. I mix them up. I know we spent a couple of years at Oxwych Bay and always ended up in Swansea and when very young . . my baby bro was in a pram so I must have been about 5 or 6 in Anglesea . . I remember a big jellyfish!

Well sadly Ribbon as we get older, we're less close, the parents and grandparents are all but gone and the cousins are spread all over the place. Christmas is really the only time we all get together. I know . .and with canvas wind breaks as well! My poor father must have been purple with cold! Kids as we all know have no nerve endings!

Thanks Lakeviewer and welcome. I've seen you around. If you're going to read any rubbish on this blog, Thursdays and Sundays are probably the best.

No worries subby . . been on a few of those wet camping trips as an adult too mind! Much more fun after the event than during!

Oh Plugger you should have seen her knickers, they make our Bridget Joneses look positively naughty! Gawd, now everyone knows what sort of underwear I wear.

Haven't been there myself since 1995 Sarah. I'm yet to do a piece on the Love Spoons, remember we talked about that?

Nick . . the worst thing is when the Brits come over here. (and the Irish, I've never seen blisters like those the Paduan had on the tops of his feet!) The sun here is vicious, you can burn literally in 10 minutes if not protected!

Miles McClagan said...

I can't do magic tricks at all

Tommy Cooper probably put me off, it seemed like hard work to make magic look so bad...

Kate said...

How brilliant those holidays were! We travelled 'home' to Ireland every year - lots of trains and the mail boat from Holyhead.

Sounds much the same beach wise as yours (maybe its just an age thing) - a question - did you have one of those ruched swimsuits that never quite fitted properly?

conortje said...

such a wonderful and beautifully told story - thank you!

laughingwolf said...

wonderful wee tale, thx baino :)

Baino said...

Miley I do remember Tommy Cooper. Neve liked Northern comedians much and big apologies for not visiting but your solicitations need time and consideration. I will duck over tomorrow night and give your dissertations the credit they deserve . . or maybe I'll just leave a comment!

Kate after revealing that I wear comfy knickers, I'm not confessing to a rather nice pink ruched swimsuit that used to crawl up my arse . . oops, wasn't as pretty a the Nunawadding swimming costume with the hip frill!

Conor, I'm in the presence of a master storyteller so thank you very much!

Wuffa, what's with the 'wee' do all you Nova Scotians talk like Scots but sound like Canadians? Quick Kenny's peeing on the carpet!

Brian Miller said...

what a wonderful story. i can see and feel the joy of grandpa running down the beach. put a smile on my face. you know i feel the same about TT, forcing old memories through the soup. have a great day!

Baino said...

Thanks Brian but it's bed time for me! Yeh . .good times. I like that a theme makes me think a little.

ashleigh said...

What a great story - thank you!

Poetikat said...

Firstly, anyplace called "Mumbles" is somewhere I'd want to be! Secondly, your depiction of your grandparents is particularly charming. I really enjoyed this trip down your memory lane.

(My great-grandparents on my mom's side were from Wales. They came to Nova Scotia in the 1800s.)

Kat

Candie Bracci said...

This was a great post and lovely memories despite of what happened to your grandfather.

Kate said...

ooops I think you just did!!! Frills eh? Weren't you the lucky one? And why oh why did my Mum insist on me wearing that ludicrous white bathing cap?

Happy days indeed!!!

Ces said...

A beautiful summer memory dear Baino!
Thank you for sharing.

I start my project implementation when I return. Right now I am celebrating birthdays with my twin.

Ropi said...

Life would be much cooler without Internet but too bad recently the lack of net would often cause difficulties in our lives.

I haven't still forgiven your "gawky" comment.

Baino said...

We aim to please here Ashleigh

Great name isn't it Kat? One of the few Welsh names I can pronounce! My mother came from Lougha near Llanelli and your don't wanna know how to say that!

God Kate, I'd forgotten about the hats! Something about catching cold if you got your hair wet!

Ah Ces, well enjoy New York before the big project, I wish I was with you!

Ropi,now I have the inerternet, I don't think I could live without it. Oh,c'mon now, I was only joking. You're lovely, handsome, intelligent .. and you have beautiful long legs. You can call me fatty if that makes you feel better!

Pam said...

Ooooo I loved this post Baino, the family story, that priceless film clip!Hope the bugle guy had time to down the instrument and pick up a weapon-can't do much damage to a Zula with a trumpet!I love Wales and when they sang the Welsh anthem at the Treorchy Male Choir concert here in Adelaide,it was wonderful because our Australian anthem seemed tame and embarrassing in comparison when we all sang along to it. I would live in Wales if I could. I bought back a love spoon, some beach pebbles, some slate and little grey rocks and many wonderful memories. Again, such a great post, and thanks for your recent visit and comment.xx

Tom said...

that was greattttt! I love the thought of grnadpa running happily on the beach...tremendous stuff!

Ronda Laveen said...

You are so right about writing making you think of long ago memories. Made me remember summers with my grandpa. Awww, he's been gone so long now.

The Man at the Pub said...

Great story. But I don't get the Zulu reference. Did I miss something?

Baino said...

Pam they can belt out a song alright. Well known for their wonderful voices and sheep-shagging. Oops .

It was quite a site Tom I can assure you . . he forgot his sunburn and had a blast! of course when it was over, he dutifully pulled his comb out of his pocket and tamed the flyaway hair!

Write em down Ronda . .there'll be a TT post just waiting!

The clip is from the film Zulu TMATP, and only relevant because they're singing Men of Harlech . .famous Welsh song often reserved for Rugby!

Renee said...

All I can picture is your Grandpa running on the beach. That sounds like such a joyous sight.

Can you imagine just picking up and running. I can't even imagine the spunk that would take.

Love Renee xoxo

River said...

What a great summer memory. your grandpa sounds like an amazing old man, to run along a beach at 70 and blind!
The best part would be watching the ice-cream being made. I can just picture all of you, standing around watching the churn, bowls and spoons in hand, licking your lips, anxiously waiting for the serving. What was your favourite flavour?

i beati said...

appreciating the simpler things and times makes you awfully rich I would say !!sandy

Ropi said...

And on History class we have seen this movie. We made fun of it but only because it was so horrible. We wanted to buy Zulu 2 for our teacher as a joke.

Baino said...

Renee, it was the most impulsive I have ever seen him. I used to love visiting because he had fried egg sandwiches for breakfast . . .I think of him ever time I have one! I'd also spend hours with him listening to 'talking books' only they were played on vinyl of course! I still have his braille dominoes, we used to play those with him too!

River, I have a feeling the ice cream episode was a different holiday but I remember a big glass window and buckets of buttermilk and sugar being poured into what looked like a cement mixer. Funny what sticks in your brain! I think we had vanilla with raspberry sauce.

Indeed Sandy. I rarely take time out these days . .I'm training myself to do so!

Ropi it's 'in' history class read your dictionary!

I've never actually seen the movie, it was the only clip I could find n You Tube with a hearty rendition of the song "Men of Harlech"

unstranger said...

Excellent post. Must drop by again

jay said...

Oh, gosh .. your poor Grandad! LOL! But how wonderful for him to have had that run along the beach in total freedom! WHEEEEEEEE!!!

Love the Men of Harlech vid. I remember seeing that movie as a teenager and being quite stirred by that scene!

lettuce said...

what a wonderful story and memory, i loved reading this

Baino said...

Welcome over Unstranger . . so, don't be a stranger!

Yeh he was a sweetie Jay . . we take these things so forgranted don't we? I even worry about tripping over things and I've got 20/20 (well with my specs on anyway). I've never seen the movie but the song's pretty stirring!

Thanks Lettuce. Apologies, I'm a little slow catching up with the Theme Thursdayers. Hope to have visited them all by Tuesday! GAH then it will all start again.