Friday 7th September.
Just as well that that the road to Wales, the M4, is a relatively straight and fast, and easy to follow….so that even with Yineka-Mou’s instructions, I managed to find the new Severn Bridge quite easily. What a fantastic bridge it is too…it reminds me of The Rio-Antirrio bridge in Patras, Greece. A few minutes later we were in Wales, all three of us. I haven’t mentioned yet that the purpose of the trip is to honour the commitment I made to my Mother. She made me promise that when she died, I was to take her ashes back to Wales to be scattered in the same spot that she had scattered my fathers ashes some 30 years earlier.
So here we were, Yineka-Mou and I in front, and mum’s ashes in a small box on the back seat. Welcome home Dyl, we said to her, as we passed the sign that said “Croeso i Gymru” After about 10 Kms into Wales, we came to the toll gates…and the fee is £6…. What a cheek, they now charge you to get into Wales …( but not to leave, clever the Welsh!) I gave the lady toll-keeper a £5 note, and a £1 coin, she studied the note for a few moments and asked in a broad Taffy accent ” where’d yu get this nawt ( note) mun?”
” Why ” I asked, ” is there something wrong with it?” ( now I must admit that it had been in my possession for many years, one left over from my Chandris Lines brown envelope cache maybe! So it may have been that she was too young to remember the colour and shape of a good old English ‘Fiver’ ) ” Well, it is very old look yu” she said apologetically…” and it ‘as the Bank of England on it.” “I’m very old as well” I replied ” and since when did the Welsh stop taking English money?” I also told her that I was born in Wales, and shouldn’t have to pay to get in… Luckily she had a since of humour, and I had another ‘newer’ bank note. She laughed and wished me ” Croeso”
After passing Cardiff, we were now intent on looking for the right turnoff to Bridgend, that would get us on the right road to where we were heading, which is the town (town?) I was born in, Maesteg. …. and where my Auntie Marion still lives in the very same house where my Mother gave birth to me. Of course, despite my precise directions, my navigator again managed to take the wrong turnoff to Bridgend…which given the weird directions in both Welsh and English, was an easy mistake. Why the authorities bother to put up signs in both Welsh and English, when only about 1% of the population in South Wales can speak the native language, amazes me. How much does it cost the taxpayer in extra taxes…and purely for political reasons I suspect.
After a little detour through the picturesque market town of Bridgend ( only a Welshman would have the gall to call it picturesque.) we were eventually on the right road to Maesteg…and that was/is a VERY picturesque drive. About 5 miles from Maesteg, the road passes thru the little village of Coytrahen, which is where my paternal Grandparents were from, and where I spent many happy holidays as a young boy. We slowed down as we drove through the village, and the little terraced two story cottage at number 3 Victoria Buildings. My father was born there, along with his 14 brothers and sisters…how my grandparents managed to fit them all in to such a tiny, three up/two down cottage is amazing.
We’d be coming back to Coytrahen tomorrow, as it was here, on the banks of the Llynfi River, that my Mother had scattered my Dads ashes 30 years earlier, and where she was about to join him again in the self same spot. How did we know which spot to scatter them… Dilys was a clever lady, and had shown Yineka-Mou and my daughter the spot when they were together in Wales 15 years earlier. To be certain they wouldn’t forget, she also took the precaution of showing the exact same spot to her niece, Dawn.
We arrived on the outskirts of Maesteg, and drove along the narrow streets of Garth, and then turned into Heol Fain, and my Aunt Marion’s home, still called ‘ Glan-Y-Nant’ Bungalow. Not quite as I remembered it from my child hood, as what was once on my Great Grandparents farm, was now surrounded by new houses. Yineka-Mou and I were warmly greeted by my Aunt, and of course offered the first of many cups of tea. ( I don’t know what it is, maybe the water, but she makes the best cup of tea you will ever taste!) We handed over my Mums ashes to Aunt Marion, the only remaining sibling of the Davies mob, and she took them into her bedroom, the same bedroom that my mother was born in, so that Dilys’s remains would spend the last night with her.
After more tea and chats, Yineka-Mou and I drove off to our lodgings for the next two nights, Hazelwood House, a cute little B&B between Coytrahen and Bridgend.
We were both tired, and in need of more than a drink of tea, and when the proprietor kindly offered to drive us to Pen-Y-Fai to nearby pub for a meal, at The Pheasant Inn, and of course we gratefully accepted. I can now partake of some tasty Welsh beer, more than if I was driving myself.
From the outside The Pheasant Inn looks like a very nice quaint country pub, and typical pub inside… However, the food could be best be described as Motorway Menu Food without the bother of driving… How about Yineka’s choice of Chicken Madras curry…with rice AND chips! Surprisingly, she said it was very tasty.. I opted for the safe choice of pie of the day..which was Shepard’s pie…again tasty though… ( remember, this is the first food for 24 hours that wasn’t airline food, so I guess my review of the this needs to be put in context)
After Dinner and a few more drinks , at about 11:pm we staggered of into the dark lane-ways of deepest Wales , heading back to the B&B. (so glad I didn’t drive now!)
Yineka Mou seems better at navigating after a few drinks, so we found our way back to a very welcoming bed at Hazelwood House, quite safely and easily. Tony, the landlord was up waiting for us, so that he could lock up….it seems we were the last of the guests to get home…obviously Bridgend night life not a great temptation to them…
A BIG day tomorrow, for the ceremony of scattering Dyl’s ashes, followed by a wake at a pub in Maesteg…40 of my relatives have promised to turn up for it…I had no idea that I had that many….so I’d better be prepared…
The ‘Special of the day’ at the Pheasant in Pen-Y-Fai…although 2 days later I notice that it was still being advertised as the ‘SotD’… Shepard’s Pie with Baked Potato, veg and a BIG bowl of gravy..bloody delicious!