We moved south of the border in ?1991 and a year later I joined New Mill MVC. Once over the trials of removal, we decided to have a holiday.
A kindly neighbour and a Welshman across the road suggested Anglesey. Not too far and friendly folk they said. With Celtic blood in the veins we thought we would be OK.
A search of adverts revealed ‘secluded cottage on a farm’. Just about right. Booked for two weeks.
We arrived at the appointed time to find a delightful cottage beautifully renovated and just ideal. However its seclusion meant that it was the last in a line of byres at the end of the farm yard. By default we were part of Owen’s farm which he ran with two teenage sons and the district nurse who was also his wife.
While we enjoyed exploring Anglesey (or Ynys Mon as they call it) it was inevitable that we became involved in the mysteries of living and farming in N Wales. First, there were 80 cows to be milked twice a day and a bull who had separate privileges. The two boys were bored and needed a hand to fix the quad bike which was probably their only amusement. Second, Owen soon discovered I sang in a choir and so did he. The district nurse was the third mystery.
Owen soon got us involved by suggesting a helping hand at milk time. Green wellies and a green overcoat with one sleeve were duly supplied.
Owen said I there is a sleeve missing on this coat – it’s ok Boyo it will be good. All was made clear as we entered the (very modern) milking shed and stepped down into the pit. The cows walked on to feeding stations along the outside walls on either side thereby presenting the business end towards Owen, two boys and myself in the pit. The uncovered arm was used to apply a group of suction cups of the right number and then move swiftly out of the way lest the unexpected occur. So that’s why!
A level of skill was required in observing the presence of an older lady on the milking station and improving the efficiency of the suction cups by placing a hefty pebble on the group of suction cups thus providing a useful extension and a higher yield.
The boys were highly amused at my presence and were quite overcome with laughter at my applying the milking device upside down – but were pleased that their monotonous routine had been changed and the boredom relieved at my expense.
That was OK until the next day when Owen announced that the family were going to the Welsh Agricultural Show for four days – 80 cows twice a day and the bull – but don’t worry said Owen someone will come in. OK. Fine said I.
Owen called in the next day to say they were ready to leave. Since my cottage had the only serviceable bath/shower on the farm he informed me that the district nurse had ?managed under the hose in the milking shed. This was too much information to contain and as they drove out of the farm yard I couldn’t look her in the eye. Henceforth a vision of a different hue.
Upon his return after the show Owen invited us to see a new born calf which was poorly. We pushed our way past 80 cows and the bull to see a small calf which was all but gone. Owen produced what seemed to be a piece of hose and a bag full of warm milk. The milk was then poured down the throat through the hose and almost immediately the calf’s eyes cleared and very soon after the poor thing stood up and sought out its mother. A sight probably rarely seen by city dwellers but common to the skill and presence of the farmer.
By this time we were buddies and would I like to go to choir practice with Owen? Which choir would that be – Cor Y Meibion y Traeth he said in Welsh – the choir of the men and the beach – we call ourselves the Beach Boys. Off we went to the local school in Pentraeth where I was announced and made to stand to receive the warm Welsh welcome from 70 or so choristers. Their evening was being used to perfect a rendition for the forthcoming Eisteddfod. The offering to be made was Calon Lan. The conductor was half the age of any of the choristers and he had absolute control. There was no talking. Each section was taken aside and rehearsed until perfect and the whole piece performed and again. That process occupied the three hours of the practice. There followed a welcome pint but not many of the choir stayed on – maybe because there was a bit of travelling to do. Could you do a sentence on what they sounded like and whether you like them?
Regrettably I think the Beach Boys are no longer gathered. Time passes by and it is salutary to recall that all this was over 25 years ago.
We have been to Anglesey many times since and the memories and mysteries of that trip are still vivid – 80 cows and a bull, how to milk and how not to, how to fix a quad bike, the recovery of the calf and not least the district nurse – to my mind a goddess.
I still don’t know the words of Calon Lan.