Why have you moved to Wales? people ask. After all I lived in Cumbria for over 26 years. Well, it all began with my mother’s love of acting (not inherited – I just like being audience).
My mother was a member of the Grove Players, a Birmingham amateur dramatics society run by her cousin, John Taylor. The members of the society came to Nefyn for a week in the summer, stayed at Mrs Hughes’ guest house in St David’s Road and put on plays in the Madryn Hall (now demolished) in the evenings.
I was only a toddler when I first came and I’m not sure for how many years these dramatic holidays lasted. But I do remember the long journey from Warwickshire in my father’s overloaded pre-war Austin 7 (always overheating part way up the Tanat Valley), return visits to Mrs Hughes and playing on the beach at Nefyn.
It was, perhaps, an encore too far and the Grove Players abandoned their seaside summer season. But my parents continued to come to the Llŷn Peninsula. We stayed self-catering with Jane Griffiths and her mother at Pen y Gongl, a small-holding (no electricity) at Llangwnnadl. Gwyneth, the child next door, taught me the Welsh children’s rhyme, “Mi welais Jac y do” (I saw a jackdaw). When Jane Griffiths married David Jones we moved with her to stay self-catering at Pen y Bont (Maen Hir) (no electricity). Repeated visits over the years and hours of chatting while they milked half a dozen Welsh black cows by hand made us firm friends.
Then in the 1960s my father bought an unmodernised cottage near Llaniestyn. It became our holiday base used by family and friends over many years. I helped as a volunteer in the garden at Plas yn Rhiw and through the Miss Keatings I met the poet, R S Thomas. I had already read his early poetry in the anthology Six Modern Poets, one of my school set texts. Met is perhaps a little misleading – encountered would be a better word. I don’t recall much conversation during the occasional lift in the back seat of his car (Honora Keating in the front) but it was enough to be in close proximity to a real poet. I hoped that somehow I would absorb the gift to write by some mysterious literary osmosis.
I spent extended periods of time at Llaniestyn whenever I could, including a whole winter when my husband was away on a sabbatical in the States. My children went to the Ysgol Feithrin (pre-school playgroup) in the village. They learnt to count and say their colours in Welsh in order to get their free sweet ration from Meira who ran the Garn shop (one of the last of the little shops that used to exist every couple of miles or so along the winding Llŷn lanes).
Time moves on. I missed the house after we sold it, almost 20 years ago, and came back intermittently to stay at Rhiw and Uwchmynydd, right on the tip of the peninsula, and last year on Bardsey Island for a week. But I was afflicted with hiraeth, a melancholy longing to return – and this summer I have.
So now you know.