I've several threads I'm working on for the blog at the moment - this is the first of several about Wales. I was going to do one long post, but I find there's too much I want to say to fit it into a single post.
Just over twenty years ago, my parents moved to a house in Llansaint, Carmarthenshire. At some point several years ago, the local authority decided to put up signs showing that they in fact lived in "Broadway". I don't think this is arbitrary, a nearby cottage is called "Broadway Cottage", but nobody so far as I knew ever referred to the dozen or so houses as "Broadway."
I guess it qualifies as a a "village" or perhaps a hamlet, if the possession of a bus stop, a post box (mailbox) and a local events notice-board gives that qualification. There's nothing else, apart from the two roads which pass through it.
Llansaint itself isn't exactly a bustling metropolis, but it does have a church, a pub and a village hall. There used to be more - another pub, a school, and a tiny shop - but these have withered away over the years.
My parents themselves weren't aware that they lived in "Broadway" until I went out for a walk with my father one day and we passed the new signpost . When we got home, he said to Mum "Here. Glad, did you know we lived in "Broadway?" She had no idea what he was talking about.
Even the Post Office doesn't know where Broadway is, it's not a part of the official postal address. Though our hire car's GPS did actually tell us that our current location was Broadway when we parked on our final visit, which I found quite impressive.
This visit was planned as a family outing, and for my Dad to meet his 3-year-old great grand-daughter Blake. Yes, he'd seen her at Christmas a couple of years ago but she was only five months old at that point, and she certainly wouldn't remember it. And, no matter how charming babies are, three-year-olds have real personality, are actually people rather than a wide-eyed bundle of cuteness.
My Mum saw Blake as a baby too, but Mum passed away about eight months later. Towards the end, her memory was increasingly unreliable, but she did remember meeting the baby - perhaps because she'd always loved kids so much. Lots of other things she forgot, but she held on to the memory of the small one when pretty much everything else was foggy.
And then, shortly before this visit was due, my Dad passed away too, and so a family reunion became a funeral outing. Blake of course didn't know what it was all about, and wondered why Daddy and "Grandpa Jonesey", "Grandma Jonesey", her aunt Poppy ("pop-pop") and various people she didn't know, were upset.
Still, the presence of a charming youngster brightened things up for all of us, and she was the subject of many an "awwww!"
We managed to find a fair bit of fun in the remaining days of the planned visit, which I'll no doubt regale you with in another post.
So, this is probably the last time I'll ever see Broadway or indeed Llansaint. The landlord of the very friendly local, the "King's Arms" told me on my farewell visit that I could always expect a welcome if i returned (most of the locals know me as "that bloke who comes in every few months, and drinks cider while reading his books"). But, as I said to him, 6,000 miles is quite a distance to travel for a friendly pint.
I arrived a few days before the rest of my family (cutting short a visit to the mother-in-law which was the other planned part of the travels) and spent that time going through various possessions. I didn't have time to truly sort things out, I had to leave that to my brother, who most admirably took care of just about all the endless faffery involved with a death. But I did find some papers which I wanted, and a fair amount of photos. There was a lot of other stuff which I would certainly have brought home if moving stuff between continents weren't prohibitively expensive.
My brother's comment on attempting to sort through our parents possessions (in advance of the house clearance people arriving) -
I’ve been over there every day for the last week, six or seven hours at a go, have used 4 rolls of bin bags, and made six trips with a full car to the council recycling centre. Every drawer, every cupboard, behind every cupboard, up in the attic, every cubic inch of space was full of stuff to be sorted and shifted. N.B. it’s a bloody big car.
The odd thing was, going through the material possessions, how much I noticed that almost everything in the house had my Mum's stamp on it. In a way, it was much more personally her place than it was my Dad's. Sorting through things brought me many many more reminders of her than of Dad. So much so that I realised, that in odd way, I hadn't really felt that she was gone until he went too.
The house itself was never "home" to me - they'd moved three times since I made my way out into the world on my own steam, and I - rootless vagabond that I am - had moved nine times. But it was their home, very much so.
A couple of days ago, my brother informed me that the house clearance people had been, and that the place was now emptied. It's hard to imagine.