John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 7 September 2013

[Friday 6 September 2013]

North Wales

Day 250 Saturday 7 September Ezekiel 35-37

I had a dream: I was trying to get out through a revolving door made somehow of curved glass with a fairly narrow aperture in it, but it was going round far too fast for me to enter. When I woke up, Janet was asleep but clearly in distress. She was reluctant to speak of it when she woke up, though she told me part: she was walking in bare feet on the filthy carpet, and they were turning black. This was at ca.2.30am. Next day, on the coach, she told me that I’d been in some kind of trouble, people were hurting me, but all attempts of hers to get to me had been thwarted. I woke up again ca.5.30am to the sound of more heavy rain. Janet woke up at 6.30am, and thought that the alarm clock had failed to go off; but in fact it did sound some five minutes later. As I was having a shower — I’d run the water for a while and the temperature was OK when I stepped into the tub — the water got too hot to bear. Perhaps someone elsewhere had decided to shower and had compromised my water supply. We went down for breakfast at 7.30am, and afterwards, after returning to the room briefly, we went out to find a supermarket. Some scabby lesions have appeared on my right elbow and there’d be some spotting of blood if I didn’t put a dressing on. I had such dressings on last night, but Janet didn’t have a sufficient supply. And the tap water I had at dinner tasted a bit unpleasant, so I thought of getting some bottled water. And Janet wanted some sweets and chocolate for this her “pig out day”. Etc. We walked along the promenade and turned left into High Street, along which traders were setting up market stalls. There were all the usual “high street” retail outlets along its considerable length, except what we wanted — seemingly, till Janet spotted a Co-operative. So we got all the items we wanted there (08:35:59). Janet asked the checkout girl what the Welsh fried seaweed was called, but coming from Manchester she didn’t know. Her local boyfriend also worked there — the first Welsh person we’d encountered — so she asked him, but he didn’t know either. Janet then remembered “laver bread”. Most of the signs in the store were bilingual. So I checked with him how “diolch” (“thank you”) was pronounced. I’d got it pretty much right. We went back and deposited the stuff in the room. Just before the scheduled 9.00am (it had been 9.15am but was changed to 9.00am because of anticipated traffic difficulties) we returned downstairs, and depositing the key with its great heavy plate on the reception counter we went out and boarded the waiting coach. It set out at 9.07am, going the length of the promenade, at the end of which was a bowstring girder bridge crossing an estuary. To the right was what appeared to be a muddy harbour with numerous small boats lolling in it, and in confirmation we passed a couple of pubs with “harbour”-ish names. We turned into the A55 (09:16), and to the left was a scarp which reminded me of that of the Lincolnshire Wolds just beyond Nettleton. A little farther along on that hillside was a ruined smallish castle or perhaps a watchtower. And so we proceeded to Colwyn Bay, where relatives of my Mum’s on her mother’s side used to live. I recalled that we used to receive Christmas cards from “Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Hindley and Philip”, and I would wonder who “and Philip” was. We got onto the A470 (09:27) and entered Llandudno (09:30). We dropped two people off at the coach station in Llandudno (09:35), because they’d done before what we were about to do. (Today’s tour was an optional extra.) Having left there, we took the A470 in the direction of Betws-y-Coed, then the A55 in the direction of Chester. From my restricted view we appeared to be following a sign “B5115 Colwyn Bay”, but when we came onto a dual carriageway, I thought “This is no kind of “B”-road that I’ve ever seen”; and, indeed, a sign indicated that it was the A55 heading in the opposite direction to before. We entered a tunnel under the Conwy River (09:44), and emerged on a coast road. Paul pointed out the Great Orme over the wide inlet of the sea.

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 09:48:34
Seen from the coach: Great Orme

A little later he did the same with Puffin Island, and said that Anglesey could just be seen through the mist beyond.

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 09:50:36
Seen from the coach: Puffin Island

There were some very craggy mountains to the left, but there were too many reflections in the window to get a satisfactory photo. And later, when I tried to photograph the mountains, the camera kept focusing on the raindrops on the window. A note here, written and deleted, says “Aberconwy to the right?? (09:58)” — deleted because it couldn’t possibly be, for we’d passed under it through that tunnel. I had in mind what looked like a wide estuary. Perhaps it was the beginning of the Menai Strait. Our passing Penrhyn Castle to our right (10:00) was announced — the home of an English overlord who treated his Welsh serfs abominably, locking them out of the slate mines so that they starved, till his wife and daughter (I think) rebelled and gave them food. We turned onto the road signed “A4087 Caernarfon” and after that (10:07) “A487 Caernarfon”. When the Menai Strait became visible on the right, as we were passing by, before it was announced as such I thought it was just a wide river not a seawater strait. A sign indicated that we were entering Caernarfon (10:10). The strait was wider now when it came into view. We stopped, and Paul told us about Waunfawr (10:23) though I can’t remember, writing this next morning, what he said. My note says that we went along the “B4085”, but on the map in the book I bought on the Welsh Highland Railway it says “A4085”.[i] We passed Waunfawr and over a narrow-gauge railway (10:29). (I didn’t realise that this was, in fact, the same Welsh Highland Railway that we were to travel on.) We continued along parallel to the track in a valley. The high Snowdonia mountains rose up either side.[ii] Snowdon itself, though, was shrouded in cloud (→“10:39:22”, below). On the left as we passed was what appeared to be a huge cairn (10:40) — but on reflection it must have been a spoil tip from the several disused quarries along there. We arrived at Rhyd Ddu (10:44), where we awaited the train. It was raining. The railway is single-track, but there’s a passing place at Rhyd Ddu; and indeed, after our Caernarfon train arrived and stopped, the Porthmadog train did the same. I noticed that the trains “drive on the right”. Initially, I boarded a carriage, roofed but open at the sides to the elements — because of the rain and cold, I figured that I’d not get photos through rain-spattered and steamed-up window-glass — but because I overheard that a carriage was reserved for our party I shortly afterwards made my way to it.
[i] Indeed, the Ordnance Survey map, viewed online using Bing Maps, confirms that it was the A4085.
[ii] I didn’t note in writing, but I photographed the large reservoir Llyn Cwellyn to the immediate right.

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:34:22
Seen from the coach

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:34:28
Seen from the coach

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:36:40
Seen from the coach: Llyn Cwellyn

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:39:22
Not seen from the coach: Snowdon — shrouded in cloud

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:54:58
Our train for Caernarfon arriving at Rhyd Ddu station

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:55:08
Our train for Caernarfon arriving at Rhyd Ddu station

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:56:50
The train for Porthmadog arriving at Rhyd Ddu station

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:57:02
The train for Porthmadog arriving at Rhyd Ddu station

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:59:26
The Porthmadog train viewed from ours

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 10:59:42
One of the coaches of our train

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 11:03:26
The First Class “Pullman” coach of the other train

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 11:03:50
Our party’s reserved coach

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 11:11:04
Seen from the train: Llyn Cwellyn

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 11:12:50
Seen from the train: Llyn Cwellyn

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 11:15:16
Seen from the train: Llyn Cwellyn

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 11:39:00
Refreshments: Tomos Watkins Cwrw Hâf

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 12:19:08
Alighting from the train…

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 12:19:52
…at Caernarfon

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 12:21:18
Moving the locomotive to the far end of the train

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 12:22:20
Our waiting coach

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 12:23:28
A quick walk beyond the coach to glimpse Caernarfon Castle

The coach was waiting for us when we arrived at Caernarfon station; and when we got back on it, the sun came out. We set off on the Llanberis road, eastwards along the A4086, but we stopped not in the town but in the grounds of the National Slate Museum. We were told there was a café there, so perhaps there were snacks available; but we wanted a meal. We thought it was bad organisation to cart people around for 5 or 6 hours without the proper opportunity for a meal break. So we gave the slate museum a miss, and braved occasional rain to walk nearly a mile into Llanberis itself. We passed hotels promising a “bar/restaurant”, but they appeared to be closed; so we asked a passer-by, who recommended “Pete’s Eats”. It was several hundred yards before the described blue wall of Pete’s Eats came into view; we were deceived by a similar blue wall before it, but this was “Joe Brown”, a climbing and hiking supplies shop. Janet wrote:
We were given free time so we hoofed it into the town and finally found Pete’s Eats. (I’d stopped a bloke and asked him if he knew of a good place to eat, and he recommended this without hesitation.) On the face of it, it was not the sort of place I would have chosen — I would have looked in and walked on! It was heaving! Clearly a very popular place. We had double cheeseburgers with chips and pint mugs of proper coffee. The burgers were good, the chips were real, and I’ve never had good filter coffee in a pint mug before. Grand! I told [John] it ranked as my third most memorable meal (the spaghetti Bolognese in Ostend, McDonald’s in Luxor — and Pete’s Eats in Llanberis). It was not expensive and what’s more, was served on plates!
I hate leaving food, but the sheer amount of it defeated my best efforts to eat it all. I think I only left the bottom half of the bread bun and some leaves, though. Janet didn’t want to walk all that way back, so we asked about taxis. An eating establishment down the road (we didn’t see it on the way up) had a notice board that listed taxi firms. Before we got to it, Janet went into an ice cream shop and bought a couple of scoops of different flavours. We found the place and the list of taxi firms, but the first one I rang was clearly an out-of-town one and would only be able to supply a taxi in an hour. (In other words, he didn’t want to come and take us a distance of the order of only a mile.) I didn’t know from the list, of phone numbers only, which were near and which far, so I persuaded Janet to walk after all.

[iii] Cf. my comment about the fad of serving food on “planks” at the Coach House, yesterday.

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 13:55:46
Pete’s Eats, Llanberis

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:14:38

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:16:48
Ice cream shop

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:21:04

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:27:42
Mountains above Llanberis

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:32:52
A Llanberis jackdaw

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:33:54
Station of the Llanberis Lake Railway; old slate quarries behind

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:34:20
Old slate workings

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:44:40
Buildings of the Llanberis slate museum

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:44:40
Buildings of the Llanberis slate museum: detail 1

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:44:40
Buildings of the Llanberis slate museum: detail 2

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 14:44:40
Buildings of the Llanberis slate museum: detail 3

The coach set out (15:02) for Llanberis Pass. It’s a shame that I wasn’t seated in a better position for photography, because it was very picturesque.

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 15:07:12
Seen from the coach: slate quarries

Saturday 7 September 2013 — 15:14:06
Seen from the coach: view in Llanberis Pass

We got to Plas y Brenin (15:25) and turned right onto the A5 (15:26). We passed what we were told was the “Ugly House”[iv] (16:31) — and it was! All the stonework was knobbly and uneven. A patch of white water down in the gorge to the left was all that was visible of the Swallow Falls as we passed (16:32). We went through Betws-y-Coed (15:36). I scribbled “So many sheep!” because that was the case in all the areas that weren’t forested, all the roadside fields (we saw cattle regularly too). Then we turned left along the A470 (15:38). As we went through Llanrwst (15:45), Pam pointed out a narrow, stone bridge arching across the river on our left, saying it was designed by Christopher Wren.[v] As we proceeded along the Conwy valley there were wading birds in the shallow water. The notes next say “A470 Llandudno (16:02)”.[vi] We proceeded into Llandudno and picked up the couple we’d deposited earlier.[vii] We went along the coast parallel to the railway which was on our left[viii] and got back to the hotel (16:45). Copied today’s photos, and the last one from yesterday, from the camera (17:05–17:07); edited yesterday’s (17:11) and pasted it both in the PowerPoint presentation (17:19) and in yesterday’s diary entry. Did some diary update. We went down for dinner at 6.30pm. I didn’t fancy the starters on offer again, including the leek and potato soup that Janet had, which I rightly assumed would be too glutinous for me; I had orange juice again — acceptable, but made-from-concentrate, not fresh or fresh-when-packed. I had cheese and onion pie, but I don’t know what had become of the “onion”, because I couldn’t detect any — no little bits, or changes in consistency — it was just a tasteless, viscous ooze. The regularity of the ridges around the crust betokened factory-, not hand- and home-made; the chips were evidently cooked from frozen, and the peas out of a can. The same — cooked from frozen — was true of the small portion of supposedly battered cod that Janet received and disliked, though she ate it. We had plum tart and custard, but the custard was like the stuff you used to get in Chinese restaurants — made with water, not milk? — only worse. This was the first time Janet had ever left custard! We went back to the room to get the computer, to log on to the internet, but in the “quiet” lounge Janet found the chairs uncomfortable, and when we moved to the adjacent larger lounge to occupy a sofa, a keyboard-and-vocal duo started up fairly loudly and, to us, intrusively. Janet went back to the room, and I followed shortly after…

[iv] Tŷ Hyll in Welsh, marked as “Ty-hyll” on Ordnance Survey maps.
[v] Pont Fawr. According to Wikipedia, though, it “is said to have been designed by Inigo Jones and it was built in 1636 by Sir John Wynn of Gwydir Castle.” There’s no mention of Christopher Wren.
[vi] A470 Llandudno (16:02): But we were already on the A470, so perhaps this indicates that we reached the system of roundabouts and feeder roads that is the junction of the A470, the A55 and the A547.
[vii] Janet’s journal has them as “two ladies”.
[viii] We went along the coast parallel to the railway which was on our left — presumably, on the A55 then the A548.

Janet wrote:

We didn’t want to go back. We’d never been so miserable on holiday — ever. It was the worst hotel we’d ever stayed in, and if we weren’t due to go to Portmeirion and on the Ffestiniog Railway tomorrow we would have gone home. At 6.30pm we went for dinner. It was rubbish, and we were glad we’d had a good lunch. It was the first time I’d ever left custard, but it was inedible. We got some coffee and sat in the lounge so [John] could get the internet — he couldn’t in the bedroom. I felt so unhappy I wanted to cry. I was so depressed. Then a tart started singing and it was too fucking loud and I couldn’t stand it (would be good if it was possible to get some peace) and buggered off back to our crappy room in disgust. [John] followed not long after.

Back in the bedroom, I started a PowerPoint presentation (19:51), then started editing today’s photos (19:56); I pasted the first in, breaking off to do diary update, then the second (20:18). After that I concentrated wholly on editing the photos (20:30–21:12). Meanwhile, in contrast to my experience this morning, Janet couldn’t get the shower any hotter than the cool side of tepid this evening (ca.8.20pm). I cursed this place, not for the first time — perhaps the tenth, or even more! — loudly with foul language. I wanted it to burn down or go bust, and I wanted harm to come to that so-friendly-on-the-surface, but mean and stingy proprietress. After editing the photos I did a bit more diary update. Janet went to bed, ca.9.45pm. More diary update before switching to the PowerPoint (completed, 23:10).

[Sunday 8 September 2013]

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