August. Caravan holiday at St David's Head, Pembroke. Headmaster's maiden flight.
Wednesday, August 1st
Friday, August 3rd
Started for Pembrokeshire. We stopped for the night at the Castle Hotel, Llandovery, an inn and place to be avoided. Intending guests should look at the hotel cat; this one ate dry bread! And the salt cellar was empty except for one earwig. The dinner was the most inadequate dinner I have experienced and we went hungry to the bedroom and ate cakes and nuts followed by a cup of tea at a flyblown café. Looked at Llandovery College where I started my teaching career in October 1922. Nora said how I must have hated it – I did! .
Saturday, Aug 4th
Shopped at Carmarthen and then on to Haverford West and St David’s, which we reached about teatime and luckily had some tea, as the caravan was 1½ hours late and did not arrive till 6 o’clock. Fortunately it was fine. When it did come, asked them to take it up the hill away from the caravan park at the bottom. He went up a rocky barrow lane and the caravan finally stalled in the farm yard, where it tore off a jack. I thought after this long wait it was the end! However, it was taken into the field next to the farm, near the well (rope and bucket) in the yard. We had a marvellous view over the Bay to Ramsey Island, but the position was exposed. The farm was a low white-washed stone building with cemented slate roof and a yard made up of bare rock to which the house and buildings clung close-crouched like limpets. Mr Evans and his two sons lived here alone, doing for themselves, as his wife had died.
It is always hard adjusting yourself to caravan life, and this one was small, congested and not well-planned or particularly well-equipped. We cursed and swore and were generally very frustrated. One oil stove did not work. Hilary slept in the tent. He arrived about 6.30.
Sunday, August 5th
It rained! We went to the cathedral in the morning. I developed rheumatism in my shoulder and the acid rain upset me. One wondered why we had come.
Monday, Aug 6th
Mist and cloud, visibility sometimes down to 100 yards. It was Bank Holiday. Had I known Molly’s whereabouts I would have phoned to put her off. We saw the cathedral inside. Its blue colour, its unlikely levels and angles, its excellent wood carving in roof and choir stalls make it most attractive.
The greatest of human inventions is a table! We manufactured one with some beams and one stone and one wooden leg so we could wash up (weather permitting) outside without standing on our heads.
Tuesday, Aug 7th
Sunny with cold wind. Clouded over about teatime and started to rain in squalls when washing up supper. To Caerfai Bay near St David’s, but tide was high, so came back to lunch and decided to explore coast towards Fishguard after lunch and find Porth Mawr. We went to several grim porths and finally ended up in one particularly derelict one we christened Dead Man’s Gulch. Eventually we found our way to Porth Mawr. Made fire on beach.
Wednesday, Aug 8th
Fine and sunny. To Caerfai Bay and then along the cliff to Pen-y-Cyffrwy with magnificent views across St Bride’s Bay, east and west. The cliffs here run in great knife-edges down to the deep-crimson lake, slate blue, black, yellow and orange.
We had lunch out of the wind in a rock shelter on the cliff edge. On the wall behind the cliff gathered a bunch of late sea pinks. Hilary and I walked up to the monastery of St Non on the cliffs about half a mile away. There was a plain stone chapel recently built and a holy well with a clear spring the monks had restored and begun to build a garden round. We saw three pairs of ravens, buzzards and stonechats.
After tea it clouded over and by evening blew a gale. Molly arrived about 6 o’clock, so Nora and I slept head to tail in the double bunk. In the night there were terrific gusts which rocked the caravan and the windows and doors rattled and things out underneath got adrift and bumped. The master pussy had got in and walked over me in the night. It was impossible to sleep; lay on my bunk and waited for dawn, which took a very long time to break. Tent had begun to tear and caravan (like cathedral) very out of true.
Thursday, Aug 9th
Raining and blowing all morning and afternoon. Went to sung evensong at cathedral at 6, but only four boys with voices like corncrakes. Before the high alter lies Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, the founder of that brilliant but short-lived family. Ruminated non the brittleness of power on “this bank and shoal of time” and of the threads of fate which drew this obscure Welshman from this remote spot to London and the court and the pages of history. Time stood still.
Friday, Aug 10th
To Carew Castle…. saw a very fine Celtic 9th century cross. To Pembroke where went over castle and bought tea and on to Manorbier. Here the cliff and soil are red sandstone. The castle, though small, has a fine situation near the beach and the church on the opposite side of the valley had a refuge which reminded me of those in Ireland. Three castles in one day.
Saturday, Aug 11th
Rain in the night and included all the morning. Car refused to start; went in Molly’s to St David’s, shopping. Caravan leaked on trousers.
Sunday, Aug 12th
Another wet night; driving rain and heavy squalls. Leak on Molly’s bed. Conditions at night slum like; first Molly, then Nora went to bed, while I sat in car. Then I brought in and erected safari camp bed, leaning it on one side till the last minute, for once it was down there was hardly room to stand beside it to undress. Reverse in morning. Crawled out of bed and removed bedding, took down and removed safari, retired to car.
Monday, Aug 13th
A lovely day. Molly and Nora went off to look at farms in Cardiganshire. Hilary and I for walk across Whitesands Bay to Life Boat Station at Porth Stinan; Here we ate our lunch and watched a diver at work on the lifeboat slipway. Then along a marvellous piece of coast opposite Ramsey Island to Porth Lyskey - curlews, buzzards, peregrines. Back to to St David’s for tea and home by bus.
Tuesday, Aug 14th
Lovely day with cold wind. To dentist at Haverford West. To tea at Caerfrai Bay. Walked to holy well and saw monks at bowls. Hilary said they must be progressive monks! After supper up Holy Mountain at back of farm to see sunset. The fields and farms lay below in patterns and lizard-like St David’s head ran out black into the sea; on the north Bishop Rock lighthouse turned its beam and we could see three others. Before the sun reached the sea it set in a high cloud bank and over the cathedral the moon rose like a great orange.
Wednesday, Aug 15th
Molly left rather depressed about her failure to get a farm. Perhaps it was a mistake to ask her as Hilary was not at his best and she much disappointed by him – and me.
Thursday, Aug 16th
Cloudy and windy but improved later – no rain. To Ramsey Island. The trip cost 12/- and was made by the life boat skipper. We landed at low tide in a tiny little harbour and clambered over the rocks. There is one farm on the island opposite the mainland. There were over 100 sheep, some cattle and marginal corn land. We walked across the island to the western cliffs, which fall sheer for hundreds of feet into the sea and dwarf the seabirds and men ourselves. We had a rather windy lunch on the S.W. beak. I took the occasion to speak to Hilary about his bad manners, but got no reaction or comeback whatsoever.! After lunch we walked back to the N.W. peak where we had a close view of some curlews and a seal, then back to the east cliff near the farm for tea. Here we could see the boat start to fetch us. The tide was racing like a weir in flood and carried the boat like a cork. The return was exciting as the water boiled and seethed all round one.
Friday, Aug 17th
Our last day was fine and we spent it near Porth Lynskey. We had eight fine days, two fair days and four wet days.
Sunday, Aug 19th
Worked hard all day collecting traps, dealing with correspondence, talking to Len etc. Had a taxi to station and arrived at Reading, where presently Mary met me…… To Kensington Air Station where our luggage was whisked away, weighed and labelled. Soon we were tootling along the London streets to Heathrow. Here we were ushered from room to room till we finally arrived at the last one full of comfortable arm chairs and settees in which reclined various travellers from all parts of the world. The plane to Geneva was announced and we got into a tiny little bus which took us across the airfield. We were rather behind the party and got gangway seats over the wings, which were not good for seeing anything. After what seemed some time the plane rumbled slowly along and we could see the lights of the runway stretching into the distance. First one engine and then the other was revved up and finally with a great surge with what seemed like limitless power we roared down the line of lights and left the ground. I was thrilled. I never knew London could be so beautiful. The arterial roads, the housing estates and street lamps made a variety of patterns in different coloured lights which revolved beneath us.
Everything was done to try to make you feel secure. The air hostess in her little cabin making tea and coffee, a map of the route, a little card with the names of the four crew, the height (15,000ft) and speed 250 m.p.h. etc, the offer of illustrated papers, the cup of tea and a piece of plum cake. The noise of which we had heard so much was rather like standing under a bridge with a train rumbling over, but it was not at all trying. In two hours and 25 minutes we were gliding down over the Lake of Geneva and its lights to the airfield – then our ears did hurt. It was strange to get out on the quite deserted airfield at midnight and walk across the empty white concrete in the soft warm air so soon after leaving Piccadilly.
[This was the Diarist’s maiden flight.The holiday was spent at Evolene, not far from Lausanne, the second holiday of any length that the Diarist and Mary had spent together following a 1950 holiday in the French alps).