If you want to know mindfulness, come to Wiseman’s Bridge. If you want to explore it deeply, bring two small children.
I first came here when I was probably somewhere around Gus and Zerlina’s ages, so let’s call it six. Although I was born and brought up within earshot of the sea, and spent many of my early days on Southbourne beach, that wasn’t the seaside as we understood it: that had to be Pembrokeshire, obviously. As my parents had patiently to explain to acquaintances – who expressed perplexity as to why anyone would drive three hundred miles to get from one beach to another, taking about seven hours in the process (the Severn bridges, let alone the M4, not then even having been a post-war planner’s wet daydream, the journey therefore having to be made via the lowest bridging point at Gloucester, followed by scenic detours across the Heads of the Valleys and even further north, as far as Builth Wells sometimes, to indulge my father’s unexpressed passion for dramatic scenery) – those two versions of ‘seaside’ were so different as to make the whole thing not just worthwhile, but essential.
This time the journey was in three legs, over three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (Modern kids shouldn’t be asked to do seven unbroken hours in a car, even with more distractive technology than we could have imagined or handled, nor required to sing ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’ and ‘Ten Green Bottles’ for seven hours.) Leg one was from their child-minder’s to Z’s house: a mere forty minutes, just to soften them up. Packing my car with what had been interpreted from the phrase ‘travel light’ proved a challenge, though nothing compared to then wedging it all, plus our own modest equipage, plus the food (and the extra food, and the oh-by-the-way food; and we still managed to forget the garlic) into Z’s car for the second leg, from Yagnub to my place in Reading. Then it was just the boring last three hours down the M4, across the gorgeous bridge and into Wales, lunch at the best pub in the country (the White Hart at Llandarog) and so to – here!
Now is Monday. I’ve only managed to get us as far as the caravan, and I’m already exhausted. Parts two and three will be written tomorrow and, perhaps, Thursday, and published simultaneously when I get back to the internet-verse on Friday.