Louise and I met, along with several other of my lunch dates, at the Pantygwyder Baptist church playgroup. Like the rest of us, Louise was reeling in shock at having responsibility for another human being and was doing whatever she could to make life easier. Entertaining the children while eating home made cake certainly fell into the category of ‘easier’ and so we were both regular attenders.
Unlike me, Louise had a very well behaved female child. She looked disapprovingly at my wild boy, but unlike everyone else in the playgroup, she told me what she thought of him. On that first ever meeting, she told me my son was outrageous, accused me of ‘sexual incontinence’ for getting pregnant for number two so quickly, described herself as ‘fat’ and pointed out that not only was voting in the next election a pointless exercise because of the globalisation of economic trends, but that all the candidates were ‘unshaggable’. I fell in love on the spot – Louise is perceptive and clever, but more than anything else, she is a brilliant user of English.
I was glad to get into the car to visit Louise as she lives in a beautiful part of the world which is particularly lovely on a sunny day – the Swansea Valley. It’s a great cycle ride, but I conned myself that I didn’t have the time and drove instead. From Louise’s house you can see the whole valley and the mountains beyond. Like many people who live there all the time, she forgets to look at how gorgeous it is, but it’s a novelty for me and I thoroughly enjoy sitting in her garden and looking at Wales. It’s not irrelevant here that Louise is a really good cook and I knew that I would probably get a decent meal, so off I went, full of pleasurable anticipation.
The name of the village where she and her family live is pronounced Un – iss – me – do and spelt Ynysmeudwy. Welsh is usually phonetic, assuming you know the Welsh alphabet of course, so the fact that the village’s name is not pronounced as it is written was always a puzzle to me. Then last year Louise took ownership of a Victorian church in the village and so came by lots of old documents. Within five ninutes I had found the name of the village spelled in three different ways. Evidently our Victorian forebears were just as daunted by Welsh place names as the rest of us. That made me feel a lot better.
Our meetings these days are few and far between now that we are both working but I knew she meant business this time when after a number of failed attempts to meet up, Louise suggested a date, got my agreement and said “Right, that’s it, you’re on the calendar in pen, no one’s cancelling this one”.
There was a fair bit of catching up to do but it wasn’t long before we had returned to our old favourite occupation – minutely examining the behaviour and motivation of everyone we know and a good few people we don’t. Some people might find this boring, but it’s endlessly interesting for us two and provides hours of good conversation, as well as being an essential way to debrief if someone has upset one of us or if we are in need of advice.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case today, the sun was shining and the food was excellent as usual. We had goulash, except I know Louise better than that and asked sceptically what might be in a goulash. She came clean immediately and admitted she didn’t know, needed to do a supermarket run and had thrown everything in the fridge into a pot, thinking it might sound better if she gave it a name. As usual, the food was gorgeous, I’ve eaten with her hundreds of times and have literally never had a bad meal yet. So either she’s a good cook, or I’m a good eater. Or both. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter because it’s a very pleasurable experience regardless.
10 April 2015
Louise’s house, Ynysmeudwy
Unusually for our meetings, Louise’s kids and husband were around as it was the Easter holidays. They are great company and if they weren’t entertainment enough, her two small dogs were keen to involve themselves in every aspect of my visit. Unfortunately, one of the dogs has decided that I must be a violent criminal who intends to murder her family and therefore lets loose a panic stricken volley of barks every time I move, speak or do anything else to remind her of my existence, like breathe.
The other dog, a tiny, skinny little thing so small that you can literally see daylight through the skin on parts of its leg (between the ligament and the bone) is very friendly and affectionate, but has a passionate hatred for anything walking or driving past Louise’s house. This is a very small dog, so seeing her reaction to a bigger dog is amusing, but watching her posturing and offering to fight a 32 ton aggregate lorry, as she did several times that day, is just hilarious.