My Life in Five Books

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Once upon a time, many years ago I learnt to read. It was, on reflection, one of the best things I ever did. I love books, but I openly confess I am far from the world’s best reader.

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Despite owning hundreds of books, I often find my time reading for pleasure is limited to holidays and breaks away.

For forty years I helped and encouraged hundreds of children to discover the joy of reading, with some I succeeded, with others…well, I am not too sure. All I hope is that they all knew that I loved reading.

I had the idea of ‘My Life in Five Books’ from a series on Cardiff TV (Sky 137) which runs a series called ‘My Life in Five Pictures’, in which celebrities are asked to show five pictures which sum up their lives. It’s a great watch! So, I thought of the idea of this. Later I came across a series called My Life in Books It thought it only ran for a few programmes, but Google just told me there were two series of ten episodes! Who knew?

Before I start, here’s a list of some of those I considered carefully but decided did not reach top five status. For some it was a close thing….

  • Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl.
  • Poems that make Grown Men Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  • The Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot
  • Narziss and Goldmund by Herman Hesse
  • A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
  • The Barry Scrapyard by Allen Warren
  • Boy by David Wagner
  • The Vicar of Nibbleswick by Roald Dahl
  • Heard in the Playground by Alan Ahlberg
  • The Johnny Morris Storybook – a BBC publication
  • The Woolpack by Cynthia Harnett

…and really a host of others, too numerous to mention and I guess if I sat down and complied the list again in a month or two, some of these would be included!

So here we go… My Life in Five Books.

Counting down.

 

Number 5.              

Emil and The Detectives by Erich Kästner

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This was the first book I ever remember reading right through. I must have been about eight or nine. It’s the most wonderful story and one which I read many times to the children in my various classes. There are updated versions around, but the original seems to hold some kind of magic that newer versions seem to lack. This version has the selling price when new of 20p. My previous edition which fell apart was priced at one shilling (1/-)

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It’s about a young boy called Emil.

Emil Tischbein is a boy who lives in a small town and he who has to take some money by train to his grandmother, who lives in the big city, Berlin. They are quite poor. He is being brought up by a single mother, his dad has died. She has to work as a decidedly un-posh hairdresser with her front room used as her salon. Emil is anxious about the money in his pocket on the train, so much so that he pins the money to the inside pocket of his jacket.

He’s also anxious about a crime he’s committed. When he was out one day with his friends, he drew a moustache on the face of the town statue of the Grand Duke Charles.

On the way to Berlin, Emil sits in a carriage with an odd-looking man, Herr Grundeis, and though he tries to avoid it happening, Emil falls asleep. When he wakes up, his money has gone and so has Herr Grundeis.

In the rest of the story, we live with Emil’s swirling emotions, his meetings with a group of boys in Berlin, who, together with Emil set out on the trail of of Grundeis. The reason why Emil doesn’t involve the police is because he fears exposure as the criminal who daubed the Grand Duke’s statue. Emil and the boys end up catching the man who they knew had done it, and then in a great way prove his guilt to unbelieving adults after the capture. (It’s the pin holes in the notes….)

It was an instant hit when it was published in 1928, and three years later it was adapted into a film, which itself was innovative in the realistic acting of child actors and the use of “synch” sound on location on the streets of Berlin. The book has been translated and adapted thousands of times.

It is, of course, a pre-Nazi book, and the Nazis didn’t quite know what to do with the book, or Kästner. They burned some of his books, yet he stayed in Germany throughout the Third Reich. They didn’t ban Emil – but they competed with it by publishing a story of a martyred hero of the Hitler Youth.

Between the writing of Emil and the Detectives and me reading it, lay the disaster that Kästner feared, The Second World War.  No one knew at the time that the boy actors of the German and British versions of the films ended up in armed forces fighting each other.

 

Number 4.            

Singing Away the Hunger by Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya

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This is a truly incredible book with a wonderfully touching story behind it. I came across the book while Googling stuff about the country of Lesotho. A friend of mine moved there in 1990 and I visited in 2000. I then became involved in school twinning, as Wales and Lesotho are twinned counties – incidentally the world’s first twinned counties. I made numerous other visits to The Mountain Kingdom and I later became involved with an organisation called Dolen Cymru which encouraged linking activities. I was chair of the Education Committee and helped many teachers set up school links.

I bought the book from Amazon and it blew me away.

Nthunya, a Lesotho elder and matriarch, spent three decades as a domestic worker supporting eleven people on her income. At the University of Natal, she met and befriended Kathryn Kendall, an American writer.  They became friends and the two collaborated to record Nthunya’s life story.

Nthunya was born in 1930. Impoverished as a child, she often lacked clothing, shoes, and food, occasionally having to eat grass. She was able to freely attend Catholic grade school in South Africa, ultimately learning to read and speak eight languages. She modelled her life and faith on that of her Roman Catholic mother, but also maintained traditional beliefs in magic, witch doctors and illness-causing spells. As an adult, Nthunya dealt with the death of her husband, and the murders of father, brother, and children. Despite these hardships, Nthunya maintained a “love of natural beauty, as well as her sense of humour, hope, and dreams.”

In loosely connected episodes, including stories passed to her from her mother, Nthunya describes the difficult life facing many Basotho women, who must deal with a choice between the dangers, hardships, and degrading working conditions of city life as an indigenous African under apartheid and the challenges of traditional rural life. In the Basotho community, women often face child mortality, forced marriage and domestic abuse. Illness and starvation are constant threats, and these are compounded by what Nthunya describes as the destructive force of jealousy in impoverished communities. Despite this, Nthunya chose in 1949 to move her family away from city life under apartheid to her rural homeland, so that they could learn the traditions of their people. The cultural conflict between city and rural life, and between Western and traditional culture, are a major theme of the book.

She was cheated, robbed and many times bereaved, but she never lost her courage her resilience and her spirit of independence.

Customs and rituals are a constant guiding force in Basotho life. The Basotho society is a patriarchal one: marriages were arranged without concern for women’s preferences, and women are responsible for childcare and management of the household but may receive little financial support. They live under the control of their husbands or male relatives, including their children. Women who are unable to bear children are stigmatised.  With no power over men, women in Basotho society often oppress and victimize their sisters. However, Nthunya cherished the female friendships she had in Basotho society.

I was so taken with how the story came to be written and the wonderful insight into life of the country I loved, that I made efforts to contact Limakatso Kendall, the lady who recognised Nthunya’s natural ability as a story teller and persuaded her to tell stories about her life.

It wasn’t a difficult task and I made contact via the Publishers and since then Limakatso and I have become firm Facebook friends. Such is the power and GOOD use of Facebook. We were strangers but are now friends who have never met each other but share family news and a love of all things Lesotho. I will be forever grateful to her for getting this wonderful ‘history’ book written.

Singing Away the Hunger is a simple book but a great one. It forces us to question our own values and those of society. Through the voice of one poor African woman, it reaches out to people of all races, classes and background; to the educated and to people like Mpho herself. She has much to teach us all.

During my trips to Lesotho I longed to be able to meet her and I so regret I never made more of an effort to make it happen.

Sadly, Mpho passed away recently but the legacy she has left is incredible.

 

Number 3.

Seasons of Life by Charles Swindoll

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I simply had to include something by Charles Swindoll. I have two shelves full of only his books!IMG_2655

Chuck is an American pastor and writer, who I discovered in the pre-digital age. His teaching programmes are now widely available on Sky and TuneIn, but when I started listening he was only available on Trans World Radio on a short-wave radio, beamed from Monte Carlo. In those days the signal would be very intermittent and if you got 20 minutes out of the thirty, it was a good day and obviously the wind was blowing in your favour. A better place to pick it up was in France, so holidays were spent getting up early and rotating the transistor radio through 360 degrees till we heard the theme tune, then we didn’t breathe for half an hour! Happy Times!

This book is well worn and contains 144 daily readings covering the four seasons of the year, challenging and encouraging you to discover what’s truly important in life. The book encourages you to take time to deepen your roots in the soil of God’s love and grace through every season of the year and indeed of life!

My favourite reading is entitled ‘Building Memories’ and tells a great story about a dad who told his family he was too busy to join them on their holiday, blaming an excessive workload. However, he helped them plan the trip carefully, knowing where they would be each day. What he didn’t tell them was that he was secretly planning to join them and one day, a little into the holiday, there he was standing on the road hitch hiking as his family drove past. Apparently, his family shouted…’Hey look at that chap there he looks just like…. DAD!!!!’

When questioned the creative father said that one day he was going to be dead and when that happened he wanted his wife and kids to remember a dad who was full of fun and surprises.

Chuck says,

 “The beautiful music of living is composed, practised and perfected in the harmony of home. The freedom to laugh long and loud, the encouragement to participate in creative activities, the spontaneity of relaxed relationships that plant memories and deepen our roots in the rich, rare soil of authentic happiness”.

I hope my kids can remember me in a way something like this!

 

 

Number 2.

Boy by Roald Dahl

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My favourite children’s book without doubt. I’m not so sure it’s only a children’s book, as anybody of any age will enjoy reading this. I have spent countless hours reading this book to different generations of children.

It is quite simply superb!

This is how Wikipedia sums up the book:

Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984) is an autobiographical book by British writer Roald Dahl. It describes his life from birth until leaving school, focusing on living conditions in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, the public school system at the time, and how his childhood experiences led him to writing as a career. It ends with his first job, working the Shell Company.

 

Dahl himself introduces the book by saying;

‘An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and is usually full of all sorts of boring details. This is not an autobiography. I would never write a history of myself. On the other hand, throughout my young days at school and just afterwards a number of things happened to me that I have never forgotten. Some are funny, some are painful. Some are unpleasant. I suppose that is why I have always remembered them so vividly.

All are true!’

I apologise profusely to all the wonderful children I taught before 1984, when the book was published. I wish I could turn back time and sit and read the book to you. Sadly, that is not possible. Here’s just a few of the main events in the book

Family tragedy

When Roald was three years old, his seven-year-old sister Astri died of an infection from a burst appendix. Only weeks later, Roald’s father died of pneumonia. Roald Dahl suggests his father died of grief from the loss of his daughter. Roald’s mother was forced to choose between moving the family to Norway with her relatives or relocating to a smaller house in Wales to continue the children’s education in the United Kingdom, which is what her husband wanted.

Primary school

Roald started at the Elm Tree House Primary School in Cardiff when he was 6 years old. He was there for a year but has few memories of his time there because it was so long ago.

Sweets

Roald writes about different confectionery, his love of sweets, his fascination with the local sweet shop and in particular about the free samples of Cadbury chocolate bars given to him and his schoolmates for when he was a student at Repton School.Young Dahl dreamt of working as an inventor for Cadbury, an idea he has said later inspired Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.  Some of the sweets sold at Mrs Pratchett’s sweet shop were Sherbet fountains, pear drops and liquorice boot laces.

Great mouse plot of 1924

This is my favourite bit…. Mrs Pratchet has become a dear friend of mine! From the age of eight, Dahl attended Llandaff Cathedral School in Cardiff. He and his friends had a grudge against the local sweet-shop owner, Mrs Pratchett, a sour, elderly widow who gave no thought to hygiene. They played a prank on her by placing a dead mouse in a gobstopper jar while his friend Thwaites distracted her by buying sweets. They were caned by the headmaster as a punishment.

Mrs Pratchett, who attended the canings, was not satisfied after the first stroke was delivered and insisted the headmaster should cane much harder which he did: six of the hardest strokes he could muster, while Mrs Pratchet beamed with great delight as each boy suffered their punishment.

St Peter’s School, Weston-super-Mare.

Roald attended St Peter’s School, a boarding school in Weston Super Mare from 1925, when he was nine, to 1929. He describes having received six strokes of the cane after being accused of cheating at his classwork. In the essay about the life of a penny, he claims that he still has the essay and that he had been doing well until the nib of his pen broke – fountain pens were not accepted. He had to ask his classmate for another one, when Captain Hardcastle heard him and accused him of cheating. Many of the events he describes involved the matron. She once sprinkled soap shavings into Tweedie’s mouth to stop his snoring. She also sent a six-year-old boy, who allegedly had thrown a sponge across the dormitory, to the headmaster. Still in his pyjamas and dressing gown, the little boy then received six strokes of the cane. Wragg, a boy in Roald’s dormitory, sprinkled sugar over the corridor floor so they could hear that the matron was coming when she walked upon it. When the boy’s friends refused to turn him in, the whole school was punished by the headmaster who confiscated the keys to their tuck boxes containing food parcels which the pupils had received from their families. At the end he returns home to his family for Christmas. The descriptions of the matron’s bosom are legendary!

Repton and Shell Oil Company

After St Peter’s, Roald’s mother entered him for either Marlborough or Repton, but he chose Repton because it was easier to pronounce. It is soon revealed Marlborough might have been a better choice: life at Repton was a living Hell. The prefects, named Boazers as was the school tradition, were utmost sadists and patrolled the school like secret police. The headmaster, Dahl describes an occasion when his friend received several brutal strokes of the cane from the headmaster as punishment for misbehaviour. Despite this infernal school, Dahl did make friends with the Maths professor and a boy named Michael. Even one of the Boazers, Williamson, took a liking to Dahl, despite this being punishment for Dahl’s tardiness, Williamson was impressed by how Dahl warmed his lavatory seat that he hired him as his personal ‘bog seat warmer’. Dahl also excelled in sports and photography, something he says impressed various masters at the school.

Wonderful, wonderful wonderful!

 

Number 1                

The Bible

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By far and away my favourite book and the one that has had the most profound effect on my life is The Bible.

I’m going to leave it to The Gideons to give a summary of what this amazing book is all about. They are far more eloquent than I will ever be.

The Bible is a book all about God’s relationship with us. It offers us an opportunity to meet with Him and get the direction we need to live life to the full. The Bible has provided hope and inspiration for generations and continues to be a worldwide best seller, with sales outstripping any other book ever published.

The Bible is actually a collection of 66 different books and letters, written over a period of some 1,500 years up to about 100 years after Christ’s death and resurrection. It is divided into the Old Testament (the first 39 books) and the New Testament (the last 27 books). The word testament means covenant or agreement, so the Bible shows how God’s old agreement, based on the ‘covenant of law,’ is superseded by is new ‘covenant of grace’ – as shown in The New Testament.

The first 39 books of the Bible tell the story of God’s creation, man’s rebellion and prophesy the coming of Christ. The beauty of creation that we read about in the first few chapters of Genesis, the first book in The Old Testament, is an expression of God’s love for us. This is closely followed by the account of mankind’s disobedience and the consequences of it.

There are numerous historical texts and considerable archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of natural disaster, warfare and empire that we read in The Old Testament, but it’s not merely a historical account. The Old Testament has a lot to teach us about the struggle of human nature. This ongoing tension between man and God is written about beautifully in the books of poetry and wisdom, such as Proverbs and Song of Solomon. Here, we get an insight into the pain, anger and struggle of life, along with the joy, love and passion.

Whilst the Old Testament is largely concerned with life before Christ, there are also 17 books of prophecy, from Isaiah to Malachi, that look forward to the future. These books speak of God’s judgement on his people, but they also foretell the coming of Christ and offer a glimpse of a new covenant with God.

The second section of the Bible starts with the four Gospels and the book of Acts, where we learn about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament is the foundation of the Christian faith because it’s here that we see the prophecy of The Old Testament fulfilled.

God sent Jesus, his own son, to pay for our sins, so that we can have eternal life. It’s the ultimate love story, where we get the most wonderful insight into God’s character and His incredible gift of grace. Just as stories from The Old Testament have been corroborated by historians and archaeological evidence, so too are the stories of Jesus and his friends.

Following the Gospels are 21 letters, from Romans to Jude, written from followers of Jesus in the years after his death. They tell of the everyday struggles of Christians and the growth of the early church. In the accounts we see early Christians challenging tradition, enduring persecution and encouraging one another practically and spiritually as they seek to live like Jesus.

The Bible ends with the book of Revelation, which describes the future of God’s people in heaven and the final defeat of evil. It offers a glimpse of eternal life and reinforces the warnings about the consequences of rejecting God’s light and love.

The Bible was written by lots of different people, from different walks of life, who lived in different places and eras. They are biographers, historians, philosophers and writers of theology, poetry, adventure, travel and romance who were all inspired by God.

What’s incredible is that, while most of the authors had no contact with each other, as you read through the 66 books, the similar themes and unity becomes apparent. The Bible is one whole book and no part is complete on its own. It’s a story of God’s love for us, our rebellion and God’s infinite grace to win us back.

The Bible is often referred to by Christians as the manual for life. In Jesus, we have the perfect role model to follow. He offered an alternative way of life, where the poorest were the most important, it was more important to put others before yourself and hope lay not in money and status, but in God.

The Bible also shows us characters who, like us, are deeply flawed. There are plenty of heroes in the Bible that God uses for His glory, in spite of their weaknesses. In this sense, it’s the most remarkable story of hope. The Bible has consistently challenged and transformed the lives of its readers, offering guidance through even the darkest of circumstances. It’s a book for all people, for all time.

The Bible, or parts of it, has now been translated into more than 2,300 languages and dialects. There are even recent translations and paraphrases to help current generations access its wisdom in language that’s relevant and applicable today.

You don’t need to be a historian, an academic or even a Christian to read the Bible. It was written by ordinary people for ordinary people and has the power to inform, reform and transform lives.

Whatever situation or circumstances you’re in, chances are you’ll read about it in the Bible. It’s brutally honest in places, offering an incredible insight into the way that God can work with us, through us and in us. But the Bible’s overarching message is one of hope – that through Jesus Christ we have the promise of eternal life. It’s a promise that has given countless people new strength and an unerring purpose for life.                                                           Credit: The Gideons

I am currently trying to read all 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year. I started in January and hope to complete it before the end of 2018. This version is interesting as it takes you through the Bible chronologically…

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I have preached hundreds of sermons from all parts of the Bible. I trust I have helped some people along the way. I’ve preached at the celebration of the gift of a child, at weddings and at funerals. I believe the Bible has something relevant to say about every part of our lives.

I have Bibles in the languages of most of the countries I have visited.

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One Bible in particular I treasure. Years ago, I saved up and bought a loose-leaf Bible, one to which you could add notes and sermons. I loved it. Not long after, my old friend Mick Hunt came to visit and loved it, so I gave it to him. I was just a bit gutted, but I knew I had done the right thing. Years later, just before he died, he gave it back, old, battered and obviously well used…but also full of Mick’s sermons. What a treasure!

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Mick Hunt’s Bible…

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Which part of The Bible do I like best? Well, every part of it is important – but a few passages stand out for me.

Romans 12:9-21                                                                                                             

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.                                                                        Practise hospitality.                                                                                                                           Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. 

“On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him;if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good”.

Colossians 3:12-17

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

I can’t help thinking if the world lived according to these guidelines it would be a very much better place in which to live.

The Plug

 

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Dinas Powys is a great place to live.

It retains some of the village feel it has enjoyed over many years. However, some things have changed…

Now sadly, The Old Post Office lies empty, pleading with every passer-by to breathe new life into its fading walls. There is a new Post Office – it lies within the friendly Village Stores, a lovely little place run by a friendly couple who seem to know everybody and are always ready have a chat with anyone who comes in. I am sure for some customers the simple task of buying a morning newspaper must fill up an hour or two. The shop seems to sell everything from wine to wet wipes and frozen stuff to the free community newspaper. Thoughtfully, a stool stands just behind the always open doorway, inviting older clientele to sit and rest weary legs while they catch up on the latest gossip.

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The banks have finally gone – most of their customers using internet banking, lining up in those endless queues replaced by other frustrations like losing signal at the wrong moment and forgetting your password. Gone also is the ‘Wellness’ shop; curious this one…. In all my visits to the village, I never saw a customer go in or come out. It’s being replaced by an extension to the undertakers, obviously lots of people still passing away. The staff of the funeral home are a cheery bunch always ready to give a wave.

The pubs are still there, all three of them.

But, still fairly new, something has started breathing new life into the village. It’s a unique coffee shop. The result of a young couple setting out to chase their dreams. The Plug began life in an old ‘lean to’ – a former flower shop.

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It was a magical place, tiny, but so friendly and welcoming. Last year though, the ladies’ hairdressers next door closed, the last purple rinse completed, the business ceased and The Plug decided to expand. Months of hard work gave us what we have today.

I once described The Plug on Trip Advisor as ‘a little gem’ and that’s what it is.

If you are  fan of people watching The Plug is the place to go. My favourite time of the day to go up is any time, but early mornings are probably the most interesting. I go armed with a variety of things to do whilst enjoying my coffee…  phone, iPad, Bible and maybe some other reading material. The time spent there is great!

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The coffee shop is owned by Pete and Rachel a young couple, who are friends of mine.

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Pete’s younger brother John looks after the coffee machine and does most of the brewing.

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Pete spends his time mostly in the kitchen preparing and serving the most wonderful food – simple but exquisite! Sourdough bread toasted or untoasted with options like French toast, poached eggs, feta cheese and avocado and now Eggs Benedict. Several people lay claim to the invention of Eggs Benedict. It seems it became popular in New York, probably the recipe of someone called Commodore E.C. Benedict. Who knows…. who cares?  They are stunningly beautiful… all the food is!

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What Pete produces in the kitchen would give any top chef a run for his or her money in any competition. Amazingly, the hands that create these wonderful dishes – now thoroughly washed I am sure – were the same hands that knocked down walls, cut wood, tiled walls and a host of other building jobs, creating The Plug as we know it. Talented lad our Pete!

His overriding passion though is coffee. He even roasts his own coffee in a small industrial unit some miles away in Cardiff. The only thing Pete doesn’t do is grow the coffee or pick the beans, although don’t be surprised if you read one day of a new coffee plantation on the hills around Dinas Powys!

His helpers are a special lot! The usual young lady, a charming  friendly thing is currently on maternity leave looking after a new precious little bundle.

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She has been replaced by a friendly collection of family and friends of Pete and John, all who do the most wonderful job in looking after the customers. One young chap who was on the staff, is now in America, looking after a load of young people at a series of camps.

Sitting in The Plug, as the day starts you will see a range of faces, some familiar others not so much, coming in. Every day without fail the local estate agent starts his day there. He’s a good looking, friendly guy who always seems to know everybody there. It seems that’s it’s impossible to sell houses in Dinas Powys without first downing a flat white or some other caffeine based pick-me-up!

There are usually one or two other individuals clicking away on laptops, who give a brief nod of acknowledgement.

Always there is our local author, a very friendly, pug loving lady who also seems to know everybody and takes a great interest in everything about you…work family…everything! She’s really friendly.

A frequent visitor is a pretty young thing from Ireland, so friendly, always smiling, always busy chatting. She is the one lady who would give my lovely wife a run for her money in the World Championship Chatting Final. She’s heavily pregnant (not my dear wife!) and recently brought her mum in who is on a visit. On a recent visit to Ireland my football mad son and I actually stayed with her, she uses AirBnB. Charming, delightful people!

Every day brings a new group of friends who descend on The Plug for a catch up. One day a group of older ladies, another day some young mums with their off-spring in various states of wakefulness and sleep. From time to time a group of International rugby players will show up. Obviously a visit to The Plug is an important part of their strict training schedule.

Another frequent visitor is our local celebrity – a world famous singer and former child star. She must love it in The Plug, just another customer chatting with friends and enjoying the wonderful coffee.

Then there’s the quiet gentle chap who makes his way in quietly, enjoys a coffee and a croissant and then quietly makes his way out. Sometimes he likes to drink outside. He is something of a mystery always polite, doesn’t say a great deal – I’ve never seen him talk to anybody else… maybe he has seen better, happier days in the past.

Also a regular visitor is a personal trainer, who I would have expected to bound in, but she doesn’t… each morning she just ambles in and sits down. She is dressed in sporty gear and is close friends with the author and the young lady from across the Irish Sea. They appear to have a very close bond of friendship. Amazingly, before The Plug opened they were complete strangers to each other. That for me sums up the magic of this little coffee shop. Its a place where friendships are made and grow. Its simply magical.

Just about the Plug’s nearest neighbour is an amiable young man who has quite an important job in the nearby chemical factory. He lives in the Old Court House, just across the road. The Vale of Glamorgan County Treasures web site describes it like this…..

This Dinas Powys building dates back to 16th century and is part of the former courthouse

and the earliest surviving building in the village centre retaining much of its historic fabric.

Built of roughcast-rendered stone with slate roof and yellow brick end stack.’ 

 

Stories abound of an underground tunnel linking the old court house to the prison, which one stood where the The Plug is now. Probably not true, just the stuff of old village gossip… or is it?

He, like all the other regulars, strolls in and knows everybody there. He’s a dog lover but sadly his lovely pet, who was also his best friend recently died.  It’s hard to know what to say but in The Plug he’s among friends , people who understand.

So it goes on. There’s the young couple, both teachers who bring their two boys, both miracles apparently and the young chap who is Pete’s best mate – he’s married to  member of staff, so he always gets a special welcome.

Finally there’s an old chap, more than slightly overweight, who comes in and sits quietly.  He’s always armed with a book, a note pad and various electronic devices. He doesn’t need to order, he sits down, nods a good morning to all who are there or come in and starts busily writing his list of things to do for the day – before long his drink appears, the same every time – a single shot Americano with a dash of milk.

He once worked in a school and for forty years he kept a picture of his daughter on the wall of his classroom and underneath he put a cutting from a magazine he once read. It says,

‘Regard each pupil as one’s own – and then decide what to do with him/her’.

After a while, list ready and book read, he nods his goodbyes and goes on his way. Not to school any more, he claims to have an even better job… one he proudly describes as a full time husband, father and grandfather…

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Total love

Total love

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The softness of your touch

As you sit beside me

In the quietness of the evening,

Brings a peace all its own

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The comfort of your voice

As we talk in the still, small hours

Of darkness,

Brings calm to the very depths of my soul.

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The warmth I experience

As your arms enfold me,

Drawing me closer to you,

Brings joy and contentment beyond belief.

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The total love we share

As our minds, hearts and souls

Entwine to become as one,

Brings a glimpse of heaven on earth.

Roger Newberry

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Eternity

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The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W. B. Yeats

For many years I have loved this beautiful poem. A few years ago, it inspired me to write my own poem and I unashamedly use his ideas….

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Eternity,

A long time – longer than I can dream of,

And yet that’s how long I will love you.

When God saw that His time was right;

In order to fulfil one part of His eternal plan,

He brought you and me together

And started to make my dreams come true.

Those dreams so precious – because

Without the gold and riches of this world

To lay before you – I only have my plans and dreams.

My dreams of you my darling Boo,

The children of our love,

Our home – so full of happy memories.

Our families our friends, so dear each one.

Our future – together for eternity and sealed with a ring.

So, as I lay my dreams at your feet

As the pathway to our future

And take your hand and step out into the unknown

Towards eternity

Tread carefully – my dreams are all I have.

Roger Newberry

22nd July 1991

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Six jobs my kids never knew I had…

We didn’t have much money when I was growing up. My dad was a carpenter and my mum a dinner lady in school, so when it came to needing money, the only way to get it was by working for it.  I always had to do something. As soon as I was old enough, I took on a paper round and delivered thousands and thousands of newspapers in my time. At one stage, I was delivering 105 editions of the South Wales Echo every night! Health and Safety Executives would be muttering under their breath these days. Currently paper boys have about 20 – 30 max papers to deliver and are given a little trolley to pull along. We were tougher in those days, all I had was a paper bag and my trusty old bike. I went out in all winds and weather.

 

When I was older, during the School and College holidays I took a range of jobs which I look back on with very little affection. I worked because I had to. Two of the jobs, I absolutely hated.  Perhaps that is why I loved my chosen career so much … teaching – which I did for 39 years and 185 days.

 

  1. Gardener – Cardiff Corporation Waterworks.

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Charles Hallet, a member of my church when I was growing up, was an executive in Cardiff Corporation Waterworks and in the late 1960s, a nod was as good as a wink if someone needed a job. So, for several summers, I was employed as a gardener/handyman at the filter beds/reservoir on Rhiwbina Hill and clocked on at 8:00am every morning. Shift always began with a cup of tea in the mess hut. The manager lived on site in a tied house. I spent my time cutting grass, weeding and generally caring for the banks and flower beds of the site, the main reservoir was across a couple of fields at The Wenallt. It was uncovered when I started there but a room was put on eventually, as they got fed up of fishing the dead pigeons, cats and other livestock out of it. I loved working here and did it for several summers. The men treated me well, the boss, as I said, lived on site, Dennis the foreman lived in the caretaker’s house at The Wenallt and there was also a grumpy old chap lived just across the road. I have forgotten his name. Maybe it was Bill Brown.

We would also take the occasional trip to Radyr and Wenvoe, where there were small pumping stations and do a bit of weeding and tidying.

It was in this job that I saw a Flymo for the first time and we became experts at dropping the Flymo down the banks and pulling them up and dropping them down again cutting the grass – using a thick rope.

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My favourite machine was an auto scythe which we used on the longer grass. It was a beast!

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It was a very relaxed job and we got paid in cash in a little brown envelope, which arrived in a council van or car at the site like clockwork on a Friday afternoon. It was here I got the best tan I ever had in my life. Whenever I see a drain cover with C.C.W.W. on it I remember with affection those blissful teenage summers.

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  1. Steelworker – Guest Keen and Nettlefold Steel Works, Tremorfa, Cardiff.

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I have no idea at all how I got this job. It was as an odd job man in an awful place – the Guest Keen and Nettlefold Steelworks in Cardiff. I hated this job and everything to do with it. For sure, I was interested in the furnaces and the molten steel I saw at a distance.

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I worked here for most of the six weeks I was on holiday. If I remember it was after my A levels.

The only things I can really remember are the smell, the dirt, the smoke and most of all the dreadful over-manning. There were loads of men just hanging around doing very little all day. I am sure the steelworks were still a nationalised industry at this point and it was obvious even to me who knew nothing, that something needed to be done to make them profitable.

I would have made the world’s worst steel worker.

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  1. Demolition worker – W.T. Davies, Cardiff

I got this summer job because my sister in law worked for W.T. Davies and was friendly with the managing director. They were demolishing the old Penarth Cement works and the quarry, which lay across the road from it.

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A narrow-gauge train ran from the quarry, laden with limestone to be used to make the cement. I remember with the greatest affection watching that train cross Lavernock Road on many occasions on the way home from the beach at Swanbridge or Lavernock. I would make my dad drive slowly as we approached hoping to catch a glimpse of the little steam engine appear.

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The Cement Works was opened in the 1880s – the site was a commercial limestone quarry operation owned by the British Portland Cement Manufacturers and later Blue Circle. The quarries here provided limestone for the large cement works that stood until 1970 on the site of the present Cosmeston housing estate opposite the well-known country park. The peak year of production was 1962, when 175,000 tons of cement were manufactured. The famous ‘Dragon’ brand of cement was used to produce many of the early paving slabs laid in Penarth. The works finally shut in November 1969. Blue Circle stated it was not possible to upgrade the old plant to increase production any further, nor extend the existing quarries, which were closed in June 1970.

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The only factory building left standing today is the Harvester restaurant. Once quarrying ceased two of the excavated sites were used for landfill and the remaining two naturally flooded creating the lakes at Cosmeston that are seen today.

Today’s generation have no idea how ugly the quarry was so close to the lovely town of Penarth. Now, the filled-in quarry is a stunning country park and it’s great telling my grandchildren that I once walked on the bottom of Cosmeston lake.

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I hated working for a demolition company. The men were as rough as could be and their language constantly crude and filthy.

As well as being the world’s worst steelworker, I also would have been the worst demolition expert!

4. Soap seller for Nimbus products for the blind 

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I got this job by answering an advert in the South Wales Echo. It was a strange set up.                                               We had to meet at a certain place and were picked up in a battered old Bedford van,                                          driven by an eccentric and equally old chap called Mr Cameron.

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There was a bench of seats along the sides of the van and underneath were boxes full of soap products. He would drive us to that day’s location, issue us with a load of soap and then we would have to walk from door to door selling this soap made by a company that no one had ever heard of.

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Most people were very kind and some bought because they felt sorry for the blind people not the spotty teenager selling the stuff!

I had a small sense of allegiance to this job, because I had two aunts living in Swansea                                                          who were born blind. I loved spending time with them. I loved the gadgets they had                                                       to time things or to let them know if it was raining. I once wrote Aunty Annie a braille                                          letter only to find out she couldn’t read it as I had written from left to right but should                                                    have done right to left….

At the end of the day we would meet Mr Cameron and tally up what we had sold;                                                    unsold soap was returned to the boxes under the seats and the appropriate amount of cash was given to Mr. Cameron. Woe betide you if you didn’t balance. However, on the rare occasions when you had too much cash, we usually just kept quiet!

One event still sticks in my mind more than 45 years later; Mr Cameron’s battered old                                        Bedford van had a column change gear stick, which was always malfunctioning. At one                                      junction he was fighting to find a suitable gear and the car behind started tooting.                                                              Mr Cameron was incandescent with rage. He flung the sliding door of the van open                                                raced to the car behind and shouted – in classic John Cleese style…

‘Right! Shall I toot your horn while you go and fix my van!!”

Priceless!

I never knew anything about Nimbus products for the blind until researching this article,                                          when I found this from the Northampton Chronicle dated 4th January 2004 …

                                        Disabled workers lose factory jobs

A soap factory which employs blind and disabled workers is being forced to close as people no longer buy bars of soap. Nimbus Laboratories, a charity which employs 69 blind and partially sighted workers in Northampton, will close on 26 March.                                         Managing director Keith Percival said the closure had been forced upon the charity by                                  problems in the international soap market.  He said people had turned their backs on                                  traditional bars of soap and despite Nimbus branching out into liquid soap, it was not competitive.

The company has been in production for more than 100 years when workshops were                                 first created to provide work for the blind.  Nimbus moved to its Moulton Park site in Northampton in 1972 where a range of toiletries were made under its own brand as well as for major high street chains such as Boots and Sainsbury’s.                                                                                                                                The loss of Nimbus is a further blow to Northampton’s cosmetic industry after the closure of Avon Cosmetics last year.  About 465 Avon workers lost their jobs when manufacturing was transferred from Northampton to Poland. The factory was originally run by the Northamptonshire Association for the Blind. Despite becoming a registered charity, itself in 1996, it still provided money for the association.

Tragedy hit the factory in 1981 when a teenager on a youth opportunities programme was involved in an accident with a soap mixing machine which severed both his feet.

 

  1. Import Control Clerk – I.D.and S Rivlin, Cardiff

I took this job at a difficult time. I finished college in the summer of 1972 and was offered a teaching job in Cogan Primary School in Penarth. I was delighted, but when I received my examination results, I had failed my Welsh exam. I was gutted and told the Glamorgan Council, who withdrew their job offer. The Glamorgan College of Education offered me a resit in December, which I accepted but it meant finding employment while I awaited the resit.

That employment ended up being an Import Control Clerk in I.D and S Rivlin, which was a cash and carry clothes warehouse on Penarth Road in Cardiff. Thankfully, it no longer exits and was on the site where the car showroom is on the corner of Penarth Road and Hadfield Road in Cardiff.

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I hated every single second of the time I spent in Rivlins. I worked in a small office with a chap called Mr McGregor, who chain smoked – in the office in those days – and took great delight in telling me I would never have made a teacher anyway. He was awful! He told me constantly for the six months I was there! He lived in a nice house in St Lythans.

I got on well with the other people there – the ladies in the typing pool and in the canteen… but Mr McGregor … I have not one happy memory of him or my time there. I would never have been able to cope with office work.

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When my resit results came back and I had passed and was a qualified teacher I had quiet satisfaction in handing in my notice.

When I informed the council, they wrote back and offered me a job straight away without an interview at…. Cogan Primary School in Penarth. A coincidence… I don’t think so!

 

  1. Turnstile Operator at Cardiff City Football Club

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I got this job because of my friend Arthur Reed, who already had a job there. I LOVED this job. When I started, we had to report to the main office, collect a bag of float money, go to whichever turnstile was yours, collect the money and operate the turnstile and let the fans in.

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About twenty minutes after kick off you would take your bag of money, walk around the edge of the pitch to the office and after collecting your pay you could watch the rest of the match from the Grandstand if there was room. After a couple of years, I was ‘promoted’ to The Canton Stand. This meant collecting tickets not money and there were just a couple of steps up to the stand from the turnstile and this meant, I managed to watch most of the matches as most people were in from kick off time and if anyone arrived late I would just skip down the stairs, click the switch and let them through and go back to watching the match. Happy days.

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Later on, I became friendly with Mel Sutton, a tough Cardiff midfield player and after I left the job he would leave me free tickets for every game.

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I loved watching the city!

Some days are diamonds….

I was called a ‘Chuffernutter’ today! I wasn’t sure if it was polite or not and I wasn’t sure if it was a complement or not. I smiled nervously as I gathered my thoughts!

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A few days ago my old buddy, Estate Agent Extraordinaire Mike Baker, asked me if I fancied a tour around the Barry Steam Train Depot in Barry. The answer I gave him was the same answer he would have got if he had asked a dying man who had just crawled across the Sahara Desert if he fancied a glass of water.

Having obtained a day pass from the lady of the house I got up very early and made my way down to Barry through the early morning rain. My instructions from Mike were to find Howes Garage near Barry Town Station and follow a map he had sent me.

I found the gate and rang Mike’s number… and as he was speaking an orange suited figure appeared from a distant building and I soon found the gates to paradise being opened. Mike looked like a real railway worker, nothing like the smooth Estate Agent I know!           Mike greeted me with a smile and a cheery handshake and welcomed me to the Barry Steam Shed. What followed reminded me of the old John Denver song, ‘Some days are diamonds, some days are stone…’

This was turning into a diamond day. It began with a tour of the shed when Mike introduced me to the trains and rolling stock and each piece was unique in its own way.

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Susan was a small steam train, one of only two of the kind built. The builder named them after his children, Susan and Timothy. Susan now lives in Barry; Mike was not certain of Timothy’s whereabouts.

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I climbed aboard and old DMU which is used for Santa Specials at Barry Island Station near Christmas.

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All the other pieces had wonderful stories attached to them and Mike told me about them like a master storyteller.

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This beast was once owned by the Channel Tunnel owners and was used to pull broken down engines out ion the tunnel. The equipment on the front can be pulled down to couple with French Trains.

 

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This fascinating vehicle is able to travel on road and rail. The wheels can be lifted to allow it to fit on a railway line.

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After the tour of the shed we had a cup of coffee and reminisced about the trains in the glory days.When we had finished our coffee others members of staff began to appear, one volunteer and one paid member od staff. I was introduced to them and as we were talking I looked across at Barry Town station. The 09:43 from Eastbrook was just pulling into Barry, the last stop before Barry Island. I must have had that certain look on my face because the guy asked me if I was a   ‘Chuffernutter?’

For a few moments I was not sure how to answer. I may have smiled nervously as I gathered my thoughts. I wasn’t sure if it was polite or not or if it was a complement or not.

I quickly deduced that a Chuffernutter was someone who loved trains. (Chuffer = Train and nutter = someone who loves something with a passion).

I am a Chuffernutter. It’s true! Guilty as charged.

We strolled back into the shed and I watched Mike as he was taking 1mm off a bolt to secure part of the line. He was using some kind of grinder and was going at it full speed and it looked pretty spectacular.

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As a volunteer for the day, I was assigned a few jobs. The first one was to help attach an O ring to the vacuum braking system on Susan, the only steam train in the shed. This we did with some difficulty, but eventually managed it after a number of trips to the tool box.

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We then tried (at least I just watched!) to repair an ancient battery/jump start charger. It was somewhat bigger than the one I use on my car. This one looked quite old a rusty and after a long period of huffing and sighing my co worker gave up and was trying to work out the cost of a new one under his breath.

What followed was unexpected and truly wonderful!

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Behind me one of the old trains burst into life. Thick diesel smoke began to fill the shed and the lads quickly opened all available doors to allow the fumes to escape. They must have noticed my worried look because I was told the smoke would run clear as the engine warmed up.

Then came the sweetest words I have heard for a long time. The answer must have been one he was expecting, because I was asked’ ‘Do you fancy a ride in the cab’

By the time he said you, I was up the steps and in the cab.

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Our trip was a short but complicated one. We were required to manoeuvre an old wagon to a different part of the yard to await the loading of some old sleepers. It necessitated a number of points changes, all expertly completed by Mike pulling on a range of levers.

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Sitting in the driver’s cab of this huge loco was just like a dream come true. My childhood ambition was to be a train driver. I am old now but the dream is still there. Today was getting pretty close to it! The sheer power of the loco was thrilling.

Sadly, as we pulled back into the shed, it was time for me to leave.

I had learnt some lessons…

I still dream of being a train driver…

Preserving these old locos and rolling stock is the work of loyal volunteers who work hard in unglamorous situations…

 

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But the most important lesson of the day….

I am a Chuffernutter…and proud of it!

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Michael… thank you!!

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Things I want my grandchildren to learn…

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The idea for the title of this is not entirely my own but all the thoughts most definitely are.

I became a grandfather at the ripe old age of 59 when Mia was born. It happened between two very traumatic events in my life. The death of both my parents.

Grow old along with me ~ the best is yet to come!

My father passed away in August 2009 and my mum left us in January 2010. God spared my mum just long enough for one cuddle of Mia, my eldest granddaughter, for that I am so grateful. Her passing came just a day or two after they met. My sadness is that neither my dad or mum ever got to know my beautiful grandchildren – oh how they would have loved them all! An added sadness is that they will never learn the important lessons of life directly from them. They had so much wisdom to offer; instead I will do my best to share with my precious grandchildren some of the lessons of life that my parents passed on to me, others I have learnt for myself, some have been passed on to me by friends and loved ones.

My wife, children and grandchildren are the greatest gift God will ever give to me, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in my hands. What I want to do is take time be with them, teach them to aim high, to have faith in God and also be someone in whom others can trust.

I don’t intend leaving just yet and trust God will spare me long enough to see these little ones grow into adults and maybe have families and kids of their own.

Here goes

My dear Mia, Alfie, Millie, Lois, Eli and Max,

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This is me when I was a boy. My mum made my jumper. It was dark green.

I am very proud to be able to call you my grandchildren. Each time one of you joined our family you came with great excitement. Always be assured you are loved! When you were born I was already ‘getting on a bit’. I hope to watch you grow up into fine adults with families of your own and as you make this journey, I just wanted to help you along the way. I hope as you read what follows with interest, knowing that what I have learnt about life will help you all become better people and that I can help make your journey through this life just a little easier. I am guessing only you and your loved ones will know if I helped at all.

Here are some things I really want you to learn, each one is important!

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  • Make it a priority above all else to find God.

Having a faith and understanding that God loves you unconditionally and without end will bring a meaning to your life and help you make sense of this world in which we live.

  • Model your lives on the teachings of Jesus.

You, of course, can read these in your Bibles. Here are some good ones to get you going. Try and find some others for yourselves. The effort you put into looking them up and putting them into action will be worth the effort! Trust me on this one!!

 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

  • Choose your life partner very carefully.

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Your lovely nan, my precious wife, is the most special person in the world to me. I trusted God to bring us together and He chose well. Being with her is just the best thing ever! Over the years we have changed each other for the better – we try to help each other become more kind and loving every day. We don’t always get it right, but we do our best. I’ve got to say your nan is better at it than me. As we are both Christians, we have tried hard to become more like Jesus. We are still a long way off but we try hard every day. We love each other unconditionally, just as Jesus loves us. I once wrote your nan a poem and I called it…’Perfect love knows no because…’  if you think hard about that title you will begin to understand. Here is a copy of the poem, I wrote it in France a long time ago…

Boo,

I don’t love you because of your beauty,

Although there is none on earth more fair.

It isn’t because of your love for me,

Wonderful and steadfast though it is,

Discounting all others your love is for me alone.

I don’t love you because of your charm and innocence,

Seeing only the best in people;

A more trusting and lovely soul my path has never crossed.

Neither is it your warm and caring nature,

Which protects, encourages and lifts me

Every moment of this life we share.

I just love you…

Perfect love knows no because.

Always remember marriage is God’s idea, and we need to love each other like he loves us.

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Your nan and I never have to earn each other’s love, we just know its always there and it grows every day. We see you, our grandchildren, as  special part of the love we have for each other. That’s why you are so special.

  • Think of your life as an adventure, because that’s what it is.

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If you think of life as an adventure, ordinary days will be special. Try and read some of the adventures I had with Alfie when he was very young. (www.rogernewberry.com)

In truth, they were ordinary days, doing ordinary things, but when you are with those you love simple things become special things.

  • See the bigger picture.

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In life you can’t always have what you want whenever you want it. Life is a struggle some times and you may feel overwhelmed by problems and difficulties. Keep strong, thing will always get better. Try and see the bigger picture! Also, you will need to work hard and save hard to get the things you need and want. You may be quite old by the time you can afford some of the things in life you always wanted, but somehow waiting for them makes having them extra special. For many people the early years of marriage and family life can be tough going – setting up a home is not easy, but worth the effort. Always try to see the bigger picture!

  • Use time wisely!

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You will know I have eight clocks in my study… all different, some quirky, but all remind me of the same thing. Time stops for no one! Once time has gone you can never get it back. Try and use it wisely.

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This plaque on my wall says it all. One day I hope one of you will have it on your wall. Look at it and think of me… and make the most of and enjoy every minute of your lives.

  • Have fun!

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It’s really up to you what you do with your life, but always make sure you have fun. Tell jokes, be a bit silly sometimes… Remember me as a grampy who loved to have fun!! Wear silly glasses if you need them, buy a bugle if you see one for sale… and a megaphone! If you feel like collecting football stickers when you are old… do it!!!

  • Travel

Even in my life time the world has become a much smaller place. When I was growing up and someone went on a plane to a different country, we had a family day out to go and wave them off.

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Now we can travel all over the world fairly easily. Travel opens your eyes to the wonders of the world, it helps you learn about yourself and more about other people and how they live.If you are open to it, travel will simply make you a more well-rounded human being. People you meet while on the road usually become some of the most valued ones in your address book, giving you points on the map to visit later on.

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These people give you a glimpse outside your hometown circle of friends, forcing you into new and refreshing perspectives on things. Make the most of any opportunity you have to see the world. Newberry Tours will look after you!

  • Perpetual sunshine produces a desert!

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I came across this quote some years ago on a calendar I used to keep on my desk when I taught in Cogan Primary School. It has stuck in my brain through all that time. It’s an intriguing thought. On the surface I guess it means that if every day has sunshine and no rain, eventually nothing will grow; you need rainy days to go with the sunny days to enable growth to take place.

In a way life is just like that!

If things always go smoothly and we never experience pain or heartache, then our lives become dry and barren. We cannot appreciate the good days in our lives, if we never go through those tough times. While we may hate them as we go through them, but when they are replaced by the happy times in our lives, we are able then to appreciate the good days because of the bad days.

  • Enjoy the journey of life… it’s a long one!

stationSo often, uppermost in your minds will be the final destination.  That time when you will say I have made it! On a certain day at a certain hour you will pull into the station.  There will be bands playing and flags waving.  And once you get there you will think so many wonderful dreams will come true.  So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of your lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.  How restlessly we pace the aisles, damming the minutes for loitering, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

However, sooner or later you will realise there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all.  The true joy of life is the trip.  The station is only a dream.  It constantly out distances us.

Psalm 118:24 says…

“This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad.  Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow.  Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob you of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.  Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less.  Life must be lived as we go along.  The station will come soon enough. And remember its’ always OK to stop and ask for directions, especially well advised on the one journey of life.

  • Aim high!

Michelangelo once said ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.’

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That to me sounds like good advice. It came to me when I was with Alfie when he was very young, we were in the games hall of our church. Alfie you picked up the basketball, looked up at the net and paused. I know what you were thinking. In your mind you had that ball through the ring.

I want the best for you all. I look at your parents and think about the mistakes Nan and I made as we were raising them, and then realised that when you came along we were … sort of… given another chance.  In life, aiming high is so important. I look back and regret the times in my life when I accepted second best or set the bar too low and achieved things without an effort. When I was a teacher, I tried always to give my pupils only the best, they deserved nothing less. I was always inspired by two saying I found on life’s journey. One was the motto of a school I drove past – ‘Excellence to all and from all’. Great advice on giving and expecting the best.

The other, a motto on the bottom of my desk calendar, – ‘What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.’

I will share with you the words of E. O. Wilson

You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honourably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist!

The world needs all you can give.

 

  • If you tell the truth you will never have to remember what you said!

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  • Never be afraid to make mistakes.                                                                                      People who never made a mistake never learnt anything. Also, notice the mistakes of others and learn from them too and remember you don’t need to point them out!
  • Read the Bible as often as you can.                                                                                            You will be a better person because of it. Reading it every day and put into practice what you read is always the best way! The Bible has something relevant to say on just about everything and you can always trust its counsel.

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  • Remember it’s always a good idea to say grace and thank God for your food before you eat it.                                                                                                                                      There are many people in the world who would love to have the food you have. Many have nothing! Remember that in your prayers too!

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  • Respect and trust are not presents that are handed out, they must both be earned.                                                                                                                                             If you lose either one they are very difficult to get back. Very difficult.
  • Respect-and-TrustChildish and childlike are two very different things.

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Avoid the former and always choose the latter. I worked with children for forty years as a teacher in primary schools. One thing I know is that often, they taught me as much as I taught them! The most important thing I learnt is to look at the world through the eyes of a child, even when you have grown up. I still try hard to do this every day!!

Someone once wrote about this in a blog. Here is a summary of what she wrote and this is exactly what I think….

  1. Everything is new…

Kids are fascinated by everything because it’s all new to them. Every day is new to them, so everything seems exciting and full of possibilities.

  1. Everything is a learning experience…

Children are interested in learning as much as they can. How many times have you heard a child ask “why?” over and over and over again? They want to know everything!

  1. Everyone is a possible friend…

Children are always open to meeting new people. They want to smile and make friends and learn people’s names and what they do and why.

  1. You can be anything…

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” How many times were you asked this as a kid, and how many different answers did you have each time? Doctor one day, teacher the next, even a bin man, because how cool is it to hang on to the back of a moving truck? We shouldn’t limit ourselves to what seems right or practical, when we can think like a child and do what we really want.

  1. The world is full of possibilities…

This goes hand in hand with thinking you can be anything when you grow up. The world is full of possibilities and you can get in on any of them. Don’t limit yourself to certain things because of who you think you are, or how you think your job or family define you. If you’ve always wanted to be an artist, take a painting class and give it a try! If you want to write a novel, tackle the first chapter in your free time and find a writing support group. The fact is, the world is full of possibilities for everyone, not just children who haven’t really lived yet.

  1. You do things “Just Because”…

Too often adults think we always need to be doing something. If we’re not at work, you need to be reading or taking care of the house. If you’re stuck in traffic, why not listen to a podcast or audiobook? It’s great to make good use of your time, but you don’t always have to be doing something. Why not take time out to enjoy the sunshine, the breeze, sitting outside with friends or family? Your jobs will still be there when you’re ready to get to them.

  1.  You don’t care what people think…

Let’s be honest – this is the best part of being a kid, isn’t it? Getting dressed in a polka dot shirt and striped pants because that’s what you want to wear, and strutting your stuff in public, just proud that you dressed yourself. Imagine how free you’d feel if you didn’t care what people thought about you? Not to the extent you totally let yourself go, or become the office idiot, but just enough so that you do things you want to do without worrying what others will think – because, honestly, you never know what other people are thinking.

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Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Enjoy being child as long as you can. You will grow up soon enough. Your Nan tells me to grow up from time to time, but I don’t think I really want to! Not all the way anyway!!

  • Never do the lottery.

You will be wasting your money and be discontent thinking about all the good things you will buy. The Bible says ‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ Learn to be content in all things,. There are millions of people all over the world who would love to have what you have. Be happy.

  • Be a good listener!

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People will appreciate that. When you are taking with somebody, look them in the eye when they speak and do not interrupt. Someone once said you have one mouth and two ears. Remember that!

  • Tell people often that you love them!

This is important because there may come a day when you wish you could!

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  • Practise hospitality

07-Rom12_13wideWhen you are grown up and you hopefully have a home of your own, make sure you let other people stay in it. When we could, your nan and I always let people use our home as their own., We had many young people visit us down through they years. These visitors enriched our life enormously. When we could we made a guest room and people from all over the word stayed in it. We loved having visits! Some were better than others but that is life! Be kind anyway.

 

I hope you find some of the above things useful. If you did, pass them on to your kids when you have them….

Lots of love grampy,

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Always remember… you are loved!

xxxxx

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10 reasons why I love the plug@13a…

The Plug is a small, independent coffee house in Dinas Powys.

In June 2014 it looked like this…

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10246723_789848507706610_4578536307210303910_nA year on it looks very different…

Pete and Rachel Lewis transformed this former flower shop into something quite stunning…

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The Plug opened in June 2014. It really is the most wonderful place. Here are ten reasons why I love visiting this little gem…

This is what the owners have to say….

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We opened The Plug to serve great coffee. We knew it wasn’t just going to be a job but it was going to become our life. When you’re passionate about something you work tirelessly. I have watched Pete pour his heart & soul into The Plug every single day for the last six months & the six months prior to opening. There are no words to say how proud of him I am.

The Plug was also always going to be about people. We wanted to get to know everyone that came in….we had no idea how many new friends we would make. Everyday we’ve had great conversations with people we didn’t know before. Ask the right questions & you’ll discover how truly fascinating people are. We value every single person that has come through our door.

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  • The owners Pete and Rachel. These young people are living out their dream of creating a high class, friendly, intimate coffee house and they have gathered us all in to share in it.DSC07961
  • The waitress – Bes is just delightful. 10480988_826102334081227_6042917103744396943_nHelpful and friendly with time for a chat, now a Barista in her own right. She managed things beautifully while Pete and Rachel took a holiday recently. Bes is becoming an expert and with her husband Alex is a vital part of all that happens in The Plug.10614101_10205951497723264_1219223503983335817_n 11110874_10206306969009824_891927428731466182_n Bes’s artwork…the tulip…
  • The position – set right in the centre of the pretty village of Dinas Powys in The Vale of Glamorgan. The Plug has breathed new life into our village.
    DSC07996DSC07993DSC07992I very rarely used to visit the village centre but now do so every day – in fact since The Plug opened I have only missed visiting for one day, apart from when I am away.
  • The coffee – beautiful coffee sourced from the best independent coffee roasters. The coffee is expertly made and freshly ground to order. Pots of tea are also available, as well as cold drinks.DSC07955DSC07957DSC07956Unknown
  • The food – right from the start Pete and Rachel decided on a limited menu of high-class foods..DSC0795811008463_978724118819047_5349640578039600483_nBread is sourced from high quality, independent bakers and cakes are made on site and fresh every day. Stunning!   DSC07977
  • A great meeting place – The Plug is such a great place to meet friends, small tables or the large table by the door, all offer a great place for a chat with old friends or make new ones!      DSC07959DSC07964DSC07984
  • Courses – Pete runs a coffee brewing course on a regular basis. They are just brilliant and give such a great insight into the fascinating world of coffee.  
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  • Music – Pete plays a great selection every day…. And will even let you choose what you want to listen to. It’s never too loud but loud enough to create a lovely atmosphere.Music Background With Different Genres and Types
  • Payment – you can pay in so many ways… cash, credit card, debit card, PayPal via your smartphone or you can even buy a gift card to keep you going for a few daysDSC07973Once or twice I have turned up without money and was allowed to pay on my next visit….
  • The loo!!! – wonderful!         DSC07982

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I like The Plug… a lot!
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10 reasons I like Barry…

The town of Barry does not always attract the best publicity. I have never lived there, but I attended the town’s Teacher Training College for three years in the late sixties and early seventies and still make frequent visits. I have family and friends who live there.

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There are many reasons for Barry’s decline over the past years. To my mind the main reason was Cardiff. For many years after county council reorganisation Barry found itself as part of South Glamorgan. It was at the time of Cardiff’s huge Bay regeneration programme and sadly all the county’s time, effort and cash was diverted into that project. It meant that towns like Barry were left to slowly decay. Thankfully in the past few years, especially since South Glamorgan was split and The Vale of Glamorgan was created, much effort has gone into lifting this lovely Welsh town out of the doldrums and giving it a bright new future.

I am alarmed that the Welsh Assembly government is thinking of giving Barry back to Cardiff. That must never happen.

I love Barry – here are ten good reasons why!

  1. Glamorgan College of Education

I attended The Glamorgan College of Education from September 1969 until June 1972. It was a brilliant three years. I left qualified to teach, something I enjoyed for the next almost 40 years. I think I learnt more in my first week of teaching than I did in three years in College, but it was still a great place to be and I am still in touch with a few of my student friends.

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I lived at home during those three years but often stayed with friends in the ‘dorms’. I remember there were three residences – two in the main old building. Morgannwg, (affectionately known as Forgy) was the name of the male dorm and Gwent was the girls’, but they also had a modern tower block, which went by the name of Hafren. Morgannwg and Gwent were Welsh county names and Hafren is the Welsh for Severn as in the River I think.

I remember are representing the college in table tennis and during one league match took a game off a former Welsh champion. One other thing was that the college football team were at one time coached by Mel Sutton, the Cardiff City midfield hard man. He used to give me a lift home after training and we became friends and for several years he gave me free tickets to all the Cardiff City home games.

I remember sitting in lectures and watching the old steam trains being transported off to new homes from the Barry Scrapyard. Barry is very hilly and the low loader lorries would strain every sinew, as they crawled up College Hill. Academically, all I remember are the Welsh lectures with John Bevan, who owned a Capri – he also gave me a lift to college quite often and an English lecturer called Cenwyn Thomas, who gave me two wonderful things – a great love of reading aloud and a love of the poems of William Wordsworth.

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As the thoughts come flooding back, I also remember the college PE lecturer, a great guy called Stevie Banks, whose cry of ‘Come on lads up the Butts!’ was a call to treck across several roads to the Buttrills playing fields, where we would learn how to become PE teachers. Steve was also an avid sailor and his cries of ‘Sail before Steam!’ could be heard regularly on the weekend in the waters around Barry.

The drama department was based in the old Drill Hall and we would wander down the hill to lectures. It’s a funeral home now.

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The old college is gone now and the old buildings are a nursing home. The old Maths department is a pub but I think the swimming pool still remains!

  1. Barry Island

I spent many happy hours in Barry Island as a child. My mum and dad would take us on the train from Llanishen Station to Barry Island on a regular basis. Most of the journeys were on steam trains. Unforgettable bliss!

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On the way, we would hold our breath after Grangetown Station, as the train would take one of two routes as it approached Penarth. The short way was via Cogan, Dinas Powys and Cadoxton and on to Barry, but the long way, which always brought groans from us kids, was through Penarth via Dingle Road, Alberta Place Halt, Swanbridge, Lavernock and Sully, before joining the main line near Cadoxton. I would give my right arm to be able to travel that line again on a steam train. Sadly houses have been build on the track bed in some places and so that dream will never become a reality and I will never have to learn to write with my left hand!! A few years ago I did walk the old line from Biglis Roundabout to Penarth Station. I had to sneak through a garden near Lavernock but an amazing amount of track bed is still left.

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The journey home would be made smelling of calamine lotion as we always got sunburnt and spent two days in agony every time. No sun cream or after sun gel in those days!

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Barry Island had and still has a magnificent beach; on our many visits, we always sat by number 5 on the sea wall and therefore never got lost despite the massive crowds, which went to the beach in those days. We have so many happy memories of sandcastles, candyfloss, toffee apples and chips.

If only the water was clearer it would be perfect!

  1. Memorial Hall                                                                                                                                             

Barry Memorial Hall (The Memo) is such a great building.

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The Memo Arts Centre is the largest multi-arts venue in the Vale of Glamorgan, and only cinema exhibitor in Barry. It is a vibrant and crucial hub for the local community and those living beyond, known as a friendly, accessible place, where users come to make, see and participate. Barry Memorial Hall was built at a cost of £23,000 with donations by Major Davies and his sisters totalling £10,000. It was originally opened in 1932/3 but was gutted by fire in 1943 and not rebuilt until 1957.

On the 11th November 2007, the Memorial Hall and Theatre marked its 75th anniversary with the rededication of the Hall of Memory and Cenotaph following extensive refurbishment. Over 2,000 visitors attended the celebration.

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The Memorial Hall and Theatre in Barry, has over its 75-year history, played a major part in the cultural lives of Barry residents and those further a field. It is situated near the Waterfront, it has a valued reputation for presenting a broad programme of professional theatre, music and dance events.

The entrance hall has an impressive reminder of all the men and women from the town who lost their lives in the two world wars.

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Stunning – a fitting memorial to our heroes!

  1. Barry Docks

The development of Barry began with the construction of the docks in the 1880s. Eight miles from Cardiff, it was one of the largest dock areas in the world at that time. It transformed the village with a then population of some 85 people.

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Millions of tons of coal were exported from the docks and hordes of day-trippers used the railways, built to carry coal, and enjoyed the sands of Barry Island.
David Davies the industrialist created The Barry Docks and Railway Company. He left an estate valued at nearly £405,000 when he died in 1890. A bronze statue of David Davies stands before the Dock Offices at Barry sculpted by Alfred Gilbert, who designed Eros’ statue in London.

The Dock Offices at Barry cost £59,000 to build. Constructed of red brick and Portland stone, a clock tower was added at an additional cost of £6,000. It has a ‘theme’ of the calendar. There are four floors – the seasons of the year; seven lights in the traceried fanlight window – days of the week. The porch has twelve panels – months of the year.
Within the building are 52 marble fireplaces – weeks of the year. The windows number 365 days, one for each day of the year. Each window has four panes of glass – weeks to a month. In the east and west walls of the entrance hall are two circular windows – Sun and Moon. The staircase, made of Portland stone, has 31 steps (days of the month) from ground to first and second floors and has an ornamental ironwork balustrade with circular foliage and fruit trails.

The trade through the docks fell steadily as the steam coal was replaced by oil as the major energy source in ships and factories.

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Today, it is very quiet and very few ships use the docks, but I love the history. The Dock Offices are now the headquarters of the Associated British Ports.

Not so long ago, I was given a ride on a ship from Cardiff to Barry and entering the docks with its rich history was a thrill for me.

  1. Porthkerry Park and Viaduct.

Porthkerry Park is another place that figures highly in my childhood and teenage years. As far as I can see Porthkerry Park has a Barry address and so is included here!

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Porthkerry Park is a large, public country park on the coast next to Barry. It has fields, extensive woodland and nature trails, cliff-top pathways, a pebble-stone beach and a small golf course. Architecturally, it is noted for its prominent viaduct that helped with the transportation for coal to the port of Barry in the 19th and 20th centuries. With the combination of green areas and the coastal location, the park is such a great place to visit and one I visited many times as a child and a teenager and indeed many times since. I remember many times having barbecues on the beach.

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On the northern side of the park is the site of the old village at Cwmcidi (meaning Valley of the Black Dog), which came into existence before the middle of the 13th century.

In 1622, Cwmcidi contained 5 houses bordering “Comkedye Street”, interspersed with a number of tofts (dwelling sites) plus three scattered dwellings. By 1812, there remained only three cottages and a farmhouse. The cottages were finally swept away in the 1840s when the area was landscaped by the Romilly family to form Porthkerry Park. The name – although slightly anglicised lives on in the area, in the form of a nearby public house, The Cwm Ciddy. It’s the place I took Boo when we got engaged.

The park is maintained by two rangers, one of whom has a residence at a quaint, old cottage along the main park road.

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  1. Cold Knap

Cold Knap is such a lovely place, but used to be a fantastic place when I was young. Nowadays, Cold Knap, sitting at the posh end of Barry is popular for its quiet, pebble beach with its fine views around to Porthkerry.

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It has a small lake, which is in the shape of a harp. It’s a lovely place to walk around.

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When I was young it was THE place to go but only for one reason – the open-air baths.

For many in and around South Wales, a day out at Barry’s Knap Lido, or, as it was known locally, ‘The Baths’, was the perfect place to while away the happy, lazy days of spring and summer – even when the sun didn’t shine.

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The pool was 120 yards long and 20 yards wide; the mostly-icy waters of Barry’s Knap Lido went from a toddler-safe few inches, to the seemingly bottomless deep end

The Knapsnak shop provided refreshments of the age; Cresta pop, Chipmunk crisps, pies and pasties and more – but the best thing of all was cups of OXO drink, which always warmed us up after a swim. There were some changing rooms, which you could use to get changed but theses were always packed out!

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Sadly, after being left to decay after it’s closure it was ultimately filled in . There is currently a petition to rebuild and reopen this iconic landmark. My signature was one of the first! 11 Knap Lido Filled In

  1. Romilly’s Tea Shop

Romilly’s is a fairly new teashop that has opened in Cold knap. It’s a great little place where you can get tea and other drinks served in   homely atmosphere. It has a very vintage feel about the place, which pleases my dear wife very much indeed.

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  1. Barry Town United

I became a Barry Town United supporter in the 2013-2014 season, largely as a result of my son’s interest. He has always had an affinity with the hard done by in society and what happened to Barry Town Football Club in 2013 was a disgrace.

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On 7 May 2013, Stuart Lovering, the owner of Barry Town inexplicably withdrew the team from the Welsh Football League against the will of the Barry Town Supporters Club, players and supporters, who were ready and willing to fulfil the remaining two fixtures of the season.

After the BTSC outlined their intentions to play again the following season, adopting the name of Barry Town United to emphasise their continuing unity and endeavour, a meeting of the FAW Council in Bettws y Coed June 2013 announced that they would not be allowed back into the league and instead would have to play “recreational football” henceforth. That meant this great club playing parks football.

This was a shocking decision by the inept FAW council, made up of life members, who appeared completely out of touch with the strength of local feeling. After significant public outcry, a second meeting was arranged for July 2013 in Caersws to hear new evidence as why the Barry Town Supporters Club should be able to continue at Welsh League level. At this second meeting, 15 of the FAW Councillors voted not even to discuss the club’s future, thus concluding the meeting within five minutes, a meeting that was held at considerable expense. It was an utter disgrace and brought shame on Welsh football. I wrote myself to every councillor and NOT ONE even had the decency to respond to me.

The outcomes of both meetings went against the recommendations of the FAW’s own Domestic Committee and legal team.

With their future unclear, the Barry team began their pre-season programme for 2013 with wins at Moreton and Elmore that same month, followed by a narrow 3-2 loss to Premiership newcomers Cardiff City, watched by a home crowd of 1,650 supporters on Saturday 27 July. Barry had remarkably led 2-1 at the break. This was my first taste of Barry Town United and I was hooked!

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On 9 August 2013, a High Court judge in Cardiff ruled in favour of Barry Town United, saying that the FAW had acted unlawfully in denying Barry their licence. Barry were entered back into the Welsh League, along with a reformed Llanelli club that also benefited from the High Court decision.

Gaz and I followed them for the rest of the season attending matches at home and away. We have discovered a unique but close band of supporters who care passionately about the club. They are an absolutely hilarious bunch and every match they have me laughing my head off! This year I am acting as apprentice to Barry’s own one-man version of The Barry Horns, Terry, a great old guy who plays the bugle. He entertains crowds at home and away. Barry were the best-supported team in Division 3 last season by a country mile. We sponsored players, supported the fundraising and tried to devise as many ways as we could of avoiding Terry the bugler, when he came round selling lotto tickets.

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Two things strike me about football at this level. The closeness of the fans, who look out for each other and send tweets of good luck to each other and the players and the fairness of the players. No drama queens, no fake dives, just honest, hard, genuine football, played by teams that just love playing football.

Barry Town United is a fan owed, fan run club and has brought back my love for the game big time! 2014 saw Barry Town United end up as Division 3 champions.

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  1. Barry Scrapyard

Barry Scrapyard is no more but when I was younger it was one of the most amazing places ever. As a young man and indeed as a much older man I loved climbing over the rusting engines. They came to Barry to die and to be cut up but Dai Woodham had other ideas!

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The story of the legendary scrapyard of Woodham Brothers at Barry is a truly remarkable one that involves so many sets of circumstances that would make a great novelist proud. The man who fostered the legend, Dai Woodham, became a name familiar with steam enthusiasts and preservationists alike. Dai entered into a contract with British Railways to buy their old redundant steam trains. On the 25th of March 1959, the first batch of engines was despatched to Barry.
Although the number of locomotives bought by Woodham’s was comparatively small at this stage, the size of the deliveries increased and between November 1960 and April 1961 alone, 40 locomotives were acquired from Swindon. Most but not all of these engines were scrapped soon after their arrival, but as the number of deliveries increased, additional storage was found at the low-level sidings adjacent to the oil terminal and also on sidings built on the site of the former West Pond which had been filled in as part of a land reclamation scheme. These additional sites were required for the number of Southern Region engines that Woodham’s began to purchase from mid-1964.

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During 1965, 65 locomotives arrived at the Barry scrapyard, however, in the first six-month period 28 engines were dismantled but cutting virtually ceased from the autumn onwards as the scrap men concentrated instead on breaking up yet more freight wagons and brake vans. Dai found these easier to dismantle than the old steam engines. He continued to purchase further locomotives until the end of steam in 1968 with many of the later deliveries being of the BR Standard designs.

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Altogether from 1959 until 1968, Woodham’s bought 297 locomotives, however by August 1968 only 217 remained at the Barry scrapyard. It was at this time that steam locomotive enthusiasts realised the potential that Dai Woodham’s yard presented to them – many classes had already become extinct but the main other source of steam engines for the future was to be this new phenomenon at Barry. The railway preservation boom began.

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There are many preserved lines now across the length and breadth of Britain and most of them owe Dai Woodham and Barry a great debt of gratitude.

10. Glamorgan Wartime Heritage Centre,

This great exhibition is situated at the Barry Island Station. Barry and the surrounding area has a rich and varied heritage that stems back to Roman times and beyond; certainly, the first evidence of Barry`s wartime history is the Roman ‘mansio’, a sort of latter day inn or hotel for Roman officials at the Knapp.

Barry`s war heritage spans to modern times, with the docks being used during the Middle East conflicts of the late 50s and early 60s.

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It is believed that during WW1 the first American troops to land in Britain, embarked at Barry, and during WW2 Barry became an important staging post for US Forces in preparation for the D-Day landings in Normandy………….such is the history of Barry at War.

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The Glamorgan Wartime Heritage Centre located at Barry Island Railway Station is usually open the second Sunday of the month, and Wednesday afternoons (2-4pm, Jan – Nov).

It’s well worth a visit.

Speaking Latin

I attended Howardian High School in Cardiff from 1962 to 1969. It was a great school in many ways because it just caught the end of a very traditional style of schooling.  My mother was immensely proud when I passed the eleven plus examination and was given a place at this hallowed institution.

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Howardian High School was founded in 1885, in Howard Gardens, in central Cardiff. Hence the name – although at the time it was called the Howard Gardens School for Boys, and it did not come to be called “Howardian” until later. It was built at the height of Cardiff’s expansion, as the busy docks and other heavy industries drew migrant workers in. 
The school building was destroyed by ‘enemy action’, that is to say, explosive devices dropped by young German lads flying overhead in propeller-driven aeroplanes in 1941. A number of other buildings were blown up or burned down in what was at the time a heavy programme of bombing. Cardiff had massive dockyards, which played an important role in keeping the wheels of industry turning. Presumably the eighteen-year old kids in their Messerschmitts were aiming for the docks, and missed by a mile or two. So the solid school building was laid waste after only half a century.

The School as an entity survived and migrated to new premises. A new girls school had been almost finished just before the war started in 1939, on a green field site in a suburb called Penylan. In the reconstruction after the war, Howardian High School moved in. It was still a boys school at that time. Later, to accommodate the growing numbers of pupils, a typical 1050s building was erected on high ground nearby, in 1953. The boys moved into the new construction, and the girls eventually moved into what was then an old building – about fifteen years after they had originally planned.

In the 1980s, the local government decided that the falling numbers of pupils meant that the school was surplus to requirement. And it had large tracts of playing fields that would fetch a good price in the property market. So they took it. Smash and grab. They smashed the school to rubble, grabbed the land, and annihilated the institution of Howardian High School shortly after it had celebrated its hundredth year of existence.

The closure of such a great school is to Cardiff’s shame!

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When I was there, the masters wore gowns; we stood up when a teacher walked into the room and took our outdoor shoes off when we arrived in school and wore plimsolls all day. Boys were regularly caned even for minor misdemeanors.

The Headteacher was a man called Archibald Sinclair and the deputy was Illtyd Lloyd, but we only ever knew him as ‘Slinky’. We feared him more than the devil himself. I am sure he was a lovely man and a great teacher, but we small boys were scared to death of the man whose room was on the balcony above the main entrance. It was outside his room that the canings took place.

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The school hall was adorned with shields from the great universities of our nation. Assemblies were conducted in the main hall, which had a huge organ with massive speakers built into the walls. We sang from a hymn book called ‘Hymns of the Kingdom’.

Howardian had a separate dining hall where we would eat lunch. The older boys would serve. Before we ate we would stand and recite a Latin grace. I learnt the words as a young eleven-year-old lad; but until today (10th January 2014) I had no idea what they meant!  It was though, a grace that I repeated countless times as a teacher – but never whilst preparing to eat.

If ever a child or children misbehaved or frustrated me in any way, I would close my eyes slowly, whilst breathing in deeply through my nose. At the same time I would raise my eyes and stare at the ceiling before uttering slowly and clearly…

Benedictus, Benedicat, per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum

Amen

The effect was always amazing.  It eased tensions and brought a smile from young and old alike.

I found out today whilst Googling that it as a Latin grace said prior to the meal at formal and celebratory dinners.

The meaning is loosely translated to:

“Blessed is He and may He bless this food through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

Apparently, the closing grace would be

Benedicto Benedicatur, per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum.

Amen

For a generation of children who were under my care, I am sure they always imagined I was calling on the Almighty to pour down fire and brimstone upon them. Sorry kids – but we had fun!

The truth is out!

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Happy days.

Perpetual sunshine produces a desert.

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I came across this quote some years ago on a calendar I used to keep on my desk when I taught in Cogan Primary School. It has stuck in my brain through all that time. It’s an intriguing thought. On the surface I guess it means that if every day has sunshine and no rain, eventually nothing will grow; you need rainy days to go with the sunny days to enable growth to take place.

In a way life is just like that!

If things always go smoothly and we never experience pain or heartache, then our lives become dry and barren. We cannot appreciate the good days in our lives, if we never go through those tough times. While we may hate them as we go through them, but when they are replaced by the happy times in our lives, we are able then to appreciate the good days because of the bad days.

It is told that once Elgar, the great musician, was listening to a young girl singing. She had a beautiful voice and a well-nigh faultless technique, but she just missed greatness. “She will be great”, said Elgar, when something happens to break her heart.” There are things which only sorrow can teach.

It has been said said that sorrow is the source of the great discoveries in life. It is in sorrow that you discover the things that matter, and the things that do not matter. It is in sorrow that you discover the meaning of friendship and the meaning of love. It is in sorrow that you discover whether your faith is a merely superficial ornament of life or the essential foundation on which your whole life depends.

The sorrowful times in my life have not been many, but the tough days we had, were hard.

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Among the most difficult of times was when Boo lost her beloved dad when she was nineteen. He went to work one morning and never came home. He had a stroke at his desk and was rushed to hospital where he sadly passed away. Boo never had the chance to say goodbye. She was at the age when she needed him more than ever. He was a wonderful man in every sense of the word but he died too young. He never lived to see any of his children get married, never saw his grandchildren at play or his great grandchildren smile.

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Jean still weeps often.

We will never forget the miscarriage Boo suffered in our early married life, we were young and inexperienced and it hit us so badly. It took us so long to get over it. They were dark days. There were other days when we barely had enough money to live on and making ends meet was a constant battle.
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I still struggle with the loss of my both my parents within a few months of each other; although we always knew that once one had died the other would follow soon. They were remarkable people, who just lived for each other. My dad passed away while we were on holiday three thousand miles away and the fact that I never got to say goodbye to him hurts so much. The journey home was a difficult one in so many ways. A few months later my mum left her house one day to  come on holiday with us, was taken ill in the car and she never returned to the home she loved. She died quietly in my arms in hospital.

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In more recent times, the pain of seeing our daughter and son in law struggle with infertility was tangible and we questioned God as to why he would allow this to happen.

The sometimes long journey through these ‘rainy days’ has helped shape us into the people we are today. We can enjoy our happy days because of those sad days.

It is in sorrow that a man discovers God. It’s been said, “When you come to the bottom, you find God.”

There is a deep sense in which it is literally true, that sorrow has its own unique blessedness to give.

As you struggle with sorrow in your life, always remember that after the rain has stopped the sun will come out….

Perpetual sunshine produces a desert.

Advice to my grandchildren…Aim high!

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Michelangelo once said ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.’

That to me sounds like good advice. It came to me when I was with my grandson in the games hall of my church. He picked up the basketball, looked up at the net and paused. I know what he was thinking. In his mind he had that ball through the ring. 

I have three grandchildren, two beautiful girls and one one beautiful boy. Like any grandparent I want the best for them. I look at my own kids and think about the mistakes we made as we were raising them, and then realise that when you have grandchildren you are… sort of… given another chance. 
I pray that I can use my wisdom and experience of life to guide them on their way. In life, aiming high is so important. I look back and regret the times in my life when I accepted second best or set the bar too low and achieved things without an effort. When I was a teacher, I tried always to give my pupils only the best, they deserved nothing less. I was always inspired by two saying I found on life’s journey. One was the motto of a school I drove past – ‘Excellence to all and from all’. Great advice on giving and expecting the best.
The other, a motto on the bottom of my desk calendar, – ‘What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.’ 

I hope and pray that what I do for my grandchildren will affect their lives for good…

My children and grandchildren are the greatest gift God will ever give to me, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in my hands. What I want to do is take time be with them, teach them to aim high, to have faith in God and also be someone in whom they can have faith. 

I will share with them the words of E. O. Wilson
You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honourably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! 
The world needs all you can give.

Adventures with Alfie Day 26

Alfie stayed overnight and somehow managed to sleep in my bed with the lady of the house, which meant I was banished to the princess bed in the nursery.

Somehow the good lady managed to oversleep a little and there was a good deal of rushing around and fluster this morning as we tried hard to get her into work at her allotted time.

Alfie and I drove home and looked forward to a relaxing breakfast before we began adventuring. As I walked through the hall, I looked at my reflection in the mirror and immediately wished I hadn’t. It wasn’t a pretty sight and I felt an immediate pang of sympathy for the dear lady of the house who has to face that awful sight every morning. Poor soul, it’s the thing that she sees first as she awakes from her slumbers. Alfie didn’t seem to mind, he was smiling as usual, so I decided to wash and prepare myself for the day after we had enjoyed breakfast together.

We ate outside as we were enjoying a spell of unusually warm weather. We had fun and with Alfie well fed and the morning paper read I was ready to face the day. I took Alfie down to feed the fish in our pond and the sound of the gusset of his nappy scraping along the ground reminded me that in the rush of the morning, we had not changed him. I made him my first priority and made the fish wait.

When we were all done and dusted, we made our way off on today’s adventure.

First we had to call into Hebron Hall to take lunch to the lady of the house. Sadly she was not about, but we chatted with her colleagues before moving on. Today we had decided on visiting Porthkerry Park.

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Porthkerry Park is a large, public country park on the coast of Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales It has fields, extensive woodland and nature trails, cliff-top pathways, a pebble-stone beach and a small golf course. With the combination of green areas and the coastal location, the park is a popular destination for local primary schools taking their pupils on trips to study nature.

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The most spectacular structure in the park is a massive railway viaduct. It is made of stone and has 13 arched spans of 50 feet and three of 45 feet; it stands 110 feet high and dominates the little valley that leads to the beach. There were problems due to subsidence in 1896 but this was not disclosed to the Board of Trade inspector who approved the structure.

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The line opened on 1st December 1897, but disaster struck on 10th January the following year when one of the piers slipped and that part of the line was closed at once. A loop line was made 2½ miles to the north, around Porthkerry Rectory, and this was used while the line was repaired.

The line reopened for goods trains on 8th January 1900, and for passenger trains on 9th April. The problem was due to a combination of insufficient foundations, unsuitable cement and poor workmanship.

The Barry-Bridgend passenger service finished on 13 June 1964 as part of theBeeching cuts but passenger trains on the eastern part of the line fromCardiff to Barry continued, and the western section continued to be used by through passenger trains between Cardiff and Bridgend when the main line was closed. This still frequently happens at night and on Sundays and train operators ran empty coaching stock and empty mail trains via this route to retain train crews.

However, with traffic increasing to Cardiff International Airport, the Local Government transport consortium SWIFT also identified the potential for reopening the Vale of Glamorgan line. The Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend Borough Councils to the Welsh Assembly Government promoted the scheme in August 1999. After agreeing funding, track upgrading and signalling works commenced in June 2004 with: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of new track laid; 6.5 miles (10.5 km) of track upgraded; 15000 tonnes of ballast used; three new section signals were installed together with three distant signals and one repeater signal required by the curved approach to Llantwit Major Station. Final planning permission for the new stations and interchanges at Rhoose, Cardiff International Airport and Llantwit Major was granted in 2004 and from October 2004 the line was closed daily between Bridgend and Aberthaw or Barry for the station construction, with goods traffic passing at night. At Bridgend, the Barry Bay was re-laid and a new platform face built.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council was responsible for the construction of the interchanges at Rhoose, Cardiff International Airport and Llantwit Major. Network Rail spent £15m and the Vale of Glamorgan Council £2m making a grand total of £17m for the whole project.

The official opening was performed by Andrew Davies AM, Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Economic Development and Transport, on 10 June 2005. The section of line between Barry and Bridgend reopened for passenger services on 12 June, the first day of that year’s summer timetable.

So, the line is very much in use today.

Interestingly, in 1944 military vehicles were gathered in Porthkerry Park, and in June 1944 twenty-one ships left Barry Docks for France, filled with troops, vehicles and equipment for the Normandy landings.

We drove down through Barry and entered the park via ‘Fishponds Hill’ just off Park Road; we then went down a steep, wooded hill alongside the Nant Talwg valley. At the bottom of the hill are ‘the fishponds’, and a small car park. Further along, the road bends under the railway line, and then continues west along the main field past Nightingale Cottage towards the viaduct. The park warden lives in this idyllic little dwelling.

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The main car park is just before the viaduct, along with the shop, toilets, ‘Pitch and Putt’ golf, and children’s playground.

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I noticed Alfie had dozed off to sleep on the journey and so I parked underneath some oak trees switched off the engine and listened to Test Match Special on the radio… my idea of heaven – a beautiful day out with Alfie, the shade of some oak trees, a pleasant sea breeze blowing gently through the car and The First Ashes Test.

Alfie didn’t sleep for long though and after a few overs he woke up, so we soon began to make our way through the park and down to the beach, it’s probably the quietest beach in the Barry area.

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We had such a great time here, Alfie sat on the pebbles playing with them and throwing them as hard and as far as he could – about six inches – he really enjoyed throwing things without getting told off!

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He sat on the beach for ages, looking out pensively at the water. It seemed so peaceful and calm with the hot sun shimmering on its peaceful surface. Yet it hid a dangerous side. Days before the same stretch of water had claimed the life of a young teenage girl on holiday from Scotland. Life is cruel and hard sometimes. My thoughts are with the family of Hollie McClymont.

I reflected too on how wonderful my adventures with Alfie had been.

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This is probably the last time we will have a Friday together just the two of us. I thought back on how much Alfie had grown since Adventures Day 1, I remembered the number of different places we had visited. I thanked God for the privilege that this was. Alfie was His gift to our family. I look forward to new Adventures with the lady of the house and the Angel Millie after the summer holidays.

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I was kind of wishing we had brought a picnic with us. There were two very old ladies having a wonderful time just near us, tucking in to a large lunch in a very civilised way. I was really pleased for them that they were having such a good time. I felt hungry all of a sudden.

Alfie and I ambled back to the car as we had arranged to meet Millie in Barry in the early afternoon. On the way back we played in the long grass. I soon had Alfie chuckling, fascinated by grass that was taller than him!

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We stopped by a stream to look for fish and we were mad we had not brought a net, as we could have easily added to the fish we have in our pond at home. I don’t know what they were, tiddlers, minnows or sticklebacks, but they fascinated Alfie.

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We got back to the car and drove into Gibbonsdown.

Gibbonsdown, colloquially known as ‘Gibby’, is a housing estate situated in the northeast area of Barry. The area has gained a bad image over the years because of deprivation, quality of the area and crime such as vandalism, violence, drugs and theft. However, things are changing for the good and the council has installed a ‘Splashpad’ for families to enjoy. It is a wonderful thing,… not a pool, but more like a water playground with fountains and water jets to amuse the kids. I overheard some of the young mums talking in school when I dropped Princess Mia off the other day and I was determined to go.

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Mia and Millie’s parents had been the day before and we agreed to meet up after hearing their recommendation.

We parked the car and strolled across and we were amazed at how good it was. Millie came prepared in her swimming costume but Alfie was going in in his T-shirt and shorts. Millie had been unsure the day before and was much braver today. Alfie was just… unsure!

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After a while he got used to it – and it took some getting used to if you are just a little kid – and was soon happily playing in the gentler fountains. It was such a great way to spend a hot sunny day. We had such fun!

A big well done and thanks you to the Vale of Glamorgan Council for giving the area such a good facility. We loved it.

We drove home a little damp, but very happy and played for a while before Alfie’s mum collected him.

As I sat in our garden and watched the little lad, I though how funny it had been that each little adventure together had been so enjoyable and so much fun. In my mind I thanked Alfie’s dad and mum for trusting him with me and me with him!!

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We have begun to build a bond that will last forever, grandfather and grandson, an old man and a young boy…  who will be friends… forever!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my world of blogging! Hope you have as much fun reading them as I do writing them.

I am motivated bu the verse  in the Bible which says…This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Having spent forty years teaching when so much of my time was taken up I now have time to be a bit more  reflective and maybe help others ‘enjoy the journey’

Much love to all

Rog