A day out in Aberaeron

Aberaeron

At the beginning of last month, I saw an item on the news about how there would be free bus travel on certain routes in Wales on weekends. For someone like me who doesn’t drive, it sounded like the greatest idea ever. These routes are the TrawsCymru long distance bus routes, and from Carmarthen there’s the T1 which goes up to Aberystwyth; which also goes as far as Cardiff once a day from Monday-Friday. (The Welsh rail network is trash, there is no line going from my town of Carmarthen in the south-west up towards mid or north Wales; so the bus is the only way to go up to Cardigan Bay on public transport). The weather wasn’t great yesterday, but me and my mam decided to take advantage of the free bus travel, and go to Aberaeron for the day.

Aberaeron is a town on the coast of Ceredigion, and it took us about an hour and a half to reach it from my hometown on the bus. After leaving Carmarthen it heads into the depths of north-west Carmarthenshire, before crossing the border into Ceredigion. I arrived feeling rather queasy after a bus driver who flew down the winding country roads, up and down the hills of west Wales…

We arrived at lunchtime, and after a walk round a couple of the shops, we went to have lunch at a very busy New Celtic Restaurant. There wasn’t much in the way of vegetarian options; as I wanted chips (a must at the seaside, right??) I had the choice between egg and chips, and veggie burger and chips. Deciding that eggs were a bit boring, I was left with the veggie burger – which I was impressed with. I ate until I could barely move!

Aberaeron 2

We decided to brave the drizzle and wind to go down to the harbour. It definitely wasn’t the weather for heading out on the beach! There was a thick blanket of cloud obstructing our view out to sea, it was a scene straight out of your stereotypical Welsh summer!

Our return bus wasn’t leaving until around 5.15, so we had plenty of time in the afternoon to have a walk round the town, and a mooch around the shops. There are quite a few which sell some very nice handmade products, from paintings to blankets, to mugs and jewellery. The houses themselves are also pretty, many painted in bright colours.

Aberaeron 3

By teatime, we were just about ready to indulge in a great British summer pastime – avoiding the rain in a cafe. We’d gone past The Hive earlier in the day, and headed back for something sweet. Now, with a name like The Hive, what could this restaurant’s speciality be? Yes, honey – specifically honey flavoured ice cream. After much hmming and aahing, I eventually settled on a chocolate brownie – which was AMAZING – and honey and hazelnut ice cream which was out of this world. With still some time left until the bus was due to arrive, we decided to order something to drink to stay inside in the warm and dry!

The bus driver on the way home was a different one, but with a very similar driving style to his morning colleague (we saw you flying through a light just as it changed red at those roadworks, mate). Even though I arrived home feeling less queasy, I was very glad to step off the bus and start walking home. Not long after I did, it started raining hard, and what with after the wind and drizzle on the coast too, I was so happy to get home and changed into my pyjamas and fluffy dressing gown! Hopefully the weather will be a bit kinder on our next outing!

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Welsh Word of The Week

gwylan – seagull

One thing I really didn’t appreciate growing up in the countryside about 10 miles away, was just how many damn gwylanod (seagulls) there are in my hometown. I don’t get it, the town’s not on the coast; sure, there’s a big old river, but the actual sea is about 8 miles away – and that’s just where the river meets it, proper full-blown sea is another few more miles. I can hear them right now, screeching about they fly around in the sky. Last night I’d kept my window open, as it was slightly warmer than it had been; and at about 5am I got woken up by the seagull dawn chorus. It took me a while to get back to sleep, with them screeching around outside. Eventually they did pipe down, because I guess even seagulls have to go and get some breakfast?

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening to: July 17th-23rd

What I’ve been reading: Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift

Last night, for no apparent reason, I started to think about a series of books I read about two and a half years ago – the Silo series by Hugh Howey. This morning I was in the mood for a lazy day, so it was the perfect opportunity to re-read one of the novels that make up the trilogy. I’d read a graphic novel version of the first book, Wool, back in February, so I felt that the first part of the story was fresh enough in my mind without having to go back over it; so I picked up from the second novel, which is Shift. I can’t give too much away without spoiling Wool, but it’s an excellent story of a post-apocalyptic world where people live in ‘silos’ underground. Shift delves into the backstory of the creation of these silos, and what exactly happened to drive humanity underground.

What I’ve been listening to: TANIS

Woah. TANIS is some trippy ish. I decided to start listening to it this week, after reading the news last week that it has been optioned for a TV adaptation (as well as The Bright Sessions I am SO EXCITED). It’s a docu-drama about the ancient myth of Tanis, where the host, Nic Silver delves deep into a rabbit hole of mysteries to try and find out, what is Tanis? Where is Tanis? It seems – in the first few episodes at least – to have been a mythical city, similar to Atlantis, which then moved its location as time passed… It’s bonkers in the best possible way, and absolutely fascinating.

Welsh Word of The Week

mamgu/nain – grandmother

I’ve been having some crazy dreams these last couple of nights; and last night I had a dream where I was trying to explain the Welsh for ‘grandmother’ to someone who didn’t speak the language. (Yeah, I have no idea where that came from either.) Look the word up in a Welsh dictionary, and it’ll give you both mamgu and nain. And we’re not talking about one of them being a diminutive like grandma or nanny, no, they both mean ‘grandmother’.

There is such a big difference between the Welsh that is used in different areas of the country, that there isn’t actually one standard word for some things – one word is used in the South, one word is used in the North. And it’s not dialect either, these are both standard Welsh words. The same goes for grandfather, which is tadcu in the South and taid in the North. In South Welsh, milk is llaeth, but go to the North and it becomes llefrith. There are two variations for the word ‘now’, nawr down South and rwan up North (do you see what we did there??). Even ‘with’ has two variants! Gyda and efo. And those are only some examples. You’d never think that there would be so many differences in a language spoken in such a small country, right?

Carmarthen Velodrome

Velodrome 1

You wouldn’t think that my small, unassuming hometown of Carmarthen, in the middle of the green fields of south-west Wales, was home to what’s believed to be one of the oldest outdoor velodromes in the world – It was opened in 1900, and has been in constant use since.

The velodrome can be found in the town’s park, and surrounds a field where the town’s rugby team play their home matches. The velodrome has been in the local and also wider Welsh news recently, as work is being carried out to renovate the track after 117 years. The concrete panels which make up the surface are being removed, and replaced. It will be turned into a training and competition venue, and work is expected to finish in September.

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening to: July 10th-16th

What I’ve been reading: Sign of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski

Sign of the Cross

 

I woke up thinking about this blog post, realising that I didn’t have enough material to write about yet; so I spent a couple of hours this morning getting further into this book. Yup, it’s not the first one by Kuzneski I’ve read, but I’m reading them out of chronological order; if I happen to find one of his books at the Free Books store, I pick up whatever they’ve got. This novel’s partly set in Italy, the blurb mentions Orvieto, but the look on my face when a chapter started with the location of the Galleria in Milan! An ancient scroll has been found in catacombs underneath Orvieto, a Vatican priest has been found murdered in Denmark, and the two protagonists – Payne and Jones – start off the novel in a Spanish jail. I’m about 180 pages in, and some of the threads are starting to come together, but more mysteries are emerging.

What I’ve Been Listening to: Greater Boston

I’ve seen Greater Boston being mentioned on Twitter quite a few times recently; especially in regards to a very funny and very sweary mini episode of ars PARADOXICA, which was released on the 1st of this month and written by the people behind Greater Boston. I’m only three episodes into it so far, but I’m finding it very interesting. It’s been on my ridiculously long to listen list for a few weeks, because I saw it described as falling into the magical realism genre once (I’m a huge fan of Murakami). And it does, there’s a very dream-like quality to it, it mixes the real city of Boston with elements of the unreal and surreal. In the first episode, there’s a death of a man who was so fixated with certainty, that the uncertainty of a rollercoaster ride literally made him “nope” out of life; and this has consequences on the rest of the podcast’s story. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this world.

Welsh Word of The Week

Cath

cath – cat

Last night I had a visitor in my back yard, a cath popped over the wall! I adore cats, even though I don’t have one of my own, and once I saw that I had a feline visitor I just had to go outside and say hello. It was very friendly and very tame, and knew its way around the street very well – it tried to make a dash for the back door to go inside the house at one point! It happily posed for this photo, and purred happily as I gave it lots of fusses and scritches. Later on I heard meowing outside, and found the cat on the living room windowsill, wanting to be let in! There’s no sign of my new friend yet today, with the rain we’ve had this morning, but I’m sure they’ll be back!

One Year On

The 15th of July, a day etched in my memory like an inscription on a gravestone. This time last year I was in Milan Malpensa Airport, waiting for my flight to Cardiff.

The way I see it, my time in Italy had ran out. Like sand in an egg timer. It felt like a natural decision, the logical conclusion to a series of events. It wasn’t drastic or rash, even though it had been a hard one. I felt like all the good things in my life, all the reasons I’d had to stay, were being chipped away bit by bit. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made to stay. I actually should’ve left a few months earlier, with how difficult life had become, but I carried on because I thought everything would improve. But I’d come to the end of my journey, like it or not.

It’s been an… Interesting experience coming back to the UK from a country like Italy. This time last year, I got on that plane with my self-esteem and self-confidence in pieces; it had constantly been broken down by the attitudes Italy generally has towards women. To say that the images of beautiful, thin, young women on TV had really got to me is an understatement. Sometimes it feels like a crazy fever dream now, did I really used to see scantily clad women dancing on a desk on a primetime show? Or a woman in a bikini on a gameshow being openly ogled by men? British TV isn’t perfect, I’m not going to pretend that it is, but at least it’s nowhere near as obvious as its Italian counterpart. And after a year, I can definitely feel the positive effects of not being bombarded by such images on a daily basis, even though I’ve still got a lot of healing to do. I’ve also, well, in a way had to get used to being Welsh again. The vast majority of people I met during my years in Italy didn’t get that I was Welsh, and referred to the UK as ‘Inghilterra’ or England. I’ve blogged about it before, how I felt that my Welsh identity was erased when I lived in Italy. I’d also not lived in Wales full-time since I was 18 before last summer, as I’d studied at an English university. For a long time I’d been a kind of ‘other’, a nationality and culture that wasn’t fully understood outside of Wales, and now I’m back among people who are like me, who have the same mother tongue as I do. It’s very comforting, but it also still feels like I don’t quite belong, after having been away for such a long time.

It’s easy to for me to look back and think of only the negative things, but I had a lot of experiences that I wouldn’t have done had I not moved to Italy. I took part in a competition for aspiring radio presenters in 2011, I met people from all over the country and beyond, I saw so much of western Europe as well as Italy, and I could hop on a train and go for a weekend in Rome. I went to Venice several times – twice for Carnevale – Rome about 10 times, I had wonderful weekends in Florence with my friends, Turin, Bologna, a crazy few days on the Adriatic coast in the middle of August… And even though it was only for a brief period of time, I experienced what it was like to have a boyfriend who had been born and had grown up in a different country to me.

I can’t quite believe it’s been a year already. So much in my life hasn’t changed since I made the move back, it’s been a much longer process than I originally imagined. It’s been a frustrating few months, trying to re-build my life and constantly getting knocked back one way or another. It’s a difficult position to be in, when people I grew up with have families, their careers sorted out, and I’m trying to start from scratch in my early 30s. It’s difficult not letting it get me down, but I have to battle on. I’ve gone through a drastic life change that most people won’t come close to, and I don’t give myself enough credit for it. I’m hoping that in a year’s time I’ll be able to write a more positive post, that things will be starting to fall into place. I’ve still got a mountain to climb.

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening to: July 3rd-9th

What I’ve been reading: The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle

I’ve got through a surprising amount of books this week, I’m really pleased with my progress! The Circle was a Kindle book I bought on Amazon last week, when it was on offer for 99p (gotta love those 99p daily Kindle deals!). I’d seen a lot of hype about the book, and also about the film that’s been made of it; and it had been on my ridiculously long to-read list for a while. But I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed by it. I love speculative fiction, novels which are set in the near-future which have a dark twist to them – like Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series for example, where genetic experimentation is completely normal, and animal-human hybrids exist – but this book let me down. Without spoiling it too much, I felt like it didn’t add anything new to the discussion of technology becoming too invasive, and our dependence on social media. One thing I was also uncomfortable with was what I felt to be an unrealistic portrayal of a young woman. But, one huge surprise was my hometown of Carmarthen being mentioned! I started at my Kindle as if it were some kind of alien artifact, what on Earth was my town’s name doing in a book set in California written by an American author?? I gave it three stars on Goodreads, because I liked the idea of what was explored in the book, but it didn’t go into the depth that I’d expected.

What I’ve been listening to: Eos 10

On Friday, I finished listening to the second season of Eos 10. It was one of the many audio dramas that I’d seen recommended by the Wolf 359 fandom, because well, it’s another enjoyable audio drama set in space so I guess it comes easily to people’s minds. It’s set on a huge space station on the edge of deep space; but what makes it different to your average sci-fi is that the main characters are medical staff. It’s been described as ‘Scrubs in space’, which I think is a brilliant comparison, as it’s very much a sci-fi comedy. It can get pretty NSFW at times, but there’s also a much deeper side to it with the characters’ backstories and struggles. The third season is currently in the works, and I’m looking forward to its return.

Welsh Word of The Week

Siwrnai

siwrnai – journey

Yes, this word has clear English (and French, and Latin…) roots. There’s also the word taith for ‘journey’ as well as ‘trip’; but on Wednesday when I was talking about how long our journey up to North Wales had taken us, it was the word siwrnai I used (or siwrne in dialect, to be precise). The roughly four hour siwrnai way up north was the longest bus journey I’d taken in about five years, and it was quite the experience! It was also the first time I’d been to north Wales for about 15 years, apart from passing through on the train a few times, going to/from university. We saw some beautiful sceneries, especially up and down the hills of Powys, among the pine trees – to an extent it reminded me of the times I went up to the Trentino province of Italy, way up in the north-east towards the border with Austria. As long and tiring as the siwrnai was, it was beautiful to see so much of my home country again.