On becoming a Centurion – words fail me !

Apparently I have made it to the dizzy heights of Blogging, I have written 100 posts.  I was rather shocked to discover that, a century of long essays about drystone walling in Wales, and a few other places or events and one or two asides thrown in.  It seems a long while ago that I thought I could, maybe, provide some interest and amusement whilst informing folk of what walls and walling entailed and at the same time, extolling the beauty of my homeland of Wales.

I imagine several of you are bloggers yourselves and will therefore understand the ‘desire’ (if indeed that is what it is) to want to expose oneself to the universe.  For my part I mostly still do not understand why I do it.  Some see it as rather delusive, self-important even; after all who am I to assume what I have to say is of any relevance, importance or interest, to others.  That occurs to me more often than you might think.  The simple reality is, I write it, you, of your own free volition, read it or not and unlike other ways of accessing the written word, you are not out of pocket in consequence.  For my part I am happy that there is no wastage from my efforts, my deliberations, my hours of toil.  No trees have been damaged in the making of this production and no waste produced to fill some hole in the earth or drift forever in the air or the sea.  Notwithstanding the very contraption I write on will itself, one day, be a serious problem to the environment in its death.

It is a constant surprise to me that folk, other than those who know me and keep up with what I am doing (and thinking !) through these ramblings, from all over the world read about a man building walls, restoring artefacts, travelling around or just musing.  A while ago the ‘host’ – which is apparently what ‘wordpress’ is – began to give a more detailed statistical account of the numbers and whereabouts of my readers.  Yes, I know who you are ! Well, actually, I know which country you are from.  It is flattering and also perplexing why someone in Taiwan or Phillipines, India or Brazil, Uzbekistan or Kuwait takes the time to peruse Welshwaller’s Blog !  Of course sometimes people end up here by the mere expediency of searching for information about a particular item or place and as it is mentioned in one or other of my posts, they get directed here.  I have learned to be a little more careful about my titles and what I write so as to lessen the frustration of those seeking important facts about such issues as the Desert or about the breed of dogs called ‘French Poodles’ – sincerest apologies to the hundreds who have ended up reading some long-winded account of a holiday in France when all they really wanted was to know about a dog !

The problem with being told how many people read what you have written and where on earth they are – nothing from anywhere else yet then ? – is that suddenly, from being a rather selfish way of spending a few hours in the hope of entertaining a few friends and relatives, responsibility and privacy become issues to be considered.  It was quite a long time before I realised that I had to be careful, sensitive even, to not offend or expose, to not insult or make fun of anyone or any issue that was not suitable for such attention.

I imagine that for every post I write there are a number of people who regularly read, about half my total maybe.  There are others, as I’ve said, who arrive on my site by dint of searching a particular topic or item.  Then there are those who just ‘pretend’ to be genuinely interested in my stories but who, in reality, are actually wanting me to approve their erstwhile comments so as to attract the rest of you to their site.  I have to say that it is a little frustrating to get the constant silly spam comments but it can be quite amusing.  For example, the lady who runs a sex-dating site in New York writes often that she “so enjoys my writing”  and is so grateful to at last have found the information she has searched for so long.  If I tell you the photograph she seems to return to again and again is the rusty old reaper binder at a farm sale, you will understand my mirth !  Similarly the Canadian Viagra supplies man who regularly compliments me on the very fascinating account of  an old Armoured Car (is there a pun there, I wonder …).  As for my Far Eastern readers, well, what can I say, except that I wish I could bring myself to approve their comments, English has never been written so badly by so many to so few !

Whatever reason You have for visiting my little corner of Blog-land, I thank you. I owe you my best efforts to make the time you invest, enjoyable and rewarding.  You have no idea how much pressure that creates !  Long may I find the inspiration to write, long may I continue to work and live in a place that provides me with the stories that make it worth your while seeking out Weshwaller.

Now then, what have I been up to since my return from the ‘North country far’…

Sea mist over Hoy

Leaving the islands was made easier by the onset of some wet wild weather.

My departure from the island was a misty one. For the first time in ten days the skies were heavy with cloud and rain drove against the windows of the ferry as it battled its way back to the mainland.  I took a different route southward through the eastern side of Scotland.  Essentially I followed the A9, the major artery that links those east coast communities.  The great Firths of Moray and Tay were barely visible and the slow haul south was only partly enjoyable.  I had originally intended to take two or even three days to go home, travelling through the Lowlands and Borders of Scotland and on into Northumberland to see the great moors.  From there I was heading for the North York Moors before crossing the Dales and eventually heading into Wales and home.  Alas, the rain was so outrageous there seemed little point, certainly I was not going to be getting the tent out.  The Friday afternoon run down the A9 from Inverness towards Perth and ultimately Edinburgh was a pretty horrendous experience.  Unbeknown to me the main route up through Scotland is an infamous death trap.  It is a single highway with few short stretches of dualling.  Despite numerous signs asking drivers (of slower vehicles) to pull into the numerous lay-by’s to allow queues to disperse, nobody does.  I was happy enough poodling along at 50 mph, but many were not.  White Van Man was everywhere as was Beamer Screamer and Boy Racer.  We are all familiar with the impatient clown who constantly overtakes, often one at a time, a long and accepting queue, causing each vehicle it cuts in front of to have to break hard, then the whole queue breaks hard and everyone gets frustrated.  I was seriously concentrating, it was a dangerous place.  Sure enough, around mid afternoon, I spied in the mirror an irate white van, jumping one at a time past each vehicle, often just getting back over before an oncoming vehicle (which was already breaking hard) hit it.  He eventually overtook me and three others in one foul sweep.  Some short time ahead all vehicles slammed brakes on and not far in the distance I saw smoke  or dust rise suddenly into the air.  The whole line screeched to a halt.  I knew instantly that there had been a collision and that it was probably serious.  I immediately turned and headed back up the road to a junction I had noticed less than a mile back (I knew that road was likely to be impassable for quite a while). It was in fact the old A9 which ran through the many villages and towns now by-passed by the new road.  I soon drew level with the scene of the accident (is that really the correct word ?) and it was clearly a bad one.  I could see many people standing around or crouching over those lying down, I could see the white van, or rather the rear of the white van.  Its nose was buried (on the wrong side of the road) into the front of a large Express Coach.  How could you not see a bloody great white coach !!??  I later learned that White Van man and his passenger died instantly, that the bus driver, a lady, was four hours being cut from the wreckage, that over 30 people were taken to hospital, some badly hurt, most on their way to a music festival on the shores of Loch Ness.  The rush to get home on a Friday afternoon was paid for in a big way.

I eventually got home after a very long and wet drive.  My decision to not journey longer meant that I was able to attend a major local event that weekend.  The nearby town of Llanwyrtd Wells is a great innovative community, it has evolved a number of Green Tourist Events which happen throughout the year and some of them are now seriously big and famous.  In August, over the Bank Holiday, hundreds of folk descend on a rather muddy bog just outside of town to watch intrepid ‘swimmers’, complete with goggles and snorkel, race against the clock by entering a trench full of muddy water to attempt to swim along it.  In June is a rather different event, one in which  men and women attempt to out-compete horses over a long and arduous mountain run of some 20 plus kilometres.  Sometimes a man wins !  It is a hugely popular event and this year I had a particular interest as my sport mad youngest daughter was running.  The unexpected arrival of ‘Daddy’ at the start of her race seemed to go down well – she bought me a pint of Heart of Wales ale afterwards !

Ready Steady Go !

Getting ready for the off – Ladies v Horses and Men ! Clearly this was before the race !

The big problem with a long holiday is that returning to work is so much more difficult.  I had no choice of where or when I was to return to stone.  A job that had been agreed back last August was now urgent – I should point out that the hold up was not of my doing, the wall I was to build was to retain the bank around a new extension built onto an old farmhouse in the little hamlet of Pwllgloyw some five miles north of Brecon and the builders had been rather slower than expected.  I had ten days to complete a fifteen day job, and it was raining hard. Why the urgency after 10 months ? A wedding, a rather grand wedding of the owner’s daughter was happening in and around the garden.  The retaining wall was no problem but once again I came face to face with my nemesis, steps !  Oh I do so hate steps !  My life seems plagued with garden steps this past year, I’m sure you’re as fed up of them as I am.  Consequently I am not even going to show them to you. No, no steps and no retaining wall – if you need to know how to build either, go look in an earlier post, there are dozens !!

Instead I will share with you a little one day project that I undertook for my dear Mrs Laird (that’s the wife of the Laird of the Estate on which I live you understand, not her name !).  Again as you may have read, I have been engaged in restoring several areas of  stonework around the grand gardens of Llwyn Madoc.  The current work entails making something out of the dilapidated walled garden particularly where the grand glasshouses once stood.  In essence this involves removing debris and dozens of laid quarry tiles and creating a new pathway and (oh NO!) creating new steps up onto the raised platform.  Where the boiler house stood – the glasshouses had massive cast-iron pipes and radiators – was a slate slabbed base which was both unsafe and in the way.  Now when I say, ‘slate slabbed’ what I am referring to are four 8ft long, 3 feet wide and about 9 inches thick (2.5 mtrs x 1 mtr x 25cms) each weighing around 600lb (no idea how many kilos that is, sorry !).  They needed to be moved which required my friendly digger driver ‘Les’ and his trusty tracked machine.  I suggested to the Mistress of the house that they would make a rather nice Diamond Jubilee commemoration, set as a sort of henge somewhere in the grounds and possibly inscribed with the date or the names of her three daughters.  To my surprise she thought it was a good idea, though I’m sure she placates me at times !  So it came to pass that last week, in company with a bright orange digger machine, a bright orange garden tractor and trailer, a digger driver and a gardener (oh yes, and the gardener’s dog) we set about creating the Llwyn Madoc Jubilee Henge !  (The result of which was the youngest daughter of said Laird asking “Why have we got a graveyard in the garden”… )

Stones fir for a Queen

Andrew, the inimitable gardener of this grand garden, holds the massive stone while digger driver Les admires his lovely new orange digger…

Llwyn Madoc 3 sisters

In the ground a good way still leaves a sizeable slab; and the one leaning IS intentional !

Llwyn Madoc Jubilee stones

3 Sisters and a little one, the Jubilee Henge looks at home in its new setting.

Stones of standing

Rustic and somewhat understated – just like me in fact… A Jubilant Henge if ever I saw one – or built one !

And that it seems, was June !  Half the year has gone (and already I’ve had TWO holidays !) and I’ve still mountains of stone to juggle into a well known shape, walls to build and artefacts to get fixed, and yet more steps to build !  Never mind, perhaps before long one or other of my helpers might re-appear !! The Trials and tribulations of Welshwaller…

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