Monthly Archives

September 2016


Denbigh and Flint show

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Denbigh and Flint show


When I started my travels, it was with the intention of visiting as many places as I could, having lots of different adventures, meeting wonderful people and above all learning new things along the way.  Well I have learned loads whilst in North Wales.  Today I went to Denbigh show with Nicola and Bim who have a stand there selling their lovely sauces and nut butters and all, so I went for a little walk and have always been interested in learning more about what is involved with showing animals? Cows in particular! Why would you? Lol!!


Anyway I went into the huge cow shed where all the prize cows were being prepared for the show, and wow did I get a shock, I really didn’t realise how much work goes into just keeping them clean, for example their back ends which seem to evacuate their entire bowel contents very frequently were continuously being sponged down to keep them in pristine condition.


I chose to talk to the owner of the cows I thought were the prettiest. J  He was a lovely man called Chris Hopley who didn’t mind chatting to me explaining what is involved, he had reared British Blonde cows and was originally showing them as a hobby but they had now become winners many times over so they were actually making him a profit.


While I was there Chris explained the type of thing the judges are looking for, he said that the particular judge who would be presiding over his competition liked her cows to have their hair ruffled and not lying down flat against the body, so Chris had this wax soap which he had to rub all over the cows hide against the weave of its hair to make the hairs stand out instead of lying flat, this he would have to do all over each cow before they paraded onto the field.  He said sometimes he would use gold glitter in the soap to try and draw the judges attention, so that when the sun shines down on his cows they would be glistening, therefore catching the judges eye.  It’s all in the tactics guys!


There was a lady helping Chris, whose job it was to back-comb the bushy ends of the tails and spray them with hair lacquer to make them look more attractive! Who would have thought that making a cow look pretty could be such a job Lol!  Anyway he was really interesting to talk to and I enjoyed learning all about his cows, who he was immensely proud of! I wished him well before going off to inspect some of the other specimens.



There were fat cows, skinny cows, pink cows and generally all sorts of cows and I really did find it quite interesting to learn about this hobby.  Even though I live in an area where farming is very prominent I haven’t really spoken to any farmers or talked to any of them about their livelihoods or hobbies.




The show was very big and covered many areas of country life as you would imagine, two very large food marquees with lots of homemade produce including beautiful cider, which I just had to try out! Lush it was too!  They also had a lovely stall selling flavoured liqueurs, there was one called Black mountain and it was a flavoured brandy using blackberries, it was absolutely divine.  I had to really stop myself from buying a bottle.


There was a huge array of different tractors and farm machinery which ranged from the old threshers to newer combine harvesters; I preferred the old threshers, fab machines.  There was also a classic car show, got to love them old cars, wouldn’t want one mind they look like too much work and that’s just to keep them clean!


All in all it was a fab show, Bim’s kitchen sold lots of stuff and there were a lot of people showing a lot of interest in their products, which was the whole point of the exercise.  I enjoyed helping them out on their stall and learning all about show cows, or should I say prize cows????



EPIC Rhossili

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Epic Rhossili


I have already mentioned in previous blog posts the plan I have for my traveling and it involves being a boomerang, in other words I intend to keep going home at intervals to see my kids and grandkids, the times I spend with them when I’m home are special and I want to write about those days in my blog too so I can always have something to look back on.

The last time I was home was no different than before in that I couldn’t wait to see my children and spend time with them and their children, this time we had heard that an EPIC sculpture, meaning the word EPIC made into a large sculpture has been moving around Wales, popping up at certain locations, the next destination is kept a secret until it arrives at the next fantastic place.



I read on Facebook that it was in Rhossili for the week while I was home, which is my favourite place, so that gave me the excuse I needed to go and visit Rhossili bay again.  I asked Jordan if she wanted to come with me and her and Mia said yes, Kelsey ended up coming too as she loves it over in Rhossili.


We decided to go after tea, mainly because Mia had stuff on in the day and Kelsey was working but I also thought it would be great to see it against the fantastic backdrop of Rhossili bay while the sun sets and it didn’t disappoint.  It wasn’t one of the best sunsets I have seen there but it was pretty cool.


Visit Wales, a company that promotes Wales within the tourist industry was in charge of the sculpture and it was manned day and night in case of accident, it had been placed near the edge of the cliff on the walk out to the Worms Head, but obviously at a safe distance.


We turned up and there were many others there waiting to have their photos taken with the EPIC sculpture which did look magnificent against the sunset hued sky, we all took turns to stand in the various letters and had many pictures taken.


As the sun was setting the rescue helicopter had been arranged to make a flyby over the sign which we also managed to take plenty of pictures of.


It was a simple thing but quite fun to be a part of the venture to raise awareness of fantastic places to go in Wales.   The theme was entitled #findyourepic and the campaign is about having epic adventures in wonderful places in Wales.


We certainly had an adventure on this trip, it’s always great to be in Rhossili, and the scenery is just stunning.  The sheep didn’t seem to mind all the fuss either.


Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS)

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Empty Nest Syndrome

Having had five wonderful children and spent the last 27 years of my life bringing them up, I definitely feel  that ENS or Empty Nest Syndrome is a very real disease (not one that needs medication but one that needs preparing for).  My youngest, having turned 16 last year is about to join the army and the feeling of emptiness now that all my children have grown up and formed lives of their own is almost palpable.


The bringing up of my children dominated my life in the most wonderful way, I was a stay at home mum and loved every minute of it, from the constant washing and ironing to the school trips I always went on because I was a member of the PTA (Parent, Teacher Association).  I recently read about Nadiya Hussain from The Great British bake off feeling put down when she used to take her kids to school because other mothers would ask what she did and when she told them she was a housewife and mother, she felt they were not valuing her role.  I felt the opposite, I loved being home with my children and felt sorry for the mothers who worked because they missed out on so much.  When people asked me about using my brain I really just felt that happiness doesn’t come from using your brain, having said that, you don’t have to go to work to use your brain, I was very busy doing other stuff to stimulate my brain.


When I say dominated my life I mean it in every wonderful sense of the word, every decision made was according to what was happening in the children’s lives, and even listening to a music cd in the car was decided for me.  I have been through favourites such as the Spice Girls, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Katie Perry, Rihanna, Jason Derulo, DJ Cammy, BlackEyed Peas, McFly to Take That and every boy band in between.  Every car trip turned into a fight for cd domination, whoever was sat in the front got to choose which cd we played.  Carpool Karaoke had nothing on us, we even trained all the kids to love and sing along to every song on the Bat out of Hell Album (the only one of our choice which soon became theirs), if there had been phone cameras in those days, we would have had thousands of hits with a video of our whole family, aged from 2 up to 15 and us parents singing Paradise by the Dashboard Light at the top of our voices.



But sadly those days are gone, my children are no longer children, they are adults with lives of their own and I feel empty inside.  I love and respect the adults they have become but I so, so miss the children they were.  I miss the life we had in so many ways, I miss the big things like every time they were picked for “Seren y Dydd” (Star for a day), or picked for the rugby team, won something in school, took part in Eisteddfods, the times when seeing my face in the audience was all they needed while they played various parts on stage from Mary in the nativity to the main part in South Pacific and all other parts in between.  I miss the concerts I went to, watching them sing, play violin, play piano, act, dance and sing in amateur dramatics.  I miss the driving back and fore to the various lessons they took, ballet, swimming, horse riding, violin, piano, singing, choir practice, rugby, football, rhythmic gym and anything else they wanted to take part in.


Everything to the small and seemingly insignificant things, to washed out camping trips, rained off picnics which turned into car picnics, time spent just sitting watching them play in the sand or in the garden, precious moments that I will never get back but will remain in my heart forever.


Their birthdays no longer hold the same excitement for me, making sure all the friends were invited and could come to their party, making sure all the right food was sorted, and for the bike parties, making sure all the tyres were pumped up and ready to go.  The build up to their birthdays was a major event depending on which party they decided to have, we have had cycling parties, swimming parties, camping with midnight ghost walks into the woods.  Bouncy castles, indoor and outdoor play places or parks, rugby fields etc. have all been part of our party themes. There were the many sleepovers that should have been called awakeovers, which, during the time I used to dread, due to lack of sleep, but I now would give anything to have them and their friends all laughing and screeching their way through the night.  Halloween now just comes and goes, no fake blood, no fog machine, no dressing up.  Whereas in the past we used to spend the week before, preparing for the party, which was always around half term, we decorated the whole house, spent ages making the food and on the night Nanna used to come up un-announced dressed as a ghost tapping on the window, there was a lot of screaming in my house on Halloween, I even miss that.



I am now in a position where I don’t know who I am, my film, TV, cd, entertainment was determined by them and what they wanted but it is only now when I look back that I realise this.  The thing is their favourite things became my favourite things, after they were dropped off at school, Jason Derulo was still playing on the cd player, when they went to bed Friends was still playing on the dvd player (although they would always ask “Just one more episode mam?”) I loved what they loved and now they are no longer part of my decision making I find it hard to decide what to listen to or watch etc. etc.


I still listen to the cds they have left in my car and still watch some of the films we used to love to watch together but it very often brings a tear to my eye as they are no  longer there to cwtch up with on the sofa, they are living their own lives.  Parenthood is by far the best thing I have ever done and the people I have brought into the world are the best people, but losing them to life is hard!


I miss the camping trips with their friends, I miss the friends coming over for tea, I miss the chats with their friends.  I miss their friends!


I miss the Christmases when they believed in Santa, they were magical, from putting up the many decorations and our collection of Santa’s which we added to every year, the hiding of all the shopping the endless concerts and parties in December and then Christmas week was just so special.  It just doesn’t hold the same excitement for me now, I have grandchildren but they are not mine and my children will provide all the excitement they need I am just an onlooker.


When I was young I never had huge career ambitions I just knew I wanted to have children, I achieved my dream many times with my five wonderful children.  As well as missing the children they were, I miss the person I was when I was bringing them up, I was just Mami!  I cooked for them, cleaned for them, took them wherever they needed to go with extra trips to the school when they forgot their various kits or lunch boxes, or jumper/coat etc., I joined the PTA so I could spend more time with them being able to supervise on various trips, organise the fundraising events and got to spend time in the school during the organising of events when they would just pass through the dining hall and be waving frantically at me, so pleased to see me there.


When my first daughter left to go to university it was hard but made easier by the fact that I still had four children at home but it was still like a knife in my heart when I suddenly realised during her time at university that she didn’t need me in the same way anymore, it’s hard to say why or what event made me feel this way, but it was just a knowing that she had gone from me, she had other friends sho told things to and boyfriends, but like I said, it was made easier by my remaining children, but now my youngest has gone, he is staying with his dad while I go on my travels until he joins the army in a month, but he had gone from me a couple of years before probably, being the youngest, the others used to tease him about being a mami’s boy so he stopped cwtching on the couch, holding hands, kissing me etc.  If I could have my time with them as children again I would jump at the chance, they are very special adults and I love them very much and we still share a lot of joy but nothing compares to the time when you were the most important person in your children’s lives.


I remember the story reading before bed, for the girls it was the Famous five and Little Women as well as doing their reading, every night diligently reading the English and Welsh home reader books given in school, with the boys they enjoyed the Famous Five books but they also enjoyed learning capitals of the world, we used to practice them all before bed, testing each other on which they remembered, they now know all the capitals of everywhere in the world.  My youngest used to go to sleep listening to Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat when he was a baby.


My older girls were involved in amateur dramatics, so as a family we became hooked on musicals and had all the sound tracks which we used to all sing along to, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat were the favourites.   Not forgetting The Sound of Music, we dressed up and went to see singalonga Sound Of Music in Swansea Grand Theatre, I made the children’s clothes from curtains and dressed up as Maria myself, we had such fun singing along while watching the film, and we also did the same in Cardiff with Joseph.


I watch them with their children and see the joy they feel and know how much more they have to come and the joy I feel with my grandchildren is very special but I still miss my children, maybe it is a phase I need to go through and I’m sure with time the tears won’t be so ready to fall at every song on the radio that we used to sing together or every place I go that we used to go, I’m sure there are other parents out there who feel the same as me, I can’t be the only one surely?


I know that the memories I have will never be erased but I just need some time to develop myself again.  I feel like I grew up while bringing my children up, as everyone knows they don’t come with an instruction manual and you learn as you go along but the responsibility of it all encourages you to grow up and put your own needs to one side while you try your best to give your children the best start in life.  For me it seemed that giving them love and ensuring their health through healthy diet and lifestyle was the best I could do for them and this is what I tried to achieve.  I know that some of the things I did with my children has made a difference to their lives as I watch them do the same with their children.  My job is done and it feels good in many ways but in one huge way I feel bereft.  Time will heal the pain, no doubt and I look forward to discovering myself again.



Pot washer

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Pot washer

I managed to get a job at the local hotel in Clifden called the Glenabbey Castle hotel.  I called to see Brian the owner on my way from the horrendous place I was supposed to stay in Derrybeg.  On the one hand I was way out of my comfort zone, realising after I left that I had nowhere to go and was in a country I didn’t know, with people I didn’t know either.  And on the other hand I wasn’t sure what to do so I swallowed my pride and decided to stop at the first hotel I found and ask for a job in exchange for board and lodge.


When I met and spoke with Brian he couldn’t give me a job that day as they were busy and he had no time to deal with me there and then so he told me to come back on Tuesday when he would have time to look at the situation and let me know if he had something for me.  I couldn’t rely on him totally as he didn’t say definite so I also applied to helpx and found this couple living in Castlebar which is just up the road from Clifden on the off chance they would have availability.  I also told all my friends on Facbook of my situation and they were wonderful sharing my predicament with all their friends until I had a couple of other offers also but nothing confirmed again.  While I was awaiting confirmation from both Brian and Helpx I camped out down at the golf club, did a lot of sight-seeing with Gary who is Brian’s friend and he took me all around the Connemara loop and many other places.


I arrived in Clifden on Saturday morning and Brian had told me to come back on Tuesday morning about a job so in the mean-time on the Monday I had an offer from the couple in Castlebar so I agreed to go there Thursday of the same week.  I went to Brian on the Tuesday morning with the intention of telling him that there was no need for  a job now as I have one lined up but he insisted, offering me wages and food and a place to sleep in return for working in the kitchen at the hotel.  So I decided to give it a go, moved my stuff into his staff house sharing with two French exchange students.  The house was lovely and warm, better than wet sleeping bags and tents.


My first shift was Tuesday night and I was put on washing pots and pans which doesn’t sound too bad until you get started.  I worked with another girl called Ailbhea, pronounced ALVA, who was lovely and told me she had been working there for 18 months; we worked hard all night from 5pm until 10pm never stopping apart from to go to the loo or in Ailbhea’s case for a cigarette break.  I had some food when I arrived, as Brian provides staff with food which is already prepared and drinks all night, mainly squash, could have done with some red wine!!! It is very hot work and very hard, your hands are continually in hot water because the chefs do their cooking and as they go along, all the pans, pots etc. that they use are put in the sink for us to wash.  So the washing and drying goes on all night until the cooking stops about 9sih then the clean-up of the kitchen begins before you go home.


Every person who works behind the scenes at this hotel work very hard, I spoke to the waitresses, chefs, cleaning staff and they all do a great job but it is very physically demanding.  I’m sure it’s the same as in other hotels.  By the time it was time to finish I was really worn out, got back to the house at 10.15 ish and went straight to sleep.  The following morning I was in work again from 9am till 1pm.


When I got in this time there was a massive pile of pots and pans awaiting me and no Ailbhea in sight so it became obvious that I was working alone.  The hotel had breakfast for more than 100 people with many, many pots and pans already used, and after the breakfast stuff is done the other chefs are in making the deserts for the night.   Everything is made fresh so they were baking bread, making cheese cakes, ice cream, tarts, etc. and preparing all the veg for the night’s meals.  This was the hardest I think I have ever worked in my life, it was physically really difficult for me, some of the pots are so huge my grandchildren could fit in them and put the lid on! LOL!!  I could barely lift some of the frying pans but I just got on with it and knew that it wouldn’t last, as I had decided to take the job looking after the children in Castlebar.  Just to give an indication of how hard the work is; the two French girls that share the house with me come home after the morning shift, have a sleep in the afternoon before the evening shift (No time for adventure).  So I told Brian that I don’t want any pay but to just use it for my two nights’ accommodation.  I think that is fair, today I did the work of 2 to 3 people and I was physically exhausted!  I just can’t continue to do that, my arms are aching and my Rheumatoid arthritis is really bad, so that is it!  Another job bites the dust!! Hopefully it will be third time lucky at the new place in Castlebar!!!




LLandudno and the Great Orme

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Llandudno and the Great Orme

The main attractions which drew me to visit Llandudno were the Great Orme, the cable car which went to the top of the Great Orme and the Traditional old pier, unfortunately when I got there, it was a beautiful day but with awful high winds so the cable car was closed.  I took a trip to where it starts from because there is a lovely park with a bandstand where you can see the beautiful views across the sea and of the pier below.


I carried on up the roadway and came to a carpark for the ski slope with an obvious walk way up the mountain by the side on the slope, I took the walk and met a lovely lady close to the top walking her dog, we chatted about our lives, she told me her name was Rhiannon and she worked for a Christian society as a conciliatory agent travelling to war torn countries to repair communities and get them leading as normal a life as they can under the circumstances.  She was off to Rwanda the very next day then on to Kenya and Ukraine for a few weeks to do her job which she believed was gods calling, she was such a lovely lady, it’s amazing the people you meet while climbing a mountain.


Anyway she walked so far with me then pointed me in the direction of the summit, ‘I decided to go all the way it was a beautiful dunny day and the views all around were stunning so I carried on my climb and reached the top within a half hour.  She also told me about the drive around the Great Orme and how to reach it from the other direction to escape paying, seeing as I am so tight, I thought that was definitely worth a try.


The views form the top were wonderful, you could see where the cable car ends with a little café where you can have a snack.  I watched the tram making its way slowly up the mountain.  It was very windy at the top but worth the climb for the views, you could see for miles out to sea where all the windmills were turning creating energy for parts of Liverpool.


I stayed for a while just feeling on top of the world which I always feel when at the top of a mountain, even though it’s always a tough climb wherever you go, the spectacular views are always worth the effort.  I would love to live at the top of a mountain and be able to look at these fantastic views every day.


When I came down I tried to find the road the lady had told me about but ended up going the wrong way and annoying a cyclist, ooops, so I gave up, parked my car and went for a walk along the front which is still maintained in the style of when it was built during Victorian times.  It is said that Lord Mostyn owns most of the buildings and one of the conditions of rental is to maintain the style of the Victorian era, which I must say they do very well.  I could almost see the ladies with their bustles and parasols walking along the promenade, arm in arm with their husbands in top hat and tails.


The great Orme is on a piece of land that protrudes from the mainland also known as the Creuddyn Peninsula, from the top on a clear day you can see as far as the Isle of Man and The Lake District.  You can also look out across the bay and see the Little Orme opposite.  Parts of The Great Orme are managed as a nature reserve with many rare birds, insects like moths and even bats.  There are some rare plants growing there too.  Some of the land is used for farming with a large herd of Kashmiri goats roaming the mountain.


The pier is the longest in Wales and dominates the base of the Great Orme with the Grand Hotel taking pride of place at its entrance.  I walked to the end of the pier with the intention of having a nice glass of red wine in the bar at the end but I had no cash on me and the bar couldn’t take cards so I was a really disappointed, as I was looking forward to drinking my wine on the pier while watching the sun go down.   It was a spectacular sunset and I enjoyed watching the sun go down anyway, even though most of it was behind the mountain, the colours in the sky gave great photo opportunities.


While out on the end of the pier the view back along the parade of hotels is wonderful and is known as the most splendid beach resort in North Wales.







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Even though I have already written blogs about certain aspects of the last few days I wanted to say more about the town of Clifden.  There was some drama surrounding my visit to Clifden but it will always remain in my memory as the town who took me to their own, everyone I met treated me like I had been a member of the community for years, from the guys at the local pub called Tom Kings on the main street in Clifden to the men and ladies of the golf club where I was a familiar figure huddled over my laptop in the evenings doing my blog, or sneaking a shower after my epic camping on the beach.


Clifden is the largest town in Connemara and is often referred to as the capital of Connemara and all the outlying districts and villages add to its overall charm.  Obviously my favourite part of the Clifden area was Ballyconeely bay where I camped.  The beaches were amazing and covered in white sand with beautiful blue sea with rugged stony outlying tiny islands which added to the beauty.


The job I took at the Abbeyglen Castle hotel was not the best I have ever done, but the beauty of my traveling is that I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to, so I decided not to, sadly I never got to say goodbye to all the wonderful people I worked with in the kitchens who all work so hard.  The staff works together as a family and it was great to be part of the family even for just a short period. I met the housekeeping staff, one was called Eva from Poland, not sure of the other names, I met the waitresses, lovely girls from the local area with dreams of traveling themselves, Shannon and Alice I mostly spoke to, then there were the two French girls I shared my house with Alexandra and Juliette.  The chefs Tony and Paul and the Turkish guy, all lovely people who have played a part in my huge adventure.


The regulars in the pub were lovely and I can’t remember their names again, but J J is one of them who runs the fantastic Mitchells seafood restaurant and pops in and out of the Tom Kings depending on how busy his place is, the Munster supporter, the place I had my first and best Guinness and watched the Scarlets get beaten by Munster, all memories made on my long journey.  Life has its ups and downs whatever you are doing but the beauty of traveling is that when it has its downs you just move on.


Clifden was hit badly by the great famine in 1845 and by 1848 90% of the population were on relief (receiving government money), lots of landlords went bankrupt as disease hit.  Much of the population took their chances and emigrated to America.  Clifden didn’t gain prominence again until 1905 when Guiglielmo Marconi decided to build the first high power transatlantic long wave wireless telegraphy station, 4 miles south of the town, it is said that at its peak more than 200 locals worked at the station, including local man, Jack Phillips who later perished on the Titanic as Chief Radio Operator.


After the civil war in 1922 the station was moved to Waunfawr in Wales.  The war of Independence between 1920 – 1921 saw a lot of destruction in Clifden but from 1930 repairs were initiated and the town was built up to what it is today.  It is a thriving little town with a beautiful bay, nice hotels, busy local pubs, many shops, small and large, you will always find what you need without going further afield, and they have a big supermarket, a Lidl and Aldi with many smaller Spar type shops.  Nice Artisan clothes shops as well as local craft shops also dominate the shopping street.  It attracts many visitors every year from all over the world; while I was there I heard many different accents as well as meeting many different nationalities.


The visitor attractions in the area are many, all of which I enjoyed while I was there, The Sky road takes you 150 metres up behind the town where you can look down and see the whole area including the beautiful bays of Ballyconneely, Clifden bay and also Slyne head lighthouse, the furthest point at the headland.  There are two besutiful churches with wonderful stained glass windows. There is Derrigimlagh where Alcock and Brown landed their Vickers Vimy Biplane after their epic trip across the Atlantic, Roundstone fishing village, Doon hill and Magistrates house, Inagh Valley, Twelve Bens mountain range, Maamturk mountain Range, Killary Fjord, the beautiful rustic and rugged bog road, Kylemore Abbey, Inishnee and Connemara National Park to name but a few.  There are things I didn’t do and see which I hope to go back to at some point, definitely Innish Boffin.


There is also the beauty of the whole area, from the sunny days to the dreary days, the horizon looks different sometimes glorious mountains in plain view sometimes the peaks can be spotted above the mist, always colourful wherever you go , from the heather covered bog road to the abundance of daisies, Monbretia and Fuschia growing wild to the golden hued seaweed that covers much of the rocky seashore.  IMG_4781

Sometimes you have to look beyond the dreary weather to the beauty within.



Then there are my new friends, Gary who took me around a lot of these places and told me the history behind them all and who I will probably meet again sometime soon and Aaron who was a Belgian hitchhiker I picked up who comes to Ireland every year hitchhiking because he loves the music scene and the landscape.  We are going to meet up one day next week to explore the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher and he has promised to take me to the best places for music sessions away from the touristy bits.  Also there was Ailbhea pronounced ALVA who was my fellow pot washer at the hotel.


My time in Clifden was special for so many reasons not least the people I met which seems mostly to be the case wherever I go.


Cadair Idris

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Cadair Idris

From the darkness into the light.

My day in Cadair Idris started well enough, I had been given the day off by my hosts because they were in a food festival on Anglesey so I decided to take the long drive to Cadair Idris which was about 50 miles from where I was staying, the weather was looking dry with rain forecast for the rest of the week so off I went.  The drive there was pretty uneventful with a couple of stops on the way to admire the lush countryside and stunning views and a stop at the local supermarket to buy my food for the day.



I have wanted to climb Cadair Idris for a very long time with the intention at some point in the future of doing the Welsh three peaks which also include Pen y Fan and Snowdon.  When I arrived at the pass between the mountains I parked in the layby where there seemed to be a lot of others parked and headed for the steep outcrop where I could see many others just standing around, I climbed up and was told that this section called Cad West was part of the Mach Loop where the planes flying from Machynlleth flew so low that you could wave to the pilot in the cockpit.  I had seen a Tornado flying above on the way there so I waited with everyone for the next flyby, I waited for about half an hour and decided to carry on with the climb as I had a long way to go (little did I know at this point exactly how far).


I climbed all the way to the top on this section which took a good couple of hours and when I got to the top after some scrambling on the rocks and very steep outcrops it became obvious that I had climbed up in the wrong place.  I could see what I thought was Cadair Idris in the far distance but decided that I had to carry on as it was too dangerous to try and go back down the way I had come up (mainly because my knees don’t work properly due to being diagnosed with RA last year and having very swollen knees which had been damaged by the inflammation) so I plodded on, by this time pretty fed up that I had come up at the wrong place and knowing it was going to be taking me so much longer.   The wind was unrelenting and it was very cold as if it was winter with it biting at my face or coming from behind blowing my hair in my eyes so I couldn’t see too clearly, alas I had forgotten my pony tail thingy.



I trudged across the wide expanse of boggy marshland trying hard not to sprain my ankle with all the twisting around on all the tufts of reedy grass growing wild; it was like trying to get across an area with land mines buried.  I got to a point where I could see other people so I knew I was getting close to where I needed to be, I quickly speeded up in order to ask the other walkers if I was on the right track, having not brought a map with me (I know, very stupid thing to do).  Finally after asking a couple of people I could see Cadair Idris’ huge form against the sky and realised that it is actually three mountains which are formed in a curved chair back type way with the seat actually being the lake, way, way below.  Cadair Idris means the chair of Idris, who was a mythological giant.


On the highest point was the trig point so I made my way there first and carried on the up and down climb around the three mountains, the terrain was very loose scree underfoot, very steep and not enjoyable at all with the wind still unrelenting.  I had realised at this point that my phone was out of charge, so I’m up a mountain I don’t know and don’t like very much with no map and no phone!  Stupid, Stupid, stupid!!!!!  Did I mention it rained loads as well!!!


One of its redeeming features was the fact that there was no clamouring for the summit to take photos like there is on every other mountain I have climbed, from Snowdon to Ben Nevis to Macchu Picchu, oh no, I suspect that everyone on this mountain, like me, just couldn’t wait to get off, so there was no hanging about to admire the views which was also another redeeming feature by the way, but not redeeming enough to hang about.


The path from this point on the way down was not very clear, so I started following the few people that were ahead, until they disappeared from view.   The area at the top before getting to the steps was just rocky outcrops and boggy marshland with lumpy reedy blobs and the peaks were very loose scree  or in the words of Wikipeadia composed of Ordovician igneous rocks, with classic glacial erosion features such as cwms, morainesstriated rocks, and roches moutonnées (whatever they are) and  sheep grazing everywhere, but no clear paths in sight, so I took the way I thought looked the shortest, which consequently, took me way off course and I ended up falling in the boggy marsh and just sitting there amongst the sheep crying! Lol! What a shitty day this was turning out to be, all the way down I was saying to myself.   “I am so glad I have done this mountain cos there is no way I am ever doing it again.  The Welsh Three Peaks challenge can go f… itself, I am never, never, never doing this again, and I hate this mountain with a huge passion”.  And I don’t hate easily!!!


I got up, wiped myself down, wiped the tears and got the hell on with it, the problem when you have climbed a mountain is, you have to get down, anyway I carried on trudging through the horrible rocky fields and every now and then after relentless descending, I lifted my head up to look at how far I had reached but every time I looked down at the road the cars still seemed like Tonka toys way off in the distance.  I reached the edge of another mound and was hoping the other side would be a path but no it was a rocky cliff which meant more back tracking to find the way off the edge, I could see walkers in the distance so headed for them until the path came into view at last, far off in the distance, I carried on until I got to the steps and finally started the descent of the steps which still seemed like descending from the heavens.


By this time I had been up the mountains for 7 hours feeling like shit, did I mention the driving rain every so often?  I was in agony, with my dodgy knees and feeling pretty fed up,  also remembering that I was descending into a different area to where my car was parked,  which meant a long walk along the main road back to my car.  My legs were in auto mode by now and were moving stiffly like some robot but I decided that in order to do this travel thing properly I needed to be able to thumb a lift without being scared, so I did!  I was in too much pain not to, a few cars just sailed on by, but then a car stopped with two lovely guys from Kent who had been up the mountain as well, they dropped me off at my car and I arranged to meet them up the road in the Three foxes pub to buy them a drink by way of a thank you.


As I approached my car I was fumbling around for my keys in my pocket, but they weren’t there, in my bag, they weren’t there either, starting to panic now as there was no way I was ever going back up that mountain, when I saw them just dangling there in the car door which I had locked but forgot to remove the keys, I was so relieved I cried again!!  Lots of crying today for various reasons.  I got in the car put my phone on charge and started it up pulled off the curb and it started to judder, made it to the end of the layby and it stopped so I pulled it into the side of the road and cried again!  It’s good to cry, lol, but then I just sat there thinking “What do I do now, stuck on a road in the middle of nowhere, getting dark, a little phone battery but no signal and no wifi with the two guys up the road thinking I had done a runner”  There was nothing else for it but I had to thumb a lift again so I put the red triangle at the back of the car to warn oncoming vehicles and started walking toward the pub, crying as I walked and talking out loud to myself about my decision to travel on my own, questioning the sense of it all! Lol!!! Anyway another lovely person picked me up and he was from Aberdovey which wasn’t far from Cadair Idris, by this time I had decided to try and stay in the hotel that was the Three foxes until the morning, as things are always better dealt with in the morning.  He took me to the pub and said he would wait for me to see if there was room and if not he would take me somewhere else until I was safe (there are some lovely people out there).  Anyway I got inside and saw my first two knights in shining armour who quickly made room for me at the bar and ordered me a large glass of red wine when I told them what had happened.  I told the guy waiting in the car that I was going to be ok and told him thanks and how grateful I was for the lift.  I joined the other two in the bar and we tried to figure out what I was going to do (not having breakdown cover, another stupid thing I forgot before I came away).


We had a lovely chat and exchanged stories, me telling them about my epic trip which had only just started and I was already doubting, and them telling me a little about themselves, while we also tried to figure out a way to sort my predicament out.  The hotel was full so that was out, their names were Roger and Shawn and they told me that if I joined RAC there and then, that RAC had a policy that they would help me out straight away so I used the hotel phone and did this immediately, it cost me £130 for breakdown cover for the year and roadside assistance that night but there was a three hour wait because I was in such a remote spot! LOL!!


By this time it didn’t matter, I ordered another round and got chatting to my two rescuers, lovely guys on holiday in the Welsh hills, having just been to Cadair Idris, but didn’t quite make it to the top.  It turned out that Roger used to work for Trinity Mirror, a company that my husband and I used to work for many years ago; he was also a newspaper editor who had worked on Fleet Street and had written the autobiography called “Just for the Record” by Rick Parfitt of Status Quo fame.  Shawn worked in electricity I think, we didn’t’ talk much about what he did because he said it was boring.  The people I have met so far on my trip have added to the joy I feel at doing this.  Only a few hours ago I was starting to question myself for doing this on my own but then I meet these lovely guys and all is ok with the world again.


The RAC man turned up within an hour and took a look at my car but couldn’t fix it, I had already been told that if it had to be towed I could only go 50 miles so I was praying I would be within the limit, it turned out I was just outside but he took me anyway, we chatted all the way home, he wasn’t a traveller and wasn’t really interested in travel, he had lived in the local village most of his life and had been a mechanic, he was all set to marry his sweetheart in September and settle down to a happy life with her.  He told me about some local beauty spots off the beaten track which I was hoping to get to when my car was fixed!


I got back to my flat about midnight and called the local garages in the morning, the local garage in Caerwys which was about three miles away agreed to come and look at it, they drove down and took it back to their garage which was called Park View, it seemed to drive ok for them but I hadn’t tried it, anyway they kept it a day then came down to tell me that night that it was a right off, engine was knackered, turbo gone and basically told me to leave it there as it wouldn’t drive properly again without spending a lot of money on it in the thousands they said, they told me that had put oil in it and I told them that I would pick it up in the morning.  They charged me £60 for putting oil in and checking it out and I took it back but I was also scared to drive it in case it broke down at any time which they said it could do.  I was due to go home that weekend, so caught the train instead with the intention of selling it when I got back up North for scrap and just using public transport, I spent a long time booking trains, buses etc. and looking at the price for personal number plates so I could sell mine.


When I got back from my home trip I tried the car out and it seemed to be driving ok, I was due to go home for good the following week before my trip to Ireland so I decided to test it more by driving short distances.  It seemed ok so I decided to drive it back down south which would be a real test.  I arranged with my local garage to have a look at it for me to let me know if I needed to get rid of it and he couldn’t find anything wrong.  This was brilliant news but I needed to cancel my train and bus tickets, of which I couldn’t get the money back and I had already cancelled my Scotland trip in favour of an extra week in Ireland and an early visit to Thailand.


I suppose the moral of the story is “All’s well that ends well”.  It was a shitty day made good by the people I met! I’m still never going up that mountain again though!!   #Lovinglife #Livingmydream






Bim’s Kitchen

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IMG_3690Bim’s kitchen

My first Helpx experience was in North Wales with the lovely Nicola and Bim of Bim’s Kitchen, an artisan food company who make African themed sauces, nut butters and syrups using exotic ingredients such as Baobab, Coconut, Moringa, Cacao and all sorts of chillies.  What drew me to their products in the first place is the fact they don’t use gluten or dairy, their creamy sauces are made using coconut milk and coconut cream and I have to say they are delicious.  They do use sugar in their products mainly because they use no artificial preservatives. so sugar is used to preserve.



Helpx is a site that matches volunteers with hosts, for instance I volunteer to work for them and they provide me with accommodation and food, in this case no food was provided but I only had to work two hours a day and had my own little flat, so it was prefect.


Nicola gave me a lot of time off to explore North Wales during my stay and I learned so much about the production of their fab products from taking the raw ingredients and turning them into fully packaged gift sets.

First I must mention how much of a perfectionist both Nicola and Bim are, every step of the production process is very meticulous from the cook to the packing and making sure the labels all look the same on the jars, they are very proud of their products and rightly so.  Their products are sold online at at food festivals and through agents to high end delicatessens and artisan food shops.


To begin the process Nicola and Bim have what they call “cook days”, they disappear into their commercial kitchen for the day or couple of days depending on how much they need to cook with their white coats and white hats, the only indication of what is going on is the wonderful aromas wafting across the carpark.  I was not allowed to be involved in this process for obvious reasons; too many cooks spoil the broth and all that!!

My job was to make up the pre-cut boxes which I became very good at, help Nicola label the jars and for the jars that had won a “Great taste award” small round stickers had to be applied.  The whole process is very time consuming and involves sticking the correct labels on the boxes, correct labels on jars which involves code numbers because every jar has to be  traceable in case of any problems, (not that they have ever encountered any but the law states that they need to do this), put the caps on and shrink them to the jar, box the products and sometimes apply twine and wooden label if gift boxes, the whole process takes a long time, there is a machine to label the jars but Nicola and I had a good rhythm going.


I also helped prepare the Airbnb rooms to rent out and visited a couple food festivals with them and helped on their stand.  We attended Denbigh and Flintshire show and Anglesey Seafood festival which were both lovely events to get to know their customers and promote their products.

I have to say I enjoyed every minute of working with Nicola and Bim they are lovely people and work very hard, probably too hard, in my opinion, they never have time off, not even a night out, there is always work to do and they are so proud of what they do that they want to ensure everyone who orders from them gets the best products and the best service.  It was such a pleasure to play a small part in their business and their lives.  I will treasure my memories there forever and their products are the best.


I don’t eat chillies, I just can’t tolerate the heat but they have something for everyone, some of their products have chillies but some don’t.  The nut butters and syrups don’t and they taste so good, they do Baobab and Cacao syrup which tastes like citrus chocolate.  The baobab is a fruit of the baobab tree sometimes called the upside down tree in Africa because of its shape and the resin that holds the seeds in place within the fruit is ground into a powder which becomes the actual ingredient.  The baobab is used in their peanut butter too which also gives it a citrus taste and it is used in their barbecue sauce.

They also do relishes with tiger nut and coconut and chilli jam with baobab which is not too hot for me, in fact I loved it despite its chilli content, because of the other ingredients I find that the chilli doesn’t dominate as it does in so many other products which I have tried before.  I tried it with pate on toast with some chilli jam on the top, delicious.  Their curry sauces are to die for and my favourite is chick pea and moringa, moringa is a new super food and comes from the plant Moringa oliefera, it is used in powdered form and full of vitamins and anti-oxidants.

It is worth visiting their stall at one of the food festivals they go to; to get a real taste for their products, where you can literally taste every product they have and decide your favourite, which is pretty difficult to pick just one.  They have a large chilli lover following because their chilli products are also some of the best.

Make a visit to their online shop and see the range of products they do and you won’t be disappointed.



Wild Atlantic Way

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Wild Atlantic Way

Today I woke up on the beach with the sun shining, the beach here is fantastic, beautiful white sand with lush blue sea, the tide doesn’t go out that far so it’s beautiful when in or out.  The rocky outcrops are lovely places where the birds land to look at the views.  I was feeling pretty good this morning and really loving life, there is something so special about waking up in nature.  I made my porridge and ate it looking out to sea, then sorted out my little campsite while listening to Billy Ocean, had a little mad moment singing along to Billy Ocean which seemed quite appropriate being so near the ocean. I had a little dance all on my own with no one around for miles.  It was such a liberating moment I just had to record it somehow so I videod myself singing and dancing in the Wild wonderful Ballyconeelly.  Don’t laugh too loud, it was fun! Lol

Later I spent some time on the Wild Atlantic way, a coastal road that runs from the North to the South of Ireland on the Atlantic coast and it is pretty spectacular in this area.


Again Gary picked me up and took me on the Connemara loop which takes you around many places of interest and parts of it are also part of the Wild Atlantic Way.


First we passed what is known as the only hill in Connemara, Doolin hill, which has a castle type building by the side of it, which is said to have been built for magistrates many years ago during the time that Ireland was still under UK rule.  The castle is now in ruins and is considered on private property but having talked to Gary who knows a lot about local tradition, apparently the local farmer has claimed the castle as his own and has put his own signs up, prohibiting entry, which is not allowed, so I might take a walk there tomorrow.


After driving past the castle we took a trip to Roundstone, yet another beautiful fishing village on the Atlantic coast.  It’s called Roundstone because you have to go around the rocky, stone mountain to get to it.  It’s part of the Wild Atlantic Way, we then visited Dog bay, another beautiful white sand beach where this time we saw a few swimmers.  After that it was on to Recess in Ballynahinch with another beautiful castle which has been turned into a hotel, the hotel owns the fishing rights to all the surrounding rivers and lakes and is a prime spot for catching the best salmon and trout.  The grounds are splendid with ancient trees and lakes with water lillies.


The Connemara loop which takes you through the Inagh valley between the two mountain ranges of The Twelve Bens to the West and the Maamturk Mountains to the East. A very beautiful area of outstanding beauty and has been likened to the Highlands of Scotland.   The valley is covered in a blanket bog and turf is cut from it for fuel for local families, evidence of this is apparent with turf stacks left to dry by the side of the road.  We stopped at a little service area before going through the valley and admired the monuments which had been built there “For no apparent reason” very typical of Irish humour.





We were en route to the only Fjord in Ireland called Killary Fjord when we came upon a layby with trees and fence adorned with all sorts of things hanging from the trees, apparently if you tie something of your own to the tree you will have good luck, always worth a try I think so I tied one of my socks as did Gary. There were all sorts of things tied to the tree from handkerchiefs to sunglasses, jewellery, shorts and anything people can find on them when they pass by.



The Fjord didn’t disappoint, it was a splendid sight with lots of mussel bed activity plain to see on the top of the water, apparently owned by mussel farmers, it is said that anyone can go down to the water and pick their own mussels if they can find any.  There are regular boat trips out onto the fjord where you might spot some dolphins and a local walk which was part of the famine relief road dating back to 1856.



Our final stop for the day was Kylemore and a quick stop off at Kylemore Abbey built between 1864 and 1871 as a token of love by Englishman Mitchell Henry to his wife Margaret.  The building is now a Benedictine Abbey and has many attractions for visitors including the Gothic chapel and the Victorian gardens.  It is surrounded by a tranquil lake and in the mountain behind you can see a mini Christ the Redeemer type statue as seen on the mountain in Rio de Janeiro.



By the time we got back to my tent the rain was starting to fall and the weather had definitely taken a turn for the worst, I spent the night in the golf club and hoped the weather would stabilise throughout the night.





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Today I was taken on a tour of Connemara; it seems there is enough in this area alone to enable me to stay here for the month.  The area is just outstanding with magnificent mountain ranges and fantastic white beaches, when it comes to nature this place has it all, Loughs, sea, mountains, fantastic landscape, wonderful history.


I have seen so much in a day I’m not sure where to start, probably best to start with the area I am camping and the places I went to yesterday.  I have pitched my tent near Connemara Golf club, a fantastic and wild landscape, the golf club is one of the finest in Ireland and I have been introduced to many people who are part of its charm, the President was chatting to us today about his term of office coming to an end and I have met a few of the ladies who don’t live in the area but have a caravan on the nearby campsite and come down to stay for the summer season to play golf and generally enjoy the area.


On the way here yesterday Gary the lovely man I met at the hotel in Clifden told me so much about the area, he took me on a bit of a trip on the way to the golf club and told me all about Marconi having a communications station at Derrigimlagh, it performed the first commercial transatlantic wireless transmission of Morse code across the Atlantic in 1907.


In 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown made the first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland.  They landed at Derrigimlagh, making it the first European site to connect directly with North America by aeroplane.  They landed in this area because from the air this looked like the ideal place to land, being open countryside, but when they landed they realised how soft the landscape was and ended up with the nose of the plane dipping in the marshy bogland.  There is a 5K walk around the site with the exact spot marked for prosperity.  On a hill nearby you can drive up to the top where a monument made to look like the tail of a plane marks the extraordinary feat and points in the direction of the landing.


While I was in Clifden I visited the two churches there which both have spires and can be seen for miles around, they were built around the 1870s, one is Roman Catholic and the other for other denominations.  They had beautiful stained glass windows which I have mentioned before as I love stained glass.  On the other side of the road to St Joseph’s church is a graveyard where many victims of the great famine are buried.



The Abbey Glen Castle hotel where I went to try and find work was built in 1832 by John d’Arcy of Clifden Castle, it was used in earlier times as an orphanage for girls which then became a mixed orphanage, and it fell into disrepair over many years and was later bought by the Hughes family in 1969.  They developed it into one of Connemara’s premier hotels.


After visiting the hotel and being taken on a little tour of the area, I went for a drink in the local pub called Tom Kings pub, I chose this pub because they had the tv on and the Scarlets v Munster game was being watched, I shouted through the pub door, “Come on Scarlets”, this made everyone stop and turn around to see who was shouting, I ended up going in for a drink and having my first taste of real Guinness, I have tried it before many years ago when I was pregnant as advised by the doctor to help my anaemia but this time it tasted much better, so smooth, I ended up having a couple more and enjoying the Craic with the locals, a very friendly bunch with some colourful characters.  The Scarlets who are from my home town lost so the locals were pleased, apparently only one of them supported Munster the rest support Connacht which is the area we were in.




After all the excitement of the day I made my way back to the golf club and set up my tent for the night in a beautiful spot overlooking the sea.