Old College, Abersytwyth.
Hub is off today on a 200 mile roundtrip for a meeting. The whole journey will take about six hours. There will do no popping on to a motorway and being there in an hour and a half. Windy country roads and the threat of kamikaze sheep mean he’s looking at three hours each way.
The first time I went, it was eighteen hours. One way.
I packed one very large, very heavy suitcase. I could barely lift it. My parents thought most of it was unnecessary. It was the end of September, I’d be home mid-December, what did I need with so many clothes? A smaller bag would do just fine.
I tried to explain. It’s just short of three months. I didn’t know what the weather would be like. I’d need everyday clothes and some nicer things. Yes, I did. There were bound to be places to go, things to do in the evening, at the weekend. Perhaps they knew the full case was me leaving, not just going. I think we all did. No one said.
I was going to my own. My tickets were booked. My father would take me to Belfast to get the ferry. I genuinely don’t think it occurred to my parents that most parents took their kids, or went with them for the trip. It has taken me years, a couple of decades to get to that realisation. Or rather, the full acceptance of it. I said, at the time. Most parents go with their kids. My family hadn’t gone to uni. They knew other parents took their kids to uni, if that uni was in Northern Ireland. Perhaps even Scotland. But Wales? That was unheard of. They asked round. Very few people knew of anyone in Wales. I remember my uncle, who lived with us, asking why I would want to go to such a desolate, run-down country, I’d be better off at home. You go to England, if you want to get ahead, perhaps Scotland, depending on the uni and the subject, but Wales? Madness.
During the summer, plans were made, results awaited, place confirmed. Are you sure, you can always change your mind, even if you have to do something else for a year and apply next time round?
I was sure.
My father’s friend told him, I have a niece there, she’ll meet her. They won’t know each other but at least they will be from home, there’s a connection.
I was shown a picture. This is her name, she will meet you at the station, you’ll know her because she has red hair.
A one hour drive to Belfast. An hour, perhaps two, I can’t quite remember now, in what was little more than a cattle shed at the docks. A ten-hour journey to Liverpool, yep, it took that long on the ferry. There were different types of tickets, just the crossing, a berth, single, double, four person. I had the latter, it was some degree of privacy to try to sleep. It was only when I got in to it I realised, there would be three people whom I had never met and didn’t know, in the berth with me.
I remember one of my companions was an older lady. Very sweet, took me under her wing. I think there was at least one other girl but if I remember she was a more seasoned solo traveller. Or so she seemed.
I remember stowing my case and us agreeing it was far too early to try to bunk down for the night, so we went to the bar. I didn’t drink. I ordered a coke. I remember the barman, young himself, laughing and mocking and the others with me telling him off. She can have what she likes, it’s not for you to say.
I know I slept. I can sleep in most places.
In the morning, off at Liverpool. Train to Crewe. Every train journey in England goes through Crewe. Almost. Stop over there. Train to Shrewsbury. Stop there as well.
Places with names I couldn’t say. Fine to begin with, Welshpool, Newtown, Caersws (Kiss Castle, I like to call it. Or fort, but that doesn’t sound so good.) Machynlleth. Dovey Junction. Borth. OK, they’re not all difficult. Aberystwyth.
18 hours after I left home the evening before, I get off the train at Aber. It’s small. Bigger than most through which I have passed for some hours now, but still small. It’s a relief. No worry here about missing someone in the crowd.
I see a young woman, red hair, small children. A waved arm. Hello? Come on. I’ll take you. You must be shattered.
Mosaic on the Promenade.
© 2010 – 2012, Penbleth / L. McG.-E.. All rights reserved.