Chris and I met through running. I think it was about ten years ago that she joined the Women’s Running Network, a now defunct organisation which aimed to give ordinary women the opportunity to run with other people. The club disbanded years ago but a number of us decided to keep meeting up to run two or three times a week. As we run we chat. It takes one’s mind off the pain of running up the hills which are an inevitable part of running in Swansea and if you are lucky, you get to spend time with nice people. Generally speaking, runners are indeed very nice people. They tend to take their frustrations out on the road rather than each other, so maybe this is why our little group has stuck together so well and so long. Chris and the rest of us ran together for years and did a number of races and God knows how many miles. She developed a nasty injury and was forced to stop for a long time, but she recently came back and the old team is now fully reunited again. She slotted straight back in to our group as if she’d never been away, surely an indicator of how good the relationship between us all is.
The cafe at Aberglasney is one of its strengths. It is housed in a building adjacent to the lower walled garden and overlooks a lake. In the summer you can sit on the South facing terrace and watch the dragonflies. It was a beautiful day but as it was January, we decided to sit inside. The food in the cafe is provided by a local company which specialise in organic, seasonal, locally produced food, so I was surprised to see Thai fish cakes on the menu. We ordered them and were pleased with the quality of both the food and the service. The desserts included something called a ‘ gooseberry and apple treacle crumble tart’ which I was dubious about because of the excessive number of nouns. Despite my reservations, I tried it and was pleasantly surprised. I can see why they kept all the nouns too – it was shaped like a tart but made from crumble mix instead of pastry and had fruit and treacle in. It was absolutely delightful – perfect after a frosty winter walk.
5 February 2015
Aberglasney Gardens, Carmarthenshire
I asked Chris to choose a venue when we were out running recently and she immediately suggested either the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne or Aberglasney Gardens. I was delighted with her thinking – both are magical places and involve a beautiful drive into Carmarthenshire.
Chris picked me up and having established that I always drive and so don’t get to look at the scenery, she took us through the country lanes around Ammanford and Llandybie. It was a beautiful day: cold and crisp but with a bright blue sky and brittle, sharp sunshine. Looking at the hills as we rolled through them was utterly delightful, especially when we saw a red kite no more than 20 metres above the car.
Aberglasney itself is fantastic. It has a Tudor cloister garden, a yew tunnel and an amazing ninfarium (indoor garden). At this time of year, it was almost deserted and we wandered among the ancient trees and perfectly maintained box hedges, chatting and laughing as if we owned the place.
I didn’t realise Chris was an accomplished knitter but she was wearing a beautiful jumper and scarf that she had made herself. As I have recently rediscovered knitting thanks to a friend having opened a wool shop (see lunch number 19 with Morgan) we talked a lot about knitting, sewing and crochet. We also discussed children, grandchildren and babies – very much in my mind thanks to the recent visit of my nephew and his family and in Chris’s as she has two very small grandchildren. As usual I learnt something unexpected – that placenta smells like semen. Chris was a midwife for over 30 years so this nugget slipped out in passing while we were talking about something else, obviously not noteworthy to her but astonishing to me. I pressed her on it and asked for more information which she generously supplied but groaned that it would probably be the only thing I wrote about or remembered. She’s only partly right – it certainly stuck in my mind, but the thing that I really remember is how very pleasant it was to walk around that beautiful place in such good company.