“Come on you lot, it's a long drive” Dad called from the doorway.
“Whatever” I muttered. I know it's great that we are all going away together but I can't say that I relish a week in southwest Wales.
“Come on Drew” Jules taunted as she sashayed out of the house.
“Don't take any notice of your sister, come on, you're Dad's chomping at the bit” Mum gave me a quick cuddle and after ushering me outside, locked the house.
As I waited for Mum I checked out the street, it's a bit cloudy and Dad has taken the precaution of covering the saddles on everyone's bikes. I'm still not sure that I'm particularly keen on the colour of our new car but I suppose British Racing Green is quite traditional and its not a sheep-like silver. Looking at how it's packed one of Saab's other products might have been more appropriate; we'd have been struggling in the old Passat.
“You sitting in the front Drew?” Mum offered, “You can navigate for your Dad”
“Please” I enthused.
“How comes he gets to go in the front?” Jules moaned.
“Because” Mum replied as I happily climbed in beside Dad.
Dad gave the bikes a final check then we were off, the AA route thingy reckoned it was nearly 400 kilometres to our destination and there's hardly any motorway or even dual carriageway. I don't think Dad really needed me as navigator, he always finds his way to the races and stuff okay without a map. But I was determined to do the job properly so right from Mansfield I started giving him directions. Mum and Jules were both reading so there wasn't much else for me to do.
Once on the A38 Dad put his foot down a bit and we were soon at Derby. I did that cross race round here somewhere, you remember the one, I half wrecked my bike. There was a bit of traffic at the A52 junction but we were soon moving again down towards Lichfield. From time to time Dad pointed out something of interest, the big Toyota factory at Etwall, the Breweries at Burton on Trent, the canals right next to the main road, the place just past Alrewas that sells old military vehicles – they had some Russian missile launchers in the yard!
We passed Lichfield and joined the A5, another old Roman road, the A38 is Rycknild Street and the A5 is Watling Street. Dad pointed out the Roman camp at Wall before starting going on about the new motorway they've been building. Apparently you'll have to pay to use it when it opens later in the year, like you do on some French motorways. Geez, you'd think he was being asked to pay for everyone to use it!
At Cannock we turned off the A5 and then joined the M54 towards Telford. We zipped along the concrete, there wasn't too much traffic, I guess that's because the road doesn't really go anywhere useful.
“When are we stopping?” Jules enquired.
“I was hoping to get a bit further.” Dad stated.
“Well I could do with a leg stretch Dave.” Mum added.
“Okay then, we can stop at Much, ‘bout twenty minutes.” Dad allowed.
I scanned the map.
“Where's Much, I can't see it on the map?”
“Much Wenlock, it's a few miles past Telford.”
“Oh yeah, I've got it. There's loads of museums and stuff round here.” I mentioned.
“Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale, heart of the industrial revolution, it's a world heritage area. Haven't you covered that at school?”
“Don't think so, I'm sure I'd remember”
“Well there's all sorts of stuff down there, the worlds first iron bridge for example.”
“Oh right I get it, Ironbridge because of the iron bridge. Oops, left here.”
“We'll have to come up for a day sometime.”
“Yippee” Jules mumbled from the back seat.
Well I was thinking it too.
We turned off the motorway and made our way around the new town and onto the twisty road to Much. Dad's guesstimate was just about spot on; we pulled into the car park just gone ten, a little over two hours after setting off.
“I've got drinks in the back of the car.“ Mum told us.
“You girls staying here then?” Dad asked.
“Well the lavs are just over there,” Mum indicated the facilities, “and someone needs to stay with the bikes.”
“I'll just take Drew to see the Guildhall then.” Dad mentioned, “come on kiddo, let's stretch those legs.”
Not already! I can just see what this whole week is going to be like. Reluctantly I pulled my sandals back on and the pair of us went to look at some gnarly old building in the middle of twee little town. Half an hour later we were on the move again, moving inexorably towards the border. Dad pronounced that we'd stop for lunch near the border at a place called Knighton. It was starting to get more rural; the road was only a B road and a bit narrow in places. I started to relax a bit and closed my eyes.
“Which way Drew?” Dad's voice woke me from my snoozing.
“Straight” I'd already checked the map, there's miles before we turn off. I still checked the map when I saw a road sign to Bache. Got to be here somewhere.
“Sorry Mum, we missed the turn.”
“The worlds greatest navigator strikes again.” Jules sneered.
“What do you mean strikes again?” I started to rise to the bait.
“Kids! Stop right now. Both of you, you're like five year olds not fourteen and fifteen.” Mum mentioned.
“Sorry” we both mumbled.
“Right then young man, you'd best get us back on route.” Dad mentioned as he gaily kept going along the wrong road.
A quick look at the map provided the solution and we were soon dropping into Craven Arms. They've got some weird names round here.
“Seeing as we're so close, I'll show you Stokesley Castle.”
“Daa-aad” Jules moaned.
I was starting to suspect a set up on Dads part with the missed turning, just a bit convenient. We joined the A49 and the medieval remains soon passed on our right but thankfully we kept on going. It was only a few miles to the Knighton turn where we rejoined the AA route I was trying to follow. Another bizarre name, Kinton Leintwardine, Mum reckoned it was quite picture skew, Mum speak for pretty. By now with it knocking on towards twelve my stomach is rumbling, I reckon its only about ten miles to this Knighton place.
We followed the Teme valley and a few minutes later there was a sign that announced ‘CROESO at CYMRU' and below that ‘WELCOME to WALES' and after that excitement it was just a short distance into our dinner stop. It might be Saturday but Knighton was still not exactly busy apart from the petrol station. We parked up and after locking all the bikes to the roof rack we headed into the town to find some lunch. After an exploratory mooch which only revealed the stupidity of the double language signposting, Mum led us into ‘The George & Dragon', which was advertising food.
I was expecting everyone to be talking Welsh but apart from one guy with a bit of an accent, we could have been in Worksop. The menu wasn't exactly exhaustive but the steak and ale pie looked good. We left Dad to order and found seats in the next room. I won't bore you with all the details but there was enough pie that I passed up the chance of some jam roly-poly!
On the walk back to the car I mentioned that there were a lot of walkers and bike riders in the town, I wish I hadn't! Dad started in on lecture 16A, the story of Offa's Dyke, which is like a sort of Hadrian's Wall between England and Wales, except it's not a wall, it's this big ditch thing. Geez, he does go on, he was still boring the rest of us with it when he pulled into the petrol station to top up the tank.
Refuelled, both car and family, I directed Dad onto the right road and started the second half of our journey. I turned my attention to trying to decipher the road signs, although they are all in Welsh and English, some of the Welsh doesn't seem to scan, I must ask Em if she knows any Welsh. Some stuff like araf which means slow is obvious, it's painted on the road, but there seem to be too many y's and d's and a lot of words are much longer. If they are straightforward, they don't look anything like you'd expect, an ysgol I worked out to be a school.
There being little navigation to do, I started checking out the hills that we started climbing into. According to the map some of these hills are over two thousand feet high – pretty impressive. The next town was Llandrindod Wells, more traffic than Knighton at least but we drove straight on through.
“We'll stop at Builth Wells for a quick leg stretch.” Dad announced.
“Great, I need a wee.” Jules announced.
To be honest the road was pretty boring and the surrounding hills although quite high are not very dramatic or anything. Dad's commentary has just about dried up, Mum's asleep and Jules is reading so I'm getting a more than a bit cheesed. We crossed the bridge into Builth and after a trip around the one-way system we pulled into a car park next to the river. Dad got us a spot right next to the public conveniences and Jules hotfooted inside as soon as the handbrake was on.
“Anyone fancy a look in the tourist info?” Mum ventured.
“I'll stay here”
The rest of us walked over to the ‘ Canolfan Croeso ' for a quick look, there wasn't much point picking most of the stuff up as it is all far too far from where we are headed which is near Fishguard. Mum checked out the small selection of touristy stuff but there wasn't anything I'm interested in so I left and went for a wander. I could see one of those information board things so I headed across the car park to have a nosey. Was I surprised when it turned out to be one of those stone circle things Dad is always on about. Compared to all the ones Dad has dragged us to, this one was a bit different, apart from being in the middle of Builth Wells! That's it, all the stones are stood up, and they're usually all falling over, a quick read revealed why. For some reason the locals built it for the millennium celebrations a couple of years ago, well it would have fooled me.
There was a horn tooting behind me.
“Come on Drew, we're ready to go” Jules yelled.
I returned to the car and climbed in.
“Okay drew?” Dad asked.
“Thought you'd like this.” Mum passed a paper bag forward.
“What is it?”
“Well dur dumbo, open it.” My sister suggested.
“Give over Juliette” Mum told her, which of course produced a pout, that black lipstick is awful!
Dad negotiated our way out of the car park while I retrieved the contents of the bag.
“A book.” I mumbled somewhat unenthusiastically, sliding it out of the wrapper.
“Look at the title kiddo.” Dad suggested.
Welsh Place Names , well maybe that's a bit interesting.
“I thought you could tell us what the names mean, it can be a bit frustrating with some of these Welsh signs.” Mum enthused.
I immediately flipped through to find the town that Dad had already manoeuvred us out of.
“It says here that Builth Wells is Lanfair-im-Mooalt in Welsh which is St Mary's church in the cow field. Weird or what?”
“I'm sure there are similar names in England” Dad pointed out.
I forgot all about navigating as I started reading the book, Dad seemed to know which way to go although I have to say there was only one road really. We passed through Llanwrtyd, church of Saint Wyrtd who I've never heard of, and on through Llandovery, church among many waters, before turning onto the Lampeter road. Llan, it says here is the same as church in English so there are lots of Llan something's all over Wales. Lampeter is really Llanbedr, which is St Peters Church in English, it would be a lot easier if they just used one name on signs and maps though, I thought Llanbedr PS was some other place.
We took the Newcastle Emlyn road, which means Emlyn's new castle dur, at which point Dad suggested I start with the directions again. We got onto the Eglwyswrw road, which if it wasn't going up and down was twisting about, I had to check, its church of Wrw whoever or whatever that is.
“I think we can cut a corner off from Eggleswee Drew” Dad suggested as we entered the village.
I checked the map and quickly worked out a route.
“Got it, if we take the next left to Crosswell we can go nearly straight there.”
“Just tell me where to turn”
This is more fun; actually map reading even if the map I've got here isn't up to much.
“You sure Drew? It looks a bit narrow.” Mum opined from the back.
“If he says it's the way Jen, I'll believe him.” Dad stated pulling into what I have to admit looked more like a farm track.
“There's grass growing up the middle.” A suddenly alert Jules pointed out.
We turned a corner and the lane dropped steeply towards a building in the valley below, our sudden arrival at a ford caught me unawares, I'll have to remember not to come this way on the bike! The lane climbed up the other side of the valley via a couple of hairpins and continued in farm track styleee for another mile or so. We eventually emerged onto some moorland and at the next junction picked up a sign for our destination, Gellifawr. A steep downhill and an even steeper climb returned us to the moor and in just a couple of minutes we were pulling into the Gellifawr Hotel & Apartments .
“You pair wait here while me and your Dad get the keys.” Mum ordered getting out of the car.
“Yes Mum.” We both echoed.
“We're miles from anywhere.” Jules moaned.
“‘Bout eight from Fishguard” I offered.
“Precisely! I just hope there's a telly.”
“Bound to be, bum I've not got a signal.” I waved my phone around uselessly; the text to the gang will have to wait.
I checked my watch, four o'clock, the gang will be catching the bus home from Meadowhall about now, I wonder if Mad got that dress? I'm missing them all already and I only saw them last night! It's a bit odd being the only boy hanging out with a bunch of girls, I wish Rhod was back; it's not the same with Em. The gang would like this place I noted looking around at the carefully tended gardens and cheery buildings.
The hotel isn't much more than a big house, Mum's booked a self-catering apartment for us though. It looked fairly posh; the other cars parked in the yard were all fairly new and by the registrations, all from England.
“We're in ‘Swallow' kids.” Mum announced as our ‘rents got back in the car.
Dad started the Saab up again and drove through the yard and out up a little lane that took us up to the first floor apartments and we were soon parked up alongside a Discovery and a Sharan. We all got out and followed Mum into Swallow. There was a fairly big central room that acts as kitchen, dining room and living room, a small bathroom and three bedrooms. The olds will have the double of course; Jules claimed the twin room leaving me with the single room. Hah! At least I'm not next to the bathroom Jules!
We dragged our bags inside and started to unpack while Dad got the bikes off the roof. For once I've got not just my case but also my clothes in it! So okay its not all exactly boys stuff, after all I need a bit of support to squash my boy boobs and girls pants are more comfortable! But there's no dresses or skirts and I've even remembered my bike kit. Unpacking is easy, tip the bag up and redistribute the pile of clothes – five minutes tops. Mum and Jules were still hanging things so I went to see what Dad was up to.
“Finished already Drew?”
“You can give me a hand with this then,”
‘This' turned out to be removing the coating of bugs from our bikes before they weld themselves to the paint.
“You do you and your Mum's, I'll do mine and Jules'.” He finished chucking me a roll of paper cleaning cloths.
I don't mind doing this, one thing I've learnt is that if I look after my kit it works better, looks better – and I get more of it! I sat myself down on the ground and started debugging Mum's training bike, thankfully although its been a bright day, the wind has kept bug numbers down so the job isn't as bad as I've known it. I'd finished Mum's and was starting on my own trusty steed when Mum came out onto the little bridge that connects the apartment with the outside world.
“We need to get a bit of shopping Dave if you want to eat tonight.”
“What time is it?” Dad asked.
“Just coming up to five.” Mum advised.
“We can finish this later Drew, five minutes Jen.”
“Okay” Mum agreed.
“Right kiddo, lets get these inside and get washed up.” Dad instructed.
Well it was closer to ten minutes later when we pulled back out onto the lane and started on our mission for food. I resumed the role of navigator and given that we were going for food I resisted the temptation to explore the narrow lanes, instead getting us onto the ‘main' road ASAP! Mum had obviously got directions at the hotel coz she took over navigation once we reached Fishguard and we were soon in the supermarket car park. It wasn't exactly Sainsbury's but it was all that's on offer so with me pushing the trolley, Jules surveying the non-foods; we set off for some food.
“Hmm,” Mum started forty minutes later, “I don't fancy cooking tonight.”
“The kids can cook” Dad volunteered which of course garnered groans from Jules and I.
“It's the first night, how about we get some fish and chips? I saw a chippy back at the roundabout.”
That idea had mutual agreement so after stowing the shopping we walked down into the town. The place is about the same size as Warsop and much like at home on a Saturday evening there were people waiting for buses, friends or in the case of the teenagers, just hanging about. Apart from the Welsh names and accents, it's just like home. We did get a few funny looks but I think they were aimed at Jules in all her black Goth gear, I must tell her that her roots are showing!
The fish shop was right where Mum remembered and on closer inspection doubles as Indian takeaway and sit down café.
“We might as well eat here.” Mum suggested.
“Nothing worse than cold chips.” Dad agreed.
We had our meal, I opted for a steak and kidney pie as I hate white fish, well except fish fingers, it was getting dark before we emerged to return to the car. My phone trilled signalling a message. It was from Mad, checking we got here okay. I text'd a reply, copying it to all the gang, Ally, Bernie, Em and Helen as well. With no signal where we are staying my phone looks to get a holiday this week too!
The drive back to Gellifawr, or ‘great grove' if my translation is right, was, if nothing else, interesting. We met two cars on the single-track lane that makes up the last mile or so and had to back up so we could pass, it's a good job Dad spotted the lights before we got to the corner! It's going to be interesting riding around here.
Back at the apartment, Goth girl hit her room to listen to cd's, Mum put the shopping away while Dad and me finished the bike cleaning from earlier. With all the travelling I was actually pretty tired, my bed was making encouraging noises so a bit after nine I hit the sack and was out like a lamp.
Maddy Bell 18.05.05 © 2006
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