Friday, 30 October 2009

Extreme Sushi

At a tad under 3000 ft, Aran Fawddwy is the highest British mountain south of Snowdon, but it’s relatively unknown because of its isolation. It’s also, from my point of view anyway, a bit of a pig! The walk begins and ends in the valley of Cwm Cywarch so there’s no leg-up; you have to gain every inch of that height through your own efforts.

The first stretch is a scramble over rock and streams.

You look back and reap the first rewards of your hard work,

but it’s only a brief respite before slogging on through very wet and boggy ground. There’s another scramble and then, some two and half hours after you’ve started, you reach the summit – and it’s shrouded in cloud.

Find some shelter and reward yourself with sushi and a Mars bar.
You descend out of the cloud base which is just as well as there’s a narrow ridge to cross with dramatic drops either side. As the clouds drift the sights take your breath away and make you feel utterly alive.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Food for Thought

The main news this week is that Tom and I went out for a meal. Ooh, big wow! Well, it is extraordinary because we so rarely eat out, (a) because we’ve shaken every piggy bank in the house to within an inch of its life (b) why would I want to eat something that has fallen off the Brake Brothers’ lorry and into a microwave – and pay for the privilege? (c) Tom is a really stonking cook so anything else seems a bit pants in comparison (consequently, I haven’t cooked for about a million years. Hurray!).

Anyway, Mrs & Mrs Next-Door have been telling us for ages that we really should try Cnapan (that’s the name of the restaurant, by the way, not some weird thing we do to pass the time in west Wales) and before we could fret about the cost, they booked a table. ‘It’s like your favourite granny’s country house,’ says Mr Next-Door. (Actually, I only had one granny who lived in a council house and wasn’t too keen on me. I suppose you can be a bit selective when you’ve got loads of grandchildren to choose from. Mind you, she wasn’t very fond of Ma either, although she did have a soft spot for my naughty ‘I’m-not-going-to-kiss-those-smelly-old-people’ little sister).

Thankfully, Cnapan was more like the fantasy granny house than the real granny house. In fact, it’s fab; a gorgeous Georgian building, plenty of squashy sofas to sink into, a sensible approach to pricing (£23 for two courses, £29 for three) and wonderful food. As far from the bottom of a freezer as you can get. My chocolate pud was totally brilliant, (so brilliant I refused to let anyone else have a swap – quit whilst you’re ahead, I say). With cooking that good it’s possible we may even eat out again.

And finally...
Stepson One is with us this week and we’re planning to get up early in the morning and head off to the mountains. Aran Fawddwy is the first choice, but that can be a right pig if it’s wet so we might just go up to Craig Cau on Cadair Idris instead. My half-marathon legs think that Cadair’s the better bet, at the moment... we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Oh, bum, Tom and Stepson One have just come in from the beach and where they saw a friend of ours with her new, nine-week old Patterdale terrier - and I missed it!! I love Patterdales; I shall have to hotfoot it round there and admire the new arrival.

The paintings, by Tom Tomos, are 'By The Cliff Edge' (top) and 'Craig Cau' (above).

Monday, 19 October 2009

Cardiff Half Marathon 2009

The beginning... 8811 of us started the race so it took several minutes to cross the line after the gun went off. We've barely begun here, but it gives you an idea of how packed the field is. I didn't expect to spot Tom in the crowd and I was so pleased when I did.


Along the way I almost fell, got caught in the unwelcome crossfire when a runner gobbed in the wrong direction (ewwwwww!) and had a terrible episode of Jelly Legs at about mile 9 when they just wouldn't do what my brain was telling them... but I got there. Anyway, here is Mrs Clumpy-Clumpison crossing the finishing line looking ridiculously pleased with herself just after the blurred bit (no, it wasn't because I was speeding so fast).


And the final result? A chip time of 2:10:53, some seven minutes faster than last year's time. 70th in my class. (No, you cheeky thing, there were more than 70 in my class, 138 of us in the high numbers managed to stagger round the course). Next stop? Llanelli 7 March 2010

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


You know when highly-trained athletes get struck down with a virus just before a big event and you think, ‘Oh, really?’ (Well, you don’t because you’re nice, obviously, but I can be a bit mean), well, it serves me right because I am currently struggling with the lurgy. My head aches, my throat is sore, and I’m snorting ‘First Defence’ and popping paracetamol in a desperate effort to ward off whatever I’m cooking so it doesn’t overwhelm me before Sunday. Sheesh! Wouldn’t it be frustrating if after running all those berludy miles through wind (mainly the weather, that is), rain and JRT attacks, I wasn’t fit to take part in the race?

Autumn Review PS
Since I’m feeling pretty damn sorry for myself at the moment this will be a short post, but, I do have a couple of post scripts to last week.

PS 1.
Back by popular request, well, Little Brown Dog and Calicokate actually, here is the transcript of my Ode to a Llama, first shown here.

Ode to a Llama
O lovely llama grazing on my land,
the sight of you each day makes me feel calmer.
You seem to know that I’m your biggest fan
and twitch your furry ears shaped like bananas.
To you, my little cria, I am your mama mia.

PS 2.
Ma and FTT – the bit with the vigorous horizontal romp.
Ma started FTT when she was staying with us and punctuated her read with little, what Lily calls, pigeon noises and comments of, ‘I can’t believe you’ve written this - it ought to be published, you know!’ Anyway, she took the rest of the script home, made no remark whatsoever about the VHR – but sent me a ten pound note in the post(!) as a down payment for the first published copy if and when that ever happens. Maybe there are some things that even Ma can’t talk about!


I got this from the lovely Debs, and have rudely snatched it without doing the stuff that goes with it, but please do go over to Debs and have a look (have a look anyway, Debs has always got lots of interesting writerly stuff going on... I am still jealous of her champagne lunch with Christina Jones) and consider it yours if you want to do it.

Right, now I'm going to throw myself on the sofa, try not fret about the fact I haven't been able to run since last Sunday and keep everything crossed that I'll be fit enough to race next Sunday. Oh, and love and good wishes to Preseli Mags who has entered the Cardiff Half, but hasn't made half such a big fat fuss of it as I have - good luck, Mags!

Painting is 'Beach - after 'Ill Met'' by Tom Tomos whose work you can see at Tonnau from this Saturday.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Autumn Review

Sheesh! There is nothing like announcing in the national press that you intend to complete the first draft of your current novel by the middle of October to guarantee coming a cropper. Ok, so the plans were scuppered by the arrival of the Big Project and whilst I’m still staying in touch with ‘Make, Do and Mend’, I’ve got to admit that its future is a bit dependent on whether the Big Project gets a thumbs up or a thumbs down (nooooo!). Following the completion of the BP, I’ve also taken some time out to catch up with family, which is no bad thing, and on Saturday A363 Advanced Creative Writing, my next OU course, officially begins. A215 was great for encouraging me to send more work out and try different genres (still flushed with success here after my runner-up place in the ‘Ode to a Llama’ competition - eat your heart out, Ted Hughes. And I even got ‘banana’ in, as a rhyme) so I’m looking forwards to seeing what A363 brings.

Various Plots Available
Oh great! The berludy farmer opposite has torn up yet another stretch of agricultural land and put a construction fence around it. Well, that’ll bring the punters in as we try to sell our house, won’t it? It absolutely beats me that although there are empty plots within the village and houses of all denominations up for sale, the planning authorities seem happy to stand by as this beautiful, precious land on the coastal fringe is torn up and paved over. The trouble is it’s happening all over west Wales so the likelihood of Tom and I finding ‘somewhere remote’ round here is also becoming less likely. Look closely at that cottage standing by itself and you’ll find that some clown is planning to build all round it. Houses we need, but not just anywhere or at any price. There’s no shop, pub, school or decent transport links in our village, for example, its attraction lies in its location and sometimes feels as if one or two people are determined to ruin even that. Not far from us, further up the coast, is a business park with no business, a spanking new road to nowhere and a new improved airport strip – all eerily empty.

Cardiff Half Marathon Preparation
With only ten days to go to the Cardiff Half Marathon, I’m keeping everything crossed that nothing will go wrong. Apart from the odd dog bite, one nasty outbreak of runner’s trots and a touch of back trouble, training – 269 miles of it so far - has gone more or less according to plan. I’ve just completed my longest week of the schedule, so now I’m gradually winding down to race day. My number’s 6668 (at least it’s not 666!) and you can see the route here.

From Saturday 17 October, Tom will be exhibiting a selection of his work along with other artists in Tonnau, Sea Gallery’s, Autumn Exhibition. Tonnau, at Pwlheli, approached Tom, after seeing his work online which is great, but I’m also really proud of Tom for conducting all of the correspondence in Welsh. Do take a look if you’re passing.

Painting is 'Aberporth' by Tom Tomos