Is it possible to love a place like a person?
If so, then the area round Crickhowell in Wales is like a lover you never get over.
You may move on. Get married. Have children. But there is a part of you forever linked to that person.
There is always the fear that when you see them again they will not be the same. The precious memory will be shattered like glass. They are tireder, older, greyer not the exquisite fresh young thing in your mind’s eye.
But perhaps the greater fear for those who have married and moved on is that the same spark will still be there. That it will feel as if no time has passed and that you will seamlessly slip back into the old relationship.
Well that’s what it felt like going back to Llangattock. All the familiar joyous beauty and Welsh warmth.
How could I have felt in Austin that I did not want to come back here amongst the marvelous mountains and the wandering sheep? Standing on the top of Llangattock cliffs I can name all the mountains: the Skirrid, the Sugar Loaf, Table Mountain, the Blorenge, the Darren. I know their paths and slopes. I have walked them in my mind and now they beckon to me across the Usk Valley.
It makes sense that the Welsh words I remember most are ‘cariad’ or beloved and ‘cwtch’ for cuddle. Back in Austin I still use these I now use in preference to their English counterparts. Cariad sound so much more romantic than beloved with its dual connotations of caress and care. And I would much rather have a Cwtch than a cuddle – cwtch also means cubbyhole or hiding place so somehow there is a sense of security of disappearing into a cwtch. It also feels like a piece of the place I have brought with me along with the Welsh slate and bits of wool scavenged from the mountains.
I also miss the generic slang. Calling freezers and other objects ‘him’ and ‘her’. Using ‘tidy’ as an adjective to describe something good. In the estate agents I almost melt when the agent responds to us accepting the offer on the house as ‘fabalus”. I think she misunderstood my happiness as pleasure in the sale.
That’s not even to start on old friends. I feel I could sit down here with a wine glass or a cup of coffee and talk for hours. With only a few days I ration myself. But find myself thinking of the many I haven’t seen. But I could spend every hour visiting and still not be done. Such a wealth of friendship lies here beside the Usk river.
But romance is one thing and reality is another. The Beetles might have sung ‘all you need is love’ but ‘money makes the world go round’. There are very few jobs for engineering executives (none) in Abergavenny and not many more in Newport or Cardiff. Austin is however the Silicon Hills with an abundance of tech jobs.
Still I can’t help hoping, as I sit in the soft golden Welsh sunshine with the sound of the buzzard mewing overhead and the unique addictive taste of Chelsea buns (from the Askews’ Bakery in Crickhowell) in my mouth, that one day this lover and I will be reunited.