With one giant step from Maleny to Lausanne on the Lake Geneva shoreline, my view of life was changed forever.
Most of the important lessons that I learned came via my asylum seeker family at EVAM Crissier.
Now, sitting back in the land of plenty, it is time to put into practice what I have learned.
The Gower Peninsula
There are not many families who get a whole area named after them but I have now seen it with my own eyes and it’s official. Swansea is a part of South Wales (abbrev. S.Wales). It is the windy, wet and wild part of Wales from the couple of days Jo and I had there. So from where I sit in the clan those three adjectives fit well with Swales domicile. My only regret is that I didn’t take a photo of a signpost. Interesting that us Swales kids were all born in New S.Wales
The Great Western rail trip from Paddington on London’s western fringe was fairly uneventful. Once out of the burbs completely the scenery was very flat to undulating very pretty rural. paddocks fenced by hedges, contented cattle, sheep and horses, not too many humans. A bit like a movie set really and certainly very different to London greater. I kept plugging through The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest eager to see how Lisbeth ended up and Jo took in a few of the zzzzzz’s we’d missed he night before after getting home late from Les Mis.
Our friend Helen Hockley met us at Neath station, a small town on the edge of Swansea with her beautiful daughter Sophie. We caught up with Phillip at home. With twins Joel and Tobey due to arrive in December and moving into a new house this week they were busy but happy to catch up again. It had been a bit over two years since we’d spent time with them in Los Angeles.
That afternoon we all went for a walk along the main beach near Neath. There were a few brave surfers out but the swell was blown out to almost non-existent. I never imagined that surfing was a big thing in Wales. Phillip let me know that he and his mates would wag school any day to surf growing up in this area and that Wales was once on the World Pro Tour. Part way through our walk we watched rain head our way and barely made it back to the car. Phillip’s mum, Barbs, brought dinner over that night and kept us entertained with stories of bringing up Phillip and his three brothers as a single parent in Neath.
The next day was a stunner. We walked along the waterfront at The Mumbles where Phillip took us to Joes. Joes is an Italian ice cream shop that has been in Swansea since after the second world war. Traditional Italian family ice cream is yum especially when you can eat it in a heated cafe when it’s freezing outside.
After ice cream, coffee and happy cake (Sophie calls all cake, happy cake) we drove along the coastline to the Gower Peninsula. The countryside was very reminiscent of how I would picture Ireland, I think the Welsh would say Ireland is very reminiscent of Wales. Small close knit roads and villages, barely a breath to pass another car, but somehow everything fits.
We had lunch at a restaurant on the Gower Peninsula overlooking a rugged coastline and the farms that go right down to the sand. The majority of the coastal hills here were formed by glaciers from the last ice age. Lunch was huge. The biggest baked spuds I’d ever seen smothered in baked beans, prawns, mayo and cheese. And I was smart enough to order a side of chunky chips and bread and butter pudding. The extras ended up as take-aways and formed the basis of a light evening meal.
We spent a couple of hours on the beach walking off lunch, taking photos of Sophie who ran non-stop with a soccer ball the whole time, and seascapes. Off course I left my windproof jacket in the car again. And my parents used to say endlessly that ‘you live and learn!’. Not true.
The next morning we were up early to catch a train, to catch a tube train, to catch another train, to catch a plane back to Geneva. It was absolutely freezing. An early taste of winter our hosts said. It was damp and cold with steam blowing steady from mouths and would not suit this little Sunshine Coast surf bunny for an extended season. We went with Phillip and Helen to check out there new two story, one hundred year old home in Swansea. I have to admit it was very impressive, exuding everything you can imagine a stately Welsh family home to be. It will be neat to stay with the Hockleys in their new home next time we visit.
The old castle Swansea
The trip back to London was uneventful. Joe got herself a genuine Paddington Bear from the only authorised Paddington Bear shop in Paddington. It was only at this time I realised that we didn’t get to see Roald Dahl’s house. Or Abbey Lane. Or The Manic Street Preachers. We filled in the afternoon at Victoria Station and Gatwick Airport shopping centres, spending the last of our English quids on good coffee, CD’s and DVD’s and by 19:00 hours we were back in Geneva. And.... I finished The Girl Who Kicked a Hornets Nest and was left disappointed that Stieg Larsson had died before he wrote another dozen novels.
So ‘from the land of the ice and snow from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow’ Page/Plant ( not really, but I’m writing a story with the working title ‘the Frozen Immigrant‘ so it’s relevant), I’ll sign off until the next chapter. I think it’ll be something French. Not saying too much though.