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The Official Log

of the Cottage Holiday on Snowdonia


at the village of Llanberis

December 30th 2000 to January 6th 2001

featuring
:

Issac with his parents Adie and Lou Watts.
Sam Woollard (Conquestador Extraordinaire) and
Karen Stephenson (Defender of the Distaff Side).
Neil Corin and his ever-increasing larder of fine wines.
Erin Taeger and Liz Brown, the Montgomery remnant.
Alex 'if I turn my head, I can remove an eyeball' Lowman
and her husband Russ, who runs.
Andy Back, official keeper of the log, teller of truth and his own secretary.

Saturday 30th December

The day began early for many as final preparations were made and the last few things forgotten: boots, games, bottles, underwear etc. Neil and Andy gathered briefly and were soon in the Monty house, seeking bread. Russ and Alex arrived with some and Erin had toast. Soon Liz was ready and we were off... to Hangleton. Andy complained about the lack of northward progress and the boys checked out the Intergrale.

Isaac was introduced and we were off... to the petrol station for sandwiches, an overlarge paper, sweets, hot chocolate, and antifreeze administered by the ever-resourceful Russ.

At last we really were off! The holiday had truly begun, in a haze of blue smoke, two moist green bags and Russ’ arm frantically waving and pouring glycol over his windscreen due to the absence of functional wash-wipe equipment.

Some enjoyable miles later, Adie swerved violently off the road, with Neil behind him, but with Russ and Alex frantically waving at them from the fast lane. He cares not for signalling or mobile phones, does Adie. Some lunched while others pee-ed and then we met up with the Lowmans at the next junction.

Adie then decided to get to the cottage with all haste and no food or comfort stops, but plucky Russ cut him up a treat at the roundabout and drove us to Burger King, where were waited for a while. Andy had cardboard and everyone else stood in the icy wind and had hot dinners. Neil’s leather upholstry remained untainted.

The rest of the journey was scenic and slightly hilly, appreciated by all but Isaac. He was more focused on things 8 inches away from his face, as befits a young boy.

At last we arrived at the famed village of Lllllanberris, which turned out to be a bus-stop on a side road. The ‘five-minute walk to the cottage’ itself was, as predicted, a cruel lie. Several have died in attempts on the summit, including Andy, who misbehaved disgracefully in the snow. Meanwhile, Neil ran the hill seven times, Adie ten times and Russ an impressive dozen times, to hear them going on about it. Job finally done, we lay on the ground to recover breath and some partook of the local waters, which were slow of delivery.

Then Sam and Karen arrived and we were complete!

Andy and Russ got to know Isaac, who got to know how to make his presence felt.

After a few bottles of wine, Russ, Andy and Sam tackled the cooking, producing a wonderful spag bog from unlikely ingredients, which included neither spag nor any of the usual component parts of bog. Karen rustled up a veg option, as the boys had totally failed to account for this preference.

After dinner, there was chocolates and more wine and Alex went to bed. Then Erin went to bed, and then Lou went to bed. But not to sleep. There was conversation, alcohol and Saki in the lounge, where Karen foolishly believed Andy on a number of occasions. This was followed by unbridled nostalgia over Opus and friends and hairstyles. The tv was turned down eight times (this took 349 attempts thanks to an unco-operative remote control unit).

The cottage fell silent at about midnight, save for the sawing of logs, the gentle expulsion of perfect aromas from Neil, and the creaking of bunk beds and floorboards.

Sunday 31st December

The day began with Russ and Adie behaving disgracefully. Others rose and breakfast of porridge (with accompanying vegetarian option) was served. The wind howled, the snow melted, the rain fell and the log was disputed briefly. Several went to the possibly closed shops, in search of a toothbrush, firelighters, biscuits, kindling and garlic and found most of the above.

They returned with grand tales of weather and hills and wetness and extreme wind. In celebration of this, beans on toast were served for a lightish lunch. The afternoon began with papers, books, magazines and snoozing, Sam’s computer game plus a long-range search for firewood. Adie’s friend in Bangor had some logs which were ideal, so he and Sam visited the swearing landlord and brought wood to the cottage.

The fire was set ablaze and within twelve seconds, the oxygen in the room had been consumed. Meanwhile, the playstation was set up, as was the scalectrix, Erin turned Alex’s head into a quite splendid homage to Bo Derek with a touch of Medusa the Gorgon, and Lou created a sausage casserole. More reading followed, and Andy made an unfortunate remark about which Adie and Russ were unkind.

Discussions about mash were heated and informed, and so dinner was soon ready. Wine was served and glasses locked into the dishwasher. As the meal was about to be served, enter Heinrich Taffy O’Jones from Dresden. His informant had suggested that a new year’s eve assault on the summit would be: a) a good way to celebrate Frau O’Jones’ birthday; b) a four and a half-hour ascent; and c) provide opportunities to meet locals and visitors alike, show them your towel, and check out the gaff for valuables, women and possibly dinner. He was turned away with a wave and a cheery whistle, back into the foul weather, possible wings and all.

Dinner was punctuated by fears about keys, further angelic Europeans who may have been released into the Lllllllanberis community and portion controlled casserole, which was as excellent as can be imagined.

A game of skill and general knowledge followed, and somebody won, but few were disappointed that it was over. Soon it was time for Isaac to go to bed (9.15) and then for Adie and Lou to go to bed (9.30) and so they did, but with a request to be awakened in time for jollifications and merry-making.

A little back-rubbing took place. Saki was warmed and distributed and the long wait began in earnest. Sam put down his laptop and rejoined the conversation. Adie and Lou were wakened and rejoined us. Orange called us to say it was nearly 2001, so we rescued the Cava from the snow and attempted to open it. Some slightly feeble non-biodegradable, processed bleached Party-Poppers were brought in and some were fired at the right moment. Fireworks, cuddling, resolutions and eventually the Cava ensued.

Many retired, with stern warnings for those intending to remain to make sure all electrical equipment was put to the sword by 1am. Saki was read by Adie, and many decided to try to sleep, with the exception of Neil and Elvis Costello, who moved to the conservatory for a hoe-down.

Monday 1st January 2001

The day began for many with the fragrant aroma of bacon wafting merrily along the corridors and into nasal buds of various sizes. Neil began the day asleep in the lounge, and others joined him as they consumed the breakfast of the year.

As each person entered the room they said ‘What’s this film?’ since Lou had switched on a sepia tinted broadcast of the Secret Garden. She explained to each person that she had asked her mother to record it for her, and then Erin reminded everyone that she had seen the film several dozen times during her three years as an usherette. Nevertheless, both Erin and Lou were glued to the set, and it was only when someone actually switched it off that the unrelenting slush was silenced.

Second last to rise was Karen. Alex decided she’d rather watch semi-naked people swear at each other, but could get no sound. This was both surprising and entertaining, until Russ fiddled with the scart sockets and the video of Big Brother sprang into life. Sam eventually appeared and consumed a vast quantity of bacon.

The log was read and once again, I’m sad to report, disputed. Russ’s technical skill extended to setting up the playstation on the black and white, which kept Andy quiet for a while.

Many decided to take a walk, which lasted for almost several minutes. It was with extreme glee that everyone reported sightings of our angelic friend with Hanovarian-Celtic connections. There was, scarily, no sign of Frau O’Jones, and there was blood on Heinrich’s anorak.

Returning to the cottage, there was reading and game-playing and the unannounced watching of Chicken Run. Meanwhile, Russ, Adie, Andy and latterly Neil raced with shrieks of laughter.

There was talk of a meal.

More reading followed, and then Alex insisted on watching Family Fortunes, and once it had started, promptly left the room. We hit the off button and claimed a minor victory. There was some more talk of a meal. Neil dozed to the amusement of all.

Following some extensive preparations, a curry was delivered. It can only be described as fabulous. Somehow it contained no onion, no chilli, no garlic, no water or vegetables, no tomato or Patak’s paste and nothing else at all, which, upon reflection, seemed slightly unlikely. Apparently, no animals were harmed in connection with the creation of the meal, either.

Who wants to be a couple of millionaires entertained some while others tidied and left pans to soak.

Adie considered his offer for purchase of Andy’s slippers. Discussions followed about the prospect of playing a game, and Erin’s Cranium was unpacked and explained. Erin’s game entitled Cranium, you understand.

Boys vs Girls seemed to be the best way to generate maximum noise and angst, so boys vs girls it was. Alex went to bed several times and Russ fixed the central heating. The girls became stuck on yellow, unable to answer a single question correctly, while the boys proceeded despite the oddness of the rules of the game. Karen became vocal when the girls were offered mercy, and Russ proved himself rubbish at destroying evidence of suspicious gameplay. It was claimed for a while by the girls, who were losing, that Scottish is a place, as Sam impersonated several royals in alarming ways.

The boys were convincing winners and awarded themselves kisses from the vanquished losers. Liz valiantly fought Sam off by emptying her wine glass over Russ’ coat, which was less than sporting.

Adie put Neil to bed by having a pee, which is a novel claim. Most went slowly to bed of their own accord, but Sam, Karen and Andy remained for a drink, theological discussion and to make sure the correct combination of lights were left burning.


Tuesday 2nd January 2001

It was a day for magnificent men. Magnificent men were required, and magnificent men rose to the tasks required.

The day began 7 and a half hours before Sam appeared, as Isaac’s leathery little lungs made his presence felt. But the magnificent Adie wakened himself and gave his best fathering efforts, which calmed the boy and allowed mother to roll over. Considerable time went by and soon the child was upset again. Perhaps this was as a result of the strict 3 hours between feeds regime so recently introduced by Lou. But by this time the magnificent Andy was available, and his singing, juggling and wobbling techniques were quickly inducing sleep in many, but especially Isaac.

Several had to be reluctantly dragged from their beds to hear the log being read, and some returned to sleep thereafter. Most went to the shops in another attempt to buy biscuits, which was more successful than last time, thank the Lord. Meanwhile, Sam slept on.

It came time for the one o’clock feed, and Karen changed the bottom, milked and burped with extraordinary skill and calmness. Andy played in black and white while Isaac gurgled with the others, and then the magnificent Neil was the new man, taking his stint as baby mattress.

The magnificent Sam smashed his own sleeping-in record, to the amusement of many. The shoppers returned in the rain, and we were whole again.

Afternoon games included the traditional reading and snoozing, but then Erin discovered the games room. Our lives will never be the same again. After a few bladder-bursting games, Erin called in subs and the true giants of fuse ball (Russ, Adie, Neil and Andy, in that order possibly) battled manfully. A few combinations of teammates and responsibilities later, we discovered the places God had ordained for us to take, and the battle was joined. Neil’s controversial topspin put-in could almost have been declared to be misbehaviour, and Andy’s efforts to slow the pace also caused difficulty for the spin-and-hope-no-one-noticed merchants.

But all perfect things have to be drawn to their natural conclusion, and when Adie’s blisters burst, we knew this was the signal for a rest.

Rumours of dinner were cruelly circulated, and reading and snoozing and hoping followed for quite some time.

Suddenly, a magnificent man was required once again. Russ knew this was his moment, as Alex’s tears and tantrums were failing to ease the potatoes into a state of cookedness. But he simply took them from her, calmed her with a loving slap and micro-ed the spuds into submission.

Dinner was quite splendid (Chicken in beer with perfect spuds and extremely green veg), and was followed by a superb smorgasbord of cheeses and slightly weird crackers. Discussions about ‘getting up early to go to Chester’ and ‘enthusiasm’ took place, but not in the same context as each other.

Washing up segued into Shallow Impact on the tv, which signalled bedtime for the marrieds. Lou reappeared several times, but that’s okay.

Andy’s quiz entertained briefly, and then discussions and video of magic excited and confused many. Sleep fell upon us like a mother’s soothing lullaby. Magnificent men, exhausted by their achievements relinquished authority to a higher power, ready to steel themselves for the demands of the next day.


Wednesday 3rd January 2001


There comes a day in every holiday when urban desires have to be satiated. Today was that day.

Everyone rose to the happy sounds of people getting up early to go to Chester. The log was read and we were off! Sam and Karen were on Cottage Security Duty, and so we took two cars down the sheer face which lead to Lllllanberis and off to the coast.

The scenery was splendid if a little rugged and the journey was marvellous. Alex and Russ slightly misjudged their geography, and then Liz was genuinely surprised to hear that the Wirral wasn’t a London borough.

We arrived at the complicated junction, with Adie out of sight of course, but Alex and Andy navigated by mobile until we found a car park to ourselves.

Shopping is a strange artform, is it not? Some went to buy things, some went to look and some went for the pleasure of the company.

Andy went with Russ and Alex to a beef sandwich with salad and chips and beer, while others concentrated on parting with wedge. Alex misjudged her friend Adie and assumed he’d be late for the rendezvous, when in fact he had been 30 minutes early, which may not have been a good idea. Andy was slightly sacred and eventually all were safely gathered in so we could leave. Cars followed one another in several directions, and then Neil took us to Safeways to call out to one another and to purchase lamb along with most of the vegetable department.

Arriving back at the cottage, the rain fell and the meal was whispered about in terms of legend, fairy tale, longed-for hope and a late evening experience.

Erin’s Cranium was once again spread out over the carpet and competitive spirit was shown by some and the lust to win at all costs by others. Neil didn’t just cook; he created. Yellow cards notwithstanding, the females kept up quite close this time, but they were very unlucky with some of the questions.

Following the victory, the meal was served. And what a meal. Roast lamb in the french style, with every veg you can think of plus the world’s most complicated gravy. It was so good even one of the vegetarians piled in (no names, no pack drill).

Cheese was served, and some washed up, which was a massive task. Then the game was on as Weak Finger Russ, Sometimes Spinning Adie, Solid at the Back Neil and Dancing Queen Andy battled on the fuseball for supremacy. Russ & Andy fell apart towards the end, but Sam’s unique and entertaining scorekeeping was a delight to everyone.

Some retired while others read and were read to. Andy was briefly confused about Isaac’s parentage, and fruit was distributed. The evening ended with close examination of various relationships, including Liz’s mum, Lucy East, Erin, Andy’s view of the holiday so far and Sam.

Quietness stole upon us and laid it’s soft hand o’er the cottage at about 1.15am.


Thursday 4th January 2001


The day began with a video of the amazing Snowdonia Mountain Railway. The train never drives level, but the hats of the local ladies are blown off by the steam engine and the accent of the narrator, which was very Welsh (in English, this means very Welsh).

The log was read and considered, and then discussions about the day’s activities ensued. The film The Iron Giant was on offer, as was a trip to the waterfall, purchase of batteries for Erin, train rides for Sam and Karen, sadly, and slate mines, power station and car parking facilities visitation for Russ. Opus performed on video, and hair was admired.

So we all prepared ourselves for various events when a man tried to deliver a chair. A few minutes later a man with a chain saw came to the door, and we let him do whatever he wanted. This was ian Sturr.ock, the sweary landlord who supports Alpha. He and his mate pleaded with us for tea, and eventually we relented. David Bowie entertained very few, truncatedly.

Many got dressed up and went to see a waterfall, which was on the other side of the aquaduct and river. The aquaduct turned out to be defunct, and had now been requisitioned by the Railway company. Kissing gates led us into slight misbehaviour and we trespassed in the full and certain knowledge that there were no trains until March (Tuesday 6th at 2pm). We later discovered that for a modest sum, a party could arrange a private hire, so this dalliance on the tracks will now be officially remembered by history as ‘dicing with death’. Sam and Karen left us with Adie and Lou taking them to the station via the scenic route, and the rest tried to carry on without them. The ground was wet underfoot but bridges and pathways were explorable.

Tinned spaghetti was threatened, so Russ and Andy attempted to make sure it wouldn’t happen to them by digging out cheese, biscuits, crisps and cake. However, Neil and Alex followed through on the threat, but thankfully Liz abandoned her meal part way through. Suddenly Isaac was hungry and screamed the place down. Erin cooked milk and brownies while Andy fed, burped and comforted Isaac, who finally dozed. Iron Giant entertained for a while.

Lou rescued the brownies from a fate worse than bad ovens, and Alex saved them from toast as she constructed a fire. Russ went for a high-speed reconnoitre, which was packed with local sights - of these more tomorrow, probably.

Erin continued with Isaac and rumours of dinner were circulated and strangled. Adie vs Russ fuseball was a chalk-free struggle, and then conversation followed.

Some cooked and others fellowshipped and the conservatory was darkened in readiness for the meal. Sweet & Sour chicken with almost enough rice was welcome, as was cheese (some of which was declared to be cheesy) and biscuits, some of which were warmed.

A brief amount of clearing up was followed by the gift exchange game. A fascinating selection of presents were soon revealed in a contest of bluff, counter bluff and egg products, and most people got what they wanted.

Liz’s volcano was then road tested and found wanting, frankly.A small amount of red goo was all we got (no sparks, no bangs, no smoke, no earthquakes, no danger of death, no need to switch off the flash facility on Adie’s camera). It was more like lancing a blister.

Which brings us to the fusefest, where Adie’s skills, Neil’s improvement, Russ’ experience and Andy’s alleged slight deterioration were held up for examination. The scorer never showed and the groupie stole the refreshments.

Some gathered for Saki and wine and a dying fire. Dark tales were told and Andy introduced a lighter administrative tone from Parkinson.

Even Russ stayed up late, but eventually all retired as the starry night laid its mantle of love and rest and care and calmness over the cottage which has no name that is pronouncable. What treasured memories were to be created when next we met? What joy and laughter would ring through the valleys? What love and friendships would be forged in the steel mill of comradeship? What Mulligatawny of merriment would boil over on the kitchen range of togetherness? Enough.


Friday 5th January 2001

Neil went for a walk, impersonating The Terminator and Captain Oakes all in one. Sadly, he went up, not down, so we didn’t find him. Cars proceeded to sightseeing spots along the road, which were picturesque. Three decided to race across rocks, which left Liz with a wet right foot, and Russ and Adie out of breath. The next stop was the 12th century Welsh castle ruin, which was as spiral as it was fertile. The view from the top was slightly better than the view from the bottom, probably. Suddenly time was no longer on our side, as the booked places at the Electric Mountain were upon us. Isaac went off with Liz and Erin.

Russ, Alex, Andy, Adie and Lou checked in and queued for lunch. Russ was magnificent and Andy laid into a Rich Chocolate and Maple & Walnut double cone with flake. Lou & Adie went for the full sandwich option, and consumed them with gusto and Rose Marie Sauce. The tour began with a brilliant multi-media show with lights, effects, slides and video imagery, complete with the welshest weather lady known to man. She talked to herself for a while, but the show was informative and non-condescending.

Pauline Jarvis from Llllllllanberis hosted the tour, and along with the silent but skilled Elaine, we were taken along the lakeside, into the hill and down a vast tunnel to where Europe’s greatest man-made cavern lies deep within the mountain.

Russ and Andy discussed kinetic and potential energy (for the first time since Andy was doing O level physics) and eventually PJ was consulted. It seems they use cheap nighttime electricity to restore the water to the top lake, so that it can be available for production of charge-what-they-like instant electric during peak demand times.

The tour over, we left our natty yellow crash hats behind and checked out the expensive knick-knacks, while the Lowmans and the Watts’ cycled themselves into the history books. Rumours of dinner began and we returned to the cottage and the mighty mathematic event took place. Lou was splendid and Andy checked her like a hawk on a budget. Then the divvi-up took place and Neil was declared, for the first and probably last time in his life, square. Everyone owed everyone else something, and this was all agreed.

Isaac bathed almost without complaint.

The ‘Magic’ Garden was started with gel and stuff.

Where Eagles Dare was attempted, but despite finding a rogue remote control, the tracking was wrong and that was all we could do.

We decided, in the light of Isaac’s bowel, to have a take away, so some went for menus, and then we all chose our repast. The ‘Magic’ Garden was growing and being amazing. Erin went with Neil and Adie to fetch the food and the beer, and the others chatted and prepared.

Several minutes beyond the promised ETA the food arrived and soon was dished up and consumed. Alex was full within three bites and opinions were expressed about the overall quality. But it was filling and tasty and the best option. The ‘Magic’ Garden continued to impress. Then the dispensed-with washing-up was dispensed with and some tidied while others dealt with Isaac.

Adie felt wristy and he and Erin were soon defeated by the mighty Russ and Andy.

Adie stayed for a solo challenge with Erin, and many departed for Bedfordshire. Some sat and read briefly. The house was quiet by 11.30pm, except for the tiny noises made by the ‘Magic’ Garden as it grew and grew.

The plans for the morning were to leave sometime between 7 and 11, and few believed, although some worried.


Saturday 6th January 2001

The house burst into life at 7am, with flurries of showering and other preparations. Within a few minutes, all were awake, avoiding breakfast, cleaning, packing, dressing, tidying, remembering things forgotten and reminding one another. Bags were packed and cars were loaded. Liz got out the hoover and filled the building with filthy dust, on account of a design fault in the machinery.

The ‘Magic’ Garden was fully grown, admired and destroyed in a moment. In a continuous movement which filled cars and denied breakfast, we popped the key into the milk churn and drove away, excited to be homeward bound, but sad to leave the unpronouncable dwelling behind.

The Llllllllanbaris pass was beautiful and not quite as deserted as Russ was hoping, and soon we found a most extraordinary garage which provided petrol which became cheaper as we watched, GPS watches, Swiss Army knives, homemade flapjack, toilets (though not for Neil) and friendly banter.

Some ate while others wisely left that for later. Liz was accused of being Arthur ‘two-fleeces’ Jackson, a reference she failed to comprehend. Erin had the concept of ‘evergreen’ redefined for her.

Many miles later, we stopped for Isaac’s milk, and some ate again and others snatched at the chance for brunch. After several false starts, Adie drove away.

Lunch was abandoned once again, but after much pleading, we found a toilet in a cinema. Adie waved us goodbye and took to the road alone, but Neil and Russ stuck together. Nifty cornering by the Saxo was applauded, and finally we arrived in Brighton (well, Hove actually) via the A24, due to dire warnings provided by Adie of mayhem at the M25/M23 junction.

Bags were unloaded into Montgomery Street, and Erin became delightfully wistful. The holiday was over. Only the log remains; a true and non-comprehensive record of the days and nights so eagerly anticipated, so thoroughly enjoyed and so fondly remembered.

Final Thought: Love keeps no record of wrongs; love delights in the truth.

Awards:

The Golden Globe of Calcutta

  for Thick Curry Sauces: Adie Watts

The St Ival’s Milk Bottle of Microwave

  for Dirty Nappy Production: Issac Watts

The Cork Stopper of Marseilles

  for Wine Selection: Neil Corin

The Plastic Bead of Kingston, Jamaica

  for Cranial Adornment: Alex Lowman

The Squeaky Sneaker of Snowdonia

  for Rapid Movement: Russ Lowman

The Bronze Nightlight of Bedfordshire

  for Pyjama-Clad Appearances: Lou Watts

The Grey Matter Lobe of Magnificence

  for Game Provision: Erin Taeger

The Ancient, Dangling Sword of Damocles

  for Warrior Achievement: Sam Woollard

The Treorchy Male Voice Choir

  Silver Tankard of Horse-Riding Songs,

  for services to child-minding: Andy Back

The Leonardo di Caprio Award

  for constant Iceberg Impersonation: Liz Brown

The AA Milne Special Award

  for Winnie-the-Pooh Worship: Karen Stephenson

and

The Angel Gabriel Lifetime Achievement Award

  and Lifetime Concluding Medallion: Heinrich

 

Access to the more recent jaunt in Middlesborough: click here