on finding paradise

my friends and family all know that I yearn to live in a place with the mountains behind me and the sea in front.  I believed for a long time I would find this place in Greece or maybe in Spain.  Yesterday I found it in Wales.

Now I know Wales quite well, we spend a lot of time there and I enjoy it a lot.  The beaches are clean and the sea is often blue.  The mountains of Snowdonia watch over you wherever you go, sometimes hidden by clouds but always just around the corner.  I thought I knew Wales well.

Since I have been walking I am seeking out new places to walk and found a small town on the coast we had never visited before.  Yesterday afternoon saw us getting out of the car in paradise.  This place has everything.  It is small enough to be friendly and big enough to have a high street of shops.  It is overlooked by impressive crags and green hills and it opens its heart onto the sea.

As we walked around the nature reserve, the history of the place was explained to us by an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench.  He told of cockle beds and salt marsh, of a hospital full of ‘lunatics’ and of rich people visiting.  He pointed to the hills and showed us his house.  He clearly comes to walk as far as the bench where he can see home.  He seemed happy with his lot.

Later we watched flocks of birds landing and taking off from the shore, we found houses that I immediately want to live in.  We ate fish and chips on the sea front and enjoyed the views across to the island where my Nina was born. I feel so connected to her here, I am looking forward to trying to find the rest of my Welsh family tree, I feel sure that they are close by.

One day, when our gorgeous girl is off to university we will come here and make it home.  I am sure of this.  Once you find paradise you revisit as often as you can.

on hidden places

today we walked along the sea front and down a short hill where we found a tiny stone built chapel. Inside we found an altar stone and six chairs for parishioners.  Poems and prayers were up on the wall and the room felt peaceful and calm.

Despite my lack of any religion or religious feelings, as in many such places, I am touched by the history within.  It seems it was first the home of a holy man who had travelled by sea from France and landing on the shore he set up home on the beach and built a sanctuary for prayer and meditation. How amazing that some 900 years later this is still standing as a place of prayer.

The best bit of all during the visit was when we came out of the chapel and saw the majesty of the sea, the breakers hitting the shore just yards away from where we were standing.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining and I was left with a compelling feeling that these same waves have been hitting the same shore every day, it is perhaps the same sea that brought the holy man from France.

It made me consider all the troubles and the worries of the world in a different context.  How much influence do any of us have, whatever we do, the sea will hit the shore and the sun will shine in the sky.  Over the hundreds of years between us and the holy man, wars have been fought and lost, dynasties have been founded and floundered.  The sea has continued to break on the shore, the tides ebb and flow and the world goes around.

Suitably chastened and put firmly in my place in the world, we continued to a happy cafe for warm tea and chat.  The old poster from my youth Desiderada comes to mind, especially the line ‘And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should’.