I love lighthouses. When I was a child people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Having consumed an unhealthy amount of Enid Blyton, Portland Bill and sea mysteries my answer was always a Lighthouse Keeper.
I fancied (and still do) being the stereo typical lighthouse keeper – growing a beard in my old age, wearing a white sweater and a cap, smoking a pipe and telling gullible children and their dog about stolen treasure hidden in caves.
Sadly, nobody told me all British lighthouses were subjected to an automation program that began in 1973 and the lighthouse keeper of yore was rapidly becoming a job similar to today’s milkman, fax machine sales person or VHS repairman. But hey, I don’t hold much of a grudge….
Anyway, this is South Stack near Holyhead in Anglesey. Its a right rugged place to get to out but amazing views and thrilling scenery. Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 and I went there in 2011 for what became our traditional Easter break.
One of my many obsessions is with seafood dishes, especially Seafood Mornay.
The best seafood mornay I’ve ever had was Roger’s Seafood Mornay from the former Pen Bryn Bach restaurant near Aberdaron in North Wales. The second best seafood mornay was also Roger’s Seafood Mornay. In third place was the seafood mornay I made for a dinner party back in 2003. All others are just pretenders to the throne.
Sadly when I visited the Lobster Pot near Cemaes Bay in Anglesey in 2011, I found that they didnt do a Seafood Mornay. What they did though was a delicious surf and turf with half a lobster skillfully balanced ontop of grass fed beef steak (How they get the steak to eat grass is beyond me, surely it would be better to get the cow to eat the grass?) and doused in enough garlic butter to both thin and clog the arteries at the same time.
Today’s picture depicts the delicious dish itself.
Just when you thought it was safe to pack in camping…..
My god! You didn’t think I’d finished did you? It was Wednesday 2nd August. We awoke, nipped into Aberdaron for a cooked breakfast then dashed back to camp to feverishly repack everything into the Vectra. Our next stop was Rhosnieger in Anglesey to meet up with the Elliots. What was to make the holiday extra special was that everybody knew that jimrock, who was at that moment in Neu Yorque in a Merrycar, was going to propose to his long term partner Becky at Niagra Falls. They were to join us on the Friday…but more of that later.
An hour and a half later we were in Anglesey. Intent on avoiding making unnecessary phone calls (electrical sockets are few and far between when camping and I needed my “Cellular” to take photos with (Heh imagine telling your 10 year old self you’d be able to take photos with your telephone! Ha the preposterousness never ceases to amuse me) we drove into the campsite and tried to locate our fellow campers. They weren’t in the usual spot. So we surmised they were on the beach. Arriving at the beach we were still unable to locate them. So a quick telephone call later we’d tracked them down to the usual campsite but in a new location nearer the road at the bottom of the RAF Valley Airstrip. Genius! Who needs alarm clocks when you have RAF fighter jets taking off on training flights at the crack of dawn?
It was good to see everybody. Becky’s sister and brother Sarah and Ricky with their respective other halves Steve and Ashley and Big Steve (Becky, Sarah and Ricky’s Dad) and his Missis Rach.
The next day we loaded up Big Steve’s van with fishing rods and beach stuff. Ricky drove it down to the beach while Mrs Gnomepants, Big Steve, Rach and I cycled the mile or so to Cable Bay Beach. On arrival we immediately tied our bikes together and hiked along the fisherman’s foot path along the rapidly disappearing cliff tops to the rocks by the old ex-MOD base.
After we had fished the Irish Sea of all it’s Mackrel we headed back along the coast to Porth Trecastell where we lazed away the rest of the day rockpooling.
That evening we dined on fresh mackrel cooked on the barbeque served with new potatoes, peas and garlic butter. Amazing stuff!
The next day the weather took a slight turn for the worse. It was muggy, cloudy and frequently showers fell on the land. Unperturbed we soldiered on and took ourselves out to a Jam Farm, Caemaes Bay and Amlwch.
The Jam farm was a bit sinister. Still the jams we sampled there were pleasant if not a bit pricey (£5 for a jar of honey! Fuck that!) I got a nice jar of Winter Ale Chutney which I will review on Muckybadger when I get round to it. After a scone and a cup of tea we journeyed onward to Caemaes Bay. The weather becoming increasingly erratic. Rain falling then stopping, Humidity rising then rain again, the slight breeze increasing fractionally. A good BBC Shipping Forecast might have been able to predict what was to come.
Stopping in the one horse town that is Amlwch (Anglesey’s third town (Beaumaris being the second, Holyhead being the first) the grimness of the weather was heightend only by the grimness that is Amlwch. (Do you know? I still find it amusing trying to imagine how my Merrycan and European chums are pronouncing Amlwch…do a voice post if you dare! heheheh). Amlwch is a tiny place, at one time in it’s history it was probably a bustling happening place. Now, however, it is a shadow of it’s former self. The market was packing up, every other shop was closed or boarded up, even the people looked miserable. The main street through the town saw about one car every 10 minutes and even then two of those were people who had turned round to try and escape. Sad really. I imagine lots of little towns like this all over the world. It kind of reminded me of Grimethorpe with less people. But I doubt any of you guys have been to Grimethorpe so you probably wouldnt get the comparison. Erm….like Garston with less shops…..Blackboy Hill with no traffic, people or shops….Littlehampton 20 years ago…That place in America where they built a lake only for the economy to collapse and the holiday chalets they built there never got bought…..Well, anyway, it was grim.
We returned to camp and were shortly joined by the happy couple that is jimrock and Becky. Becky had accepted jimrock‘s proposal and there was much celebrating and mirthmaking to be had.
By this time the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Gale force 10 winds ripped through the campsite from the Irish Sea, the winds bringing with them, rain and fish and deep sea trawlers. I didn’t get much sleep that night. I kept having to pop outside to secure the guy ropes that kept coming free from their tentpegs. The group marquee was, at times, diagonal in the winds. I half expected to see it fly off to the near by railway line and cause untold travesty! By 4am I still hadn’t managed to get any sleep. Radio 4 had long since turned into the World service and no end of programmes discussing the anniversary of the partitioning of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan would bring sweet sleep to me. My mind was wracked with the thought of one of the caravans above the camp being blown free from it’s moorings and rolling down towards the camp.
I guess I must have passed out by 5am. By 8am the winds had died down a bit. The weather was still shit and as we all emerged from our tents we each decided that staying on Anglesey in the rain would be foolish. Instead, we would journey to Conway.
The other side of the Menai Straits was uncannily bright and sunny. A black cloud of gloom hung over Anglesey but Conway (less than 20 miles away) was perfect weather. So while jimrocklistened to the Grand Prix Qualifying Rounds on the radio had a much needed nap, the rest of the party took to exploring Conway.
The holiday was starting to take a sour turn. The weather breaking some people spirits, the Grand Prix being a distraction to others, the prospect of further bad weather likely and the parting of the ways as Sarah and Steve departed for Peterborough the next morning.
Still…I was having a good time. I took to enjoying the rain. Enjoying the company. Enjoying the evenings playing dominoes and drinking beer. I wasnt going to let a bit of rain spoil the holiday.
However….I shall relate the final part tomorrow evening…
I swear, I’m sure you’ll get bored of this before I do.
The evening after the cycle trip was again spent sat round a campfire reading Buried while the serenity of the Welsh Countryside went about its business. Sticking with things Welsh, I imbibed this delightful ale from a local brewery.
Next day was another glorious day. It was to be our last full day on the Llyn so we turned it into a beach day. Onward to Porth Oer. Porth Oer is sometimes known as the Whistling Sands. Legend has it that you can walk on the sands and they whistle. Something to do with the crystalline structure of the sand. Bollocks though it may be the beach is really clean and unspoilt. I say “unspoilt” but of course dreadful types had already started staking out claims to little shaded corners of the beach and their awful children were being frightful.
Never the less, it was interesting to watch the world go by from under the shade of a hat and sunglasses. One hideously awful family (Rowena, Georgie, Eliza, Gordon and Rupert) sat within earshot discussing willies and Uncle Harvey’s horse boxes while the mother of another dreadfully frightful family endevoured to stop her children from having fun (“Stop that Alfie you know your sister does not like to eat sand”, “Benjamin! Please dont run. You might fall and graze your knee!”,”No mum Alfie does not want an ice lolly he is allergic to ice remember”).
By midday the sun was threatening to turn my skin into pork crackling. I can not abide sitting on beaches doing nothing. I want to be active, swimming, walking, doing catalogue poses and the like. So using my skill of tactical moaning I managed to persuade Mrs Gnomepants that the beach was becoming far too overcrowded and hot for me and that a walk up the mountain would be sufficient to cool me down. And so it was we drove to Mynnedd Rhiw. You might recall that Mynnedd Rhiw is the mountain upon which my Uncle Nat had a cottage in the 80’s.
We parked in the “car park” of the secret government radar station and walked toward the radio mast and the neighbouring trig point, from where, the views are astounding!
After an evening meal we took to the top of Braich-y-Pwl once more and were rewarded by further stunning views.
The next morning we broke camp and headed off for the next leg of our holiday. Anglesey, Rhosnieger and beyond!