The association with North Wales began in 1980. Up until that year I hadn’t considered it as a holiday choice. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the place.
But in 1980, friends of mine, Mr and Mrs Post, were going to Llandudno for their holiday.
‘We’re off to see Llandudno,’ said Mrs Post.
‘And I’m off to see the Wizard…’ I re-joined cheerfully, bit my voice trailed off as two pairs of eyes gave me hard stares. ‘…the won…der…ful..wiz…’
Deciding my failed attempted at humour was over, Mrs Post continued. ‘It’s in North Wales. Our daughter was going with us but she’s decided to spend the week with her boyfriend,’ she explained. ‘We were wondering if you’d like to come along? Have the room she was going to have?’
I agreed. It was somewhere I hadn’t been and as such it’d be an adventure. Besides, I suspected they’d lose their money if they couldn’t get someone else to take the room; and it was quite a few years since I last had a holiday.
Fortunately, taking the room intended for their daughter didn’t involve dressing up in women’s clothes. I have always been one for trying something different but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere! Besides, it would have been a devil of a job getting something in my size that showed me at my best!
(Apologies to those of a weak disposition in whose head I’ve put pictures of a distasteful nature!)
Anyway, with the holiday agreed, I let my parents know (I was still living at home at the time). When it got around to how we were going to get there I said it’d be by train. However, Dad Fitrambler said we could use his car rather than fuss about with a train journey.
That being the case it made life a lot easier for the Posts and me.
So, the day arrived and off we went. I can’t remember how long the journey lasted but I do remember we made several stops. One of which was in a place called Ruthin where I managed to use the public toilets and find a shop which sold bottles of Old Peculiar; the two are not mutually exclusive! I bought four in a pack, roughly just under a half pint per bottle. Well, on many holiday one must ensure you stock up on essential supplies; first rule of survival.
The place we stayed in was in Lloyd Street which led directly to the promenade and the beach. Unusually, if you went in the other direction it also led to the beach, although not directly and not the same beach. Llandudno had two beaches. The east and west beaches; something I’d not come across before.
The house was divided up into small self-catering rooms. Mine was one of the singles at the back and with just a view of other houses, along with one of the biggest features in the resort and that was the Great Orme. The Posts’ room was a double at the front and the view was the main street and the building opposite housed the Lifeboat Service.
My flat, as with all of them in that house, was self-catering and the room was equipped with a sink, a cooker, a fridge. On top of the wardrobe in the corner opposite the window and next to the door was a television. It was only a black and white set (only the double rooms got a colour set). It was a room I’d use for my visits over the next five years.
Once I’d unpacked and had a quick wash, I went to the Posts’ room and we all went out for a stroll for the evening. Mrs Post wasn’t in for the long walk or indeed a few beers so took advantage of the Bingo games going on. That left Mr Post and myself to try out a beer.
After the long journey we went to The Albert (a Greenall’s Pub) for a beer.
The beer, a mild, didn’t taste too bad, in fact it was a lot better than I expected. I’ve always quite liked mild. So, I was pleased that quite a few pubs served a mild; it was to be the first of many.
As we had arrived rather late in the day so we got an early night, only having the one drink.
Over the week, we paid a visit to Colwyn Bay, the next day, and I had a half (I was driving) in The Park. There was a lot of work going on in the town, mainly along the coast. A little further in there was a mini-market with stalls selling a variety of things from records to sweets to foods, including Welsh Cakes. (It must be recorded here that The Pink Lady makes a wonderful Welsh cake which I’ve been lucky enough to sample on more than one occasion.)
The next day we made a trip to Conwy where I was rather impressed by the Castle. I managed to get one in at The Liverpool Arms; a half of bass.
After that there was the day we drove up to the top of the Great Orme. I remember the facilities reminding me very much of the 50s and 60s; very minimal. It was like some of the early cafe’s where they did mugs of tea, bacon sandwiches and fry-ups. The tables were wash vinyl style. But on top the Great Orme it was like a vast assembly room from school with tables and chairs. A big difference compared with my more recent visits. So not much to get excited about except, of course, the view. That was quite stunning and remains so.
It only took a couple of days for me to decide it might a good place for Blameworthy and I to visit next year. That was mainly down to there being a vast number of pubs and I thought it beautiful part of Britain. It was also an area Blameworthy hadn’t been too. Of course, transport and getting from place to place would be important. As we would be drinking, me driving wouldn’t be a good idea, presupposing Dad would lend me his car again.
Llandudno itself isn’t on a direct rail route. Approximately three miles from Llandudno is Llandudno Junction which is a station on the main line. There are regular trains that go from Llandudno Junction to Llandudno and back again during the day; Llandudno Junction is a station on the main line The North Wales Coastal Line. This goes along the coast to as far away as Holyhead in one direction and Chester in the other. Between Llandudno Junction and Llandudno is Deganwy. Like Rhos-on-sea and Colwyn Bay, Deganwy and Conwy almost seem as though they are the same place
I did think about taking the tram up to the Great Orme but never got around to it. (Some twenty years later the Pink Lady and I did.) However, more importantly, only a few yards from the tram station was a pub; The King’s Head. I nailed that one (naturally) that evening. Pints all round as I wasn’t driving, and fish and chips from a place no more than ten yards away.
Fitrambler in paradise!
The next day was a drive to Rhyl. It was the furthest we ventured that week. A strong memory of that trip that remains after all this time was Mr Post and I having a drink in The Abbey Vaults. It was in this public house that I tried my first half of Marston’s Pedigree. Again, I was playing it safe as I was driving…
There was a television in one corner, high up on the wall. A Gerry Anderson series called Joe 90 was just starting and brought back memories of my childhood. It wasn’t best series Gerry Anderson produced (I’m more of a Thunderbirds fan) but it was entertaining enough. I would have liked to have watched the episode all the way through as it didn’t seem to get many repeats in the Swindon area. But Mrs Post was outside and it was unfair to leave her there on her own, despite the weather being rather good. Some years later, video would be mainstream and owning TV programmes would become commonplace.
The Rhyl monorail made an impression on me. I hadn’t seen anything like it before (nor since) and had to have a photograph. Up until recently, I always thought it was around for years but that wasn’t the case.
The monorail opened for business in August 1980. It was about 15 feet in the air on specially made pillars and ran about six hundred yards. It was doomed to failure because it suffered regular technical faults, most of which were between stops. I don’t suppose the sight of passengers climbing down ladders was a good advertisement for the ride. The sight probably caused some amusement; except if you were one of the passengers and suffered from vertigo.
It lasted six weeks and ran up debts in of over of £650,000…
Another thing I noticed within the amusement arcades and that was pool tables. Blameworthy and I were rather partial to games of pool. In fact, we began an annual pool contest on the strength of the many opportunities we got to play.
Having had good weather all week I got back home feeling it was money well-spent!
A few days after that first week, I managed to persuade Blameworthy that North Wales, with Llandudno as our base, would make a good place for a booze-hound week.
So, the following year, again in my father’s car – he was kind enough to lend it to me again – Blameworthy and I began our journey. It was no surprised he’d prepared a route which would take us to some good pubs on the way.
Of course, I played it sensibly and only drank shandy…
All was going quite well until the final part of the journey and negotiating a lot of bends high up in North Wales. I don’t think, up until then, I’d ever been around so many bends and certainly not as many so high up.
We’d been travelling a few miles when disaster struck!
It was my fault, really. I made the mistake of spending too much time looking in the rear-view mirror at the chap behind and not enough on the road ahead. With each bend, I could see him get closer. It wasn’t a sensible preoccupation and I found that out when taking a bend that seemed to suddenly creep up on me too fast!
I swerved to avoid and narrowly missed – and I mean by mere inches – the car coming the other way; having strayed to the wrong side of the road taking that bend. Then I found that I was heading for the other end of the bend, the one with only a barrier between the end of the road and a very long drop. I turned the wheel again and we hit a barrier side on, smashing it, the poles either end of the barrier hit the front and back of the car before we came to a halt. A little further and we would have plunged over the edge and not only could I have been done for reckless driving but also for flying without a pilot’s license!
It was only when I got out of the car to inspected the damage that I realized what a drop it was.
Although it was probably of little importance in the scheme of things, the half dozen eggs given to me by Mum, were still intact in the box. However, some of the butter had got into Blameworthy’s jacket and it seemed to reappear throughout the course of the week.
From the car I nearly hit, a man charged over. At first, I thought I was going to get a crack on the conk. I’d come so close to smacking into his car so I couldn’t blame him. However, he was quite good about it. He asked if we were all right and if he needed to get the police or an ambulance. Blameworthy dismissed that idea.
‘You scared my wife. Anyway, best get back, she can’t seem to get her hands off the steering wheel, gripped it so hard when she saw you coming at us.’
I apologised as I remembered how close I’d come to smacking into his car. I guessed he’d take over the driving, once he’d prised her hands off the steering wheel…
The man strode off to his car and left us alone.
A few minutes later, I was, all things considered, feeling lucky. Part of that was because we hadn’t gone over the edge and partially because the dent in the front missed penetrating the radiator by millimetres; that really would have put the tin lid on things. We wouldn’t have been able to get to Llandudno in it; or indeed anywhere in it.
The bonnet was in a mountain shape but was soon bashed down but we tied it down with string; not sure where that came from? It rattled a lot and made things tense as I imagined it would fly up at any minute and block my vision. Another accident wouldn’t have been welcome!
As we changed the back tyre, a shard of wood puncturing the tyre, I thought about how I was going to explain this to my father, the grievous bodily harm I’d inflicted on his pride and joy. I worked on it for most of the journey to Llandudno.
As we got into Llandudno, it began to pour down with rain and we eventually made our way to the flats. By the time we had settled in, the rain had stopped. Blameworthy wanted to get out and around a few pubs. I suppose the alcohol would sooth his shattered nerves, if they were shattered. He seemed remarkably calm considering what had happened to us…
However, I rang my father first. I used a call box because in those days iPhones or indeed any sort of mobile phone were not common place. I felt it was better to get the bad news out-of-the-way first. I told him what happened. He asked first if either of us were hurt and when I told him we weren’t he said not to worry about the car, we would talk about it when I got back…
Later, I would find out that my sister retorted ‘…and then he’ll kill you!’
Despite the bad start, or perhaps because of it, it was quite a good holiday. There was no chance of using the car but a couple of places were within walking distances and others we got to by train. We discovered a weekly train pass that allowed us to travel anywhere along the North Coast – Holyhead to Chester. It was only nine pounds. A bargain however your looked at it.
Being in a new area and one that was hundreds of miles from home was the different sorts of beers available. We certainly allowed ourselves to sample as many of them as we could over the week. It was also an opportunity to try many different pubs. I think we went around 40-50 during that week in 1981.
That first year I believe we began a tradition that seemed to last quite a few years – being forced to walk from Llandudno Junction to Llandudno. For some reason, every time we got the last train back from Chester it was late and because of that we missed the last train from Llandudno Junction to Llandudno.
The station between those two was Deganwy. For some reason, Blameworthy and I thought it sound like a South African state. So much so that we took to punching the air and saying rather too loudly, ‘Deganwy!’
Well, we laughed!
By the end of the week the ‘joke’ died somewhat and we gave a slight raising of the hand and only muttered ‘Deganwy,’ almost instinctively while distracted by reading the paper
Of the pubs’ we visited (numerous times) in Llandudno was The Links Hotel; it served JW Lees beers; a beer I hadn’t heard of prior to the holiday. It was like Marston’s the previous year.
There was also The Washington where we played darts quite often. In those days it was an Ansell’s pub. I can remember the Ansell’s brand from the commercials. Several men, walking to the pub with the designation ‘The Ansell’s Bitter Men’. I didn’t qualify for the title as I tended to drink the Ansell’s mild; rebel that I was. Then there was The King’s Head, another favourite; we had quite a few late-night drinking sessions there.
Something else (besides the forced walk from Llandudno Junction after a visit to Chester) that became something of a tradition was a walk to Conwy. We did most of the walk along the beach, then across the bridge that led to the little town built inside castle walls. We seemed to always have the right weather for that walk, dry and sunny.
In those days, my focus would have been more on the beer and the walkies, the odd game of darts and pool – and no one plays odder games than Blameworthy and I.
After a week of drinking I remember that we got an early night on the Friday and began our journey home at 5am Saturday morning. This was because of the state of my father’s car and wanting to avoid too much attention of the way home; a flapping bonnet was inclined to be something of an attention grabber.
Initially, on my return home, my father wasn’t home but once he returned he seemed a lot more relaxed than I expected him to be. However, a few hours later that changed; a closer inspection gave rise to the full extent of the damage. His main complaint beyond the obvious was how I managed to hit three sides of the car; the back, the front and the side. At first, he developed the theory that I hit the side first and then had another couple of attempt to hit the back and front. I let the accusations go as I knew the full impact (no pun intended) of the damage had got through to him. I couldn’t really blame him for being angry. It was a mess!
After that accident, I made one of those promises that you make after an evening putting away too much booze; and that was never again. I decided I would give up driving.
However, later in 1981, friends of mine got me to hire a car and drive them to Cornwall, Bude to be precise. I got the taste for driving back. So much so, that the following year, 1982, in an Auction in May I bought a Yellow Mark III Cortina for £390.00. The only other car I had ever owned prior to that on was a mini, in a similar colour. The new car had a problem driver seat (and some might say a problem driver) but that and a few other irritations were fixed by Neatentidy. He was always rather good with cars.
It was in this car which I christened ‘Chloe’ but others later called it ‘The Yellow Peril’ that I made my second visit to Llandudno in, with Blameworthy. After the previous year’s accident, I felt he was very brave to go through that journey with me a second time and he did it without a sedative. Fortunately, this time I got us there without a redesign of the car’s bodywork. I did consider having another accident so that Dad would feel less paranoid about me crashing his car but felt Blameworthy’s nerves probably couldn’t stand it. I knew mine wouldn’t.
The funny thing about these holidays is that I remember it as being Sunny all the time.
Roughly seven weeks over five years and not a single rainy day seems quite preposterous in Britain. Still, memory is often selective.
I did most of the cooking as our holidays were self-catering. There’s another sign of Blameworthy’s bravery in the face of adversity. I sometimes think, what with my driving and cooking Blameworthy should have been awarded the George Cross years ago; but then, that medal is generally awarded posthumously. I am sure when given the choice between being alive without the medal or getting the medal and being dead that he would choose the former. I certainly would.
On one occasion, deciding on a cooked breakfast, he told me he liked his bacon crispy, so I did my best. He ended up with bits of bacon so crisp that when he tried to cut into it sent pieces charging across the plate like shrapnel from a cluster bomb.
Then there was the curry, the one I tried to do without a packet sauce. Half-way through he told me he felt the chunks of pineapple – as he identified them – were a bit over the top. It puzzled me and then when he pointed one out I corrected him and told him they were cloves of garlic. He didn’t look too comfortable about that, especially as he had chewed and swallowed about four of the things. (Unlucky, as there were only four in the whole mix – what are the odds?) Still, we had little trouble getting to the bar in crowed pubs, he just breathed a pathway.
It was the day we were going to check out the pubs in Prestatyn, I’d run out of milk, so we ate our muesli without it. Our enjoyment of the macabre was such we finished a whole packet of the cereal. It seemed funny at the time.
There were quite a few regrets during that day; the beer we drank seemed to expand the cereal in our stomachs. I am sure I must have got a bout of wind that compared to thunder for the rest of the day; jet propelled or what!
Fortunately, not all breakfasts were disasters, (well, unless I cooked them!) We had many days when we just went for the breakfast cereal (with milk) and it was only the excesses of beer that did for us on occasion. To be fair, though, I cannot remember getting a single bad hangover on those holidays. But then, I suppose you need to be sober to get a hangover.
Over the years, we must have been in most pubs along the coast of North Wales and played pool in many of them. We did have an annual pool match every year. A lot of the games I remember playing in Rhyl in one of the large amusement arcades; this was when pubs shut between 3pm and 5.30pm.
During one of these games in the arcade, I went and got two hotdogs for Blameworthy and myself and decided to be very over generous with the mustard; again, it seemed funny at the time. As it was me who’d done the damage to the hotdog I felt I obligated to finish mine with all the mustard on; I think Blameworthy was sensible enough to remove a lot of the mustard on his; giving me a slightly disapproving sideways glance as he did.
Once the first couple of years were over and we had been to most pubs once we tended to go back to the best ones which often had a pool table. One of those was the Dudley Arms in Rhyl.
We drank in there quite often and played quite a bit of pool.
One year, much to Blameworthy’s annoyance, of each game we played and I kept the score in a small notebook, meticulously recording the results of every game.
After a few days, it became known as ‘that bloody book’. Looking back, I can’t blame him for getting annoyed, I think I even got to hate it, but it had to be filled in. I don’t know why it did, but the OCD in me said it did!
On the return from a drinking session, quite possibly in the King’s Head, we got Fish and Chips from Tribells (still going today and it’s really called that and I don’t think it got its name from a Star Trek episode.). It was only a few hundred yards up from where we were staying. We got a few yards away from the chip shop when Blameworthy, for some reason I don’t remember, decided he didn’t want his fish and chips and lobbed them across the road.
There was no way any of my portion of fish and chips would end up taking flying lessons. I kept a tight hold and ate mine alone in the flat. Unfortunately, I still felt hungry after mine. So, and I put it down to the vast quantity of beer I’d probably drunk that night, I went back outside and looked for Blameworthy’s thrown fish and chips. A grin to rival a Cheshire cat’s spread across my face as I found they were still there. Fortunately, wrapped in several layers of paper and undamaged.
What’s the old expression? Waste not, want not. Well, that was certainly my motto that evening.
And yes, they went down rather well.
The next morning, I planned to confess what I’d done and pay Blameworthy for them, but in the cold light of day I felt a little embarrassed. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?
I think it was the third year, 1983, that began the mystery of the disappearing jeans pockets. It was something that bothered my mother for a few years. When I got back from Llandudno, when washing my jeans, she noticed the inside of the pockets were missing. It wasn’t as if they were worn away because there would have been traces of them, they were gone!
Eventually, I confessed. There were a few times when I used some public toilets and unfortunately there wasn’t any toilet paper, so one had to improvise. Don’t judge, the alternative wasn’t a pleasant option!
And talking of toilets, in the place where we were staying, there wasn’t a toilet on suite. But one on each floor. My memory tells me the one of my floor was just a toilet and there was a separate bathroom. From the door to the toilet itself was quite a few feet. It also had a slightly faulty lock. You thought you were locked in and then it would click and the door would slowly open.
The first time this happened, I’d just sat down and the door creaked open. Not wanting to be exposed, I got up and moved to the floor. Unfortunately, as my trousers and pants were around the ankles, I fell forward. For a few seconds, whilst laying there, I had visions of another guest walking by and seeing me flat-out on the floor white buttocks on show – not a pretty sight!
Fortunately, I got up, pulled up the trousers and made sure the lock was engaged properly before without being seen! I could then conclude my business without interruption. Fortunately, there was always toilet paper in there so the jeans pockets survived!
I think the last time I went to North Wales with Blameworthy was 1984. I’m not sure why we stopped, it could be we had done North Wales well and truly.
But then, I didn’t know that I was far from finished with North Wales and Llandudno because 20 years later…