We spent the last few days in north-west Wales with both sets of in-laws. Despite being in a mobile-signal blackspot, and despite coping for four days with my parents, and despite the fact that neither Gwynedd nor Conwy are exactly metropolis-laden counties of the future, we loved it. Apart from a drizzly, grizzly day at Conwy town – which rather suited its fortifications anyway – the weather was occasionally scorching, occasionally turbulent. We even spent a day at Portmeirion, which… well, I’m sure anyone who knows about it will have some idea what it’s like.
Our cottage, high up in the hills around Betws-y-Coed, was built in what my mother-in-law recognized as an old (South Wales) Valleys style: there’s the back door, and then there’s the garden as a steep set of two or three terraces, cut into a hillside. The topmost crowned the hill, and looked out over the wide, green River Conwy valley towards Moel Siabod, which is Welsh for “you’d see Snowdon if this wasn’t here.” The view filled your heart, and was almost stereotypically rural, looking out over farms, trees and mountains: the river itself was hidden by another undulating fold of green.
One day, up on the top terrace, I was lazing on the lawn near the summerhouse. This is how bucolic it got, really. But as I read, drank tea and sunned myself, I was surprised by a tiny whirring noise, announcing the visit of a sparrow. It buzzed around, almost unconcerned, landing on a squat sundial, hopping into the grass, fluttering over the dead patch where the old summerhouse probably was. It basically kept me company for ten minutes, cocked its head as if to tug a forelock, as if to wish me a good holiday, then bobbed off. I was left alone, with my tea, a Wodehouse novel, and the landscape.