Fourteen years on : Living the Dream in Llanfairfechan
Last Monday while I was waiting at the bus-stop for my transport to Llandudno I was joined by a charming young man who lives across the road and who has recently completed his degree in applied psychology at Liverpool John Moores University. To make conversation, I mentioned the fact that fourteen years ago to the day we moved into our house.
‘I was eight,’ he replied with a smile. I refrained from asking if he remembered an early confrontation we’d had when he and his little friend let down the tyres on our car. He probably wouldn’t have: fourteen years is a big slice out of his 22, a passing moment in my 74. This chance meeting set me thinking about some of the many changes that have occurred since my husband and I got into our little Hydundai Amica and set off from Leach Street, Prestwich, where we had been living for the past ten years, to start our new life in Maes Dolfor, Llanfairfechan. We didn’t even know how to pronounce the names of some of the places we passed through on the way.
That being the case, we took immediate steps to remedy our ignorance of the Welsh language by enrolling on a course run by Bangor University, beginning in January 2003. To my immense relief what had seemed like an insurmountable challenge before we started turned out to be a delightful experience which has enriched our lives ever since. I even managed to distinguish myself by gaining ‘A’ grades in all the examinations up to ‘A’ level and winning a number of prizes for writing in Welsh.
This photograph was taken in 2005, when I was the proud winner of the Learners’ Chair at the Eisteddfod held in Bala.
And this one was taken at the Merched y Wawr annual conference in Machynlleth in 2010 when I won the Learners’ Writing Challenge for the second of three years in a row. These successes led on to my being commissioned to write a series of articles about Welsh artists for a magazine called Y Faner Newydd. This also was one of the most enriching experiences of my life and I was privileged to meet some of the giants of Welsh art. Here I am with Gwilym Prichard and Claudia Williams in their fascinating home in Tenby.
And here I am with Clive Hicks-Jenkins at his equally wonderful residence outside Aberystwyth.
At that time I was still painting, but within a short number of years I had developed cataracts on both eyes which finally put paid to any artistic endeavour, but not before I had exhibited my work in a number of locations. This was at Theatr Gwynedd, Bangor in 2008. The couple on the right in the photograph are John and Veronica Allan who started off as neighbours and then became friends, a friendship that lasted until John’s death in June this year. He was a wonderful man and is greatly missed. Veronica now lives at Cemaes Bay where she is surrounded by her many children and grandchildren. A lovely woman who will always have her own special place in my heart.
Until the end of 2005, much of my spare time was taken up with travelling to Cardiff to visit my beloved father, who was in residential care because of his dementia. Those years seemed an eternity at the time, and yet the 11 that have passed since we laid him to rest in the same grave as my mother at Coed Bel cemetery above Prestatyn have flown by. Some wounds never really heal, but life must go on.
As you can see from the above, Dad was still capable of enjoying himself until quite late in the progress of his illness. This was us in Roath Park, Cardiff. As if to compensate me for the loss of my darling Dad, I have been blessed with a new family. I moved here with Louis Anthony Brady (b.13.9.44, m. 12.8.93), known as Tony. Now he prefers to be known as Louis. Through my marriage with him I have gained two daughters, two sons-in-law and three wonderful grandsons.
This was Louis, his daughter Cathy and grandson Alex on the Bute Ferry last June. Typical Scottish summer weather.
And this is Master Ethan Brady Speakman, born in 2012 and the bringer of great happiness to his grandfather, his parents and relatives.
Over the last few years I have also been privileged to renew my friendship with two wonderful women. I first met Susan Zaman on my first day as an ‘A’ level student at St. John’s College, Manchester in September 1965. Two years ago we celebrated 50 years by booking into a hotel in Llandudno for dinner, bed and breakfast. Since Susan retired from teaching three years ago we have been able to spend many happy hours together.
This was the two of us, above right, on our 50th anniversary. The beautiful lady on the left, above, is Georgina Robson, my dear friend since the 1970s. As an added bonus, Georgie and her husband Keith now live in Paris, so when it comes to a question of who should visit whom, it isn’t much of a contest!
This turn up for the books has necessitated my enrolling on a French language course, which I attend once a week in Llandudno before continuing on to my thrice-weekly gym-and-swim. A painful shoulder condition has recently dictated that I have to attend a Pilates session once a week. And with editing the Llanfairfechan page of the local Welsh language newspaper once a month, I’m fair run off my feet.
All in all, as you can see, the move has turned out to be something of a success. We’re thinking of unpacking and making it a bit more permanent next year! May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2017. Cheers!