Lovers Island and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales, 8th September 2011

Newborough beach leading to Lovers Island

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and I have arrived.  WALESX

Sitting in the beach house, on the side of (Mount) Carmel, Wales, with a heady brew of herbs and a head full of romance. This small white-walled cottage juts out of a rolling foothill covered in purple lavender and yellow-bush wildflowers.  Its little red door is like a portal to a world of calm and bliss.  The wind and rain lashes at the thick walls and portholes for windows. You can smell the sea in the air and the washing hangs near the stone circle in the garden.  To my left lies a patchwork of green and the occasional copse, this leads down 2 miles to the cobalt Menai Straits and Stillwater Cove.  To my right Snowdonia towers above us, lost somewhere in the heavy mist.  Old slag (piles of disused slate) heaps scar the landscape and all is imbued with a deep, rich countryside feel.

Carmel is relatively high, we are living in the clouds up here.  This means when the clouds break, the light refracts and glows like pure beams being cast from heavenly places. The only amenity here is Shop Doris (see pic) a little shop with sparse shelves and the old-fashioned aroma of stale ciggies.   The pub is 4 miles away, called ‘The Onion Head’.  The undertakers around here seem be doing a decent trade.  Here we are, a long way from anywhere really and all the better for it.  Carmel in Hebrew translates to ‘Gods Vineyard’.  There is a hardy winemaker down the hill, eking out some grape nectar from a rough looking plot.  My kind of hamlet.

Popping out to see Doris

I’m living with a very special and beautiful soul Jane (my wonderful girlfriend who I met on an island in the Philippines and the reason for my present westerly positionX) and we are having a ball in this terrain.  Jane has spent three years gutting the place and ‘the beach house’ is now an island paradise fit for a beautiful existence.  I spend most days in the cosy kitchen, coming up with a new twist on humble hummus and the ever tantalising sopa de verdura.  Today its baked falafel and a mung bean casserole thing, we eat like veggie royalty.  Happy belly, happy head.

Yesterday I went to work with Jane inspecting rail bridges, whilst Jane toiled, I mused on grey seagulls and picked wild blackberries for jam.  A real treat of a time.  We scooted over to Bangor to stroll along the windswept wooden Victorian promenade and then to the luxurious Blue Sky Cafe, disappearing into a vast brown sofa with a pot of cinamonplum rooibos tea.

This part of Northern Wales is a rugged, picturesque place, full of pleasant country folk and smatterings of elderly caravan tourist, in Anglesey especially. With all of the signs etc being in Welsh (and English translation) I have the feeling of living in a new country. I plan on getting into the lingo a little, although the pronunciation takes some tongue gymnastics.  For example some local town names here, Pwllgwyngyll or Llanfihagel Ysgeiflog.  So I’m starting with the eclectic basics, Jane is teaching me the ‘io’s’.  Smocio (smoke), parcio (park), ralio (rally) and Smwddio pronouned ‘smoothio’ and meaning to iron.  Who knows where such vocabulary may lead me.

We recently visited the village with the longest name ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’ and realised that the translation relates directly to a Yeasayer song which I posted previously ‘Red Cave’.  It goes something like this ‘The Church of Mary in the hollow of the hazel near the feirce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the red cave’.  The Yeasayer say……

Quite remarkable, all this has led me here.  Many auspicious signs, great and small.

On little drives in the white van we pass through fragrant forests just turning golden and red, taking in burial grounds from neolithic 2000 BC, we visit the world heritage Beaumaris Castle built in the 13th Century, we see stately homes dotting the rolling valleys, standing stones and sheep, drink mugs of tea and munch on cheese scones.  Ancient history is dense here and evident in most areas.  There is a feeling that I may well discover my sense of olde ‘Britishness’ this time.  Something more deep rooted than Marks and Spencers socks.

Jane at the burial mound

I am certainly carried away by the dramatic scenery of the Snowdon Mountain range, the most stunning sight in the U.K.  We watched the sun set beside them and marvelled as the minutes passed and the light gently altered the complexion and shadows of these lofty granite monsters.  Oystercatchers kept us company doing their funny little shuffle, disturbing the shimmering surf.  The occasional shag (the bird) makes an appearance, swooping and chattering.

Our vantage point was an old abandoned lighthouse on the magical Llandwwyn Island (Lovers Island), a narrow rocky peninsula off Angelsey, studded with white sand coves, wild grey ponies, the ruins of St Dwywen church, two lighthouses (that look like windmills) and rolling carpets of the wildest of wild flowers; yellow horned poppies, thrift, birds foot trefoil and herb robert.  My favourite touch was the hand carved gates and stiles, real craftsmanship, their abstract celtic swirls added a fantasy element.  I also like the squat canon, that was used to alert the lifeboat crew that used to live here.  This selfless lot saved 101 lives in the Menai Straits until the crew was scrapped in 1903.

Footpath gate

It is reached by a walk along the pristine Newborough Beach, where the clear water of the Irish Sea falls upon a beautiful strip of sand and rock beach, fringed by a large belt of sand dunes straight into a pine forest.  The smell of fresh seaweed stirs memories of childhood holidays; the hot chips in newspaper, the laughing with glee when buried up to my head in wet cold sand and the baking heat of a caravan at midday.  Newborough has the feel of a (semi) secret paradise, if only the sun shone with greater regularity.  As you approach the islands isthmus, there are several lumps of frozen black lava.  These outcrops are pre-cambrian lava ‘pillows’ and get geologists hot under the collar.

There is rich folklore surrounding this captivating little slab of rock. Llanddwyn was the location of St Dwynwen’s church, now just a ruin, built in the 16th century for Wales answer to St Valentine.  St Dwynwen is the saint of love; lovers day is 25th January in these parts.  The story goes that this 5th century saint fell in love with a man (Maelon) and well, it all went pear-shaped.  She then lived on the isle as a recluse and people visit on a pilgrimage to the church’s ruins when they are having a barren patch or a tift.  I like St Dwynwen’s famous line, “nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness”.

My favourite myth is that of the faithfulness test.  The eel test.  They lived in the well and ladies would come and lay their handkerchiefs on the surface followed by some breadcrumbs.  If the eels disturbed the handkerchief the man was faithful.  I imagine there were many faithful chaps in Angelsey.  Eels like bread.

After scooting around for a while now, the mind, body and soul are enjoying the break. My plans are few and wide open, however I have applied for a few jobs in cafes and bars to start gathering the pennies again. We have many guitars, a ukelele, a guitarlele, books, pens, yoga mats, an open fire and a meditation room……I have much to do here. That amounts to years worth of wonderful activity. I also must strim the garden, which is like like attacking a titan with a toothpick. There is an organic farm down the road, in Nantlle. Set in an epic, sweeping valley between two of Snowdon’s craggy peaks.  Hopefully I will be volunteering there to pick weeds and cook the occasional veg nut feast.

Just running my eyes across the local papers activity section, in the next couple of days we have Tibetan Yoga for balance, talks on ‘we are all grail knights’, Eryi’s ancient trees, Killing Bono, Ramana Maharishi, Merlin and the woods of time, bioblitz 2 and occult mediation.  Its a spiritual smorgasbord.  A varied education ahead in these lush, dark green parts.  The social calendar will be packed.

Funnily enough whilst typing these words, the door was knocked and it was Anette and Jasmin two Jehovas Witness’s.  With broad grins and in a biting gale they extolled the virtues of divinity in all and Jesus’s teaching of one truth (one love).  I invited them in, but am only wearing an orange lungi (the fire is still pumping out a heatwave), I think they were a bit daunted by my scant attire.  I have ultimate respect for this gesture.  Weather like this makes serious demands on ones faith, to venture outdoors alone is an act of bravery.  They will be back next Monday, they are bringing ‘books’.

In Newborough Forest

I’m organising, I’m settling, I’m getting with the pagan vibrations.  We have a stone circle in the garden and the winter solstice is first, then a Christmas in the arms of family and friends.  So far, the integration back to the grey side is going rather well.   I feel a topical poem coming on………..

Carmel Point – Robinson Jefferson 

The extraordinary patience of things! 
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.-As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from. 

This is written about Carmel, California, but still resonates in the original.

To me this little ‘Beach House’ is what ‘Bron-Yr-Aur’ was to Plant and Page, just over Snowdonia.  A place to be still with nature, connect and create.  My tea mug is well used and reads ‘Save the World, Drink More Tea, Make More Love’ it has two swallows on it.

Lighthouse sunset


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