The countryside here looks so much like Oregon I feel quite at home. When I arrived in Lampeter Trevor met me at the bus stop. We hugged like old friends and walked toward their house just down the street. It was dark and cold but felt great compared to the inside of trains and busses. At the house Kathy and I hugged, of course, also like old friends. I’m pretty sure we all knew each other in some past life. Instantly I knew I could stay here a while, or come back.
Kathy had made chicken stew. The best chicken stew I’ve ever had. With dumplings. She taught me how she makes them so the next day I made my very own Welsh dumplings. We stayed up and talked until one or two and drank Merlin which is a bit like Irish cream the Welsh way. They don’t work anymore so they stay up late playing music from Trevor’s huge vinyl collection and Kathy knits. She showed me photos of the amazing sweaters she has made and a pair of fingerless gloves. I told her I loved them so she immediately started knitting me a pair. Out of llama wool.
They had lunch plans so I wrote and relaxed in their beautiful 100 year old house with a glass conservatory and a back yard full of wring neck doves coming and going. Eventually I made my way around town which didn’t take long. Lampeter is tiny. I bought a lamb and potato pastie and ate it while I walked by the sheep that live right in town just a block from the university. I have a life long habit of gobbling at wild turkeys and bleating at sheep when I pass them. It just happens. I can usually control it when I really need to, at least from coming out of my mouth, never in my head, but hell, I’m 46, I figure at this point I can bleat at sheep if I want to so naturally, I did. They all looked at me like sheep do and I realized I had the pastie in my hand and lamb breath. As much as I hate wasting food I threw the last two bites away, the former vegetarian in me feeling a little ashamed of myself. Back at the house I stuffed myself with more stew and dumplings and tea and flapjacks. The Welsh blood in me was definitely guiding my appetite.
Kathy finished my mitts and they taught me to play “Settlers of Catan” which was wonderful with whiskey and flapjacks.
That night I slept for ten hours. I’m not sure if it was the dumplings or the fact that I wore my llama mitts to bed but 10 hours is two or sometimes three nights worth of sleep for me in my normal insomniatic life so I’m going to keep eating dumplings and wearing my mitts to bed.
The next day after coffee and Barleycup we headed of to Carreg Cennen Castle which has caves in the cliffs beneath the castle. There is a foreboding doorway that leads to steep stairs descending down into the caves/dungeons. It definitely requires a torch. It’s dark and wet and creepy. I know for certain that it’s creepy because two men came up as we were coming down. One was carrying their unhappy looking tiny dog who wore a knitted sweater, the other said “be careful….it’s creepy down there”.
I was fine as we made our way down until Trevor said “it’s like Shelobs lair”. Only moments later I steadied myself by putting my hand on a huge rock and my fingertips brushed the edge of a massive spider web shaking the enormous spider inside. When I turned to look the shadow cast by the light of my headlamp made her look like she had been there, growing, for several hundred years. Never mind the fact that she was undoubtedly blinded by our lights, if you know me, you know that was exactly when I was ready to turn around.
It was interesting to think that the people who lived in that castle were not all that much different than us. On a fundamental level. They cooked food, they had jobs to do, they slept and had dreams, they held hands, they made love, they got sick the got well, they birthed and died and were happy and sad and angry and disappointed and hopeful. They sang and danced and drank beer and mead and some wrote while some told jokes and some fought and some prayed. Some built and some destroyed. They said good morning and good night and I love you you and fuck you, or some equivalent there of.
They did not have Internet and video games and washers and dryers or grocery stores or electricity or paid sick leave or mascara or SUV’s but they survived. Had they not, the rest of us would not be here now. That’s something to think about while walking through the ruins of history.
In the parking lot I insisted we take a selfie which I hate doing. Teenage girls with their duck faces taking pictures of themselves doing absolutely nothing important in no place special have totally ruined the selfie for the rest of us but we did it non the less and I am so glad we did. It’s a great photo that captures a moment in a great day.
From Carreg Cennen we went to Pyle which is my Fathers name, to spread some ashes. As we drove into town we saw immediately an old cemetery and Parrish. I said I need scotch to drink if I was to be spreading ashes so we went a couple of blocks up to the co-op. On the way down the hill back to the cemetery although it was not yet becoming dark, the cross on top of the church lit up as if to say “I’m over here”. We all agreed it just felt like the right place to be.
I looked at graves but many of them were far to old and damaged to read. I met two old women there. One was visiting her husband who died a week earlier. She was very old and told me she wouldn’t be far behind him. They had gone to that church together for 50 years. I asked her if there were other old cemeteries because I was looking for some Pyle grave sites. She asked my name and I said Kimby Pyle and she said, “no your name”. I said my Father was Terry Pyle and my grandfather was George Pyle and so on. She put both of her hands on my arm and kept saying, “oh my your name is really Pyle”. She told me that the records there were hard to find and the minister was new and hadn’t had time to try to sort all of that out. She said it would be difficult to find out much in a short amount of time but she loved it that I was a Pyle and offered to take me to the ministers house and help me research. If I had a few days there I would have done it. But instead we said our goodbyes. I told her I was very sorry that she lost her husband and she told me she very happy to meet a Pyle.
I decided to put some ashes along the back wall of the Parrish, took a couple swigs of scotch, said good bye to those family particles and we headed home by way of the tallest building in in Wales, in Swansea where we detoured for a quick drink and a breathtaking view of the harbor and the sea.
We stayed close to home the next day. We ate dried fig with award winning cheese on crackers, Indian food, fish and chips and mushy peas, flapjacks, Trevor’s enchiladas, cup after cup of Barleycup and local beer. I arrived in Wales late Monday and left midnight Thursday and I’m pretty sure that in addition to getting more sleep than usual I ate more than usual too. The Welsh eat well, especially Kathy and Trevor I think.
They have been together for 40 years. They have lived in that house since the 70’s. They are happy together and in life. It was refreshing to be around that. They are generous and open. We talked about everything. Raising kids, health, relationships, aspirations, the past, the future, politics, the differences in our countries and much more including music and culture. They hadn’t realized that Eugene was the second home of the Grateful Dead, the pranksters and Kesey. They loved it that downtown square is now Kesey square.
I introduced them to Country Fair and they remembered when the Dead played there to raise money for the Creamery. We got online so I could show them Faire pictures and as we flipped through I was explaining…”that’s main stage, that’s the dragon, and there’s some boobs, and more boobs, and little kids with painted faces, and painted boobs, and the tree people on stilts, and really huge boobs, and there are some booths, and another picture of a stage, the fire dancers, and an old lady fairy and her boobs, and this one is the sauna, and oh yep, more boobs”….. I didn’t realize that if you google image search the Oregon Country Fair pictures of boobs come up more than anything.
Everyone I met in Lampeter was friendly and warm. Every single person. The lady at the bank and people in the shops I went to, Kathy and Trevor’s friends and the builders who were building a new gate on the back fence. Their names are Both Alan and are probably in their 60’s. The talkative Alan has been Kathy and Trevor’s builder for 20 years.
They drove me to a town about 40 minutes away to catch the midnight bus to the ferry that would drop me in Ireland at about sunrise. In the car waiting for the bus we talked about how awkward saying goodbye is. How you wait in the car trying not to talk about saying goodbye, in our case since the bus was late, for about 40 minutes, then as soon as the bus arrives it’s a frantic rush to hug and say what you need to say and gather your things and get aboard before the bus drives off leaving you standing in the rain. Saying good bye didn’t feel awkward. Just sad.
On the bus I drank my water bottle full of scotch and elderflower cordial, ate flapjacks and read Neil Gaiman, American Gods until getting on the ferry where the scotch worked its magic and I fell asleep thinking about how much I will miss my new friends even after only just meeting them.