Exploring North Wales

I’m spending New Year in a tiny Welsh hamlet. Sat here in this damp, silent cottage, I can’t quite remember why this one raised its head over the others on the homestay website. It wasn’t a practical choice but a feeling. There are 18 houses here, one pub. One telephone box (with no telephone) that sells things from its shelves: baskets, apples, books. There’s not even an honesty box. Just put the money on the side. This cottage is filled with the sense of someone else, long gone – still very present.

We’ve been to Colwyn Bay, got lost in the traffic system, found the prom blocked by construction vehicles and diversion signs. We despaired. Drank a pint of dark ale, had some food. I thought of the mismatched nature of these Victorian towns. An old theatre becomes a boarded pound shop – the beauty still there in the architects embellishments. Then the stark plywood below sealing the windows. Concrete blocks lump themselves beside timber-framed buildings. Then the history of this village: the old well (now also concreted), the pub with its stone lions and lanterns.

On the second day here (having stayed up until 4am) it was a bit of late start,  but we managed to get to the Welsh Mountain Zoo. It was a bit of a mud-bath and the red squirrels were nowhere to be seen. The bears and the tigers didn’t look happy. The view of the mountains was spectacular – and there were loads of wild birds stealing the parrot food, a Christmas feast.

Yesterday we went to Llandudno. It was a grander, Victorian seaside town: all lights from The Grand, The Duke, The Price Albert, The Cumberland and other hotels lining the curve of the coast with a coronet of lights. I still enjoy the slot machines and it was fun losing a few tuppence and 10p pieces. The sense of the the good time having passed was still there though, strongly. Maybe a feeling reserved for seaside resorts.

Today we went to Conwy Castle by accident. A turn off at the last minute and a beautiful town. The castle was atmospheric – towers, cellars, the great hall hanging in the air. Fireplaces suspended. We found a 1930’s pub – very Patrick Hamilton, brown and dingy in a facinating way. They only served cold pies (also apt) so we found a more ‘upmarket’ place for food where everyone spoke in cut-glass English accents and the ‘large’ wine was what I would call the dregs of the bottle. I loved Conwy. It’s the last day of the year tomorrow. I’m full of ghosts, tangled in the past like fishing nets. I want to look forward. I have lots to be grateful for. It will be a turbulent year, we all know that.

Author: kittydonnellypoet

Kitty Donnelly was born in Oxford in 1979. Her mother was born in Cumbria, of Irish origin, and her father was born in Newry, Northern Ireland. She has lived in London, Cumbria, Swansea and Chichester. She had poems published in Acumen in 2005, as well as being long and short-listed for several poetry competitions. She was also published in The Samaritan's Anthology and by The Forward Press. In 2007, she took a long break from submitting poems after having her daughter. In 2016, she has been Commended in the Southport Writer's Circle Poetry Competition, long-listed for the Canterbury University Poet of the Year 2016 and has had work accepted for publication in The Dawntreader. She currently lives in Cumbria where she works as a psychiatric nurse.

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