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The Unknown James - Beach Architect
It's been almost three weeks now, so I suppose it's about time I wrote about my mini holiday.. Naomi and I had a long weekend in Pembrokeshire, to celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday.

First off, the journey.. it's weird, growing up and making the journey from Chinnor, it always took about four hours - from Cardiff it's more like two, if that. It's especially odd given the landmarks along the way - in my youth it was a case of counting down the various landmarks. An hour and a half into the journey was the bridge, and border into Wales. Halfway by distance was the tunnel at Newport. Then, seemingly much deeper into Wales, there was a castle we could see from the motorway.

That castle happens to be Castell Coch, which is actually just outside Cardiff. From there it's only about a hundred miles to St Davids, which is considerably closer than the 250 miles that it was when I was growing up. So that was odd.. The journey itself was good, we made a detour via Saundersfoot so that we could have lunch. We stopped off first at Wiseman's Bridge, from which you can kind of see Swansea in the distance. We had a bite to eat, and then continued along the coast to Saundersfoot. The roads were a bit crap, being single track roads for much of the way, but they were mercifully quiet.. I don't like to think what they'd be like during the tourist season.

Then on to St Davids. The Sat Nav tried to compell us to go down a one way street the wrong way, but we knew better (not least of all because the road was actually closed at the time).. Anyway, we got to Lower Treleddyn, which is a converted farmhouse type thing.

Chronologically speaking, that afternoon we (by which I mean Naomi, myself, Edward and Anna) went down to Porth Sele / Porth Selau. It's worth noting, for future reference, that I fully believe that the correct name is Porth Seleau, because that would directly translate to "Port of Seals", which sounds about right. Anyway, this being the beach that we used to spend most of our days on as small children, it was great to be back there, for nostalgia purposes. When we were little, we used to dam the stream that runs down the waterfall there and across the beach to the sea. Unfortunately on this occasion we neglected to bring the relevant equipment (bucket and spade), so we had to come up with other ways of amusing ourselves. To this end, we decided to change the path of the water down the waterfall, and create a new route for it to flow down instead. Spotting that part of the waterfall at the bottom was structurally weak, we blocked up other channels and cut a path through the sand at the bottom to divert the water. The next day when we came back, the whole thing was different, and running exactly as we'd wanted it to. This is kind of how I think God works - he doesn't bother micro-managing stuff, he just sets it in motion and comes back later to see how it worked out. That's why things don't always work out.

Not that I'm saying that my brother and I are somehow analogous to God. Well, he's not, anyway..

Anyway, other than greeting various relatives who arrived later that day, that's pretty much all we did. Just to make a note, in attendance were myself, Naomi, Edward, Anna, my mother and father, Grannie and Gramps, uncles David, Ste and Roger, aunts Michelle and Sue, and cousins Katherine and Emma. It's always nice to see Rog and Ste together, because they remind me in many ways of myself and Edward, which is probably one of the reasons our Grannie lets us get away with so much nonsense.

The next day we went out to Whitesands beach (Traeth Mawr - 'big beach'), although given the wet weather, the sand was quite wet.. So Naomi and I went on a walk out to the headland with my siblings, cousins, father and grandfather. I'm reasonably confident that my Gramps is more fit than any of the rest of us.. You wouldn't have thought that a ninety year old would casually jump down three feet from a mound of earth, but apparently so.. He pretty much put the rest of us to shame, and it was a really good walk.. Slightly cold at times due to the wind, but we got to see nice scenery, and good views..

After a spot of ice cream with my Uncle Dave, we went back to the house, and then I have a vague recollection of Naomi and myself falling asleep for many many hours - obviously the walk wasn't as easy as I'd thought.. Plus I hadn't slept well the night before due to a bad dream, but I'll cover that one some other time.. In any case, we were woken up by the news that everybody was leaving for dinner, so we had to hurriedly get ready.

Dinner was at The Sloop in Porthgain, which is pretty much the only restaurant-style place within about ten miles or so, and was where we used to go in days gone by if we wanted to actually avoid cooking (and by we, I obviously mean my parents). Dinner was quite nice, though I ended up feeling somewhat guilty that I picked one of the most expensive items on the menu.. Still, it's nice to be in a position where I can actually go to places like that and find several things that I can eat - a few years ago, it would not have been so easy.

I have to say, the highlight of the evening was probably getting back to the house, and seeing the stars.. It was a beautiful clear night, and with no streetlights for miles around (and no towns for tens of miles), there were thousands of the things. I'd forgotten how many stars there actually are - living in Brighton and then Cardiff for the last seven years has left me with the impression that there are only half a dozen stars in the sky.. It was.. I dunno.. soul enriching, or something. Just being able to look at any patch of sky and see hundreds of stars with no real gaps between them was just awesome. And, it being a nice clear night, we could see the lights from the South Bishop and Strumble Head in the distance, which took me right back..

So let's see, Sunday.. On Sunday morning, Naomi and I popped into St Davids for a little look around.. We stopped by the Bishop's Palace, but in the absence of any money didn't go in (it wasn't really the right weather to be exploring ruins anyway).. Then we went up past the Cathedral, by where the surf shack used to be, then up the high street at which point I realised I'd left my wallet back at the house. Which meant no money, nothing. D'oh! So we just kind of wandered about, up the high street, then down along New Street.. It looks like the Oceanarium has vanished from there, which at least meant I wouldn't have had anything to spend my money on anyway.. There was a weird supermarket type thing there, which really looked just like something straight out of America.. I'm sure I saw places just like it in Pennsylvania, there was a real only-shop-in-a-small-town type feel to it.. Then we walked back along Nun Street, back past the cathedral, and went back home again. The entire thing was ridiculously boring (as I'm sure is my re-telling), but it was still nice to see all those places that I used to go to, and I appreciated the fact that it was nice and quiet, being out of season and all that.. Someday I'd like to go properly exploring around, since there's loads of roads that go off to all manner of places, Porth Clais, Caerfai..

Thinking about it, we never did make it to the lifeboat station.. Or up Carn Llidi.. Have to go back sometime and cover those things off.

Anyway, in the afternoon we had a good fifteen or so people come over for tea (in addition to the fifteen that were already there). They included my Great Uncle Malcolm, my mum's cousins David and Martin, their kids, and various old friends of my grandparents. We spent much of the time playing pool and table tennis in the games room, since the place was a bit crowded, and we had very little to actually contribute. Uncle Malcolm had prepared a poem for my Gramps's birthday though, which was actually quite good. It's not very often that I hear people finding rhymes for 'nonagenarian', so it was original if nothing else..

The evening was then spent loading digital images onto my grandfather's new Digital Photo Frame type thing that Naomi and I got him for his birthday. My dad had taken a load of pictures of the gathering, so we cropped and resized them (bless Gimp) and put them onto a memory card. He seemed to appreciate the present, and it's the sort of thing that can be expanded on later with new pictures (or indeed the existing pictures can be put onto a higher quality device).

So that's pretty much the end of the holiday really.. We came back the next morning, and spent much of the time in the car singing the songs of The Phantom of the Opera - bear in mind, we have no car stereo or equivalent, so we really have to make our own entertainment. It was good fun :o)

The holiday was really good though, not least of all because it was the first time that Naomi has spent any prolonged period of time with my family.. I, on the other hand, have been on holiday with hers for weeks on end in the past, so it was kind of cool to have a chance to do things the other way around. She seemed to get along well with Anna and Ed (and I have photographic proof that Ed wants to get on very well with Naomi, in a non-consensual manner), and it was just cool for the four of us to be able to hang out a bit.. There was something ever so right about us all being down on Porth Sele, and there's nobody I'd rather share that with :o)

It was just nice to spend some 'family time', and for Naomi to be well and truly included in that.. I feel a part of her family, and I like the fact that she's feeling more like a part of mine :o)


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