We’ll keep a welcome …

Cymru AM byth (Wales forever)

Aeneas Middleton

I have travelled, for business and leisure, to many different countries in my 65 years. However, until last weekend, I had not taken a holiday in Wales. This week’s Reflection is of my first such mini break there.

I did visit Wales many times on business. But, as with any business trip, it was a car, office, restaurant, hotel, car type visit. Affording little opportunity to peruse the surrounding area.

I’ve attended a Bruce Springsteen concert in the Millennium Stadium and celebrated a birthday in Cardiff. Still, I cannot say I took the opportunity to explore Wales’ cosmopolitan Capital city much on either occasion.

Regular readers may also recall I inadvertently made a fleeting visit to Wales on the day I retired. Who knows? My boarding the wrong train may have been my subconscious telling me it was time I paid Wales a proper visit. On the other hand, of course, it may simply be my inability to read a station departure board…

This first holiday was a short stay with friends who ‘emigrated’ (well, one did. The other was a Welsh exile) from England to the Ceredigion area of Wales some years ago. And what a lovely stay it proved to be.

Tucked away in the countryside our friend’s early Victorian house is also near the coast. Surrounding their home are the gentle sounds of nature rather than urban cacophony. Depending on which direction that one looked, there were rabbits breakfasting, cattle ruminating, sheep flocking and horses looking to pass the time of day. On one stroll, we even caught sight of some Alpacas. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised, given the close relationship of Wales with Patagonia.

Being we were so close to the coast and with such warm weather, the seaside beckoned. We arrived at one of the many coastline bays to find the sea lapping the edge of a broad swath of sand. The receding tide offering opportunity to explore the caves that bordered the bay. I may not see the Mediterranean this year, but the Irish Sea made for an ample substitute. Mimicking in appearance how Van Gogh saw the Mediterranean,

“… you don’t always know if it’s green or purple — you don’t always know if it’s blue — because a second later, its changing reflection has taken on a pink or grey hue.”

Travelling further along the coast to the bustling seaside town of New Quay, we caught glimpses of dolphins and porpoises cavorting not far offshore. Dylan Thomas often visited the place. He also lived there for a while. It’s said it may have offered inspiration for parts of ‘Under Milkwood’.

Overall, it was a wonderful break with good company in the beautiful countryside. I think I can say that my first ‘proper’ visit to Wales will not be my last.

My music this week combines today’s Reflection with that from a couple of weeks back about cinema. My grandfather was not a great cinema-goer in later life. I only went once with him, and that was to see the film ‘Zulu’. It would have been 1964 or 65.

Most people will know of the film. The heavily romanticised and historically inaccurate retelling of the Defence of Rorke’s Drift in 1879. Some 150 British and colonial troops repulsed many fragmented attacks by over 3,000 Zulu warriors. There is a scene in the film where the defenders sing a version (there is no one version) of ‘Men of Harlech’ to boost their morale. The original song recalls the spirited defence of Harlech against an invader in the 1400s and now has a close association with Wales. In truth, there were only ten soldiers of Welsh origin within the defenders at Rorke’s Drift, but that scene has stayed with me ever since. Here’s a male voice choir giving an extraordinary rendition,



In the Renaissance period of my post-career life …

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