Misty water coloured memories of the Way we Were…

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind, 

Smiles we gave to one another, for the Way we Were.

Cousins at a family get together

Me and cousin L, now returned from exile, France here we come...

A most peculiar week indeed, diversity a plenty.

I’ll begin at the end, a family gathering to celebrate the 80th Birthday of the ‘Nan’ of L’s sons, Huw and Tom (AJP’s hubby) and ‘Great Nan’ of Gwilym and Bryn and Osien.  My late mother’s sister-in-law, my uncle Bryn’s second wife (not Lyn’s mum), confusing ?  Yep, it is, and the coming together of five generations plus countless friends and extended family increased the potential for…… strife!  No such problem, it was a major success.  I’m not a huge fan of such gatherings but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

Partly, it occurred to me as I rose to make a short speech, because such get togethers are normally the result of someone in the family ‘checking out’ – weddings have ceased for a while, though ‘divorces’ seem as prevalent as ever !  Thus, to come together to celebrate a birthday, was unusual and an event made doubly happy because Aunty Bab should have departed last year after a massive stroke.  Though now confined to a wheel-chair, she has regained her mental faculties, and was delighted to see all her friends and family. 

I was thrilled to meet up with JC, Lyn’s French hubby, lately returned  via a long cross country journey through Kuwait, Jordan, Syria (not a great experience !), Turkey, Greece, Italy and into the south of France, where they are to be domeciled.  It is my intention to spend time with JC down in the Bezier area next month.

Apart from the Deakins, (those above) my family turned out en-mass.  My dear sis Jane and my most amazing brother-in-law Keith, together with one daughter and one grand daughter arrived (in his black Jaguar – how jealous am I ? not at all…), my ex-wife who is still a highly valued member of the extended group, two of my daughters and the latest girl in my life, Esme.  what can I say.

3 generations of the Fry family

Not often I get to be photographed with two stunners like these ladies.

It was such a rare thing, to get so many of the close and extended family together in one place that it got me thinking, about ‘Family’ and what it means.

3 generations of the Fry family

My daughter Amy with sis Jane and her grand daughter Eva. They haven't met for at least 5 years !

It was an aspect of life in the United Sates that really struck me, how close and important was family.  Whitney amazed me with the closeness in soul and geography of her family, still in the same townships and meeting regularly.  We – certainly in my family – have lost an important element of family life, proximity. 

My father had four siblings, his parents, grand parents, great grand-parents and all their siblings lived within a five mile radius in old Cwmbran.  My mother had two siblings (mentioned previously in ‘This is your Victory’) and they and their parents lived within a mile of each other and their parent’s siblings all within five miles.  I grew up with nine cousins on my father’s side and three on my mother’s, all lived within a couple of miles – some within a couple of yards of my home, as did my grand-parents.  get the picture ?  Birthdays, holidays, Christmas, Easter etc involved Grans, Bampi’s, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  Hot summer Sundays often saw three or four families within this extended family going off together to the beach or out into the country (one of the bizarre ‘trips’ I recall was to picnic, on a Sunday afternoon, on a bridge over the motorway, such was its novelty !)

Today, not one of those cousins, myself or my sisters, remain in the town; in one generation the presence of long standing families has ceased.  My generation have spread far and wide, abroad, in England and in Wales.  How does that occur, and is it fruitful ? 

My view is ….. I don’t know !  I – and this is most probably an aspect of my strange persona- would not thank you for the situation my sister lives in – happily by-and-large, though not, I suspect,  through choice – which sees her 30 year old daughter together with her 3 year old daughter still living at home.  However, there are some aspects that I envy (at times), like Christmas and holidays, events which normally see me alone.  My daughter is thankful for the ‘not-too nearness’ of her mother which allows for short visits (weekly at present – the novelty for both of them will surely wear off !).  I think back to my childhood, hugely important and formative influences on my devlopment were Gramps, Uncles, Nans and Aunts who were a daily part of my life.  I was blessed with superb male role models, my father and grand father and my two uncles at ‘the shop’ (my mother’s brothers and she worked in the family grocery business begun by my grand-father ‘Bampi’ Deakin) and the aunts and uncles on my father’s side, whom I saw less often but remember fondly their roles in our family life.

An afternoon of family

Families eh, who'd have them !! Me !!!

Its for certain that the continuance of family values and standards – as well as the sometimes less valuable and oppressive bigotry and prejudices – are best enforced by close and extended family.  Love of family leads inevitably, in my view anyway, to a sense of place, within it and the community and therefore, ultimately, the Nation.  The notion of  ‘belonging’, of a sense of place, of adherence to values acceptable within and without the family are the foundation of society.  No wonder politicians hark on, continually, about ‘family’ as the basis of community and community, in turn, as the basis of society.  Oh my, you’d never think I worked in community development would you !  Tonnies and Wirth, forgive me.

Whatever,  I loved my afternoon of family reconnection, but lets NOT do it too often !

Cakes, me and Har
Pastry my dear ? Me and AJP (our ‘Har’) create a ‘private tribute’ to an absent member of our extended family. We love you little ‘cakeness-monster’ !

The venue chosen for this meet was the opulent Celtic Manor at Newport.  Its the much heralded venue for this year’s Ryder Cup (some weird golf competition I believe).  Impressive indeed, the entrance foyer alone is tennis court size.  Dozens of staff flit around, dozens and dozens of ‘would be posh’ customers sit drinking tea and eating cream cakes.  Wine at £8.20 a glass says it all…..

Celtic Manor foyer

Big or what ? Not me ! the entrance of the Celtic Manor, I thought we were in recession....

Now I don’t want to be a grouch, especially as my cousin thought it was the place for the birthday gig, but places like this don’t sit well with me.  Half a mile down the road is one of the poorest estates in Wales, the Ringland, here people have to feed a child on less than the price of that glass of wine.  Built to house steel-workers at the nearby Llanwern works, this estate has all the indices required to get the accolade I have given it; crime, poor education (I began my teaching career at the secondary school which served this estate, Hartridge), unemployment and desperately poor health / life expectancy.  The Celtic Manor towers over this estate, feudal in its wealthy separation, them -and- us made manifest.  I find myself wishing bad luck to those who sat around the lounges of the hotel, hoping all the disasters of the recession about to crash around us, alight on them and not those who dwell nearby……… now that is controversial, or is it ?

The week began with a ‘symposium’ at the University of Wales in Cardiff where I sat and listened to a series of presentations on ‘Personhood’ and ‘Analogy’ in the Neolithic.  It was suggested I might like to attend by my old DC friend Sean, the film animator, who was one of the speakers, knowing as he did, that I had attended a Neolithic monument just the Monday before !  The ‘Value of Creative Analogies in the Neolithic’  (www.cardiff.ac.uk/hisar/newsandevents/archaeology/creative-analogies-in-the-neolithic.html) was based around a number of PhD research projects looking at different ways of understanding life – family – in the most difficult of historical/archaeological periods of the prehistoric.  I was both over-awed at the level of thinking evident in the presentations and inspired by the idea that, at last, academia seemed to be prepared to use imagination, common-sense / logic in deducing the absent – “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” !

I won’t bore you with content, go to the web site, but I do want to remark upon the encounter with the most remarkable brain I have ever experienced.  Prof. Alison Wylie from the University of Washington (state),  a woman at the peak of her game and her game is philosophy of science, particularly archaeology (and also feminist science – see her home page).  To say this woman was awesome would be to greatly understate both her breadth of knowledge and my ‘in-awe’ state.  I wallowed in this day of academic feasting, much of it was out of my league – Sean and I lunched and laughed at our inadequacy – but it inspired me.  I wanted to get back to my studies.  Strangely Sean, myself and Ken (Ken Brassil from the National Museum) were exchanging e mails the very next day on a possible joint venture…….

Tuesday saw me meeting with a couple of friends / customers to explore a joint venture using their accomodation business to run short courses on historic landscape interpretation and countryside courses (see www.agriculturalhistory.co.uk ) which we hope to launch in the autumn.

Wednesday I actually did some work – wealth creation does not necessarily need to be money remunerative you know – building a piece of art-work.  A long standing friend / customer has, for some time, nagged me to build him an ‘Andy Goldsworthy’ type dry stone structure.  He had decided on a ‘stell’, an old stone structure found on the hills and moors of the north of England, which gives shelter to sheep regardless of which direct the wind is blowing from.  He has, at the rear of his grounds (an old inn of C16th origin in the hamlet of Llandyfan) the most remarkable Lime kiln and the stell is to be a reflection of it.  I will say much more of this place in a later post.

Kilns and stell

Big stones - limestone -begin to form the foundation of the stell beneath the lime kilns at Llandyfan House.

Wednesday evening saw me meet up with a very dear associate from the local archaeological trust – Dyfed Archaeology – to explore my discoveries at the Cilrychen quarry which I had discovered whilst working on the fence-lines.  We walked the boundary of the quarry examining the industrial sites near the wall which Whitney and I had repaired back in November, we struggled through tall bracken to see the remains of six round-houses of probable pre-Roman date and the house platform and boundary walls of  a probable early-medieval date associated with a multiple estate of the C6th/8th.  Just being in the company of Alice P. engenders a certain peace, she is one of God’s pure creatures, I admire and adore her immensely.

Thursday saw me dealing with ‘admin’ at home – which included moving some carts ready for the next arrivals – and, in the late afternoon, meeting up with my old mate Dave to finally complete the work at the Dinas quarry near Llansawel.  Now there’s a coincidence indeed, this Dinas – Welsh for defended enclosure or fortress – has also been decimated by quarrying destroying yet another Llys – palace – of an early-medieval Welsh multiple estate.  Last week’s work was prematurely terminated when yours truly was knocked out by a post-knocker being used by us, no-one’s fault (well Dave’s actually !) but it K.O’d me. 

Friday was thus a quiet day, I journeyed with Alice to Caerleon to collect a Roman army uniform which I have agreed to wear for a schools project at the fortress of Garn Goch near Bethlehem (see next post for exclusive pictures !).  We stole an hour to examine some interesting finds at Llantarnam Abbey – a Cistercian monastery in Cwmbran – which were startling as well as exciting – I will write more on this later in conjunction with the on-going Ancient Cwmbran / Walls project.

In the afternoon I went to the farm in the Swansea valley from whence I have collected the carts I reported on.  Needless to say, by the morning of Saturday – although I had intended to return to Cathedine to do a few hours – I was pretty tired; the ‘do’ at the Celtic Manor was just the tonic – oh but I did manage a quick visit to the archaeological dig inthe woods in Upper Cwmbran.

Glamorgan Gambo

The Glamorgan Gambo being made ready to be moved to my workshop for a well earned restoration.

I had to make up some time on Sunday so I went back to Ton y Fildre to begin the ‘flower pots’ I’ve been asked to build at the entrance.  It rained !   I got soaked !  How strange was that… the driest beginning of a year since 1929 !  More please,  I love it !

Tumbril cart converted to tractor use

This old Tumbril - the workhorse of the farm for over a 100 years - is a great find, although converted to pneumatic tyres for tractor use, the old wheels and axle is home too, enabling me to put it back to its original state.

I promise next week will be boring and minimal, promise !! If you’ve read this lot you deserve a short post next week. 

Could it be it was all so simple then ?  Or has time re-written every line ?  If we had the chance to do it all again…. would we, could we …..?

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5 Responses to “Misty water coloured memories of the Way we Were…”

  1. Is never spelled correctly! Says:

    I surfed my way to this via a convoluted route and enjoyed seeing the pictures of a friend I last saw 40+ years ago. My mum was at the party you mentioned and told me after the event that you spoke eloquently! I am retired in exile in England after London, Singapore and the U.S.. Can work out who I am…….?

    • welshwaller Says:

      I’m thinking !!!

      • Kevin Fackrell Says:

        Hello Stuart   I just re-read your blog entry and I think I may have given you a bum steer!  The party I was referring to was for Bill Deakin but I think the one you refer to is maybe for another senior member of the family.   Anyway, the old friend I referred to was in fact Jane.  See the attached photo which should clear things up….. maybe!     

        ________________________________

      • welshwaller Says:

        Aha !! Well I doubt I’d ever have sussed that out ! The BD party is referred to in the post ‘This is your Victor’. And of course at that do I saw your brother and mother !!

      • Is never spelled correctly! Says:

        Indeed. I came upon your blog after searching for “Twmbarlwm”, which, it embarrases me to say, I scaled for the first time only last year! I’m enjoying reading your thoughts on eclectic topics.
        Please pass on my regards to Jane. KF

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