Earlier in the year I had made plans to go on holiday with my daughter and grandchildren and my son and we had chosen a holiday cottage near Boulogne in Northern France. I like it there.
As the Summer approached there were more and more delays crossing the channel as a consequence of striking French ferry workers and large numbers of migrants attempting to cross from France to the UK. I love my grandchildren very much but the prospect of being stuck in a traffic jam for up to twenty-four hours with them was just to awful to contemplate so when the critical moment came to make the final payment I cancelled and transferred the holiday to a cottage in mid Wales.
I was surprised that I was so easily persuaded to book a holiday cottage in Wales because most of my holiday memories of the Principality involve precipitation. In 1972 I went to University in Wales and rather than books I spent about 50% of my student grant on raincoats and umbrellas.
When I was a boy we used to go on family holidays to Borth in Mid Wales and stay in a caravan. It always rained and all through the night there was a stready pitter-patter of rain on the biscuit tin roof and everywhere seemed damp and cold. Later we used to go the Plas Panteidal holiday village near Aberdovey and although the accommodation was an improvement the same could never be said for the weather.
In 1986 I went to Wales for a holiday to the Hoseason’s Holiday Village in Carnarvon in North Wales and it was so cold and so wet that we gave up on the fourth day, abandoned the holiday and drove all the way back home.
After a gap of twenty-five years I was ready to give Wales another chance and in 2011 booked a holiday cottage in Cardigan in South Wales. Things seemed promising as the spring and early summer got off to a fine start with the hottest April on record followed by the driest ever May and the meteorologists predicting a long hot summer and a certain drought. Now, I didn’t particularly want a drought but I did rather hope that these fine weather conditions would continue a little longer through into the middle of June.
Unfortunately I was going to be disappointed and a week following a BBC1 special programme on the drought crisis everything changed and it rained every day and instead of picnic hampers and swimming costumes I needed anoraks and umbrellas!
I said that I would never go to Wales again but four years later I found myself preparing once again for a week of uncertain weather.
Getting to Wales was not easy. First of all I had to drive two hundred and fifty miles back from Scotland. When I left the Scottish Borders the weather was wonderful, crisp blue skies and a burning sun. When I arrived home in Grimsby it was quite possibly the hottest day of the year so far and the plants in the garden were wilting under the midday sun.
And so we set off, driving west towards more blue sky and golden sun and the car’s air conditioning system belching out a stream of icy cold air. I was so optimistic that I even forgot to pack a rain hat or an umbrella. I should have known better.
Almost immediately that we crossed Offa’s Dyke somewhere near Wrexham there were single carriageway roads with ever widening puddles and bleak gloomy conditions ahead as heavy grey clouds stuck like stubborn Velcro to the tops of the Welsh hills. It rained in Llangollen, it rained in Corwen and it rained in Bala and it was about now that I was forced to concede that we probably wouldn’t be having a barbeque this evening.
Kim had never been to Wales before and with a preference for Mediterranean sunshine, balcony life and al fresco dining I sensed that she wasn’t too impressed. She wasn’t too happy either when for no good reason I took an unnecessary detour for the final few miles along a single track road and got hopelessly lost.
Eventually however we reached our remote holiday cottage destination in the village of Llanuwchllyn where there were only sheep for company and by some minor miracle the clouds broke and the sun spilled some temporary golden light onto the surrounding meadows. It still wasn’t barbeque weather but it was nice enough to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine.
We were the first to arrive, my son was an hour or so behind and lost somewhere along a remote mountain pass and my daughter had delayed her arrival until the following day.
The fine weather didn’t last very long and by the time Jonathan arrived we had been forced inside by the steady advance of grey clouds and heavy rain.
Later we went to the village pub for evening meal and drove back along the narrow lanes in rainfall of truly biblical proportions, hammering down and bouncing off the car roof like shrapnel. It rained like that for most of the night, raindrops like lead weights crashing into the slate roof and pouring down over the gutters and drain pipes like a mighty waterfall.
As I lay awake listening to the surging river nearby swollen by the heavy rain and bursting its banks and the avalanche of water cascading off the roof I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had made a terrible mistake!