Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Holiday Diary (2): Plas Newydd

Borth y Gest: Sunday, 10th April

Another beautiful day – clear sky (well, so far) and as still and warm out as in. Went out for a run while Karen was still in bed. Clambered to the top of a rock which is an island when the tide's in and just a rocky outcrop on the beach when it's out. Discovered a mess of broken mollusc shells: one of those places seabirds come to break them open and eat the contents. Slipped and grazed my leg (only slightly) on the way down.

Ran back to Borth y Gest along the beach, mostly. A short rock-climb took me up from the beach back to the street – it was just the way it should be: just outside my comfort-zone, but well inside the safe zone. It was only a few feet high and the holds were huge, sound and well-polished with regular use, so I was not the first.

Passed a gate on the coast path on the way back and concocted a haiku:


a sign on a gate:
soon the weeds will be so high
no-one will read it

After breakfast we set of to Plas Newydd on Anglsey. We joined the National Trust not long ago – members get to park at and get into National Trust properties for free, so we'd been poring over the blurb they sent us looking for good places to go in North Wales. Anything with a tea-shop went straight onto the shortlist. Since Plas Newydd has two tea-shops and a second-hand bookshop it beat all the others by a good margin.

When we first joined, I stuck my oak-leaf car sticker on the windscreen with a heavy heart. It made me feel ten years older – very “pipe and slippers”, as they say, I thought. Having been to a few places now, I realise I'd got the wrong end of the stick and my opinion has changed completely. I wish I'd joined years ago – especially when my children were small. The grounds of the National Trust's old buildings are awash with parents and small children. Toddlers pursue footballs almost as big as themselves around the lawns. Eight year olds run screaming in and out of the rhodedendrons, parents wander around, breathing in the fresh air, glad to be able to relax for an hour or two.

The tea-shop lived up to expectations, as did the second-hand bookshop. The books were interesting – and cheap. I bought a copy of the complete Father Brown stories and a collection of Maupassant's stories. (The latter includes the hilarious Madame Tellier's Establishment. I couldn't wait to get back to the house at Borth y Gest to read it). We didn't go into the “big house” itself today as the weather was so good – we thought we'd leave that for a more typical April afternoon later this week. Instead, we wandered round the grounds, which slope down straight into the Menai Straits. It's a wonderful, dreamy place. We left late in the afternoon and, reluctant to leave the island, drove East, through Beaumaris, to the more remote stretch of coast that overlooks The Great Orme. We sat there for some time, soaking it in and watching the cormorant that was sitting on a rock a few yards out from the shore. In the middle distance, flocks of birds were flying low up the Straits. Behind them the Carneddau mountains rose up. I regretted not bringing my shorts and towel with me. A swim there would have been quite something.

Soundtrack today -for me- has been Radiohead's new album, King of Limbs. My daughter bought it for me for my birthday. I had heard a few minutes of the music before and I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. Were these good songs, or just recycled ideas from their previous albums? I have to say that anyone who knows those albums (particularly Kid A and Amnesiac - I can't speak for their last album, Rainbows, as I 've missed out on that so far) will hear echoes of them in this one: Thom Yorke performs his impersonation of a constipated elf over a monolith of rhythmic sound. That makes it sound like I don't like it: but in fact I like Yorke's ideosyncratic vocals and the more I get to know King of Limbs, the more impressive I find it. The lyrics are good, as rock lyrics go, which helps. I'm not sute about Thom Yorke's bowler-hatted dancing routine, but this -Lotus Flower- was my favourite track on the album.


Gwilym Williams said...

The common cormorant or shag
lays its eggs in a paper bag...

I don't suppose that's true but in Wales...

Ach the Hiraeth!

The Weaver of Grass said...

When I first saw the photograph of the rock I thought it was a crocodile!

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

GW: Hiraeth is a word I know. I must get round to learning a bit more Welsh.

WG: Not in the Menai Straits it isn't. :)