…ahh…. sorry for the delay. Part Two of the Welsh trip requires some history to kick us off…
The first time I went to Wales was in the early 90’s on what became a ‘drinking odyssey’ with ‘Our man in Hong Kong’. He, of course, went to University in Lampeter a small place filled with ‘characters’ wheras I went to work like a fucking dog for the Post Office but after he finished we returned to vist the lovely Miss Jones (Our women in Hong Kong) who was still studying there.
We left London late afternoon and arrived just too late to use any bars on the campus so it was straight to the halls and the chaos that brought. With a future Hong Kong bound married couple off doing what normal people would do if they hadn’t seen each other for a while I was put in a room occupied by a man called ‘Dick’.
‘Dick’, as I later found out, was a big old unit and a bit of a posh boy. His bedroom consisted of a homemade four poster bed where the posts were made from purloined ‘Carpetright’ carpet spools, a poorly photocopied coat of arms signifying poshness and class and an 8″ Tarantula (dead) splayed out in a glass case. Upon arrival I found he had written me a lovely ‘Welcome Dear Boy’ note explaining the room rules including that I was on the floor and not the bed and that as he was off somewhere on the piss I should simply make myself at home. As I lay there awake waiting for the arrival of ‘Dick’ and the almost certain buggering at his Crevat Tweed Jacketed hands I prepared myself for the next day where I would be thrust into possibly drinking myself to death with OMIHK and a load of isolated students.
I woke the next morning to find ‘Dick’ asleep on his four poster fully clothed and snoring the snore of a monumentally pissed toff student. I checked myself and found that all my undergarments were in a state of non deshevelment and so concluded that not only had no buggering taken place but no interaction at all and so ‘Dick’ would live another day. I got up, tipped my hat to my Landlord, who I would undoubtedly meet later, showered and left the room….
…And then we went on the lash for 16 hours…
It was a fraught day, absolutely pissing down and cold but I was taken to an assortment of venues including one which was simply a house turned into a makeshift pub where you could sit in the living room with the old man who owned it. Throughout the day I was warned by OMIHK that under no circumstances at all should I interact with any local as I would probably die on ‘Magic Mountain’ where mouthy cockneys were mostly sacrificed to some kind of sheep faced God.
All was well on the drinking and silence front until I found myself in two awkward scenarios ultimately of OMIHK’s own making. I was blameless mostly because of the amount Brains SA floating my brain.
Firstly, if you don’t want someone as mouthy and annoying as me interacting with the locals don’t take me into a local Chinese take away and sit me next to a Welsh Mountain man in the belief that I won’t say “..Alright mate?… what you ‘avin’?…. we’re ‘avin’ noodles….”. The man of the Mountain looked at me with so much hate that I didn’t notice being hastily removed from the venue by OMIHK with two boxes of noodles.
Secondly, if you are trying to avoid confrontation in a Welsh University Union bar don’t stick the mouthy cockney who has never been to the University or played for the University Rugby team or any Rugby team in the University Rugby team shirt and more specifically one with ’69’ on the back which was obtained nefariously. I was a Welsh lamb to the slaughter albeit a willing ‘lets see who will get the arsehole Bun’ lamb who was pissed up on booze….
My appearance was spotted almost instantly in that bar as the shirt was not only not supposed to be on me but was bumble bee colours and style with a joke number on the back. Within seconds I knew it was a mistake but being me knew I couldn’t or more precisley wouldn’t change it.
….And then it spotted me….
‘G for George’ was it’s name. Big lump, big head, big back…. Loose head prop type. He sees me and comes directly at me with the raving hump. As luck would have it back in those days I was all in when it came to stranger based confrontation and seeking out unknown threat so we went nose to nose and forehead to forehead (literally) for a good 20 minutes with him describing me as a ‘prick’ (probably fair) and me pushing the boundaries of cockney herberty with multiple drops of the C-Bomb prefixed with ‘Listen You…’ whch as you all know is the Londoners go-to phrase when trying to grab the attention of partucularly difficult individuals. At the end of this macho cobblers we hugged, shared a beer and no one either died or backed down. Classic 90’s…no knives were used, just words and bold promises of violence that would probably never happen… halcyon days.
The night went on and although the memories are fewer I do recall OMIHK having an altercation with some stroker which led to him disapearing at some point only to return covered in blood. This brought out my protective ‘brothers in arms’ speech where I suggested that we hunt the fucker down and batter him as an example to the whole Uni for fucking with ‘us’ the Londoners. As it turned out the ‘blood’ was mud and OMIHK had simply fall down a mud bank while arguing with another bloke. Oddly OMIHK seems to have been punched a lot over the years and only once in my company so it can’t be wholly my fault that difficult situations happened in my fighting arc. I can only assume there is jealously with regard to his popularirty whereas my punchability is due to the hole directly below my nose.
We finished the night in some kind of drunken Uni Halls commune where ‘Dick’ held court with tales of overseas adventures shooting Tigers (not true). He turned out to be a lovely, soppy bloke who wasn’t buggering anyone let alone me particularly given the state I was in. My last memory of this top weekend was passing out in a communual toliet where I was saved by a passing Florence Nightingale who alerted Miss Jones to my predicament. I still recall Miss Jones saying ‘Get your mate out of that toilet’ and the look of disgust on the assembled crowds faces as OMIHK poured me into a sleeping bag on the floor of the House that Dick built and not a moment too soon as things were about to get proper ugly in that kharzi… proper ugly.
And so that was my first experience of Wales, almost Welshman free. The second and only other time I’ve actually been here was subject to a previous blog called ‘The Devil Rides out’ where OMIHK, the Spaniard and I went mountain biking till our arses bled and stayed in a hotel which doubled as the headquarters of the Monster Raving Looney Party which only served ring splitting curry and Bontempi based soft Rock.
My only other direct interaction with the Welsh en masse was during an early morning stand-off in a Dublin B&B when a group on the same stag weekend we were attending thought it would be funny to burst into our room and let off some fire extinguishers. We remained motionless in order to wipe out any joy they had in an overreaction on our part. As the dust settled and the embarrassing silence decame defeaning OMIHK simply said ‘Fuck off Bellends’ in a croaky hungover voice and the Welsh invasion was over in a flash with a backwards retreat and a quietly closed door.
Cockney filth 1, Welsh Mountain Men 0.
These previous Welsh visits and interactions were drunken raids or scurmishes as opposed to this full blown occupation I am now in the middle of.
This holiday was designed to be action packed. A couple years back we went to Portugal to a fantastic apartment owned by one of my associates on a luxury complex and although Jen and I are more than happy to sleep, read, listen to music and sink Gin by the pool the kids were fairly bored. A family decision was taken and it was decided that less pool and beach holidays would be taken in favour of activity based stuff. Cornwall was the testing ground last year and Wales was the where we went all ‘Launch Warm Puppy’ but little did I know that I would end up in a competion with my 15 year old son that would result in my continuing humilation at his hands.
There are many things to do in Wales. Zip wires, surfing, walking, climbing, cycling but we mostly went with speed in the form of Quads, karting and the absolutely trememdous Rigid Inflatable boat trip (we did Kayaking also but I’ll come to that later).
We started with karting as the Boy is aware that he will have a massive weight advantage due to his pre booze body and my Guinness moulded body. We head off to an indoor karting track in what turns out to be the only period of sustained rain we get in two weeks in Wales. I say ‘rain’ but I actually mean ‘sky flood’ as it is off the scale and not only coming down at pace but also sideways. Proper Shipwreck rain this, fucking awful. We pile out the car in apocalyptic scenes and get drenched in the 10 yard run to the venue which is an old aircraft hanger turned into a race track.
It’s ramshackle within and the air is heavy with two-stroke. We pay for two 25 lap races and brilliantly they keep you in your own groups rather than making it a free for all so it will only be the four of us on the track. Our two races are sandwiched between another group so it gives us a chance of a debrief between. However before ‘the off’ we have to attend a safety lecture and get kitted up. This was the beginning of my downfall…. this was the death of any mystique I held in the Boy’s head.
We get taken to a room filled with what are effectively racing jumpsuits in a variety of sizes. I’m keen to stick one of these on as Eddie Van Halen wore one on a tour in the 1980’s and I’ve never experienced the joy of a ‘onsey’ and so see it as an opportunity to boost my lack of sartorial elegance. The bloke in charge (a dashing young herbert with tattooed sleeves) dishes out the clothing and we all squeeze into them…. except me. For some reason I am handed a ‘medium’ and given the amount of Guinness I have consumed anyone with half a brain would know that this is a doomed dressing. I get the legs in. Snug but I’m guessing that is correct due to the aerodynamics required when karting. I get an arm in. The other arm flaps free like that bit of extra skin that hangs from a pre roasted chicken’s arse. There appears to be no way this arm is entering its slot due to the lack of blood flow caused by the tightness surrounding my other three limbs. Undeterred by this I force the dead appendage into it’s hole and look down to find that the velcro that would normally join the two sides of the suit in the middle are a good 5 inches apart and unlikely to meet even if I left it on and gave up drinking for the next year.
I look around and am confronted by not only my own tribe in a state of shock but also that of the tattooed herbert. I see a mirror and turn to it. My God ..I’m an odder shape than normal in this getup. The tightness of the chest has forced my arms to be thrust backwards like a strutting Mick Jagger Circa 1976. This thrusting has made my neck protrude and with the addition of skin tight legs I’m suddenly Max Wall with a bit more hair or Danny DeVito as Oswald ‘The Penguin’ Cobblepot, absolutely ludicrous.
And then the laughing started….and not only from my people but from tattooed fuckwit also. Proper laughing, big belly laughs (see what I did there?) like I’ve never seen since I met and created these three. In a fit of pique I attempted to release myself from this jumpsuit straightjacket only for it to become some kind of fire retardant Boa Constrictor trapping me further. There is no hope, I have to ask tattoos to assist me in my escape. With my arms pointing backwards I gesture for him to pull at the cuffs as I force my bulk in the other direction in the hope that I will burst free like a butterfly from a pupae. After a few efforts out I slide to become a heap on the floor and not a moment too soon as my tribe were close to death due to a lack of oxygen brought on by excessive laughing at my misfortune…. as usual.
After they sort themselves out and I am crowbarred into a larger garment we head towards the track. The boy knows he’s won already as I am a dishevelled, sweaty wreck of a man with a multi kilo weight handicap so I’m basically using these 25 laps as a training run to smash the snot out of him in the second 25 lap face-off. I’m last out of the pit no doubt as I’m considered then most handicapped in our group.
I’m behind my daughter Boo, who has never been the most action packed individual. Boo’s skills are more cerebral and humourous and so she tentatively creeps out and all I can see is the boy disapearing around the first bend like Lewis Hamilton’s long lost son. It’s over before it has begun and I’m not even out of the pits due to a child, swiftly being written out of the will, not moving quick enough.
I finally hit the track and am soon around Boo in a torrent of muffled swear words and in seconds and am on the hunt for the Boy. There’s no sign of him other than as a blur in my peripheral vision on other parts of the track and now I’m stuck behind Jen who, I’d imagine, will under no circumstances assist me in this chase. True to form she blocks me out for 2 laps and then ‘closes the door’ as I head up her inside channel (Pnarr!!) sending me crashing into a barrier. She would rather die in a karting fireball than allow me any form of victory over her and so I come to a stop and as I raise my hand for assistance I see the boy go past in another blur with laughing eyes visible in his visor…. Animal….He’s done me..
For the remainder of this race I effectively race myself using Boo as a lap marker of how quick I am going. She is driving around as if she is sight-seeing or shopping or delivering a nitroglycerine cargo over a rickerty rope bridge with a sweaty Roy Scheider who’s on the run from the filth as co-pilot (film bufftastic). In fact she’s going so slow that I’m stunned the kart hasn’t ground to a halt due to the lack of engine turnover. In true Boo style though she won’t let a lack of speed stop her having a great time and as we pass her multiple times on every occasion she smiles and waves us through in a kinda ‘Wagons Roll!!’ way…. A true comedian..
The race ends with me thinking of revenge only. The boy has battered us all and he is revelling in the glory. We retreat to the cafe area in all our gear and wait for the next race and the whole time the Boy sits impassive with the helmet on like a freshly born Baby Stig. I, of course, remove my helmet and gloves and resemble a badly drawn Worzel Gummidge such is the shit state of my hair and my cardiac red face given 20 minutes wearing a helmet… I am a shell of a man and he knows it.
Race 2 starts well for me. I’m out the trap early in a staggered start and only have to negotiate Boo who appears to be looking for a parking space in a shopping centre car park. I speed past her acknowledging her wave and smile (almost a joyous ‘Helloooo!!’) and I’m away bombing down the straight with clear road. Behind me the Boy is embrolied in a battle with his mother which could end in filicide / matricide at any moment. I can’t see this yet as I’m eating up seconds but I can hear it and it’s getting closer to me due to the extra weight I’m carrying …. Damn these beautiful beautiful legs, they have always held me back.
Within a lap they are on me like a pisshead on a Biriani but at this stage I’m capable of holding them off with metaphorical poppadoms and ‘sundries’ in the form of superior legitimate blocking moves. This rear guard action goes on for two laps until I take the first corner after the straight really tight with a late break which forces Jen wide (Pnarr!! Pnarr!!) , shaking her off the racing line, but ends with the boy ramming me full tilt up the arse with such force that I let out an involuntary shreik of terror thankfully not audible enough for the him to hear. As I do a 360 spin I see him pass me with those visibly laughing eyes again and the raised fist of victory and I know under that helmet he is doing that ridiculous Andy Murray ‘C’mon!!’ roar that we used to see at Wimbledon usually about 8 minutes prior to another heroic defeat…. Animal… He’s done me again.
He disappears out of sight and I see the gaunt figure of the ‘Marshall’ hold a hand made sign with ‘No Bumping’ on it that the Boy politely and apologetically holds his hand up to…. Too late now fucker my authority in my own house is hanging by a thread and now you bring out the sign!!
After being dragged from a barrier for the second time I simply trundle around sulking for the rest of the race. Why me? why would you treat me this way oh King of Kings? I’m a decent bloke, I’ve never been nicked, I’ve never killed anyone or stolen anything…. why?…. why can’t you just let me have a few more years of admiration from the boy instead of the imminent derisory glances and rolled eyes across the potato waffles, sausages and beans. There is no God but there will be another race track on this holiday regardless of whether I have on this occasion been crushed to dust at the hands of a 15 year old.
After the abomination of karting (part 1) it’s time to face my greatest fear that doesn’t have 8 legs. The Sea. Conquer the sea and I can crush him ( Just so you are aware I neither conquer or crush anything on this holiday).
My problem with the the sea, all seas, any sea, is that I find it terrifying, big, wet and moving. In particular I hate dark water where I cannot see the bottom and so assume everything not visible is plotting to tear me to pieces. Sharks, Squid, Whales, Octopods, Fish, Crabs, lobsters, Jellyfish, Tuna, Herring, Gurnard, all killers, proven killers wanting my succulent flesh and bones to sustain their dominance over 80% of the planet and fuel their fanatical lust for control of the remaining 20% we cling to. When you are scared of the sea you generally stay the fuck away from it as death is assured as the beasts within can smell the fear, taste the fear, they crave THE FEAR.
It’s not a secret in this tribe that I hate the big blue, they all know it and particularly Jen who has always known it and so with this knowledge at the forefront of her mind she books a 90 minute ride on a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) around Cardigan Bay followed by, a few days later, a two and half hour Kayaking trip taking in the glory of Fishguard Harbour where I will almost certainly be killed in spectacular fashion by an awoken Kraken. The RIB has more appeal to me (it’s all relative) as I’ll be in a boat driven by an expert, a salty sea dog if you will whereas the Kayak will be controlled by a novice, a land lover, an idiot….me.
We arrive at a random dock and I see the my orange coffin being refuelled with death juice by a dashing sailor type with flowing grey hair and a beard. His co-pilot is an older squat bloke in full seafaring garb. His face oozes ‘crag’ and he’s probably only about 38 but the sea is a cruel mistress and I’d imagine he’s been in a grapple with a Sea Cow or two. As I approach my ride still clutching the Kings Shilling I notice that the wind has picked up and the sea is what we call in maritine parlance: ‘Fucking choppy’. It is without doubt over for me.
I reluctantly head towards the RIB and engage with the co-pilot who turns out to be a lovely old bloke who seems in total control meaning that I relax slightly. He suggests that those a bit worried or with small children should take the seats to the rear of the boat where the ‘bouncing’ (WTF?) is less stringent. I head towards the rear pushing babies and those in wheelchairs out of my way and the Boy heads towards the front. This triggers my inner hero / competetive Dad to respond by heading to the front with a nonchalant walk and chirpy smirk which fools most. The boy knows the score though and revels in my inner pain but at least he has the good grace to not tell the rest of the boat that I am a fraud. After a very brief safety talk which basically involved explaining to us to ‘hang on tight’ and the co-pilot’s explaining that my request for a harpoon would not be honoured we head off out to sea.
The waves are high and we get told to expect a rough ride, which isn’t always a bad thing but in this case shits the life out of me. Initially I was happy as we appeared to simply be bobbing up and down while slowly moving forward. The lack of death suddenly makes me believe that I am a cross between James Cracknell (dashing, strong, powerful) and Captain Bligh (stoic, principled, a master navigator and the only proper sailor I can name) and this sea lark is in fact a piece of piss….
….And then the twin engines kicked in……
In a massive roar of power I am thrust backwards on my bench as we bounce over waves much to the Boy’s joy and we plough forward over what seem like Tsunami height stuff which is in fact about 3 feet high. I’m clinging on for dear life convinced that at any moment I will be hurled from the boat into the open mouth of a breaching Great White. This continues for the next 90 minutes interspersed with periods of calm where we visit a cave or see the nostrils of a seal which is clearly just a scout to see where I am prior to the attack.
We finally stop for a more prolonged period to view some Dolphins, the police of the sea, leap from the water which makes the whole trip worthwhile but I am dubious of the co-pilot’s insistence that we all stand up for a better view as this is clearly a ploy to sacrifice one of us (me) to the filth of the deep thus ensuring he is untouched for another few thousand trips at £30 a punter.
After the joy of the Dolphins we head back to port at top speed on a fairly flat sea. This is the buzz, this is what makes it worth it. It doesn’t matter if my knuckle bones have split through the skin such it the intensity of my grip this is flat out ‘Top Gear’ bleached jeans, tweed jacket, casual racism, ‘give us back our borders’, torque differential blah blah blah speed and it was fantastic. I loved it and looked at the Boy as a loving father to share the thrill and he was looking at his phone and not holding on at all. Animal…. He’s done me again…..again…
We dock and I alight wobbly legged, exhilarated and crucually still alive. I ask the boy if he enjoyed it and I received the now customary expression used for anything from a mediocre hamburger to a £150m lottery win:
“..it was alright…”.
Wasting my time and hard earned cash.
Our next battle doesn’t come at sea but instead at a farm where the most humourless man alive rents us four Quad bikes at an eye watering piss taking price meaning we can spend 30 minutes racing around a dirt track. I see this as a bit of a opportuinity to regain the power as I’m aware that the Boy has never ridden one, the fact that I’ve never ridden one doesn’t even enter my mind but I’m assuming age will see me dominate him thus enabling me to take the power back.
After kitting up in some old shite and getting yet another safety briefing in this nuts Health & Safety country (no idea how I survived the 70’s and 80’s) we have to do a trial lap around a smaller track to prove that we will not kill ourselves or anyone else. We all do this with ease although Boo still appears to be out for a Sunday drive with a 100 year old brittle boned old lady holding tea in a china cup with saucer as a passenger.
I’m out on the track first and so bomb off giving it everything on this thing which is essentially a farm vehicle and create what I believe to be clear track between me and the Boy. I’m having a right old laugh on this thing as it has the same qualities as the RIB (speed and bouncability) without the clear and present threat of a giant squids beak or the bone crushing jaws or the Moray eel. There is no sign of the boy even out of the peripherals so I’m basking in imminent glory…. this is it… I wouldn’t care now if I saw his twisted wreckage embedded in a tree as I’m pissed on Dad power….I’M BACK BABY!!!!
….There is no wreckage… there is no sign of him.
And then, from nowhere I hear it… ‘Toot!! Toot!!…. Toot!! Toot!!’.
He’s all over me, right up my exhaust and he’s not only revving the thing to death but he has also discovered that his machine has a comedy horn and he’s using it to get me out of the way. My humiliation is absolute but I’m not giving in, this is a narrow track and he can’t get by unless……unless…. He gets by….. Unlike me, who is adhereing to the safety briefing like some relic from a bygone age, he has gone ‘off-road’ past me in a plume of dust and laughing.
For the remainder of my quality Quad time I am tormented by this human size bumble bee buzzing around me. He takes great pleasure in overtaking me multiple times even allowing me to overtake him so he can do it again. At one point he was in such command of the situation that he could have driven around me as I was moving forward. Animal… Done again….again…again…
I arrive back at the shed to deliver back the Quad and am met by the utterly humourless beige jub in charge. The silence between us is deafening as he is incapable of conversation without putting the recipient out cold so I strike up a bit of petrol head bants with the two-stroker.
“..Thanks..” says I as I gesture towards my ride, ” That was great fun, I must get one of these”, He pauses and eyes the machine. “Yes….They are great fun…. If you haven’t done it before…”
Brilliant. Killed the fun stone dead. No point ever doing it again. Cheers.
My only real chance of redemption lies in kayaking and as I has now conquered the sea I am right up for it so we head to Fishguard Bay where we meet ‘Kayak King’ which appears to be a student collective featuring a fresh faced sporty type, a no beard hipster in a crocodile skin cowboy hat and a rather big Scouse lump who looks like he’d be quite handy in a pub punch-up. We, and 14 other people gather around the ‘Kayak King’ van and for some reason Crocodile Dundee thinks its a good idea that us, the paying public, introduce ourselves to each other in that way they make everyone do on a shit training day in a bland room optimistically called a ‘suite’ in a low budget hotel. After getting to know Emma and Josh, Dipak and Chandra, Pete and Malcolm and many other people I have little or no interest in getting to know they dish out the kit and once again I have to squeeze my egg shaped body into some kind of unflattering costume for the kids amusement and to get in it I have to disrobe in a fucking carpark. After some heavy duty family assistance with the closing of a zip testing the limits of zip technology I am ready to go. Wet Suit, woman repellent hybrid insulated fleece, windproof jacket, lifejacket and gore-tex cap. I look like a sea mine.
I waddle towards the water and Iget into my Kayak which I am sharing with Boo who isn’t old enough for her own. I assure her that I am an expert and there is no possibility of her falling in. She’s nervous but I’m in full control…. full control at this point.
We head out to sea and as expected I am dominating the ocean and it’s many creatures. The RIB ride has seen me cast aside any fears I had and I am now effectively Aquaman without the charisma and body of Jason Mamoa. I am ripping a path through the water like a speed boat and Boo is occasionally assisting me but there’s no sign of either Jen or the Boy. Outstandingly they are struggling as their mastery of the paddle is two-bob…. the worm has turned….John Doe has the upper hand and I’m loving it. The Boy has very poor technique with the paddle whereas I am like a master with a deep plunge and pull giving me the perfect balance between efficiency and power. This is marvellous stuff and I continue to school him for the next half an hour and he ain’t liking it much but he has to take it or become Captain Bligh ( I repeat: the only proper sailor I know) in the next hour.
The guides take us around a few caves and coves and it’s great to see them and some more seal nostrils even it we are all soaking wet as it’s pissing down.
And then it happened.
This ‘Master of the Seas’ shit comes at a price and inevitably cockyness kicked in and I suddenly find that a brief miscalculation in navigation has left me, Boo and the Kayak heading straigth towards a clump of rocks which has appeared out of nowhere directly in our path. “BRACE!! BRACE!!” I shout a split second before impact and Boo is forced to laugh and scream at the same time. The next thing we know we are teetering on the rock like Moses and the Ark once the rains subsided. Boo is starting to panic at this point but I, Aquaman, believe I can get us out of this with some shifts in body weight which will simply deliver us back into the sea.
….I was wrong….
As I move the second time the Kayak shifts to the right and continues to shift to the right until both I, Boo and my horrifically my phone are submerged in the Irish sea. The only thing I promised her was that she wouldn’t get wet and now here she is, completely wet. We flap about in the water with an upturned Kayak and Boo looks a bit distressed but I have other issues way beyond saving my daughter as my phone is now exposed to sea water. I assess the situation with the speed of the SAS moments before stormimg a building and come to the swift conclusion that she knew the risks when entering a Kayak with an idiot like me, she’s wearing a life jacket and can swim whereas my phone is an innocent party to my fuckery and needs saving. Sure Boo is flapping about in a panic – who wouldn’t but she has arms and legs and can think. The phone needs me… the phone is helpless… the phone is the priority…. I can make another kid if necessary it’s fucking easy but I ain’t spending my few pennies on another phone…. God No!!
Once the phone is secure I assist Boo. She’s not happy but she’ll understand in time. The priority now is getting her back in the boat and at least start the long slow road of apology. But wait a moment…. up rocks the grinning brother who is wearing then face of a a kayaker who is not wet, a kayaker who is in control… The Boy looks down on us in the water and slightly shakes his head in disapointment that I have embarrased then family in front of stangers. He’s not wrong, the other participants on the trip look at me like I’m the worst parent in the world. Fuck them, Boo is okay and more importantly I reckon the phone will be fine.
In a fug of embarrasment (I mean, who takes a phone on a kayak?) I take up my place at the back of the group for the remainder of the trip. I’m sulking , large, and the Boy is now ahead of me riding the Kayak like a paddle board to almost total applause from the awe struck instructors and the public around us who have ventured out in boats. Any second now he’ll be doing that ‘Karate Kid’ Praying Mantis shit and my life will be over… Once more…Animal… He’s done me….again…. again…again…. and he didn’t even have to try that hard.
On our way back to port I start explaining to Boo that we are the adventures in the family. We are the ones who have faced death in the Irish sea and stared into the eye of the ‘Sharknado’, we are the two who may have grappled with ‘The Meg’ not the other two… they have simply played by the rules.
“We are like Indiana Jones and Short Round Boo…” says I, “…Crocket and Tubbs, Bodie and Doyle, Brodie and Hooper, Jack Sparrow and….”
“..Ant and Dec?” she interupts killing this attempted bonding session quicker than a Tiger shark gnawing on a baby turtle.
We agree that we will talk about this for years to come and limp back to a car park/changing room where I will burst free like a gas bloated beached Humpback from my neoprene prison next to an Ice Cream van where the proprietor eats a Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodle…. A sadder holiday sight has rarely been seen as if trapped in an Ice Cream van in the rain it should always be a Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle and a can of Lilt.
My last opportunity to maintain any sort of gravitas in the eyes of a 15 year old comes at an outdoor, tarmac Go-Karting track at an in decline Country Fayre. It has come to this…. this shit. Once more I find myself in a shipping container squeezing my well fed frame into a boiler suit meant for a much younger and more attractive person. This raggedy affair has another velcro strip down the front and as it’s snug standing up it will inevitably pop open as soon as my arse hits the seat of the Kart like time lapse oven footage of an overfilled Souffle.
Again I’ve this race before it starts as due to the boy being under 16 it means I must ride in an underpowered junior Cart instead of a big beast. It’s over. I take up my seat in the feeble junior cart and as predicted my body decides to exit the straining velcro and I don’t even care… I’m broken, let’s get this over and done with.
I’m out on the track and part of me just wants to get the kart up to it’s maximum speed and just smash into the barrier in a ball of flame and smoke for the only glory available to me. Then we’ll see…. YOU’LL ALL SEE!!! I will merely be a memory… a clown… a family clown…. they sicken me…
I did alright beating everyone but the Boy and was suitably depressed by the speed limiter slowing me down further on the straight. Of course the Boy had no such issues and he passed me multiple times in a flash of speed and a perfectly fitted racing suit and speed demon arepdynamic helmet as opposed to my massive giant ping pong ball cracked visor shithousery wedged on my swead.
All this should have been expected of course. He’s 15, fresh, agile, young and perfect and I’m 50, broken, scarred, finished, leaky and leaden. My time will come with the Boy and with Boo and it won’t be through being ‘competetive Dad’ beating him in some kind of pointless competition. My job is to be there during the tough shit, the first heartbreak, the University years, the first punch-up and the inevitable ‘I’m invincible’ hangovers. These will be the proper experiences where I can assist and none of them require me to don skin tight garments to get a point across. There is still hope…
All hail the young!!!…We should only be advisors to the young and not dictators. And to us, the old, bring on the Soylent Green machine and the Tena suber absorbant pants for Men who can’t make it through the night.
Now it’s all very well me telling tales of my endless humiliation on these family trips at the hand of various organisms I have come across but what does it tell you about my time in Wales. The simple answer is it tells you fuck all but at least you may have laughed at my expense which is really the only point here.
I was very sad when the Welsh trip ended as it was everything I want from a holiday. I’ve sat on beaches or by pools and visited ruins aplenty both in Britain and abroad but holidays and in fact all days should really be about laughing and in particular laughing with the people you love. In Wales there was a lot of laughing and if it meant I was the catalyst for it then so be it. Laughing is the key to everything and if you cant allow yourself to be laughed at you may as well give up.
Everytime I holiday in the United Kingdom I gauge a place by a simple criteria: Would I want to live here? Well I could live in Wales and particularly Newport in Pembrokeshire (see the distinction there) which is a beautiful little town with enough things to do to keep you happy in a retirement scenario. It has some lovely places to eat and nearly all the pubs are welcoming. The Royal Oak wasn’t welcoming, The Royal Oak was a blip…
I did point out the problem with The Royal Oak to Jen in advance of us walking through the door as a illuminated sign above it read ‘Merry Christmas’ in August. True to form she ignored my advice even though this one concerned my specialities: Public Houses and the specifics of the festive period. In we pop on the orders of Jen and are imeadiately greeted with a scene of carnage that Heironymous Bosch would have been proud of.
There are kids running around out of control, there is screaming by a bunch of ‘randoms’ in the corner and a queue at the bar, well at the smaller of the two bars but crucially the one I am at. The bigger bar is half empty but full of locals being tended to by a young, giggly, buxom barmaid while we get two surly fuckers ignoring us and an aged and toothless old crone tapping her watch and telling two other punters that it’s her ‘knocking off time’ and so although behind the bar she aint serving no one never ever…
Jen insisted we come here so I sit back at a sticky table and let her deal with it which in this case appears to be indicating that we leave after 10 minutes has passed without given these fuckers a copper coin.
The Royal Oak is the absolute exception in Newport as all the other venues are excellent with great food atmospheres and friendly locals within them. Everyone else I meet is polite and you feel instantly welcome whether you be in the local Welsh Speaking pub for live sport, the butchers and gift shops or the Artisan Pizzeria serving a Leek and local cheese Pizza called ‘Land of my Fathers’ and local Ales in comedy bottles. The Golden Lion Pub has top facilities and would be great in summer and winter. The food there was lovely with the Pork and Chirzio Burger being a work of art and the Guinness perfectly pulled.
It was in the Golden Lion that I witnessed an older gentleman sneeze 17 times in a row during his dinner. At around the 10th ‘splat’ the kids fell to bits in that uncontrollable laugh where every next supressed giggle puts to you a moment closer to wetting yourself. Boo was begging for mercy at the 15th and by the time the old codger hit 17 even Jen had collapsed in a heap. There was no panic from the old girl he was with so I can only assume it’s a pre dinner Welsh ritual I was previously unaware of or she was eyeing up an insurance claim and told him that his Marie Rose Prawn Cocktail contained no Shellfish.
Everywhere we went in this part of Wales was the same. The people were Lovely and the scenery spectacular and on a par or better that anything I’ve seen around the country or in Ireland. The view from the Carningli Mountain overlooking the town was breathtaking and worth the trip alone and we were the only four people up there. I can’t believe that I never considered a coming to Wales before for a prolonged period but I’m certain I will return. Top stuff.
This is what I was looking for in a holiday, Peace and tranquility mixed with laughing, drinking and eating good food with my tribe. I don’t need the heat and I don’t need to sleep by a pool all day listening to music and drinking cocktails but apparently we are doing exactly that next year in Greece as I have absolutely no fucking control whatsoever.
So I would happily retire to somehwere like Newport once I’m done with London…however as Samuel Johnson said….
More adventure to come in ‘the big smoke’ I feel, well at least for another decade….
As you were.