an account of Saturday’s return leg – having delivered The Lovely S to Aberystwyth University
I’ve dropped her off The Lovely S.
I won’t see her until Thursday; five days away.
As I leave the campus and drive through the twisty, turny, narrow bits of Aberystwyth and begin the long trek home to Bromsgrove I realise that with each passing mile I begin to feel more like a bachelor.
I really can’t explain the feeling other than to say that it’s almost as if I’d been at a posh ‘do’ all day but now I’d got home, kicked off my shoes, pulled my tie down and undone the collar button of my shirt. Very peculiar!
We (my car stereo and I) leave the town and drive towards the open countryside at speed.
My sunglasses are on and both windows wide open, Bobby Darrin’s jazzed-up version of the old French classic ‘La Mer’ (Beyond The Sea) is blasting out, deafening the sheep as we speed past.
The speed-induced wind whips through my hair; I rethink my earlier description because it wasn’t quite right.
Instead I try this one for size: it’s kind of like being the end of school term – which is a bad description because it makes me sound glad that The Lovely S isn’t going to be at home with me every night.
I’m really not glad at all! I need to thinkÂ about the description of this feeling some more.
Bobby and I belt out the words to ‘Beyond The Sea’ at the top of our voices as we leave the Welsh coast behind and head for the hills.
Having made the long climb skywards we cut acrossÂ the tops of the Welsh mountains.
The heather looks brilliant up here; I follow the road that weaves its way through the peaks and around the lakes.
The colours look fantastic and once again I regret leaving the camera behind. The stunningness of the mountains as they thrust themselves out of the valley floor; its almost beyond description.
Then there’s the browny, bluey, purpley, greeny colours of the hills and how these million shades throw the deep, rich verdant greenness of the valleys (that nestle between the peaks) in to stark contrast.
The palate in my eye is in danger of overload.
We cross into Powys at Eisteddfa Gurig; the open countryside looks like good horse country – not for the Thoroughbreds that I own, but for the sturdy, sure-footed Welsh Mountain Cobs that run wild and free up here.
It’s beautiful and it feels like home because it’s so similar to the more southerly Welsh mountains where I lived my early years.
But would you want to live here?
Dramatic isolation coupled with being at the mercy of the elements?
The total absence of public transport?
The lack of shops?
These things, together with the natural beauty of the area, combine to make this the kind of place that everyone should visit.
But very few people would actually want to live here.
And the roads…
Up until a few years ago I would have cursed these mountain roads; places where I couldn’t get up a decent head of speed and where opportunities to overtake the dawdling motorists are almost non-existent.
But now, having lived in Spain’s La Alpujarra/Sierra Nevada range of mountains (and thanks to my hopped-up Sierra Nevada-specified car), I know that these Welsh mountain roads are actually brilliant speed highways and that the natives of those regions of Spain would consider Welsh mountain roads to be of motorway quality.
The trees that cling to the side of the mountains are short and stumpy – a malformed testament to the almost yearlong winds and harsh weather – they are little more than scrub bushes.
Much later – as we move out of Rhayader and head towards Leominster – the countryside begins to transform, starts to flatten.
The mountains become less mountainous and more hill-like; the land takes on an air of being cultivated rather than being ‘tended, but natural’.
Trees grow stronger and taller, heather gives way to green fern and the further we get inland the more we move away from the extremes of wind and rain.
As we enter Herefordshire – and England – the place names change; there are more vowels, fewer consonants and the road signs stop being bilingual.
And yet I’m not.