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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Amazing, really. You hire a long wheelbase Transit and drive 240 miles to remotest North Wales in Bank Holiday traffic. Down the Conwy Valley you somehow persuade it up a precipitous, ever-narrowing lane bordered by boulders, water-filled gullies and overgrown mountain ash. You put it in reverse, tuck the mirrors in, and somehow get between two solid oak gateposts and down a 100-foot drive whose hedges scrape along either side of your vehicle. Did I mention this was in the dark? Well, yes and no: there was a moon.

Next day, you load up with household junk, take off to the corporation tip 20 miles way, unload and come back, repeating that teeth-gritting manoeuvre along the driveway. Day two you pile it to the gunwales with furniture, books, bedding and miscellaneous hardware and bed down on bare boards in the now empty house. Then you drive 240 miles home, somehow - God knows how - reversing it without mishap to the garage doors and unloading, before grabbing a bite and hitting the hay. Next morning - that is, a couple of hours ago - you hop in and set sail for the hire depot, top of the hill, just over a mile away - and FORGET that it’s  a LONG (as in LENGTHY) wheelbase vehicle you’re in, not the family car.

Yep: a nasty scrrreeek-ing noise, rather like a locomotive negotiating a tight curve in a goods yard. You’ve skinned your own gatepost, made quite an impression on the side of the van and wiped out that £250 excess on your insurance.

So… to a couple of Welsh pictures, as I attempt to erase the memory and remind myself that the trip was worthwhile. First, a rare moment of brightness that punctuated the gloom and occasional rain - and a brief glimpse of the distant mountains.

Second, a yellow dead-nettle. This was an opportune sighting, in that I’d spotted some on our bike-ride a week or two back and remarked on its rarity - then swore because I didn’t have my camera handy. Well, it’s not rare in that part of Wales: there were three large patches in the garden, all in full bloom.

And finally, the thing that kept the house - and us - warm and cheerful, even as we stripped it of every last vestige of its sixty-year occupation by A’s family.

Next time - quite likely tomorrow - I shall broach the subject of my upcoming absence (for four weeks). I have a couple of interesting ideas to float.

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