The Strangest Spring

April 13, 2020 European Travel, Features, Travel Blogger Jane Lovatt's Holiday Memoir

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Three Weeks and Counting

The sun has shone every day for so long that I can’t remember when it rained. I have rarely known such wonderful weather here in North Wales. Today is a glorious bonanza of blues and greens, yellows and pinks. There are clusters of wild violets and primroses, blazing red rhododendrons, early bluebells and creamy blossom, fluffy clouds and giddy lambs.

Every tree and flower looks straight out of the packet. Spring has never seemed more brand new.

Wandering around is strange. A huge feeling of happiness rises inside me as I walk up the hill to Plas Tan y Bwlch, the environmental studies centre run by the Snowdonia National Park, past waterfalls and woodland. It’s a shimmering, shining world of Spring at its best, bringing optimism and joy.

Underneath this is a layer of fear, anxiety and sadness. And underneath that is one of gratitude. We are in a small quiet village where people appear to be sticking to the rules of distancing and staying at home.

Everybody here has a garden, so can get outside and grow things. The glorious weather has encouraged people to just sit and sunbathe too, admiring the mountains and thanking their lucky stars.

Once a week, we head into Porth Madog to buy some food. I guess we could try and get it delivered but the six mile journey is a chance to enjoy some different scenery. As we drive into town the peak of Snowdon is in the distance. A dramatic landscape for this time of heightened emotion.

Then there’s the drama of the shopping itself. The structured queues of shoppers in masks, who then move stealthily around the supermarket, trying to avoid coming close to each other. Tension at the checkout as we scramble to pack up and get out.

Last week on our way home we did a one mile diversion to Borth y Gest. This pretty offshoot of Porth Madog still has a cafe open for takeaway food . The Seaview Cafe is a favourite haunt of mine in normal times and its friendly owner was outside having a cup of tea.

Sitting on a bench and looking across to Harlech on the other side of the bay is dreamy and soothing. The sea is as flat as a pancake and there’s a fishing boat far out in the distance. There are signs up everywhere asking visitors to go home to avoid endangering the health of the aging residents. This charming spot is beloved of the English and most home owners are well over 70. We are glared at by one woman walking her dog but mostly this is a calming interlude.

Once we return home, it’s a relief. We have survived another trip into the outside world. It’s hard not to feel anxious about symptoms developing, even in this sleepy place. But the supermarket is a challenge, the danger spot in the week and it makes our hearts beat a little quicker before we settle back in to our Groundhog Day routine.

There are few cars passing by now. Neighbours are chatting away in the middle of the road, usually going over the same subjects. The lockdown, the weather, the garden, the DIY projects. The party we would like to have ‘when this is all over’. Mostly people are perfectly happy to be here and their lives aren’t too different from normal.

We’re trying to be kind to one another and largely it works. Today one neighbour told me I should be careful because I go out more than once a day. Ten minutes or so in the morning. Nearly an hour in the early evening. Often I have walked along the back lane, watching the lambs running in their hilarious, wobbly way, peering at the wild flowers to see if more have grown, swooning over the blooming chestnut trees. It’s so very quiet. I feel joy brimming up. It’s nearly the end of another day. Life feels very sweet and a little poignant. Time to go home and light the fire, make some dinner, watch a Netflix programme – just the one. Fill my hot water bottle, make some ginger tea, go to sleep.

Get up, start again.