In the early noughties I worked with a very lazy man. He was a solid old lump with a bald head and a fairly large capacity for Ale. My God he was lazy. I remember one instance where the office was in a state of chaos due to the work that was in progress and I looked across to see him spinning on his chair, dangling his legs like a small child while smiling inanely. Standard stuff from him….Lazy fucker. Eventually he was moved out of the team and the last I heard he was in disgrace after being caught in what he thought was a locked, windowless office crashing one out over a Gentleman’s periodical he had acquired during the course of his enquiries. An appropriate exit for a lazy wanker (B-Boom)..
He was a Welshman.
I’ve always like the Welsh. They are passionate, seem like a lot of fun and Patriotic. Patriotism is a dirty word if you consider yourself an Englishman. It’s almost not allowed because the flag and what goes with it have been hijacked by racists and upper class arseholes with a colonialist mindset. Farage and that other oxygen thief Yaxley-Lennon spring to mind. A couple of self serving fuckers one of whom is married to a German and wanted a German passport and the other the son of Irish Immigrants who begged for US citizenship when he was scared to face the music after breaking the law. Outstanding patriotism there lads, Well. Done. I love the the Welsh for their patriotism as I love the Englishman who can be, the Irishman who will be and the Scotsman who is. (You may notice I said ‘man’ there… don’t get all het up about it snowflake, I’m just making a point, I’m fully aware that the female of the species is equally as patriotic or not).
Unfortunately English patriotism appears to be flexible. On St Patricks Day the streets of London are awash with Englishmen tentatively sipping Guinness they clearly don’t like in an attempt to harness the toenail of irishness they believe they have but at the same time most couldn’t tell you when St Georges Day is. We are a selfish mongrel, mercenary nation never more evident following the Brexit vote when staunch ‘leavers’ who want ‘change’ and ‘closed borders, and ‘less control from faceless bueracrats in Europe’ want Irish passports to ease their travel habits….. pathetic. You chose it…. fucking live with it…
Anyway, that is for another time.
So here I am. Welsh Wales.
I arrived a week ago and am having a great time. This year we managed to leave London early. This is always the plan but rarely happens as my tribe move slow even when I am ready to go. They are Sloths….and why not, It’s not a dictatorship.
We packed up the car and headed off and after one stop for some motorway ‘food’ we arrived in the quiet little village of Newport in Pembrokeshire. That’s Newport in Pembrokeshire and not the other one which I believe isn’t like this in any way but more akin to a drunken war zone or a never ending travellers wedding. This Newport is a bit ‘tickerty-plop, how’s ya cock’ with an Art gallery selling low level watercolours from local artists for £250 a go.
Holidays to me are simply about relaxation and fun and so I’m happy to go anywhere that these two things might happen. They are a time to switch off completely and if it coincides with new experiences then great but I’m happy to just chill the fuck out, soak up the locale and watch the people that I don’t normally see. I’ve never been one for seeing the sunrise over Macchu Picchu or swimming with dolphins or any of that ‘bucket list’ professional tourist shite, it’s just not my bag. If it’s yours happy days and if my holiday coincides with any event then so be it but I’m here for the sleep, the wine and the relaxation. I’m easy, I’m a whore to the lazy and it’s why I’m happy just to be out of London even if it means grey skies, wind and the odd bout or biblical rain.
We arrive in Newport early afternoon and even on an initial drive through I know I will like it. It has three pubs (all gritty) and at least four decent looking places to eat. It’s also a 5 minute walk from the beach although you don’t really come to Wales in my view to lie on a beach in the hope of a tan. From what I’ve seen Wales is a visual experience and a fantastic one at that.
The place we are staying in for the fortnight is tough to find, isolated, in the shadow of the mountain (well… big hill). It’s so hard to find that I am forced to leave the safety of a London registered vehicle and move on foot in unknown territory towards what I think might be the place. It’s not the place and after a rigid moment where a large dog runs towards me at pace I approach my first local with my nice face on which isn’t particularly nice but it will have to do.
‘Hello Local Woman’ says I, ‘I am your new King…please assist me in finding ‘Madoc Twy Bryn’, which is a local building of these parts…. Capeesh?’ (I’m paraphrasing here). I’m met with what can only be described as a ‘who the fuck is this prrick?’ pause ( I can’t emphasise the rolling ‘r’ enough here people) and so after some forced smiling on my part the lank haired farmer’s wife spews out a few words providing me with a glimpse of some random railings reminicent of a burned down fence. She points towards the lane I have come from says ‘Green Dumper’ and ‘House’ and basically expects me to fuck off in that direction which I do after a low bow of thanks…
I head down the lane and spot a green farm vehicle (presumably the ‘dumper’) followed by two outstanding stone buildings. This could be the place.
All of a sudden, from the left, an old man enters my fighting arc with his hand extended in what could be some form of Welsh Martial art… I need to act quick… heel of palm to base of hooter driving nose bone through brain or simply a handshake?…Jesus, this is a test. I go for the handshake and meet a lovely old bloke called ‘Alun’ and skulking behind a Rhododendrom bush is his soft spoken slighlty vacant wife ‘Eileen’ who is all wide eyes and maniacal smile. We vigourously shake hands in a British Isle face off and he asks me a few non threatening questions like where are we from and how was the journey…. standard operating procedure.
After these pleasantries we all enter our holiday rental which he explains is his childhood home which is a sweet factoid enhancing the old property more. Its a lovely place as expected. Jen always finds these pearlers due to extensive research but this one is pretty much bang on. In fact it is better than the website portrayed it mainly because these lovely old bods have taken the wrong photos. There’s loads of room to all hide from each other and although a bit twee (it is a welsh fishermans cottage owned by two old people) the new extension seems to be the place to chill out.
The boy interupts my tour of the property by showing me his wi-fi signal ‘Three bars in every room’ he grunts and walks away showing me three fingers explaning the power of the neet… Great… that’s the end of him. I wish the boy a great holiday and continue with the old man who is showing me how a house works.
“Now, If you get cold see”, he says “You need to turn the dial on this box in the hallway”. It’s the thermostat you fruitloop…. We hug. The old man directs Jen towards Nutty Eileen who until this moment could have been an animatronic wax work with a partially broken internal speaker.
“My wife will show you all the ladies things to do…. off you go”. Jen stiffens as if preparing to unleash a tirade or a light pummelling to his brittle bones but swiftly changes her mind in the interest of international relations and heads off with the mumbler towards a utility room where women ‘do the washing’. (Fear not ladies, I’ve been doing the washing since we got here… I’m from London and realise that if I were to talk to Jen like that I wouldn’t be nearly dead I’d be very actually dead).
I grill the old man on the local amenities and specifically the pubs within stumbling range of the building. He is positve but adds the caveat ‘London prices mind’. I assure him that’s not a problem as that is all I am used to. He moves to leave but Crazy Eileen is writing down places for us to visit with the kids. She writes the words ‘Doll Museum’ and Jen and I look at each other as we know the boy, who has few fears, is fucking terrified of wax works and dolls. This first appeared in a comical Wax works in Devon years back when he had a nervous breakdown at the sight of a model Yeti and then a particularly horific Dale Winton and continues to this day. There will be no visit to the Doll Museum unless they want it burnt down in the night.
Alun and Eileen take their leave and hand over a lovely welcoming Welsh Barm Brack with a large sticker on it stating ‘NOT GLUTEN FREE’ which leaves me only my fake alergy to nuts to use when suing them for their house should I collapse after one fruity bite. After they leave I do my usual snoop around to see if I can work how everything works or doesn’t work (I had to fix the TV) and then we head out into the wastelands in search of food.
Jen is always prepared. Wherever we go she knows what is there and tragically she knows where an Aldi is. Jen is Adli pissed and will always go to one if she can find one. The only annoying thing to her about Aldi is the lack of ‘proper butter’. There is no Lurpak there is only Norpak and she don’t do Norpak. It matters not one jot whether we don’t like ‘Jive’ bars (the paupers Twix), or whether the kids hate ‘Nutoka’ (Nutella), ‘Teddy Bear faces’ (Pom Bear crisps) or that I don’t want ‘Ouixo’ gravy granuals with me Sausage and mash, we are going to fuckin Aldi. If we didn’t have a years supply or quality tea in the house at any single moment we would only ever shop at Aldi. I’ve hated Aldi since I saw two Albanians fighting over a particulary nice Cucumber in one last Christmas as if it were some kind of magical food. I’m also irritated by the famous ‘random aisle of dreams’ where you can get a torch-cum-melon peeler and a 90 psi Air compressor for the same price. Aldi is like Del Boys lock up…. with food.
We trapse around like men (or women…gawd) on death row occasionally being allowed to add something to the overly full trolley like a Stawberry ‘Sky’ yoghurt or Reinbacher Pilsner until we reach the checkout with the ludicrously long conveyor belt straight from the Generation Game and the stupid small packing area. It is here that we have our first interaction with a random local. ‘Jill’ is on checkout three and she is chucking out the questions at the same velocity as a polis with a murderer on the rack.
We get the usual ‘strangers on the plot’ questions that you get everywhere which we deal with politely. I’m always wary of saying I’m from London as it’s usually met with a sharp intake of breath as if you have escaped from some hell that you forced to live in which is a complete fallacy as we all know where the tunnels are and can leave at any moment in the night.
All was going smoothly until I was asked if I was staying in a caravan or camping. What a fuckin Rotter. There is little chance of me camping or caravaning, I mean it has happened and I have hated it, but there is absolutely no chance of Jen entertaining it unless trees have power points and I find the acusation quite offensive given the ton of food she has scanned through. Not sure what kind of tent or caravan could house this lot. When I go on holiday I want comfort and not a damp grassy floor or a chipboard seat covered in sponge and some kind of chintz. Fuck it, I’m a snob and proud of it.
We avoid an Aldi massacre by politely explaining that we have a cottage rather than a strip of nylon or a rickerty plastic trailer reeking of damp and we make our way towards the exit and then towards a stone dwelling with a bath.
The next day after a lazy night in soaking up our new surroundings we head out to have a look about. We end up in Tenby which everyone tells me is fantastic.
Tenby is fantastic.
Let me rephrase that, Tenby looks fantastic with a beach any country would be proud of. It is a majestic expanse of sand and would look even more stunning on a brighter day. When you arrive in Tenby you have plenty of opportunity to see it and the town as you spend the first hour driving around in circles looking for somewhere to park. Your only hope appears to be if someone dies and the normal civic process has been completed then you might, just might, get the slot vacated by the deceased’s vehicle once it is removed by the authorities and before all the circling drivers swoop on it like an outtake from ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.
The time it took to find a space created ludicrous levels of expectation as to what delights were before us. Unfortunately when you get down to the nitty gritty there is nothing particularly outstanding about Tenby other than the beach itself. The usual seaside lumps are legion as well as mobility scooters where there owners are crowbarred into the tiny seats. Dogs play a large part in Tenby as do poor tattoos, toothless grins and pubs filled with cooking lager drinking goons moaning that it is £2.80 a pint and the WKD Blue isn’t cold enough. It’s all standard seaside town fayre so no one should be too shocked least of all me who has spent years in Hastings where no amount of hipster Gin or Vodka bars will eliminate the smell of piss and Lambrini from ‘bottle alley’. Most seaside towns are rough due to the nature of the punter passing through them so Tenby is no better or worse than any.
As I walk around Tenby with my pisstakers eyeballs logging down all the Orcs and trolls in my view I spot a proper munter. A squat ugly beast comes into view with ham hock calfs protruding from holiday shorts with a heavy brow, miserable face and a bad attitude. It is ‘Gimli’ made flesh but without a beard and the Axe…. rotten.
It’s me reflecred in a shop window.
Good Grief I’m ugly, I really gone to seed but in fairness I’ve never seen athletically proportioned and ooze ‘battering ram’ rather than ‘precision instument’. I really must sort myself out this Autumn. Who the fuck am I to take the piss out of anyone? well I’m all you’ve got so I will continue until some other savage rocks up.
After lunch in Tenby (inevitably some form of meat in bread) we return to base camp. As the football is on I use it as an excuse to try out the local boozer and so the boy and I head off to a local Welsh speaking hostelry to hopefully watch Chelsea get smashed to bits.
The local is very local both in distance from our accomodation and for quality of its custom. From the moment we walk in it is clear that we are not local and that England had won the Rugby earlier in the day. Tricky one. The bar area is filled with big old lumps in rugby shirts but I normally intimidating scenarios as a challenge and so tell the boy to find a suitable seat and I go straight to a small gap at the bar where I whip out a £20 note to suprised looks and the odd gasp.
I’ve already been warned of ‘London Prices’ by old man Alun but I’m guessing £20 should cover the Guinness and a pint of diet Coke and Ice unless they want some kind of John Rambo from ‘First Blood’ fallout in this small town. As I wait for the drinks to be delivered and prior to me handing over the readies I lapse into dreamy state where I imagine a ‘Heddlu de Cymru’ face off with me holed up in the gift shop with a load of hostages screaming ‘You shouldn’t have charged me £6.50 for the G man!!… you are taking the piss!! …This isn’t Camden!!!..” before I click the detonator and Newport (in Pembrokeshire) rises skyward and becomes merely a smoking bunker littered with body parts, charred leeks and half baked Welsh Cakes falling from the sky.. (cue sad outro music and poignant voice over).
‘That’ll be £5.60 please love’ says a very polite lady barkeep behind the ramp. ‘£5.60?’ says I, ‘…And a pint of diet Coke with Ice..’ I add. ‘No, No…’ she says, ‘That included the Coke’. Blimey Charlie, If Alun thinks this is London prices then I suggest he never attempts to rent anywhere in the Islington area, or even use a Pret-A-Manger for a swift Bang Bang Chicken Wrap. I later find that this pub sells decent Guinness for £3.60 a pint which is both better than any London Wetherspoons and also a London price albeit one from about 2001.
The boy and I settle in for the footy quite close to a table of very large, well pissed people speaking Welsh. It was evident early doors to me upon entering this establishment that I was one of the only punters in attendance to which the consonant isn’t an alien concept. I can’t include the boy in this as for the last 18 months he has adopted the speaking cabability of a caveman when is public with me and so simply resorts to the odd grunt, nod and tick indicating understanding in case I embarrass him in front of people he not only doesn’t know but will most likely never see again. Teenagers…What do you do eh? That’s right… you actively go out of your way to embarass them in order to snap them out of this bollocks.
I put the bargain bucket Guinness to my lips and one of the larger lumps catches my eye. This is it, I can smell my own death.
‘Are you Man United Butty?’ he asks.
Now in normal circumstances I would have seen this as some kind of challenge to both my intelligence and my manhood. It is the classic North London precursor to a roll around but there is both a size and violence gap here in our abilities so I merely adopt a comic disgsusted look and repsond with ‘No, The Arsenal’ (never just ‘Arsenal’… if you know, you know). This knocks him back, and he relays this information to the table in Welsh. After a brief pause they all start talking furously in a language akin to Charlie Brown’s teacher where I can only make out the word ‘Arsenal’ or ‘Arsehole’. There is no more local interaction today and so the boy and I simply revel in Chelsea getting smashed by a sub standard Man United.
We always take the first week of a holiday easy. I like to gauge the lay of the land if I’m in the UK, abroad it is less of an issue as you tend to just sit on a beach or by a pool. In the UK you are forced to find things to do as the weather can be a joke and no one ever really holidays here for a fortnight on a beach unless they are insane. The initial plan was to go to Snowdonia for the day to do some stuff but that was scuppered early doors when realising the vastness of the country so Snowdonia will have to be a trip for another year as a six hour round trip seemed excessive and I didn’t fancy the extra expense of more overnight accomodation. So the first week to us is to experience all the little stuff, the quick stuff and to work out where we are and what we would like to do more of in the second week.
When we arrived old man Alun warned us that we would find it hard to get out of the town on Market day due to the ‘crowds’ so we’d either have to get out early or leave town later in the afternoon. This sounds promising, a local market a stones throw from our humble cottage packed with local produce and trinkets we can inflict of friends when we return. Outstanding work.
We wait for market day with baited breath and I insist to Jen that we must get there early to soak up the majesty of cheese and pies and local beers. This will be like ‘River Cottage’ where you nod at all the locals and try huge samples of humanly killed lambs and buy chickens complete with head and feet at £25 a pop. You don’t care because it’s for the them….the locals…. the common sod of this sacred turf..’The Others’. I’m dreaming of creamy Welsh fudge (not a euphemism) and perhaps the odd ‘Lamb Oggie’ sold in a brown paper bag tied up with string or even a jar of honey made from individually named bees.
We turn the corner into ‘Market Street’, outstandingly named so me, London filth, can find it without shouting ‘Oi!! mate!! Where’s the fucking market?’ from the window or moving car to a local, and there it is….
Four stalls and a bloke playing Supermarket checkout CD traditional Jazz on a saxaphone.
Undaunted, but with a face that says ‘You cheeky fuckers’ we stride through the ‘Market’ where we walk passed other similarly confused tourists who can only say ‘Why?’ to any face willing to listen and within 90 seconds I am sitting back in the cottage being consoled by the kids. ‘They only had one cheese on sale’ I explain to bemused kids and someone had the audacity to approach me and ask if I fancied attending a Panto, a fucking Panto in August. ‘…I’d love to..’ I replied to the mug with the flyer ‘..If it were Christmas and I was 8 years old and stupid and drunk and blind and deaf…’ The effrontery was staggering.
Whilst still in market trauma Jen suggests that we go to another local pub for a quiet beer. This is Jen code telling me that I won’t be having more than two pints but after the panto incident I’m not sure I could sink more than a couple anyway. We pop out without the kids for a strategic chat at a pub which doubles as a hotel. It is possibly the tidiest pub I’ve ever seen almost spotless but strangely it doesn’t feel clinical and still manages to give off a cosy homely feel.
The pub has a covered garden and as it is a sunny day Jen and I head towards it with half a cider and a Guinness. There are only one other couple in the garden and I can see a couple of high end mountain bikes parked up next to them so they have clearly stopped off for a sniffter en route.
Jen and I sit down for a kid free chat when my ears are assaulted by a scratchy quality audio coming from the male mountain bikers phone. For some reason this plum has decided that the women he is with needs to watch a full episode of ‘Blackadder’ in a tranquil pub garden in the middle of the day on his phone. She’s watching it but she either doesn’t understand it or doesn’t find it funny. All I can see due to her sunglasses is a confused furrowed brow as she pretends to watch it while he pisses himself and says ‘…so funny…look…look..” while explaining to her the humour which as we all know is the point that you need to stop, pick up your bike and fuck off as you have made an arse of yourself. Fear not mate, we’ve all done it. Just go home, back a bag, change your name and move town so you never cross her path again because when she tells people about this it will be over for you in Newport.
I can sense the bike lady checking out the exits she’ll bomburst to once she’s slashed his tires after the video has thankfully finished. She’s already got this down as a disaster only fit for anecdotal purposes regardless of the quality of his £3,000 bike. There will be no family bike rides with the kids sired from this weirdo as this Cycling date hasn’t quite worked out to that level. She is clearly a bicycle pump downward stroke away from telling this knobber that the date is over and he needs to return to Mummy and his favourite sock sharpish but I’ll never witness that moment as Jen drags me away just as I’m drooling in anticipation of his humiliation.
Suffice to say, week one was fantastic and contrary to most weather reports we saw little rain due to the microclimate effect but it is a tad cool so no one has needed sun cream.
We end the week in a local eatery which served up something called ‘Tapas and Tunes’. Now I know what you are thinking, ‘Welsh Tapas’. Does this mean a bowl of leeks, a small piping hot glass of Brains Skull-Attack, a single lamb nose in a spicy sauce? Will it be like the infamous ‘Scottish Meze’ I was introduced to about 12 years ago in a pub in Westminster? I should probably explain this….
One winter night while drinking heavily with some colleagues in a Westminster boozer one of our associates went to the bar and returned with some nibbles in the form of Crisps (3 packets of assorted flavours), Nuts (salted and dry roasted), a bag of Pork Scratchings and three sachets of Ketchup and cheap mayonaise. He proceeded to open and splay the crisp packets on the bar before mixing the crisps themselves together. He then liberally scattered the nuts throughout the crisps and topped it off with a mound of scratchings before drizzling Ketchup and Mayonnaise all over the platter before us….
After a moment of silence and a fair amount of awe he stood back and said ‘Viola!!…A Scottish Meze…Bon Appe-fuckin-tit…’.
He was confronted with dumbstruck faces for a good 15 seconds before we all pissed ourselves and tucked in. It was the best bar snack I’ve ever had and I’ve had Oysters looking over the Atlantic in Galway. Perfection in that gallon of Guinness moment…. outstanding.
There is nothing ‘Meze’ about a Scottish Meze and there is nothing ‘ Tapas’ about ‘Tapas and Tunes’ unless you think naming a bowl of potatoes in tomato sauce constitutes ‘Patatas Bravas’ because you like to think you run a Tapas bar. The food was about as Spanish as a Marbella based cockney villian applying for a Spanish passport as it eases his travel concerns (never forget). Just because you stick it in a small bowl it don’t make it Tapas, its just random food in a small bowl. Also if you call a starter of finger food ‘The pickings’ there’s a good chance people might find it offensive or just not very edible. Thicker than shit in a bottle (Thank you Mr Franklin).
The tunes were provided by two overly nourished blokes on guitars serving up more cheese that the Tapas ‘Cheese cake’ in the form of Magic FM heavy ballads where the assembled punters are expected to join in. Yep, as you suspected this was right up my street and so I would threaten the kids with over exuberant involvement while never intending to get involved. Strangely the two players are quite handy in a ‘Steve Wright in the afternoon’ way but no one is breaking out of their agents filing system unless he needs ‘For use at a dull overly christian wedding’ so it’s Friday night ‘almost Tapas’ for these two.
We wait for a particularly suitably insipid version of the Carpenters ‘Close to You’ to finish and with our bellies only slightly fuller than Karen Carpenter’s we leave £150 lighter and week one draws to a close.
These travelogues aren’t supposed to be strictly chronological they are merely supposed to be humourous and leave you with an idea of what freakery I spot when my head isn’t filled with serious stuff like work.
In week one we covered a lot of mileage around this lovely country and we did a lot of stuff but I’ll cover that in the next effort after the completion of week two where I’ll be explaining the competetiveness a 15 year old can bring out of a grown man and the funniest restaurant allergy I’ve seen in many a year.
As you were….