Eira, Linzi (lunch 40), Caroline (lunch 44) Chris (lunch 20) and I all met through a women’s running club. The club was a short lived affair but we have kept running together ever since. It’s 14 years now which is a lot of miles, even when you run as slowly as we do.
With Eira, it’s not just the running. We both love swimming too and are members of the beautiful 50 metre pool which graces the Swansea sea front near my house. In theory at least, we swim regularly and are actually not too bad at it these days. We also cycle together and thanks to Eira’s inspired idea and organisational skills, once cycled the length of Wales, while simultaneously making a spirited attempt to drink it dry. Paul is Eira’s OH and he was dragged, along with Linzi and her other half, and me and mine, into the long cycle ride and various other harebrained schemes with an air of long-suffering indulgence. He’s a good sport though and is excellent company as he does it all with an entertaining and sardonic sense of humour.
The running, cycling and swimming are all very well, but there is one other pastime that Eira and I excel at: coffee drinking. We are currently undertaking a survey of toasted teacake quality in every cafe in the area, and only a fool would attempt to eat a toasted teacake without a cup of coffee to wash it down. While we drink, I ask pertinent and intelligent questions (my opinion) about the Welsh language. Eira, a native speaker, listens to my arcane and pointless enquiries (her opinion) with an air of tolerance and mild disappointment, like a vicar talking to the local drunk.
Worm’s Head is a limestone promontory on the Western end of the Gower Peninsula. It forms a tidal island which is only accessible for two and a half hours either side of high tide. It gets its name from the Viking word ‘wurm’ which means ‘dragon’. It’s easy to see how this came about – the island looks from a distance like a sleeping dragon and has a blowhole which, when the tide is in the right place, produces plumes of spray and mist which could pass for smoke. If you’ve ever attempted to cross the causeway however, you will know that the real reason it’s named after a wild and vicious beast is that the causeway is a bugger to cross and is likely to bite you at any time.
It’s worth the effort though, as it’s a spectacularly beautiful place, far too gorgeous for me to attempt to describe. If you know it, then you will appreciate my not wasting your time with an inevitably inadequate description. If you don’t know it, have a look on Google images, then drop everything and get yourself down here quick. You’ve never seen Worm’s Head? What’s wrong with you? Put that right immediately.
15 August 2015
Worm’s Head, Gower
I had wondered why one of my dearest friends kept on delaying our lunch so that in spite of knowing about my 50 lunches project for nearly a year, we didn’t ever seem to actually have our lunch. Arranging the weather, the temperature and the tide to be just right for lunchtime is no mean feat, hence the delay, but she managed it all in the end – it was warm but not hot, there was no wind and the Worm was accessible from 11:30 till 4:30.
Eira’s perfect planning was scuppered to some extent by me hurting my back a few weeks before so that taking large steps downhill was quite painful. Knowing that we would be unlikely to get the chance to do it again this summer, I decided to go ahead anyway.
The Worm was very busy; there were dozens of people making the strenuous journey to the inner island and almost as many crossing the impossibly sharp, uneven rocks to the outer. By the time we got across the second causeway, my back was really sore and I’d fallen several times and hurt various other bits of myself. I was quite worried that my back would seize up completely, and so while the others explored the outer island I sat down to consider my options – pick my way slowly back saying ‘ouch’ (and far worse) on a regular basis, take it all at a run and risk doing enough damage to get really stuck and face the shame and terror of a coastguard rescue, or jump in and swim back. Looking over the edge at the wonderfully inviting sea, a basking seal stared back at me balefully. The look on its face was clear: “you got yourself into this mess when you could easily have just swum here like me, what is wrong with you people and all this clambering over rocks stuff?” It rolled over and started clapping its flippers in ironic applause; I have rarely felt more stupid.
The round of pinniped applause was the fillip I needed and I started back. Once back to the inner island, I knew that the way would get much easier and so was able to relax and enjoy the day much more. The weather was perfect and whether you look out to sea, along the Head or back to the majestic sweep of Rhosilli Bay, the view is spectacular. The others soon caught up with me and I entertained myself by criticising Eira’s accent. She had (to my ears) mispronounced a name and so given us the impression that she was talking about a marriage between two men. This didn’t really fit with comments about the dress, the bride and so on, so we quickly established that the bride was indeed female and I spent a few happy minutes diagnosing her pronunciation problems and drilling her to correct them. I am absolutely in awe of anyone who speaks two languages as well as Eira, so this opportunity to laugh at the ‘damage’ caused by her mixed up linguistic heritage was a great gift.
Once back on the mainland, we were able to eat the picnic lunch which Paul had uncomplainingly carried all the way. The food would have been good in somebody’s garden but bearing in mind we were in the middle of nowhere, it was miraculous. There was a tablecloth, napkins, locally brewed beer, wonderful artisan bread and a variety of M&S salads among other things. Tom made me realise just how far from my impoverished upbringing my children have travelled by saying “olive bread is a staple”. He took it in good part when we all laughed though.
We ate, drank, lazed and watched the tide roll back in. Both Tom and Paul commented that it would be nice, having taken the trouble to get back to safety in time ourselves, to watch someone get caught out on the causeway and at least get their feet wet, if not precipitate a full blown rescue. Thankfully they didn’t get their wish, and we set off for home in Eira’s car. Our lovely day was complete when we got half way back across Gower (and into the land of radio and mobile reception) and we heard that Swansea had beaten Newcastle two-nil. Sometimes it’s hard to see how there could be a better place in the world.