Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How we came to be in Wales (4)

A very poor photo of the Cothi in spate.  I think you get the general idea . . .

I can still recall our last night in our old house in Dorset, left with just a mattress and bedding to sleep on, a cot for little T, breakfast and a kettle.  Scary.  We were going to live in what was basically another country, as although we hadn't realized it at the time, Welsh was the primary language spoken in Carmarthenshire.

The journey seemed to take forever.  There was none of this "Collect the key from the agent at X o'clock" - we just picked up the key from the Farmer at his house.  We were there sooner than the two removal vans - neither of which could fit across the narrow bridge over the river, and one of which promptly broke down on the spot at the thought of it!  That was still there the next morning, when it finally got fixed and brought in another way.

Needless to say, dusk falls early in March, and so we found ourselves unloading furniture and belongings in the dark.  Only the barest basics were sorted that first night - T's cot put up (in the little room where I type this) and our bed in the larger of the two front bedrooms, next door.  At some time in the past, someone had put up a shelf on the wall in this bedroom, using 6 inch nails and not much else.  There was a carrier bag on it.  We were beyond noticing the niceties by this point and fell into bed, exhausted.  In the wee small hours I was woken by the sound of a carrier bag rustling.  Well, more than rustling, something was making quite a racket.  Somehow a mouse had scaled the wall into the carrier bag (or perhaps it had set up home there) and was doing a Jane Fonda style workout.  My husband finally lobbed a shoe at the wall and silence descended again.

Next morning, husband and daughter fed, I set off up the hill to give my old dog Tara a walk.  I can still remember reaching the top and looking at the view across the Cothi valley, towards Black Mountain.  It quite took my breath away - and still lifts my spirits today.

So we set about getting the essentials sorted.  We had a Rodent problem in our new house.  One night that first week I was sat in the very green bath in the very green bathroom and a mouse came out of a hole in the wall and began a wash and brush up.  If it was aware of me, it wasn't the least bit bothered - talk about bold as brass!  Oh, and those baked bean tin lids on the skirting boards?  That was to stop the rats coming out into the room!!!  Sadly, all the cats we had in Dorset had died on the main road in front of the house. I might add, all these cats came unbidden to us (much as they do here in fact) - I would never have chosen to have cats on such a busy road.

So we went on a visit to one of the many rescue centres in our area, Ty Agored Animal Sanctuary near Cribyn.  We picked out a - very pregnant - black tortoiseshell queen that we called Blackberry. The Sanctuary said that they would rehome the kittens for us, and subsequently did so.  Whilst we were there, looking at cats and trying to make up our minds, we were aware of a very loud purring from a box which turned out to be coming from a small scruffy hairy black and white cat.  "Oh that's Grandma" one of the helpers said, laughingly, and later told us she had been with them a week or so and because she wasn't a pretty - or young - cat they expected to have her forever.  Instead, she came home with us, and with Blackberry.

Above, Blackberry and below, dear old Tatty.

 One of the first things we did in the house was to reinstate the bricked-in fireplace in the kitchen.  We always call it an inglenook, although really it isn't wide enough.  Anyway, it took a lot of work digging it out and finding a replacement bressamer beam.  Sorry that the photo below is on its side, but my computer is playing silly b's this morning and I can't get Finepix to move to the photos I was unable to scan and had to photograph, in order to turn it the right way up.  That was it being excavated anyway.

Anyway, this was a year or so on from moving in, and I know that because Blackberry's gorgeous big ginger son, Bumble, is curled up in front of it.  The Hergom stove was multi-fuel then and we burned anthracite and big logs in it, to run the central heating, but boy, did it gobble up wood and my husband found he was forever cutting up logs for it.  After a few years we had it converted to oil (it seemed like a good idea at the time . . .)

What we HADN'T realized until we got here was that the weather was quite a bit different to Dorset.  There was a bit more rain for starters . . .

This is the lane in front of our house, and what happens when it rains so hard that the run-off from the fields turns it into a fast-flowing stream . . .

Sorry about the glare from the window in these, but I think you can get the gist.  Below is the river far right, with the run-off water a foot or more deep, hurtling into the river at the bottom of the hill.

Below - this is flooding further downstream at Pontargothi.

Yes.  We were beginning to find that life here was quite . . . different!


  1. I enjoyed reading about your first night, sounds a bit like when we cam here. I still have th eholes in my settee from the mice.
    How lovely to see the cat pics, I see you changed the old girls name from grandma, I prefer Tatty puss :-D
    and you ended up keeping one of the kittens, or did she have another litter?

  2. Tatty - despite her age! - presented us with kittens, and we kept one, Foggy (he had a voice like a foghorn!) Of Blackberry's kittens, we kept two: Sooty (black of course) and Bumble, the ginger boy.

  3. I am enjoying your tale of moving to Wales, and look forward to the next installment.


  4. I am SO enjoying the unfolding tale of your journey to Wales! It transports me back thru time, remembering the twists and turns and memories of seeking (and finding) my little farm (NY USA). I can't wait to read your next chapter in the sharing of your adventure!


  5. Reading about the 'last night' in a soon to be former home and the first night in a new abode surely brings back a flood of not too distant memories. Our experience has mostly been that of moving into a house that we were building over our heads. The old farmhouse in Vermont that we took over for about 10 years after J's parents retired had its share of live-in critters. I remember most vividly the squirrels who took up residence in the attic each winter and rattled about overhead in the night.
    I can also take out old blurry photos and place us in time by the cats who were with us!

  6. I am glad you are all enjoying it so much. Believe me, I am thoroughly enjoying digging into my memories - though many of the early years were a blur as I had 3 children in 5 years, having started late.

    MM - there we are, next chapter - my family and other animals!!!

    Issy - How lovely we had similar journeys and felt we needed to make them.

    FL - glad you're enjoying it too.

  7. Different indeed looking at that last photograph! No wonder the Welsh are so tough.

  8. Absolutely fascinating reading - hope there's going to be some more!

  9. Yep - thats how I felt when I moved to WAles - it was so different - despite what people think - Id never experienced so much rain for so long - I moved here in 1979

  10. There is a book in this BB! Looking forward to the next installment.

  11. DW - I've always said as much, but wasn't going to start writing it until we had moved on. Looks like I am getting the bare bones started early!

    Fi - it was quite a shock in some ways! In others, I was finally not a Cucumber in a cornfield any more : )

    Rowan - Oh yes, there's ore - you will probably be begging me to stop before long : )

    Weaver - the weather is certainly a lot more extreme here than in Dorset.