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Published: July 21st 2011
Tigger and Me
Tigger (aka Matthew) with Newport in the background.
13th June 1.30pm The Sloop Inn, Porthgain
Right. Have been a bit neglectful of the old diary over the past few days due to a combination of business and exhaustion in the evening, so will take some time now to set the record straight and recount the last couple of days.
After finishing my last entry sat in a café in Newport I sauntered back to the campsite to find that someone had set up camp right next to me. My new neighbour said hello and invited me over for a cuppa. He turned out to be a lovely lad from Wales who was also doing the whole coast path with a pack like myself (although being a bit more experienced in these matters, he hadn’t packed everything including the kitchen sink and was thus a bit less encumbered than my poor, ignorant self). We got chatting away over the brew he made us and then progressed to the Welsh whiskey I had bought that afternoon (which turned out to be exceptional) and then the half bottle of cheap Chilean red I had lying about from the night before. The scattered cloud that had been about
A River Runs Through It
Well, its more of a stream, but it is very pretty nontheless.
all day had disappeared and we spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the sunshine while soaking up the gorgeous views of the bay and the reggae from my tiny, but ever reliable ipod speakers.
After a while Andy, as my new acquaintance’s name turned out to be, showered while I cooked some delicious burgers bought from the local butchers for dinner and then we wandered down the pub and had a couple of Double Dragons while Andy got in some fish and chips for dinner. By the time we got back to the tents the Yorkshire lads, Ian and Tigger (aka Matthew), had returned from their day’s excursion and were just finishing dinner, so we all had a couple more beers and then, you guessed it, headed back to the pub.
As luck would have it we arrived back at the Castle Inn just before 10pm, just in time to be casually having a drink when the lovely Welsh lass from the night before happened to knock off. I could swagger over to the pool table, pot a few balls, look up and notice her standing there and say with an air of mild surprise and
Dead Centre of Town
The ruined church and graveyard overlooking the bay.
infinite nonchalant cool “Oh, hey, fancy seeing you here. How are you?” Or at least that was the plan. We racked up a few games, and while I was just tipsy enough to be in scintillating form with the cue (my pool playing abilities form a bell curve in relation to how many pints I’ve had, increasing dramatically up to five or six pints, and then falling away rapidly after that), unfortunately there was no sight of a certain barmaid that had so taken my fancy, so we headed off down to road to the Golden Lion.
The atmosphere there turned out to be better and the crowd a little more mature than the late teen/early twenties ‘alternative’ set that had dominate the Castle Inn, so we settled in and spent the rest of the evening chatting to away to each other and a few of the friendlier locals . The other three lads were quite tired after walking all day and went home quite early, but as I was rested and more than a little ‘merry’ by this stage, I stayed on a few more hours with the locals before swaying my way back to the tent and
RIP Henry Oliver
Don't feel too bad for old Hank though, 91 is a damn good innings, especially for 1826, and he has a lovely final resting place.
some contented, alcohol induced slumber. Thus far my plan to lay off the booze and try to get healthier and lose some weight was not exactly going according to plan, but I had met some good people and was having a great time so I wasn’t too worried about things, plus it was only the very start of the trip so I figured there was plenty of time for that later.
Next morning I was rudely awoken by Ian bashing on my tent, and that fact that I had requested he do so did little to quell my groggy annoyance. However, sluggish start quickly overcome, I quickly knocked myself up a fried egg sandwich and Ian, Tigger and I set off on the next leg of the coast path. The plan was to walk to the town of Fishguard, catch the bus back to Newport for the night and then bus it back to Fishguard for the next leg in morning. Although I had possessed some rather grandiose ideas about “carrying my pack the entire way” and “being a real man,” I am afterall nothing if not a realist and figured that given my level of fitness a nice,
Don't Look Back In Anger
Some of the path we conqured that day.
pack-free walk with some good company was an opportunity too good to pass up, plus the views from the campsite at Newport were amazing and it would save the hassle of packing everything away and setting it up again in the evening. At least that’s how I chose to justify so quickly abandoning the task I had set myself while keeping my self-respect intact.
Weather wise it turned out to be another fantastic day and we took things at a leisurely pace, stopping off along the way at a ruined church/graveyard overlooking a picturesque bay and at an adorably quaint seaside pub that was so lovely that we were obliged to stop for a cheeky pint and a bowl of chips. After the bus back we cooked some dinner and then, predictable, headed down to the Golden Lion. Being quite tired from the day’s exertions we decided to only stay for one, then head home via the Royal Oak for a swift one so as to fulfil the mandatory requirement of having had a pint at every pub in town before leaving the following morning.
Now this is where the plot thickens dear friends. Just as we had
Me and my huge cannon (sitting on some old gun) Zing!
left and were heading down the road, who should be spot walking towards us other than a certain very cute barmaid and her cousin heading in to the pub we had just left. Great, what perfect timing, us leaving at the very moment that she was arriving. Fantastic (those of you with a keen wit out there may detect a little sarcasm in my sentiments here). To make matters even worse, if I had found her appealing enough in her work shirt and jeans, she was dressed in an elegant, figure-hugging navy blue dress, heels and had her flowing strawberry blonde hair down around her shoulders. As if all of this wasn’t enough, she had complemented her ensemble with just the right amount of makeup to highlight her naturally pretty features without falling in to the trap of overdoing it or trying too hard.
She seemed genuinely glad to see us, and when this vision of loveliness asked us what we were up to, I convinced the boys to change our plans and head back in and join them for a drink. Well, that’s what anyone else with even a fraction of a brain would have done in that
Something's Fishy Here
A view overlooking the harbour at Fishguard.
situation. Me, being the absolute pillock that I am, explained awkwardly that we were going to have one at the Royal Oak before going to bed, and with that said goodbye and headed off down the road. Nice one Casanova, real smooth!
Upon entry to the Royal Oak, I sat there kicking myself for being such a dim-witted, spineless fool for the whole time it took me to get through the next pint. Drink downed, I mentioned to Ian that I kind of fancied heading back down the road for another one and to have a chat with her loveliness, but that I was too tired and we had an early start the next day (although conveniently leaving out the fact that I can be quite shy at times when it comes to starting conversations with pretty girls), so obviously such a thing was completely unfeasible. Luckily for me, he convinced me in his gruff Yorkshire manner to man up and sent me on my way while he toddled off to bed.
Even though I had quite a bit of Dutch courage about me by this stage, my inner awkward teenage always kicks in at times like these
No Place Like Home
Me at my private cottage by the sea side.
and so I re-entered the Golden Lion with a certain level of nervous trepidation. Walking through the door I saw her talking to some guy near the bar. “Obviously a boyfriend or some other fellow she fancies,” I thought to myself and instantly started cursing myself for being foolish and getting my hopes up. However, now that I was inside it would have looked more than a little strange and creepy to walk in, gawp at her for a second and then turn and walk out, so I hesitated a second and then headed for the toilets. Not needing a pee or anything, I stood there for a few seconds feeling a right dick about the whole situation before heading back out for the door. Still, no real harm done, I could just tell the fellas she wasn’t there and escape with my dignity intact.
However, as luck would have it she was standing by the door as I was about to beat my hasty retreat. Catching my eye, she said “Hey, you’re back!” and seemed again seemed genuinely surprised to see me, so I covered up my nervous teen antics up and spun her some line about the
Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Newport
A nice shot of the sun setting over the bay at Newport, not a bad view for a £5 a night campsite.
other boys being old and boring and me fancying another pint before bed time. All real casual of course, like it was no big deal. Luckily enough she seemed to buy my cool-as-a-cucumber act, so I quickly followed up by saying that I figured I owed her a drink for staying open for us the other night. She accepted in a flattered, slightly flirty manner so I headed to the bar. It looked like Casanova was back in the house and making up for lost ground.
“So far, so good,” I thought as I ordered my pint and her Pimms and lemonade. I’d successfully initiated the conversation (which as we all know kids, is half the battle) and was thus far maintaining a front of casual confidence. Drinks acquired I went back to chatting to her and her cousin, me playing the part of the sophisticated, worldly traveller and throwing in just the right amount of flirty humour along the way. After a couple more drinks and a bit more of a chat we headed back down to the Castle Inn and Becky, as her name turned out to be, and I occupied a corner of the bar and
Wet and Miserable
I didn't take any photos in the rainy, awful conditions for fear of ruining my camer, but i think this image of a soggy feline accurately sums up my feelings at the time.
got better acquainted. For once I don’t mean that in a suggestive, double entendre kind of way. There is no wink wink nudge nudge going on here at all. We actually had a really good conversation and she turned out to be an interesting lass with a great personality and just the right level of ditzy gullibility to come off as innocent and adorable.
A few more drinks and she was smiley, rosy cheeked and seemed to be very interested in what I was saying. By this time my intentions were fairly clear and I could pretty much tell that she quite fancied me, so when the pub finally closed we left at the same time and I suggestively enquired as to where we should head to next. As you can tell I was well over my shyness by this stage. She, however, promptly replied that she was going to go to bed (she was crashing on her cousin’s couch nearby) and that although I was lovely, she wasn’t in the habit of taking strange boys home with her, especially ones that were blowing town the next day. Talk about getting shot down! I bet there have been visually impaired, one handed novice fighter pilots that have suffered less rapid ends that me on that occasion. Then again, I suppose that’s what I get for always being attracted to quirky-cute nice girls, so in future shall make an effort to only give my attention to scantily dressed slappers who are definitely up for one night stands (just kidding! Though finding a nice girl that was also up for a more brief form of liaison would not necessarily be a bad thing). Anyway, to quote the Yorkshire lads, “owt is better than nowt,” and at least I’ll now not die wondering about what might have been.
We had heard that there was bad weather predicted and I awoke the next day to the awful sound of wind and rain lashing canvas (I know tents are polyurethane or whatever plastic it is these days, but canvas sounds more romantic and rustic, so I’m sticking with that and there’s nothing you can do about it). Ian gave me a shout at about 8am and I overcame my intense desire to stay warmly cocooned in my sleeping bag and reluctantly got up. The lads were having their bags moved on to a campsite 20 miles or so down the path, and given that I didn’t fancy a cold, wet, lonely walk with a full pack I threw my bag in with theirs and got on the bus back to Fishguard.
To be brutally honest, there’s not much to say about the following seven hours other than that they were cold, wet, miserable and very, very long. Rain fell constantly was often accompanied by a harsh wind that lashed the face in a most uncomfortable manner and made walking along the cliff tops both awkward and very dangerous. Pretty soon I was completely soaked through, with my outdoor pants and waterproof top doing a little to keep me comfortable but largely failing to keep the water out. My boots were full of water and I squelched my way on silently for the next couple of hours, the merry chat and banter of the day before replaced by a grim determination to get the walk over and done with as soon as humanly possible.
Upon reaching the youth hostel at Pwll Deri and finding it unattended and closed (thus denying us the chance of a nice hot cup of tea that we had been hoping for), we found someone that was able to advise us of a shortcut inland to save us some time and energy. Being knackered and soaked, we decided to take the advice but ended up taking a wrong turn and probably ended up walking just as far as we otherwise would have. However, the roads were flat and relatively sheltered I suppose one should be thankful for small mercies.
We eventually hit the coast again and the lads decided to take the rest of the path to our destination of Trefin, while I cut inland again with the thought of getting dry and rested and then catching the bus back tomorrow and doing the section I had missed. For the last few soggy, unpleasant hours I had been praying for that the site we were staying at had proper laundry facilities so that I could at least get everything washed and dried and be ready for the next day. Hobbling in to town a few hours after cutting inland, I located the campsite/caravan park and got set up. Passing the laundry room on my way to the reception I caught the magical scent of tumbling, heated fabric and fragrant washing powder. They say roughing it makes you appreciate the simple things in life and I can honestly say that I’ve never been so excited by a domestic appliance like a clothes dryer in all my life (that is, excluding a certain incident with a vacuum cleaner on a lonely night during my intensely hormonal adolescence, but I’ll say no more on the topic at this stage).
Tent quickly set up and gear stowed, I decamped to the laundry room and washed and dried my clothes, dried out my boots so that they were wearable and cooked some surprisingly tasty flavoured rice and tuna for dinner. By the time I’d done all this Ian and Tigger had arrived and got ready so once again we set off for the local pub. Trefin was a tiny place, so after a couple of ales in the mostly empty local pub we headed back to get our heads down.
The cold night and hard, sloping ground made for a pretty restless night. We got up and organised and then treated ourselves to our first meal out for the trip; a huge fry up in the local café. There’s nothing quite like a full English breakfast after an uncomfortable night’s sleep in a cold tent, and the lashings of bacon, sausages, eggs, toast, beans and other breakfast fare went a long way to reviving my otherwise cold and exhausted constitution. Sufficiently full of fried food and tea, we parted was as the lads were on a schedule and had to push on while I intended to catch the bus back and walk the section that I had missed yesterday due to the god awful weather. Well at least that was the plan.
My feet were still quite sore and on inspection I discovered a large blister underneath the space between the two big toes on each foot. Add to the equation the fact that my boots were still quite damp and I was still pretty exhausted and you can see why I chose to alter my plans and catch the bus to the next town (that, after all, was my scheduled destination). That way I could properly dry out my boots, get my feet sorted, rest up and catch up on the writing that I had been neglecting and then double back on myself for another pack free walk the next day. After all, what’s the point of being totally free to do whatever you want if you can’t change your mind and plans when you feel like it. Going with the flow had been the general theme of my trip thus far anyway, and things seem to have turned out pretty sweetly, so I saw no reason to change things.
My mind made up, I jumped on the short bus ride to Porthgain. It turned out to be a charming little place, more of a small collection of buildings by a bay than an actual town, but regardless of that it would still be nice to sleep by the ocean again after a night inland. Enquiring in the pub as to the locations of campsites, I was informed that there wasn’t any, but that no one would object to me setting up on the green in the middle of the village as long as I did after a certain time and night and packed up again in the morning so as not to be busted by the national park authorities (though I’m not sure what they would have done had they actually caught me. A stern telling off perhaps? Maybe, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t take anyone giving me a lecture in a strong Welsh accent seriously. It is, after all, a very lyrical tongue made for merry banter and shouting things while rolling around drunk, not disciplining wayward campers).
Plan of action decided, I sat down and commenced the nasty business of blister popping/squeezing. I’ll spare you the gory details and suffice to say that it was a pretty unpleasant, slightly painful yet strangely fascinating process involving a safety pin, some disinfectant wipes and a several tissues. That unfortunate business out the way I ordered a coffee and sat down to catch up the writing I had missed over the past few days. Midway through this entry the Aussie lass who had served me my coffee came and sat down at my table for a chat while she was on her break. We got along pretty well and traded travel stories for a bit before the subject of work came up. As it turns out the pub was desperate for a dishwasher/kitchen hand and might be willing to give me a few weeks work cash-in-hand. Although I don’t really need the work, I have been spending entirely too much money of late so a period of gainful employment, if however slightly illegal, might be a good move, plus it would be great to spend some more time in this charming, sleepy Welsh seaside outpost. Anyway, I’m not sure how things will pan out, so I guess I’ll just ‘go with the flow’ for the time being and see what happens.
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