Off to the Llyn Peninsula (Anglesey's lesser-known and slightly wilder cousin) for a week. We have booked the same cottage as three years ago and are determined as near as possible to have the exact same holiday again, so are slightly put out to discover on the eve of our departure that quite without our permission the Gwynedd tourist board has granted authority for the beach at the bottom of the village's only street to host a three-day summertime soul festival featuring a lineup of half-forgotten 1980s dancefloor acts.
Needless to say our misgivings soon give way to excitement at the prospect of coming across the bass player of Soul to Soul in the meat ailse at Pythwelli Asda- an eventuality which, despite concerted and daily efforts on our behalf, never comes to pass. Forced therefore to make our own entertainment (the option of paying £35 a head to attend the actual festival is never one discussed seriously) we head via precarious semi-overgrown pathways to 'The Tin Man', a rather rusty and poorly exectuted statue perched atop a windy cliffside, which seems (at least on the day we visit) to have become a must-see attraction for a procession of retirees from the Merseyside professional classes in sandals and checked shirts, accompanied by their pre-teen grandchildren, also in sandals and checked shirts. On the ascent Frankie deals serenely with the constant near-death experience of tottering on the edge of a fall to our certain death, while I sweat profusely muttering a series of desperate curses , having remembered half an hour too late that rather severe vertigo features among my many interesting neuroses.
At the summit I cling on to the Tin Man for dear life, silently praying that the joiner appointed to nail him to the rockface in 1983 was more adept at his trade than the sculptor.. and suppress with some difficulty the urge to yell out loud, as a frail and bespectacled boy maybe seven years old wanders absent-mindedly to the very angle of the cliffedge and peers over at the crashing ocean waves 200 ft distant. After what seems like half an hour, the grandfather intervenes. 'Holy flying fuck you daft little sod get away from there you'll kill yourself!', he doesn't scream at all, this being the Llyn pensinsula, tourist mecca of the retired Liverpool professional classes. What he actually says- very quietly and with what I can only imagine is affected nonchalance, unless he's an actual psychopath- is 'Come away from there Ethan, would you darling? That does seem rather precarious. Yes, that's it, thank you. There's a good boy'.
Ethan and his grandfather having comprehensively shot my nerves to pieces for the duration of the week, we stay on dry land for the rest of the holiday, and mostly a good thirty yards from the unforgiving seas, although admittedly this includes a perhaps ill-advised drive to the end of the peninsula where the single-carriage country lane gives way without warning to an open field and an impromptu campsite peopled by a half-dozen tents' worth of extreme holidaymakers (or possibly, by the rythym section of Soul to Soul, we didn't stay long enough to find out, and in any event were concentrating on not driving our Toyota Aygo into the Irish Sea). I say only perhaps ill-advised because the beach at the bottom of the cliff (which, having managed to conquer a car-full of terror and engage the handbrake, we accessed thankfully by foot) turns out to be perhaps the most spectacular stretch of sand in the Northern Hemisphere, and during one of the week's intermittent breaks from the cloud we get to see a party of dolphins cavorting in the swell of the waves not one hundred yards from our beach towel. (Well, Frankie and Charlotte get to see a party of dolphins; I just about make out a half dozen or so sleek silhouettes which, the old eyes being what they are, may be either dolphins, driftwood, or the rythym section of Soul to Soul executing a leisurely communal backstroke).
A couple of days later it was time to pack up the Toyota Aygo for the return journey 'Back to Life, Back to Reality', as a certain dancefloor act of brief 1980s renown might have had it. Today we are on the very cusp of reality otherwise known as the last day of the school holidays. Frankie is bearing up very well to the imminent arrival of Year Six (Year Six! The last year of Primary School! Where did the time go) and was even spotted an hour or so ago looking up 'World War One Facts' on the computer in a bid to complete his rather grisly holiday homework. I'm in the cafe round the corner, where the only other customers are a pair of old dears who - if my eavesdropping skills are half as good as I think they are- went to the same school here in the neighbourhood fifty years ago and had not seen each other since (marriage had taken at least one of them out of town), until they happened across each other in the queue at the post office earlier this afternoon. 'I could have been a concert oboeist you know', the more talkative one is just confiding as we speak. 'My mother always said I had the talent... 'I didn't realise my potential really'... 'so many hopes and frustrated ambitions, you know.... '. Back to Life, back to reality, oh yes indeed.