29: Many Happy Returns

Betws-y-coed at Last!

Betws-y-coed at Last!


It was the Pink Lady who came up with the suggestion. I cannot take the credit, not that I’m the credit taking type when it’s another’s idea. That’s not the sort of chap I am.

We would go to Betws-y-Coed. She wanted to see the Falls and why not, jolly nice falls they are indeed if I remember correctly. The last time I saw them (and photographed them) was back in the 1980s when Blameworthy and I attempted to drink North Wales dry. Well, a slight exaggeration truth be told but we did familiarize ourselves with two hundred or so public houses. I’m not sure of the exact amount but would hazard a guess that old Blameworth – keeper of the faith would probably be better placed to fill in that sort of detail.

I have to admit that the only memories I have of the place is via some recently discovered slides which I’ve converted to digital photos. Those and vague recollections of taking them with my first ever 35mm camera. I suspect that it was around September 1982.

Anyway, I digress, (frequently as many have pointed out) and so back to a planned jaunt to Betws-y-Coed. The Pink Lady had even sorted out what bus we would need – travelling arrangements is something she usually left to me.


One of the Sights for me

One of the Sights for me


It was a Wednesday and the previous day had seen us remain in Llandudno frequenting Caffe Nero because the weather was somewhat drizzly.

At the bus stop I saw the bus timetable showed another bus to that went to Betws-y-Coed thirty-five minutes earlier than the one the Pink Lady pointed out.

The Pink Lady was dubious. Did it actually go there? I pointed out the route against the number and according to that it certainly did.

So at 10am we’re on the bus, travelling on what was a nice day with a chance to see a lot more of the inland countryside that we normally see as we tended to keep to the coastlines.

So, we travel through and near to villages called Rowen, Llanddoged and the final one Llanrwst. I say the final one as it should have been the penultimate one prior to arriving at Betws-y-Coed.
It was the biggest place we’d been to on that bus ride and as we seemed to nose towards our ultimate destination the bus turned back into the town.

Call it a sixth sense based upon experience or call it a natural pessimism built up of years of using public transport but this didn’t seem right. The driver stopped at several bus stops as is their wont before suddenly charging off back the way we came.

At first I tried to pass this off as just the silly routes buses take you on when going to places. Unlike trains they don’t really have anything like direct routes or the discipline of rail tracks to keep them going in the right direction.
Needless to say I was clutching at straws. The bus really was on its way back to Llandudno…hey ho!

It was while paying particular attention to sigh posts that I noticed a sign post for Blaenau Ffestiniog. It brought a smile to my lips as my mind wandered back to the 1980s when Blameworthy and I travelled North Wales. We always to it as Blindmefesteringknob. We thought it rather amusing but then after the amount of beer we put away in those days most things were funny…

As we approached Conwy the Pink Lady decided that we shouldn’t waste the trip and drop off at Conwy. The sun was out and so why not?

So relaxing.

So relaxing.

On our trip there Monday the Pink Lady discovered a rather nice coffee place where we sat for coffee. On the way to it she noticed some Owls which she wanted to photograph so after she’d finished her coffee she left me to my own devices to see the perfect pictures…

The nightmare of the pointless bus journey was over but lessons were learnt.

Not Swallow Falls but nice anyway.

Not Swallow Falls but nice anyway.


The next day I decided that we weren’t going to be denied the delights of Betws-y-Coed and so I checked out the bus timetable to see where I went wrong. I couldn’t see it but this time decided we’d take the bus the Pink Lady recommended in the first place. At least if it went wrong this time the burden of responsibility wouldn’t be mine.

However, as we arrived at Llanrwst the old nerves kicked and I wondered if we’d get any further. But watching the signs carefully as we came out of the town I noted we were heading towards Betws-y-Coed.

It was a dull day so far but dry. Once we arrived and were off the bus I checked the bus timetable to see what one would be best to travel back on. There was one at 3.35pm. That gave us a good three hours…

So, after a comfort break and a wait while the Pink Lady looked at a map on a board, I led the way to Swallow Falls via a main road.

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Fitrambler!

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Fitrambler!

I took a photo of a pub and then began walking off, following a main road. The map the Pink Lady looked at meant nothing to me. Of course, the inevitable question followed after about ten minutes.

“Do you know where you’re going?” asked the Pink Lady.

“Absolutely, up this hill, Swallow Falls is about two miles?” I replied.

“How do you know that?”

“I have this remarkable sense of direction, an instinct admired by many…”

“Or maybe it was because you had a sneaky look at the road sign just by the pub you photographed?”

I hesitated then admitted: “Well, that probably helped a little.”

We continued on for about ten minutes. I was thinking how good I was getting at using a walking stick (and whether I should get a more dapper one when the old knee heels) when the Pink Lady spoke again.

“Two miles is quite far. Are you sure your knee is up to it?”

I thought for a second or two. “We came to see the Falls and see the Falls we shall.”

“Remember the Great Orme,” said she, with a touch of the old Doom and Gloom.

“It seems to be holding at the moment,” said I, hero that I am.

“That’s what you said after we got to the Rest and Be Thankful.”

That was true. Going up the steep hill posed no problem but coming down it darn near crippled me. It did for me for the rest of the day. I certainly didn’t want to go through that again.

“Let’s go on a little further,” I replied, not really wanting to give up. “See how it looks then…”

A few hundred yards more and the Pink Lady pointed out the sheep in the fields.

The sheep and the legend of Goswop!

The sheep and the legend of Goswop!

“Hmm,” I thought. “Did I ever tell you of the legend of the Great Orme Sheep Worrier Photographer. The Goswop as he became known as?”

The Pink Lady gave me a dubious look.

“Be a doubting Thomasine if you must but what I tell you is true. It’s a legend handed down by several generation…”

“Several generations,” said she in a cynical tone.

“Several generations of sheep, that is.”

“Fitrambler, there’s an old English expression and sometimes you’re full of it.”

“No, no, no, this was in the dark days of the 1980s, happened on the Great Orme late in the evenings – well, mostly.” I paused as I thought back. “Yes, sheep on the hills of the Great Orme going about their business – which I suppose was grass munching and baa-ing every so often.”


“Sheep are famous for the throaty baas. So much so you’d think they were going around disapproving of everything…”

The Pink Lady was shaking her head sadly. She could be a little cynical at times. “Stop procrastinating, Fitrambler, and let’s get this over with…”

“Well this old Goswop chappie used to charge around the side of the Great Orme where the sheep collected, getting up real close and taking their photos…”



“Yes, and?”

“Well, that’s it really. But be fair the sheep don’t have any knowledge of camera’s, cheap or otherwise. They don’t know what this cheap instamatic camera is likely to do to them. Could be a nasty weapon and you know how nervous sheep can be.”

“And that’s it, is it, some bloke gets up close to a sheep and photographs it. Hardly Hammer House of Horror.”

“Look at it from the sheep’s point of view. All alone, nearest colleague a hundred yards away and then this maniac smelling of beer and hotdogs that have been over-splattered with mustard, flops down a few feet from you and the next thing there’s this small box clicking at you!”

The Pink Lady gave me one of her Paddington hard stares and I felt that conversation was at an end. I got the impression she thought I’d made it all up; very cynical.

We moved a few hundred yards further and I decided the Pink Lady was probably right and decided to call a halt to our walk to the Falls. My knee was beginning to ache and it was very likely I wouldn’t make the journey there and back without a lot of pain.

No Wonder The Welsh Are Always Singing!

No Wonder The Welsh Are Always Singing!

We walked back towards the centre of Betws-y-Coed to look at some of the sites. By the time we got back there and began wandering around the old knee was beginning to ache.

The train station at Betws-y-Coed is a fine old building finished in the 1860s and officially opened in 1868. It was part of the Conwy Valley line constructed by the London and North Western Railway. The main purpose for building it was to transport dressed slate from quarries in Blaenau Ffestiniog to Deganwy.

Although there are trains that stop at this station the buildings itself, including the passenger station buildings are well-preserved and now used as cafes and tourist stops.

A Train Station Adapting To The Times.

A Train Station Adapting To The Times.

There is also the Conwy Valley Railway Museum that runs a miniature railway.

The Pink Lady and I took our refreshment in the Alpine Coffee Shop. She had soya milk latte and I had hot chocolate with cream and little marshmallows on the top. Sod the expense, I thought, give the cat another goldfish…
I even bought two jars of their Marmalade at £3.25 a shout. The old wallet bulked at that!

From a comfy settee we were able to see the train line whereby I later took photographs.

The hot chocolate was great but it was touch and go getting through to the marshmallows without losing them on the floor. Fortunately, there was only one casualty and I managed to eat the rest. It was a case of making a gap where you could get the spoon under and lift them off the cream. All rather nice.

The Station Platform.

The Station Platform.

Anyway, once we’d finished out drinks we ventured out again and the Pink Lady explored the shops. It gave me time to rest the knee.

I started looking at the photos I’d taken on the day to discover I’d taken 88. A record for me surely? Quite a few of them had sheep in them – subliminal or what?

Not Everyone Waits For A Train On The Platform.

Not Everyone Waits For A Train On The Platform.

Not long afterwards I noticed that the shop not too far from where I was sat sold Mint Magnums. Well, as old Oscar Wilde once said ‘I can resist everything except temptation’ I treated myself to one. And very nice it was too; only my third in five days. I was showing restraint.

It was shortly after that we made our way to the bus stop. 3.35pm it said and we were early by thirty minutes.

By 4pm to say I was getting anxious would be an understatement. It seemed every bus was on time and taking people everywhere else but where we wanted to go.

Finally, at 4.05pm the bus turned up. Although first in the queue, some kids and their gormless mother piled on before us. Although I should take pity on them as they were all deaf; well at least I assume so from the way they were shouting at each other…

However, we are not off on our way straight away. The driver gets out of the bus and faffs around and another ten minutes are lost.

The day might be still fairly young but old Fitrambler here had a nosebag appointment at 6pm. Woe betide the person who gets between a Fitrambler and his nosebag.

Fair play to the driver chappie he made good time on the way back and we were back in Llandudno by about 5.45pm. And an added bonus the brats got off twenty minutes into the journey. Perhaps they had a doctor’s appointment; one where their lugs got a good going over?

It seemed that my ten year visiting North Wales was beginning to be one marked by transport problems….

124 comments on “29: Many Happy Returns

  1. Fairly predictable selection there, Gloomers, although I wouldn’t agree with Waugh being top five. I should have mentioned that the principal character in The Rain Before It Falls is a lesbian. Whilst I admire your courage in facing up to the world as it really is this might be more than you could bear. Or would you consider it myth, not reality.

  2. The other four, obviously, are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Evelyn Waugh. No Thackray because he only wrote one truly great book. No Trollope because, although he wrote many very good books, none are great.

  3. Yes, Proust. Bloody Proust. He’s always there. It wasn’t so bad before you’d read him but now his very name rings as a taunt in my mind. I can only retort by pointing out that you have not read one of the five best novelists in English: Arnold Bennett!

  4. Oh, I don’t think I have to have read a book to understand it on a far deeper level than you, Blameworthy. The Rain Before It Falls is on my list of novels to read before I die, if not during. When done with the Savile – and it is over 500 pages of squalor – I have to get back to Zola’s The Earth. And then there is the little matter of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists to contend with

  5. The Rain Before It Falls is an excellent novel; a worthy and wholesome study of human nature. I didn’t bother with any sort of critique because I assumed you would have read it previously, and understood it at a much deeper level.

    And no, I’ve learned nothing from you whatsoever. How’s about that then!

  6. Is The Rain Before It Falls any good? You should never tantalise a literary man by saying you’ve read a book and not give some sort of critique – though I do not mean a star rating. Have you learned nothing from me?

    I don’t think there is even the slightest possibility that the Scots will vote Yes next week: Mrs Blameworthy will be able to wave her Union Jack next year if only you can be bothered to fashion one over the winter.

  7. Whatever makes you happy, GloomLaden; whatever makes you happy.

    I did watch Last Night of the Proms, all the while wondering what amendments may have to be made next year after the Scots are let loose in the wild once again. Mrs. Blameworthy asked me to make her a small Cross of St. George flag to wave during the performance but I really couldn’t be bothered this year. Perhaps the jingoism is best left to Uncle Steve, who does it with much more passion and conviction than I ever could.

    Also just finished reading Jonathan Coe’s The Rain Before It Falls.

  8. Such pious blather is unbecoming in you, Blamers. I expect you watched the Last Night of the Proms last night, sentimental jingoist that you are. Another chance to imagine the world other than it is while I face up to it.

  9. Correct me if I’m wrong, GloomLaden, but wasn’t that one of Jimmy’s oft-used chat up lines? Or perhaps his response to one of the more inquisitive senior members of staff at Stoke Mandeville. Now then! Now then!

    But let’s not beat about the bush; you don’t have to justify yourself to me; I’m not one to judge. You have simply developed another unhealthy obsession with a dead bloke. This time it just happens to be one who, in life, was a sick pervert. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of; it could happen to any of us. With good care and proper treatment you have every chance of making a full recovery and going on to lead a happy and healthy life. I wish you the best of luck for the future and may even say a little prayer for you, old friend.

  10. You have to bear in mind that it would have been an 84 year old Swiissshhh, GloomLaden. Although, in his case, a Big Bang might have been a more satisfying finale for both parties. Can you not find something more worthy to read, Literary Man?

  11. That swish noise at the end of your last message, Balmers: you yourself have already established that the Reaper doesn’t use a scythe, so what can it mean? Have you lost control of your bladder, perhaps, or is it just the poor reception on FM Radio 2 (you wouldn’t have digital wireless in the 1950s house, would you?)

  12. Clearly, you had a lot in common with him, GloomLaden. Had you been able to meet Sir Jim’ll, perhaps he might have fixed it for YOU. The rest of us just wish the Grim Reaper had caught up with him 84 years earlier. Swiissshhh…

  13. Reading the biography, I’m starting to quite like Sir Jim’ll, for all his reprehensible carryiings-on. Not much of a drinker, unfortunately, but an exemplary miser.

  14. If you didn’t keep yourself awake each night imagining how different life might be if you were the reincarnation of Sir Jim, I doubt if you would even notice me mildly droning in the background. What you need is fresh air, exercise and a good night’s sleep.

    The Hairy Cornflake will be along at six with the Breakfast Show. In the meantime: here’s James Blunt…

    No, it really is James Blunt; he’s just forced his way into the studio. Probably come to enquire why I never play any of his records.

  15. No, Blameworthy, that low hum I hear in the distance is your voice in Radio 2 3am DJ mode. Doubtless you’re introducing REO Speedwagon or reading out a message from a depressive trucker with a gimmicky moniker taking a heavy load of shale from Bristol to Cumbernauld.

  16. I believe in rural parts, these days, even the Grim Reaper arrives perched in the cab of a combine harvester, so you should be able to hear Death coming well in advance. In fact if you prick up your ears you might just be able to detect that low, persistent hum in the distance…

  17. You may scoff, GloomLaden, but, oh, how I wish I was still fit and active enough to play a useful role in office life! I can’t tell you how much I miss the sense of purpose and pride that you, yourself, must still feel while continuing to accomplish worthwhile tasks to the best of your ability. The memories linger on from the joy I once felt when bathed in the warm glow of cheery cameraderie that can only come from spending quality time amongst like-minded friends and colleagues.

    I can’t help but feel that you might benefit hugely from a few years honest manual toil in the fields, though. Accompanied by the swish of the scythe or the clatter of a horse-drawn plough, you might toughen up those horny palms of yours by indulging in more virtuous pursuits. Cleanse the fetid accumulation of putrescent sewage that clogs and slows the workings of your filthy mind with wild, lust-crazed imaginings. Embrace a more healthy and puritanical approach to life with zest and fervour.

  18. YOU want more decorum, Blameworthy? You? The man who yearned to work vulgarly with his hands? Who sneered at office life while benefiting hugely from it?

  19. I’m well aware that they happen, GloomLaden, because you never stop reminding me of the fact. Athough I don’t believe they happen around you quite as much as you would like them to. No good will come of it, you mark my words. So lets have a little decorum here, please!

  20. Surely, Blameworthy, it behoves a student of the liberal arts – albeit a poor one, hunkered at the back of the classroom with inky fingers and a penchant for paoer aeroplanes – to look at Life in all its full horror. This reeling away from grist is most tiresome. One can easily imagine what Jonathan Meades would say – and how dismissively he would say it. You seem to believe that avoiding the repellent will make it easier to defend your position that such things do not happen. It won’t.

  21. I find your obsession with Operation Yewtree somewhat disturbing, GloomLaden. Are you expecting a visit? Is there something you’re not telling me? Because if there is, I don’t want to know. As I’m sure you’re aware, I’m far too sensitive to cope with so much as a mere whiff of the kind of repellent activities that you seem to revel in. I shall retreat within myself once again, perfumed nosegay at the ready.

  22. I bet she has not read Proust: I read a column of hers in which she claimed Hilary Mantel’s books failed to grip. Compared to Proust, they are a walk in the park. You forget that she is a poker player, a live-in-the-monment overachiever who copped a fortune from screenwriting John Diomand’s cancer memoir, a woman who had an affair with now dead television comedy producer Harry Thompson. Proust is too introvert for her, as am I, let alone you. Sir Jim’ll would have known just what to do with her.

  23. Oh come, come now, GloomLaden! Let’s not besmirch the good name of Fitrambler by lowering the tone of his blog with suggestive comments. In any case Mrs. Coren-Mitchell has most likely read Proust, and is therefore well out of your league.

  24. When you use the word ‘right’ you mean, of course, that Bob’s opinion corresponded with yours. I’ve had to come away from the TV after University Challenge while Mrs. Blameworthy watches Only Connect with that awful Victoria Coren.

  25. Robert Robinson is still dead. He liked Betjeman, of course, being one of the fellows who first put me on to him. And Bob – unlike Blameworthy, as in everything – got the chap right.

  26. Sorry, Gloomers, I’ve searched for that one in the index of my Betjeman Collected Poems without success. Sounds like something from Medical Man, a contemporary of Pepys.

  27. And have you heard, Blamers, that He Who Drips With Contempt is in hospital with peritonitis and a twisted bowel?

  28. My lust flowered early and flourished during the hot summer of 1976 when the trout were easily tickled. Despite desperately vigorous pruning it has continued to do so, as the Regular Reader might attest, given the opportunity.

    But Betjeman, Zola and Saville are best discussed privately.

  29. Regarding Bragg’s Cumbrian trilogy; excellent as it is, I think the sections in London during the 1970s – the infidelity and some of the stuff about the prog rock star – loses focus somewhat. This was probably intentional on Bragg’s part, but a little odd when the earlier phases of the story are so tightly structured. As a non literary man you may not, of course, have noticed.

    My favourite Betjeman poems are melancholic, yes. But my point was that he is able to straddle light and dark. Late Flowering Lust – something you know all about – is a corker in this respect.

    At the risk of undermining my literary credentials, I am about to break off reading Zola’s superb novel The Earth to read the new biography of Jimmy Savile. How’s about that then?

  30. If Literaryman was put on this earth to serve a purpose, rather than simply play the role of a pompous tit, he would need to swallow his pride and offer help to those who need it most. I’m not getting Betjeman wrong, merely focusing on the aspect of his talent which most people recognize. Predictably, two of your favourite Betjeman poems are all about death and do not provide a balanced representation of his work as a whole. Pam Ayres might have written Doggerel of a Deaf Bloke, though.

    I’ve just this minute finished reading the final book in Melvyn Bragg’s Cumbrian Trilogy and I’m more than happy to admit that I got him wrong.

  31. Blameworthy, you’re getting Betjeman wrong! He’s popular because he can do light verse and deep melancholy, often simultaneously. Pam Ayres is a light versifier popular exclusively because of her alleged humorous take on ordinary life: I hope you’re not bracketing Betjeman with her. He could write in a light and jocular way, but even at his lightest, Eros and Thanatos are never far away.

    Your deranged superhero fantasy is wide of the mark. Literaryman – and AN Wiltson would be excellent in the role – would never be found on sink estates. And his enemy would, of course, be Terry Pratchett, who at least dresses like a supervillain.

  32. By ‘an altogether deeper level’, GloomLaden, I assume you mean you have been wallowing in the Despair, Doubt and Death elements within Betjeman’s poetry. Perhaps you should have paused to consider the title of the documentary. The reason Betjeman remains popular with the Intelligent General Reader while many po-faced poets have been quickly forgotten is because of his love for the superficial, trivial and mundane. The joy he brought to these aspects of everyday life was evident from the twinkle in the eye of A.N. Wilson.

    But it appears we have a new superhero on the blog: LITERARYMAN!

    Does he slip into a tweed body stocking and smoke a pipe? Does he travel round the sink estates of Swindon in an old, converted ice cream van offering copies of ‘worthy’ literature to the masses? Does he save the souls of readers of trash by leading them onto the path of righteous reading? And why does the middle-aged man, got up as a wizard, who torched Literaryman’s Bookmobile recently call himself The Penguin?

    Fitrambler has a natural talent for comic strip illustration; surely this is an opportunity not to be missed.

  33. I’ve now seen Return to Betjemanland. You may have the advantage of me, having had time to cogitate upon it, but I suspect that, as a literary man, I will have appreciated its qualities at an altogether deeper level. Wilson mostly gets it right except for the passage about Betjeman’s religious inclinations: Wilson claims his hero as a fervent Anglican, quite forgetting the religious doubt that suffuses many of the poems. And the claim that A Subaltern’s Lovesong was his finest poem is erroneous also. Nevertheless, thanks for reminding me about this programme, which was worth it just for Wilson’s wonderfully mannered 1950s voice.

  34. Alas, I missed Betjemanland. Wilson is indeed a national treasure, though the term now merely seems to be the prelude to a visit from Operation Yew Tree. I’ve been reading a lot of Betjeman lately, relishing in particular the bleakness of Portrait of a Deaf Man, A Child Ill and the sonnets about the couple moving to Spain

  35. Casting your pubic hair to one side for the moment, GloomLaden, did you see Return To Betjemanland on BBC4? I believe A.N. Wilson has become almost as great a treasure as Betjeman himself.

  36. I do beg your pardon, GloomLaden. I had always believed that your character, with or without pubic hair, was purely a work of fiction. I know mine is.

    Where should I go to seek advice concerning human biology? More to the point: where – or to whom – might you go? It is, after all, your pubic hair.

    Does it require cultivating or do you simply ignore it and let it grow rampant and wild?

  37. You may not, Blameworthy. That is a question for Human Biology; I teach only Literature.

  38. Now, now, Blameworthy, we all know your scalp hair was on the wane before my pubic hair had so much as arrived.

  39. You’ll get no thwacking from me, Blameworthy. Besides, Wackford Squears is not apposite in this instance. As you’ll recall, he was barely literate himself. See me, rather, as RF Delderfield’s excellent Mr Howarth from To Serve Them All My Days.

  40. Oh, stop it , GloomLaden! It’s like having Wackford Squeers as my English teacher. I fear I may be in for a good thrashing if I forget the Christian name of Bragg’s late wife. I wish I’d got stuck into a good Titchmarsh now.

  41. Indeed it is,Blameworthy. Bragg can be brilliant – as with the Tallantyre novels and the trilogy commencing with The Soldiers Return – and awful – Crystal Rooms, Credo, The Maid of Buttermere. He is best in Hardyesque mode, writing about landscapes he knows well during historical periods within the the twentieth century. Remember always that he was a historian by training. Also remember that his wife killed herself, that he is a depressive at times and that his inability to explore such depths is the reason for his slight inadequacy when attempting to describe human psychology.

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