Five fabulous years…..
that’s how long Tony & I have been married; for today – St David’s Day – is also our Wedding Anniversary. Had you said to either of us six short years ago however, that we’d have found our soulmate, married, & moved in terms of location, lifestyle & career I think we’d both have given a lonely chuckle that it couldn’t possibly be possible. But it just goes to show; you really can dream the impossible dream; & eventually, live it…..
Meanwhile we were rudely woken in the early hours, by the gathering fury of the storm outside. Gale-force winds rattled the rooftiles & shook the shivering branches of the trees down in the wood, tearing between the trunks & roaring across the ridges of the distant mountains, ferocious in strength like a lion indeed.
The savage wind was interspersed by the occasional, violent hailstorm; big, icy stones bouncing off the barn in a cacophany of tin-drum, tumultuous noise; which set poor little Aerona – the goat who has nightmares – into a heart-rending panoply of frantic cries in her fear of the storm outside. The other 32, thankfully, continued their unconcerned cud-chewing; partially in typical caprine defiance at nature’s worst & partially in the comfortable knowledge that we’d never let so much as a breath of wind, ever harm our much-loved herd.
So I suffered a restless night; especially because, as ever, I was in charge of the baby monitor overnight….& so enjoyed the full force of the storm, in gloriously earsplitting stereo.
I felt decidedly jaded by morning but as ever, was up early; despite Tony’s hollow promise to give me the luxury of a lie-in whilst he did the chores & made breakfast, allowing me to indulge in a rare few extra hours’ slumber, I’d resigned myself to there being no such chance.
Anyway, I opted to rise at the normal time so that not only was the washing up done, the house tidied & the Blog updated as normal; but that fresh-cut jonquil graced our St David’s Day Welsh cottage; & that cards were written & presents wrapped, for our anniversary.
We always make a special effort to follow the tradition every year, of specific gifts relating to the particular anniversary as well as trying to be as novel & original as possible. So far, our gifts to one another have included an origami set (first anniversary is paper); a medieval-style tapestry (second anniversary is cotton); a dozen red roses – made of leather (third aniversary); & trees for the orchard (fourth anniversary is fruit).
Tony unearthed himself from beneath the duvet & had started to feel vaguely ‘human’ again following numerous cups of coffee; so, seated opposite one another on our old, squashy sofas, we opened our pressies.
The theme of the fifth anniversary, is wood. Tony’s gift to me was an exquisite hand-crafted Quaiche (a traditional Celtic drinking cup) carved carefully from Laburnum wood & sporting a hand-beaten solid silver rim; whilst my gift to Tony was a unique, engagingly animated wooden Welsh Dragon windchime, symbolising Good Luck; plus a hand-whittled traditional Welsh Lovespoon, symbolising….errr, Love!
Next year, the traditional theme is….omigawd….IRON. Tony smugly tells me (ironically, ‘scuse the pun), that he’s already sorted out his gift to me….so please; any hints, tips or suggestions for a truly original riposte, folks?
Wales’ weather may well have been angry in the extreme at 2am; but when we fed the hungry hordes, whilst they were roaring like lions to demand their breakfast, the morning was thankfully benign; blessed with blue, untroubled skies with just the occasional lamb-soft cloud drifting gently overhead.
On occasion Tony possesses a similar alter-ego to Jekyll & Hyde; switching provocatively from a scientifically-masculine ‘cold fish’ to passionately romantic Celt in the blink of an eye, depending on how the mood takes him. Today, it initially appeared that our Wedding Anniversary had stimulated the Andrex ‘soft-but-strong’ element; although I soon learned the reason for his tempting suggestion of Lunch Out, was to mask the absence of an overlooked Anniversary card – not that I minded in the least. In fact we did go into a shop, so he could salve his conscience & buy said card; however I spotted a hardback copy of Carol Klein’s “Grow Your Own Veg” book for the bargain price of a fiver. Always on the look-out for hints & tips, I persuaded Tony the book would prove far more practical & would pay for itself in terms of the delicious veggies I’d successfully grow. So the book it was – & he can still scribble in that, after all….!
So we headed off to a place we love to go for an occasional treat; as today we’d decided to spoil ourselves a little. Unusually we were able to get a table straight away; so I ordered our meals – saffron rice, chorizo & chicken, washed down with a steaming bowl of cappuccino. Today, though, our coffee wasn’t presented in the usual simple white china; but in a brown cardboard cup.
Usually, by the time the wide coffee bowl reaches the customer, it’s at least at a sippable temperature; so as Tony & I were deep in conversation I unthinkingly took a swig from the little aperture in the plastic lid. The beverage was scalding hot; causing me to burn my tongue & the roof of my mouth, quite badly.
OK, so it was a hot cup of coffee & I should’ve been more circumspect; & I’m not so stupid that I need a ‘caution-this-drink-is-hot’ warning printed on the cup. But it was a bit of a shock that it was served at quite such a dangerous temperature.
Meanwhile the young lady serving the food, inquired whether we minded that the rest of our meal would be served in take-away cartons? Confused, I said we’d hoped to ‘eat in’ & was advised that wasn’t a problem; but as we’d already paid it didn’t really seem we had much of a choice other than to accept said vessels.
When we’ve eaten at this establishment in the past, the dishes have been served on wide, white plates, with proper cutlery. You’d get a delicious side salad of leaves & pickled vegetables, dressed with olive oil & balsamic vinegar; & a lovely rustic bowl of fresh, crusty artisan bread to complement the whole.
Imagine our disappointment when we were presented with a Chinese Takeaway-style lidded carton & a flimsy plastic fork; no salad & no bread, either – but note also, no reduction in price despite these obvious omissions. Globules of oil from the overcooked rice had pooled unappetisingly in the bottom of the container; & a dollop of mayonnaise & tired wedge of lemon were plonked on top as a half-hearted attempt at garnish. We shovelled down the heavy, near-tasteless food in huge disappointment (& in my case, pain from my burning mouth) before hastily pushing the remnants of our meal into the nearest bin, & leaving. We won’t be back in a hurry.
We wandered round the lovely old indoor market, & caught up with stallholder friends who work there. They are concerned at the deterioration in the nearby restaurant’s service; apparently the majority of customers share our disappointment & do not intend to go back, which will indirectly affect the market as many shoppers browse there after having lunch. We’d initially assumed it must be some Food Safety directive which no longer permitted the use of plates & cutlery in that open environment; however we subsequently learned the move was taken to cut costs; as less staff are required, if there’s less washing-up to be done!
But at what cost to the environment, with all this unrecyclable packaging waste? And if the number of customers who’ve deserted their lunchtime treat are even only a modest handful more than us, then the shop has already made a loss. But they’ve done so well in general terms, they’re expanding: opening a new city-based venue in the near future; which means this more humble local outlet, once so vital to growing the original business, now appears to be considered a bit surplus to requirements.
We’ve seen this happen to so many retailers, so many times. It’s made us all the more determined that if we achieve some success, we will certainly not sell out: the reason we went into business in the first place was to provide top-quality local artisan food, for local people; without compromising our roots. We’re not ‘Little’ without good reason; after all – quality should come before quantity!
We popped in to Deli Delights, en route for a trip to Tresaith – this lovely emporium is going from strength to strength, & it’s great to see so much quality local produce under one roof.
As lunch had been such a disappointment we decided to go for a coffee at Tresaith & then have a leisurely stroll along the beach, before returning home. Tony suggested we go for our walk first to try to work off lunch, which had sunk like a stone on our stomachs; so we wandered along the beach to admire the magnificent waterfall, crashing from the cliffs to the golden spit of sand below, & out to sea. By now the clouds had gathered & the day was decidedly stormy; standing on the slate promontory at the water’s edge the salt spray flew in great foamy gusts as angry waves dashed the rocks, trying to tear us from our slippery foothold. As the tide was racing in, we turned from the churning sea & made our way back to the ‘Ship’ Inn, anticipating a much-needed cup of coffee to warm our freezing bones.
You may recall, that in the recent past we haven’t had much luck in being served at this particular establishment; as whenever we turn up for some reason it’s always ‘too busy’; ‘the suppliers haven’t turned up’; or just plain ‘closed’ regardless of the time of day. So there was no surprise when, as we walked in the door, a big sign was plonked in the foyer stating that the Inn would not be serving food or beverages today, between 3 & 5 o’clock. And the time was……?
On the way home we called in to see Carl & Boo, whose neighbours Rob & Kate were visiting; & they all picked over yesterday’s design ideas. There is a definite consensus of opinion, towards one specific graphic; it’s the one which appealed most to us as well, so it seems that’s the way our brand is headed….
By the time we’d got back home it was definitely an evening for snuggling up in front of the fire; as we dished up the animals’ supper, the cold wind picked up & rain was in the air. So, has March come in like a lion or a lamb, this year? A bit of both, I suppose; but my money’s on the end of the month being warm & sunny – that way when our lambs & kids are born, things will be a lot better for them!
Meanwhile, here’s wishing all Welsh citizens, everywhere, a Very Happy Dydd Gwyl Dewi (St David’s Day) – as we toast Wales & our Wedding Day, with a glass of something bubbly in front of our lion-roaring, log fire.