Saturday, August 16, 2008

Raining and Working in Wales

An Irishman a Canadian and a Welshman walk into a pub, what do they do? They order ales drawn from casks and served at room temperature until six gallons later they stagger off into the falling evening light.

Paddy Whatman, an Irish choir boy living in Liverpool, sweet and innocent, and completely corrupted by myself and that incorrigible Welshman Gareth Richards. But what could we do with so many fine ales on hand it was hard to drag ourselves away.

After the rounds we decided to stay for dinner. I had a Mediterranean Tart. My best advice is, when in one country stick with the locals, as this tart was a little disappointing and kind of cheesey. but with laughter and dares all around it had to be ordered. We took our meals outside on the patio as the Welsh evening fell around us.

Quite a wonderful experience, I even forgave the old gentleman who asked me if I was from Colorado! Which I suppose is better then being called an American. And so began my decent into Welsh culture.

The next mourning bright and early as the sleeping dogs laid about bed I was up and out amongst the hills. I hiked over to an abandoned homestead – just to check it out in case my wife throws me out and I decide to move into the neighbourhood. I found the place over run with sheep and with lots of water running - right through where the roof should have been. Only slightly discourage by this turn of events I headed up to walk back along the hill top above Gareth's folly. I arrived back to learn that the Welsh set their door locks. Unwilling to awake a sleeping Irishman and still early l turned to restoring the rock wall to keep the sheep out of what once was a garden but now looks a wee run down.

Alas the jet lag laid me low. Don't even think it. It was the jet lag beyond a doubt. So after the early mourning activities I slung back to bed to catch up on some much needed sleep. Nevertheless I was up and about to lend a small hand to the days activities and to make the late day run into
Conwy for fish and chips.

This being our second stop in the Castle town it was time to try a couple more pubs. Unfortunately lesser publicans have discovered flat screen TV's and video bandits. Keeping your business alive with such tarted up means is rather depressing. I suppose it speaks to the lack of good beer served well and good conversation. Fortunately these establishments seem to still be in the minority.

Up on the hill the work progresses between rain showers which in turn are interrupted by periods of intense moisture, followed by intermittent periods of dampness.

I exaggerate there are of course times when the wind blows so hard the rain does not reach the ground. Instead it's whipped sideways to smash against any vertical object in it's path, usually me.

The roofers have been engage for two months and as of this afternoon have put in two days. They've pulled the roof off the west side of the cottage and today got about two thirds pulled off the east side.

The locals are saying it is the wettest summer they can remember. I'm suspicious. I suspect they are still holding out hope that someone might put off that idyllic holiday in sunny warm Spain and come here to Wales.

In spite of the October west coast weather we are getting things done. The water system has been beat into submission, mostly by cutting out all the nonsense installed by the previous owner an running water direct to the taps.

It took three days, largely due to the necessity to run down the mountain for supplies which always means a detour or two, sometimes even to a pub. Drinking water was solved by installing a third world marvel tera cotta fixture that involves a clay pot suspended inside a plastic pail. This $20 device produces pure sparkling water and will save thousands of lives throughout the world.

After three days we took a break and drove down to Cardiff to visit Gareth's rental property, pick up tools and take a well deserved break. The first night found us out amongst the wild Welsh countryside tucked into a fine pub – The Plough and Harrow. This is one of Wales most renowned pubs. It's been serving ale since 1345 or some time there about. After a few pints we plunged into some traditional Welsh pub delights. Gareth sampled a couple of Faggots while I enjoyed the best Spotted Dick I've ever had.

do I have to explain everything! The first were welsh meat balls made from lamb and leaks and the later a pudding. Jeeese!

Driving lessons followed the diversion to Cardiff. It took a while toget use to driving on what I'm told is the proper side of the road but I think I have the hang of it. Although I am not looking forward to the drive to Manchester. Scary stuff that.

Back up to North Wales Gareth sent me off to Hollyhead to hook up with Nigel Denis. the boat is built and will be delivered to the Isle of Man for me. Nigel has even arranged to have it shipped back. That's a great service to me. I've booked my ticket on the ferry and have spoken to Kerrion who seems to be even more excited then I. Frankly I'm worried. The weather has me spooked. If it does not turn the circumnavigation is going to be challenging. Two days ago the Irish Sea looked down right menacing.

Too take my mind off things I've plunged into the cottage renos. After beating the plumbing monsters I turned to more manual endeavours. Just to the left of the main house is a side room whose roof has collapsed, into this debris the past owners have dumped 30 years of accumulated junk, rocks, dirt, ashes you name it. With a shovel a rack and a pick Gareth and I have tackled and removed perhaps a third. We'll be back to it tomorrow.

Yesterday , Sunday August 10th I pulled out my plaid shirt, high heels, cotton bra and once more took up the most honourable of Canadian professions – lumber jack. We bought a chain saw and took on the jungle that was a garden.

The garden is about 30 feet wide and perhaps 90 long. Down the middle runs the 240 power lines to the cottage. Stone walls define the perimeter. I walked it over, checking the clearances and smiled silently to myself. At least three of the trees were taller then the lines and with the prevailing winds blowing hard directly toward the power lines it would be a challenge to drop the trees in the limited space between the lines and the rock walls.

Could I after all these years drop these trees without bringing down the power lines or smashing the stone walls? Everything went according to plan. The first three were simple. But today the towering pine loomed over the power lines – ominous. Up on the roof the roofers were pecking away at the slate.

I made my wedge cut. Pulled back double checked and thought I'd better get everyone clear. The phone rings and Gareth wonders aimlessly back and forth through the garden. It's his wife, my sister in law, calling from Yemen. He's in a state waffling back and forth between rapture and fear. On and on they talk. The wind picks up. I look sky ward and another bank of black clouds is pouring over the hill and bearing down on the cottage. With the tree weaken it has to come down. Finally Fran says good bye and I ask Gareth to leave the garden.
I don't want him anywhere near sound diaster strike.

For a moment I consider going over to the roofers and asking them if they want to put a little money on where the tree will fall. But I decide that would be tempting fate. I reach down fire up the saw and make the finial fatal cut.
With a crack the tree starts to fall just as I pull the saw away. Slowly the tree turns ever so slightly and falls, the outer branches kiss the wall while the tree drops perfectly between two old rose bushes. A perfect drop. I let out whoop.

Later one to the roofers says, he'd bet the power lines would have come down. Not a chance, I'm Canadian. It's in the blood.

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