It’s so quiet here! Mind you it is before 5 am and there’s no wedding or funeral music, no dogs barking or cockerels. Outside the street is deserted. The sparrows are chirping as usual but they are all on the rooftops, not in the dust. The blackbird is also on the rooftop singing loudly in the still, cool, clear morning air and on the next chimney along, a crow sits and caws occasionally in half-hearted protest. The dog and I leave the house with its balloons and ‘Welcome home’ signs and head up the hill out of town. The hill! No more flat Cambodia! This is Wales.
We climb the gate into a field and up into the early morning sunshine above the mist of the valley surrounding Bala. Buttercups and nettles, dock and clover, dandelion heads and thistles, how I have missed you! Oak, ash and rowan, lichen and moss-covered grey stone outcrops, elder flower and the misty mountains, the smell of damp sheep wool and poo. Foxglove and hawthorn, barbed wire and electricity poles and the old field style – the epitome of walking in the lower hills of Wales. Never one to give up on a bad habit, the dog starts to eat the sheep poo and brings me back from my reverie. Last night I finished ‘How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog’. I’ve taken three months and I’m no wiser so I don’t think I will teach him. Besides there are more basic lessons he still needs like ‘How to Stop Your Dog Chasing Sheep’ and ‘How to Teach Your Dog not to Eat Sheep Poo’. I put my arm round the dog and bury my nose into his neck. That smells good! He lifts his nose into the air to catch the smell of live sheep on the breeze. That smells even better! I lift him over the next fence and we climb up to the caves where the stone of The Coleg was quarried over a hundred years ago. The dog is desperate to explore them but only because of the pungent concentration of sheep poo where the wooly creatures like to sleep.
Above the mist, sunbeams burst through the oak trees illuminating the dry stone walls of a ruined cottage. When did I last see sunbeams? A chaffinch sings out from a nearby tree, a woodpecker taps in the distant woods, a pheasant calls somewhere across the fields. On the hillside a grown lamb calls insistently for mother and a cow lows loudly in the valley for the milking time. Overhead the sky is completely blue and the waning moon hangs there basking in sunshine. The same moon, the same sun but it’s so good to be home!
We run together across the fields on the hill top, feet and jeans bottoms (mine), legs and under-belly (dog’s) soaked with the dew. Into the road at the golf course and head down the hill back into town. I love the melodic babbling sound of the water in the culvert on that road! Clean sweet water from the fields either side, running down the hill under the tarmac and singing its cheerful hollow water music from beneath every drain cover. The hedgerows of sloe, hawthorn and goose grass; hazel and dog rose; bramble, honeysuckle, vetch, red campion, bracken, fern. The path cutting through has Welsh poppies along the edge, their yellow heads bowed as if in prayer.
In the town the streets are still so quiet. Alwyn unlocks the door of his petrol station and greets me with ‘You’re up early!’ But it’s quarter to seven, where is everybody? The shops are all shut. No-one is on the street cooking, or delivering vegetables, eggs and ice blocks. Not a moto in sight! A car goes by and it’s an Audi, not a Toyota Camry. You can’t buy petrol in a bottle anywhere. I have no money so stop at the bilingual ATM, that’s familiar except now the options are English or Cymraeg. The dog spots the pizza box before I do and eats his first breakfast of the day. At the end of the High Street a queue of three men standing outside the paper shop waiting for 7 and Joe Butcher is stocking his counter for the morning rush. No sign of it yet. He’s the only one open and I can get bacon and eggs on account but he assures me Hilary stocked up already, it’s all in the fridge back at home. I thank him and call for a paper on the way back. Only one Daily Telegraph and no Cambodia Daily. At least it’s got a good crossword. Mary can’t change £10 so I’ll have to call back. No problem, take the paper and pay me later.
This is home, and it’s so good to be back!