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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rhossili or Rhos-chilly?

I am SO annoyed at having to rewrite this post. Luckily I saved it as a draft after I added the images, otherwise I'd have been forced to upload them again as well, as Blogger doesn't allow us to recover image URLs.

I had a 100% sleepless night on Monday, due to pain issues. When Tuesday dawned nice and sunny, it seemed a shame to waste the day by sleeping through it. So I headed out, first to town, and towards Mumbles, to get chips at Dick Barton's. The chippies in town always seem to serve up tepid pies, pasties, rissoles, etc, so I tend not to use them. Alas when I reached West Cross, the chippie was clearly closed, so I stayed on the bus until Oystermouth. I headed to Johnnie's on Chapel Street, as I remember it being a nice chippie, and as chips are just an occasional treat for me, I was really looking forward to them.

I don't know what's happened to that place, whether it's changed hands or what, but the food was a vile disappointment. The chips were stodgy, hard and tasted of old oil. The rissole was so hard and cold, it had clearly just come straight from the fridge and hadn't been heated. Most of my dinner ended up in the bin. Johnnie's has just lost a customer.

When I got back into town, I hopped aboard a Rhossili-bound bus. When it reached its destination, two elderly women hopped off at the same time I did. I eyed the hatless, scarfless and gloveless pair, as they alighted in their skirts, canvas pumps and flimsy Primark anoraks. 'Any second now', I thought, as I pulled my thermal hat, the hood of my fleece and the hood of my ultra-thick winter coat over my head, and donned my thermal gloves. Sure enough, the old biddies starting shrieking, and the only intelligible words I heard were 'cowing cold' and 'ooh my rheumatics', before they hopped back aboard and departed with the bus. Er, hello? Exposed, Atlantic-facing clifftop village plus mid-January equals brass monkeys to the power of fifty.

Despite the windchill factor of minus five billion, it was fantastic to be there, even if it was a battle to stay upright. I also had to cope with extreme fatigue and a lot of arthritic pain, but I was determined to keep going as long as possible.

As I looked toward Hillend, I decided that when both the weather and my arthritis improve, I'm heading across the beach to the sand dunes shown in the next two photos. I've never explored them, and would love to poke about for lizards, etc.

As usual at this time of year, the cliffs were heavily populated by sheep, many of whom looked like they had lambs on the way.

This ewe looked especially serene as she enjoyed the sunshine.

When I altered my position, she turned to stare directly at me, so I was able to get a face-on shot. When I first viewed the next photo on my laptop, I thought, that sheep's markings make her look like she has human lips.

Alas, the big kid in me couldn't resist getting silly with the airbrush.

Despite less than ideal conditions, weather, temperature and health-wise, I pressed on. I watched for a while, as clouds cast a black shadow over the summit of Rhossili Down. It was nowhere near as ominous an experience as my description suggests. In fact, it introduced a sense of calm to an otherwise squally day.

The gulls had a fantastic time riding the air currents, in dry, blustery conditions that afforded very clear views of the distant Carmarthenshire coast and hills. I spotted a wind farm on one hill, which you can see in the background of the next photo. I think it's located at Dyffryn Brodyn, near Llanboidy.

As I progressed along the cliffs, I met even more sheep. Usually, you only have to look at the sheep at Rhossili, and they take to their heels. However, the bunch I met yesterday, were more than happy to allow me to walk amongst them. A couple even answered me when I spoke to them. Maybe they're so placid because it's lambing season?

I almost leapt out of my skin when this hateful war machine roared overhead. I don't think I've ever been to Rhossili without the peace being shattered by some military intrusion or other. Why can't they train over remote, unpopulated areas of the Scottish Highlands instead?

When I looked down toward the beach, I was delighted to see scores of overwintering birds. It was quite difficult to discern individual species from such a height, but I could make out oystercatchers, a number of gull species, some waders and what appeared to be a few terns. Alas, my camera's zoom isn't good enough to get clear shots of small, distant objects, so these shots were the best I could manage.

It's always a disappointment to see all Rhossili's businesses, apart from the Worms Head Hotel, closed. I was especially disappointed that the Bay Coffee House [formerly Thomas's Tea Rooms] was closed. I read a footnote on a menu there, back in October, stating the place would remain open through the winter months, serving a variety of seasonal soups, stews and casseroles. I guess they changed their minds.

I didn't make it all the way to the old Coastguard hut. I was about 250 metres away, when I realised I needed to head back, or risk missing the bus. As it was, I thought I'd been over-cautious. I arrived at the bus stop about twenty minutes before the bus was due. A young man sat next to me on the bench, and almost floored me with the stench of cheap aftershave, something like Lynx, or a supermarket home brand, I'm guessing. To add insult to injury, he lit a cigarette, so I moved, intending to head for some large boulders, just past from the bus stop, where I used to sit before the bench was installed. I'd only gone a few paces, when the bus arrived, about fifteen minutes early. It departed at least five minutes before the appointed time, so I'm glad I followed my instinct and got to the stop early.

When I got to town, I made a quick foray to the market, for a bag of spuds, before hopping on the bus that stops right outside my gate. I was so knackered, that I went to bed just after my tea, and must have been asleep by 19.30. What a thrilling life I lead, eh?

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