Since I was a small child I have visited West Wales on the obligatory family jaunt to the coast.
As a young boy I remember being bored out of my mind due to the lack of amusement arcades in the coastal villages available to spend my parent’s hard earned cash in, however I was always more than willing to accept the bribe of a 10 pence bagÂ of sweets and a Star Wars figure to keep me quite when stuck in the back of my father’s car whilst they would drive around the sites listening to a cassette Oscar Peterson and passing back and fore a bottle of gin and tonic mixed by my mother in a hotel room that morning.
Not exactly good, responsible parenting but it was the early 1980s and they were both alcoholics and that was the way they were.
The thought of going back to West Wales and reliving memories of those daysÂ sitting in the car outside a public house in deepest darkest PembrokeshireÂ with a pack of KP peanuts and the car radio for company whilst my parents drank themselves to death would put anyone off returning. But the beauty of what is know as ‘Gods country’ is greater than the memory of a warped childhood and I over recent years I myself have found a deep love of the coast of West Wales and decided it was time to travel to the one part of the coast that held bad childhood memories and this time go there with my young family.
So off we set in the car on a two hour journey through the beautiful country landscape and small villages to trace a route between Newport and Fishguard that held memories of clinging to the back seat whilst father tried not to drive off the road due to the fact that drinking and driving is a dangerous pass time (specially when you do both at the same time). We arrive at Newport and decide to drive over to the beach that took us over a bridge with a beautiful estuary with canoeists navagating the calm waters on a majestic Autumn morning.
I follow the narrow roads that lead to the golf club and beach with a perfect view back across the estuary toward Newport itself. My youngest son, wife and I are growing just a little tired of listening to the Charlie and Lola CD bought to pacify youngest daughter aged 18 months. At times it seems like we could be replaced by Charlie and Lola without a single complaint from our youngest child and the possibility of actual approval by her.Â The CD (if it were not the 30th listen on this journey) is actually quite good and recommended as a pacifier for young daughters but only for short trips.
I am itching to play my Brian Eno collection which would probably suit the environment and situation and the ambiance of this trip however the ghost of Oscar Peterson has returned thanks to a rather jazzy bass line on the Charlie and Lola CD so I submit to fate and circumstance. My past is catching up with me so I must travel with haste towards Fishguard. My memory of Fishguard is one of a quaint fishing village and a bag of sweets that had icing sugar on top of a small biscuit and yet again Oscar Peterson on the cassette player. And on my return I am not disappointed except for the lack of sweets and easy listening jazz the place remains quite unchanged, only I have changed.
A cynical miserable man in his late thirties has replaced the young imp who looked to the heavens for inspiration in a land far away with light sabers and tie fighters. Perhaps my father was right and gin is the answer to the great disappointments in life and I should ask my wife to mix me a mother’s ruin to help me in this surreal situation made worse by a song about a farmyard that has been on loop for half an hour.
But no, that was his path and I willÂ be rid of my demons before I die, after all I am in West Wales and it is beautiful…its just me that’s not so beautiful. I look over to the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry andÂ wonder if fathers in Ireland are sitting en masse at Rosslare port and thinking the same thing as meÂ in some bizarreÂ synchronised twilight zone event designed by the almighty to undo the damage of their traumatic childhoods.
Maybe not, I am already shouting at the kids and the expressions on their tiny faces suggests that all is too late and the unthinkable has happened. I have turned into my father.