Friday 22nd September 2022
Left Newport about 10am and headed along the M4 Motorway for Swansea. My Dad was born in Swansea many moons ago, and we have or had relatives there too but are not in touch now. We are heading for the Gower Peninsula and the Mumbles – famous local seaside places for the locals etc. I wanted to show Betty some of the older places we used to go to. She wasn’t that bothered if truth be told. All she cared about was that she didn’t have to drive. I asked her once on the trip if she wanted to drive. The look of utter horror and panic on her face said it all. So what’s the best way to the Mumbles and Gower Peninsula? Right through the city center, right?
Having spent over 22 years driving a truck in UK, traffic has never bothered me; I didn’t like sitting in it, but it was part of the job and you just had to get on with it. So it was never a problem for me driving down the M1 Motorway, getting off it and heading down into Central London, up Whitehall, through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly over Westminster or Vauxhall Bridge – depending on where I was heading – and off to South London etc. This was before the days of the modern ring roads and the now infamous M25 motorway that goes right round London in both directions for about 125 miles. All we had at the time was the North and South Circular Roads which were nearly all 4 lanes but quite narrow in places. There was a lot of traffic on those back in the 70s and 80s. So if we needed to get around a city that didn’t have a ring road or a by-pass we went right through the middle and figured it out from there. That has been my mantra ever since: go right through the middle if you are not sure.
So we goes through the city center of Swansea, and find a signpost for the Gower and off we went. It was only a mile or so down the road and we found a little car park and got a space and drove in. This was just the start of our parking problems on this trip. Most car parks were of the pay and display type where you bought a ticket for however long you think you would be, it printed out with the time on it and you put it in your dashboard windshield area. If it said 15:30pm you had to be back in your car and get the heck out of it by 3:30 that afternoon. As we were not that fit, we knew that 2 hours would be more than enough for us and joined the line to get our ticket. There was a lady with credit card in hand ready to “tap and pay” and get her ticket, but the machine didn’t like her and she gave up after 20 minutes and walked off. Next was the guy in front of us. He had cash. Oh dear! Did this contraption take cash? Most of the UK doesn’t take cash anymore. Yes it did! So he proceeded and tried to buy his ticket. He was there at least 10 minutes and finally got his ticket. Then it was our turn, and there we were all smug thinking we nailed this one from watching the others. WRONG! We were trying to figure out the tap and pay and, of course, Betty was supervising the operation. I was ready to punch the machine but we kept our patience. By now there were about 4 people behind us. To ease the tension I started my usual comedy routine making everyone laugh, by saying I had just flown from Seattle to do this. We gave up and as we were about to walk away, we saw a ticket sitting in the slot. It belonged to the last guy, so we grabbed it, put it in our car windshield and walked off triumphantly. So what had the other guy picked up, cause we had his ticket? So we walked along the very nicely paved brick promenade walkway. It was done very nicely and a credit to the city for the visitors and walkers. We walked along the beach and the sands and pleasantly strolled around and back to the car after a couple of hours. Yes! Two hours was more than enough for us; that’s why we don’t do day trips.
Back into the car and back through the city center again heading north in the hope of finding the direction up towards Brecon again. We didn’t want to go there again but in that general direction would be good. We found the road we wanted and headed towards my birthplace and the place we all lived at just after the Second World War. The place was called Gwynfe – a tiny village in the foothills of the Black Mountain about 30 miles north of Swansea, right out in the country.
After a couple of wrong turns and a few yews we finally came to Gwynfe where I was born in 1946. I can easily find it because it is a little pink house – 2 up 2 down and a toilet up the garden path. The little pink house was built onto the side of a small church which seems as though it had been there for ever. We found the place and pulled off the road. Road? It was barely a lane in that area. Little windy country lanes abound in this part of Wales. Since our last visit in 1998, the church is all locked up, as are the gates to the little cemetery. I used to like walking into the church which was very well kept inside and had that same “olden days” smell to it, as did the little pink house. Shame we couldn’t go in this time. The little cemetery alongside the church had some really interesting graves and gravestones in there though. Some depicting deaths as late as the 1980s. I was more interested in the older gravestones. We found plenty of them in the mid 1850s and found one going back to 1839. Because it was locked up I couldn’t see any of the other ones to the back but I am pretty sure I would have seen one or two from the 1700s era. I was tempted to jump over the cemetery wall but Betty stepped in and reminded me of my age, which I keep forgetting. At 76, you just cannot leap over a 5 foot wall like you used to do – even though your head tells you that you can. Betty’s wisdom often prevails.
While at the church, I could see one or two of the local cottages that were there when we lived there. I can even remember back to when I was three or four years old. Brought a lump to the throat now and then. I doubt I will see this place again, but I saw again this time and I am happy about that.
We had been reasonably lucky with the weather so far and had nice weather.
Back in the car and headed along the A40 main road – which eventually goes through Gloucester, Oxford and into London. We turned off and headed down to Caerphilly where we had booked for three night over the weekend till Monday morning when we would leave South Wales and head north.
This has been part 4 of a series of posts highlighting the trip of a British ex-pat in the US when he returns to the UK for a vacation. He shares the experiences with us here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I have, and seeing the areas he (and his lovely wife) visit, through my friend David’s eyes. ~ Sherry