Island View

A weekend visit to Wales. Time to take it easy in favourite places across the Llyn peninsula after so many months of lockdown.

Acquired from an Inverness charity shop many years ago, this much loved picnic rug in the clip below has since enjoyed adventures day and night, far and wide! Today it served to line a a deep sheltered dune hollow where the summer sun warmed soft sea air.

The view was magnificent across a vast bay littered with shipwrecks, known as Hell’s Mouth, or Porth Neigwl. Here the Atlantic Ocean bellows on tempestuous days, the roar is spine tingling. Skilled surfers ride risky waves and coastal path walkers battle hard to remain upright.

Yet today the great deep was serene, perhaps wearied by stormy winter or maybe its calm was a generous gift to soothe souls who have been much locked away during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The opportunity to daydream in a dune nest to the accompaniment of whispering waves was heavenly!

Stirring ourselves, we tracked through country lanes, thick with wildflowers, to Tafarn Yr Haul or The Sun Inn, a popular hostelry in a snug of cottages around a country church.

The historic place of worship is dedicated to Saint Engan, a sixth century soul who gave his name to the village – LLanengan. The church has long been a staging post on the pilgrim route to sacred Bardsey Island.

By night, the beam of the holy island’s light house flashes warning across Hell’s Mouth, telling of the treacherous currents that swirl around the isle. The beam is broadcast by solar power from the tallest square tower lighthouse in the UK. The stocky beacon sports stripes of red and white and reminds me of socks on a footballer’s chunky calves!

I saw this lovely doorway in the village and appreciated the smart simplicity of paint, bare wood and an open heart.

One of my favourite Welsh verses is a romantic and anonymous promise:

Mi gerddaf gyda thi dros lwybrau maith
A blodau can a breuddwyd ar ein taith,
I'th lygaid syllaf a dal dy law,
Mi gerddaf gyda thi beth bynnag ddaw.

I will walk with you across distant paths,
Flowers and dreams will bless our journey,
Into your eyes I will gaze and hold your hand,
I will walk with you whatever may come.

Lockdown life: seeds of hope

In the throes of a nation-wide lockdown across Britain and also throughout the world, the spectre of Covid-19 wraps itself around anxious hearts and minds.

This ruthless invisible virus has humanity in its breathless grip. As key workers and health workers labour under awkward protective masks and gloves and clothing, supplied too late and too scarce by the government, it is the moral obligation of the rest of us to stay put in our homes, with the opportunity of breaks for exercise in the outdoor world once so familiar to us and now eerily alien and emptily sombre.

Never before has my garden oasis been so important. While this private outdoor space always been precious, now it is my well being sanctuary more than ever, and I am full of gratitude for it. The opportunity to leave the enclosure of the house and step into the freshness of the spring garden is supporting my mental health, well being and creativity immensely.

Deep inside my cream painted shed, happily decorated with rusty running rabbits and festoon solar lights, were forgotten seed packets, discarded in boxes of good intentions grown thick with cobwebs and rediscovered with fresh zeal. Compost, pencilled plant names on ice lolly sticks, watering cans and bamboo canes are part of the armoury keeping fear and hopelessness at bay during this lockdown experience of pandemic.

Planting for the future melds with memories of the past; I celebrate the blossom of the cherry tree, bought from a supermarket and planted in hope of shiny red fruit. I recall buying the small souvenir envelope of giant dill on my last trip to the United States and marigold seeds harvested from the community gardens around Windsor Street in Toxteth, and I remember a glorious day and the perfumed stately white sweet peas in the garden of the Castle of May in Caithness. Each packet brings me joy and hope. And as for the cherries, the snowy blossom softens the blow of losing the fruit to the birds.

My garden energises my spirit and I love this quote attributed to Seamus Heaney, so resonant and so apt for this extraordinary time in the history of humanity.