My sister had been invited to a school reunion in Llandudno last week - and, by an interesting coincidence, I had been educated in the same region when my mother and I evacuated to north Wales during WW2. However, although I was born a year before the war started, my sister wasn't born until after it was over and she was intrigued to know where her mother and brother had lived during the hostilities. So, she asked me to join her in a journey down two memory lanes and, at the same time, we could visit our aunt who was in a care home an hour or two further down the north Wales coast.
Being retired, I had the time (and the local knowledge) to find suitable accomodation for our visit and I decided it would make sense to stay in a neighbouring hotel when visiting our aunt and a nice B & B residence when visiting the region where my mother and I had lived.
There didn't seem to be much sense in using two vehicles during the whole of the visit. So, as my sister and I would be approaching from different directions, I had arranged with the extremely helpful owner of the B & B to be allowed to leave one car with them whilst we used the other to continue the journey to the care home. By the time of the visit, however, I had bought a top-box for Trixie, my new trike (see below) and I left my car at home.
As I had only owned the trike for about a month - and not being entirely sure how my aged body might cope with quite a long ride, my original plan had been to break the journey from Surrey to north Wales by staying overnight with friends in The Cotswolds. Unfortunately, however, having packed everything into various storage compartments and donned several layers of warm clothing, waterproofs, and a new high-viz helmet, I discovered that Trixie's battery was flat and I was obliged to delay departure until the following day whilst she was re-charged. As a consequence, instead of cruising along A and B roads, I was obliged to use the M25, M40, M6 and M54 - and, although the experience wasn't entirely unpleasant - a fundamental reason for buying a trike was to enjoy 'touring'; something which isn't that easy on the UK motorway system.
In the event, although my departure had been delayed by some communication with the dealer from whom I bought the trike, I still managed to meet up with my sister little more than half-an-hour later than planned and, after parking Trixie in a convenient corner, we set off towards the first place on 'my' memory lane - and that was my first school. Nowadays, it's a rather smart hotel (below - left) where the owner and staff were incredibly welcoming - allowing us to see most of the bedrooms and, in particular, the one which had been my dormitory (it was a boarding school, BTW).
After our 'guided tour' of the former manor, we headed off to pay a quick visit to the care home - the large white building near the middle of the photo (above - right). We spent about half-an-hour with our aunt before heading off to our hotel - which was also a large white building (above - centre).
n.b. Most of the smaller photographs in this blog can be enlarged by 'clicking' on them.
On the following morning, before going to the care home, we visited a small village which, although I had driven past in hundreds of time for the best part of seventy years, I had never actually seen the small - and very picturesque - harbour.
One of the reasons I had particularly wanted to visit the port area was that I had learned (on the Welsh, S4C, TV channel documentary) that a local bylaw restricted use of their harbour to local residents; a situation which appealed to my Celtic ancestry because it's ambience was in sharp contrast to that found in some other harbours in the region - which seem to have been taken over by urban yuppies (see below).
Our aunt had, recently, been transferred from one room to another; so, after visiting the harbour, we returned to the care home and my sister (herself a former owner of a similar establishment) spent most of the day sorting everything into a more manageable condition. At the same time, she put together a shopping list for me to attend to.
It was about half-past-four in the afternoon when we left the care home which meant that we were in time to visit an ancient church which was just across the road from our hotel. Later that evening, we entertained a couple who have been very supportive to our aunt before, during, and since her move to the care home. Interestingly, the wife and I had attended the village school together after my mother and I moved to her parent's smallholding for the latter part of the war.
On the following morning, whilst my sister spent a little more time tidying our aunt's room, I was sent to do a little more shopping before we bid our "Farewells" and headed off on our trip down memory lane and, on the way, we spent some time looking around the village where our grandfather was born.
Later, we stopped off at the small town where the second boarding school I attended was located and, once again, we were treated with enormous consideration by the present owner of the property and I could identify the room which had been my dormitory. Equally interesting, I was able to locate and pose in the place shown in a photograph which appears in a book about the school. Those who knew me at the time, are pretty certain that I'm in the original photo (the right-hand boy of the three furthest from the camera - below - left).
Later, I was reunited with Trixie.
During our absence, the owners of the B & B (below) had been kind enough to have covered her with a tarpaulin and she started first time. That evening, after a fish and chip supper in the town centre, I spent a pleasant half-hour or so, chatting to the aforementioned owners. Interestingly, it seems almost certain that the house - which had previously been owned by a doctor - would have been where my mother and I would have received medical attention during WW2.
On the following day, I showed my sister around Snowdonia; in particular, the area where my mother and I lived - visiting what is said to be the second-oldest church in Wales and a house on the shore of a beautiful lake (below) which I often visited as I wandered over those hills when I was four or five. That particular house, by the way, has retained a special place in my memory. However, for some reason or another, I don't recall the memorial which is located quite close to it.
Evidently, it was fortunate that we were visiting on a rather damp day in May because - according to local residents - during the summer months, the quiet tranquility which I recall is a thing of the past thanks to the antics of more of the aforementioned urban yuppies, their off-roaders, speedboats, and water-skis..
On the following day (last Saturday) my sister set off to her reunion and I decided to ride back home via the care home so that I could deliver a couple of things my sister had bought for our aunt after we left her. However, glad though I was to spend a short time with her again, it proved to be a slightly unwise decision because I encountered some atrocious weather on the way and, later, as I headed back south, it showed no signs of abating.
Indeed, by the time I had reached Shropshire, although the waterproofs had been extremely efficient, my body was sending out distress signals and, having found three or four travel lodge type of establishments to be fully booked, I started to look for B & B accomodation and was fortunate enough to find a cheerful roadside pub/restaurant/ hotel near the village of Much Wenlock where I enjoyed a very welcome steaming-hot bath.
On Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast, I headed south again - pausing for a snack at a riverside bistro-bar between Oxford and Henley-on-Thames and arriving home in the late afternoon satisfied - if for nothing else - that I had become significantly more familiar with three-wheeled travel than had been the case a week previously.