Steps Back In Time : Adventure At Shell Island.
Shell Island is a beautiful haven in North Wales, from the beautiful beach we catch a glimpse of Harlech Castle.
A wonderful haven to pitch up your tent or camper van and awning (no caravans).
Preparations plus the journey there!!!
I think we can all relate to 'needing to get away!! ‘I’m sure you are all acquainted with:
- Looking in your bag for your purse and then finding it in the fridge!!
- Calling one of your children but out come the dog's name instead of theirs!!
- Putting salt in your tea instead of sugar!! That being made worse by the fact that you take 3 large spoonfuls of sugar at all times!!
- Buying a DVD that you had been looking for a very long time!! Feeling over the moon with your 'find!!' until you return home only to find that you already had it!!
- Going out of the house with your top on inside out or even better you've got an odd pair of boots on!!!
- Your thinking about a recipe that you are going to try out for the very 1st time and you go up to the the lady in the Post Office and you ask for a pound of stewing steak!!
Before you all start getting worried I would like to add that if any of the above apply to you or maybe all of them you are a 100% sane!! I know for sure because I am the picture of pure sanity but maybe we could do with just a little break!! Ha ha!!
As it happened though, I was feeling a little frayed round the edges but thankfully in a week's time we were going camping to Shell Island. We were going for a long weekend.
When I say we I mean myself and Dai my partner; my eldest son ,his partner and little boy; my daughter Sue and her four kids; my daughter Leah, her partner and their two kids: I think that's it!!
We had bought a new 5 man tent and when we had a 'try it out' oh goodness me it was huge!! it resembled a bungalow but of course my daughter Leah and her partner had to outdo us and guess what they bought, you'll never guess: A nine man tent, it made ours look tiny!!
Shell Island is the perfect example of unspoilt beauty where children (and adults) love to collect all the different shells that are on the beaches. The varied species of bird life and dolphins, seals etc. Not forgetting all the beautiful species of wild flowers.
It also boasts a restaurant, club, gift shop, supermarket, fishing tackle shop and showers. There are also play areas for the little ones!! Oh I am really looking forward to my holiday. Myself and Dai have a difference of opinion on this. I insist that every time we go away, whether it be a weekend or a week I always class it as a 'holiday' but Dai says it's a break!! I think that by now we have agreed to differ!! Ha!!
The dawn broke on the morning and I was up far too early!! It was too exciting to stay in bed!! I got showered in record breaking time and was checking everything over for the umpteenth time when Dai decided to surface, bleary eyed and muttered something that I thought sounded a bit like
"Did you have to get up so early??!!" I was obviously mistaken though as he must have been as excited as me!!
"Oh dear did you want me to wake you up early as well dear?" "You should have said!"
I gave him a quick hug before skipping off to the bathroom!!
Finally it is 7.45 am and we are away.
First stop is Barry, Denise and Lucas: Everything including humans thrown into the bus!
Next are Sue, Ellie, Charlie, Neyo and Carmel: I was sure Sue really had bought everything but the kitchen sink, our 16 seated bus was really looking smaller by the minute!!
Next were Leah, Didds, Krystal and Riley: Well believe it or not everything and everyone had fitted in the bus tidily!!! Brilliant, it was now only 8.45 am and we were away!!
Seal was singing his heart out, I must add it was the CD , Seal himself wasn't with us ,(just thought I'd better explain just in case you thought I'd forgotten to tell you that HE went with us as well.)
We were now the other side of Aberystwyth which meant that we had travelled about 40 miles.
We were now approaching Dolgellau and Dai asks, “Shall we stretch our legs here?"
Within a matter of minutes we all overflowed into the nearest cafe making it look very cramped!! Nearly an hour later and feeling refreshed we started off again and what better opportunity to have a sing-song.
There were so many different tones in our little choir from; soprano to tenor; contralto to bass and some you couldn't really place into a category!!!
That lovely song; The Wheels On The Bus came blaring out, filling every nook and cranny inside the bus and spilling out to whoever was unfortunate enough to be in hearing distance outside.
Phew!! The end of the song came thank goodness but oh no now there was another one; 'On our way to Amarillo'.
The look on people's faces would have been very comical if I hadn't by now had an awful headache!!!
Some were to be seen laughing at the racket; others stood there glaring and I could almost hear their cogs turning and muttering;
'There was a time when children were seen and not heard'
The remainder of the journey flew by and we came upon a signpost that read
There were so many tents dotted here and there ; after we had booked in we were all given fluorescent bracelets to wear.
"Do we go anywhere in particular to pitch our tents up??" Dai asked.
"Anywhere you want!" the man in the kiosk said waved his arms in every direction.
We soon found somewhere to pitch up; that’s it then we were here!!
Hip Hip Hooray!!! We were here!!!
Beautiful countryside, beaches, mountains and loads of fresh air!!
What a lovely place to be at. Acres upon acres of never ending grassy fields in one direction, beautiful mountain scenery and then never ending sandy beaches in the other directions. Everyone managed to pitch their tents without too much hassle, just a few brisk comments here and there. Actually to say the truth I was very annoyed at one point. Oh no I'm waffling on again; I supposed you've gathered by now that I am very prone to waffling on.
By then Dai had the stove going and a nice cup of tea before we di anything else was essential.
"It's too nice to drink tea!" some bright spark pipes up. What absolute nonsense, it is never too nice to drink tea; some people do talk a lot of rubbish don't they!
After a lovely cup of tea we decided to go exploring.
The men decided to do a spot of fishing while me, the girls and grandkids decided to go down to the beach to build sandcastles and go crabbing!!!
Away we went armed with bucket and spades, bigger buckets to go crabbing, baby wipes and nappies for the inevitable, plus crisps and drinks.
We were all enjoying ourselves so much; there was no distinction between adults and kids.
I could feel all the stresses and strains flowing away and in their place a warm contentment taking over.
Everybody voted that evening to go to the restaurant for food as it was getting a little late by the time we'd arrived back at the tents.
We took all the little ones over to the showers by 8pm and miraculously they were all tucked up in their beds and fast asleep by 8.30 pm. Usually in the school holidays there was no such thing as getting them off to bed. It was probably the novelty of camping plus the sea air that had worked the trick.
We all sat outside chatting away until about 11.30 pm and then the kids weren't the only ones who were tucked up in their beds and fast asleep.
I woke up the next morning and peeped out of the tent and what a wondrous sight; The mist was slowly lifting from the mountain in front of us and the sun was peeping through very much like spears of warmth glowing down from the majestic scenery.
'Oh boy !' I muttered to myself. 'This must be as near as it gets to paradise!! Absolute magic!!! Oh yes we had so much to be thankful for.
It wasn't long before everyone else was up and were eating their cereal and toast at record time. There's nothing like toast made from the camper stove, it is very difficult to explain but it gives a whole new meaning to 'toast.' Mind you probably doesn't , it's just the poet in me getting carried away.
It wasn't long before everyone was showered, dressed and rearing to go!!
It was our last full day and the sun by now was weaving its magic over everyone.
It wasn't long before armed with drinks, sandwiches, beach ball, towels, buckets and spades that we were on our way to the beach again! It reminded me a bit of the Sunday school trips that I used to go on. I think there was nearly the same number of kids!! Ha Ha!!
I decided to let the youngsters do the energetic bits ; Dai and the boys were fishing further down the beach and I was going to sun bathe and I was going to finish a poem that I was writing! If I am in the middle of some writing project I can't put it down until I have finished applying the finishing touches.
I have always loved writing but I do it solely for my family. I had thought about sending some of my work to a publisher but I am lacking somewhat in the self-confidence department!!
I take a peep at my family and they are all laughing, and messing around; in other words having the time of their lives!! I had my poem in front of me and pen was poised ready for action , however .................................I was feeling very tired and I just couldn't stop my eyes from closing mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
"Excuse me madam!" came a strange voice from behind me!!..................
The great Sion Phylips.
I jump up startled, who on earth........................... By me stood a gentleman in a tweed jacket and knickerbockers with white knee high socks..
"I am so very sorry to startle you ma'am."
He did sound very sincere and he added: "Are you enjoying your stay at 'Mochras?'
('Mochras' was the old name for Shell island.)
"Oh please don't worry about it," I assured him, before adding "I am sorry to be so impertinent Sir but you do look so very familiar?!"
I brush all the sand off my thick tweed red skirt and straighten my black felt hat!
"I saw you here yesterday as well” he said before adding; “You were playing with the children then, but today you are writing away." "Would I be very very rude if I enquired as to whether you are a writer of sorts?" “I live at the farmhouse yonder and I am by name Sion Phylips."
I looked at him and recognition fell into place "I am very sorry that I did not recognise you at once!" "Of course you are Sion Phylips, the greatly talented welsh bard!" I had read so much about him but I had not expected to ever come face to face with this great scholar. As a bard he travelled the land writing his own work plus reciting to the gentry at their different functions.
"I usually sit at the window of my little hut over there to do my writing," he added pointing to a small wooden hut in the field yonder.
"How rude of me, let me introduce myself properly," he said as he did a funny little bow. "I am Sion Phylips, poet and bard to the Vaughan’s who owns 'Cors Y Gedol' and also so much of the land of Machros around us...” "I live in the farmhouse over yonder!" "With my wife Bronwen and our two youngest, daughter and son." "Now then ma'am back we go to my earlier question, are you by any chance a writer?"
I hesitate before replying, “I love to write stories for my children when they were small; now also for my grandchildren; I love writing poetry and all kinds of stories." "I have written ever since I was little but my one fault is I have no self-confidence."
"May I?" He asked looking at my writing paper onto which I had written half of a comical poem in Welsh about children.
He read it before he placed his hand on my shoulder saying;
"My dear you will remember these next words that I say to you for the remainder of your life!"
"Believe in yourself my dear lady , you have a rare talent that many would fight for years to gain!" “You will look back at this moment for years to come and you will always remember these words;"
“Believe in yourself because you have a rare gift and keep that gifted flame glowing! Do not ever let it diminish and flicker away to oblivion!" Believe in yourself!!"
I felt a warm glow envelope me and I felt an embrace lifting so much of the heavy burden that I'd had to carry round with me for most of my life.
I asked him if he had time to tell me a little about his own life. I would probably never, ever have another chance like this again! "Only if you have time of course.” I add hastily.
"I have plenty of time," he added.
"Bronwen has taken the younger children to see her mother in Harlech yonder and will not be back until tomorrow." "My older children do not want their father around them every minute of the day." "They now have their own families and me and Branwen are blessed with ten beautiful grandchildren."
He leant back against the smoothness of the rocks around us, rocks that the unrelenting waves had moulded with their constant to and froing. They almost looked asif they had been licked into place.
Sion looked out onto the horizon with a dreamy look on his face.
Before he spoke I had to ask, "What is the date today?" I was not sure why but I felt compelled to ask this question;
"We are now in the year 1620, and today is February the 6th." he replied before adding;
"We have been very fortunate to have been blessed with the special gift of writing." he said.
I could not believe that he was including my writing in his 'we'.
"What have you written altogether?!" I asked so intrigued.
"Now then let me see, I have written 66 elegies; 44 eulogies; 26 love poems;24 requests; 19 religious poems; 10 bardict controversies; 5 miscellaneous; and 1 on the subject of marriage."
I interrupted him without thinking,
"Sorry to disturb you sir," Oh my dear I was getting very forward in my old age!! "Could you please explain to me what an 'elegy' and an 'eulogy' is?"
"First things first my dear!" To begin with," Would you do me the honour of calling me Sion and not 'sir!" he asked.
"Certainly it would be an honour for me to call you by your christian name!!" I replied , thrilled to bits by his question. "Maybe ," I added, "That you would also do me the honour of calling me by my christian name , which is............................"
"No need to tell me,he replied hastily. "I knew at once, the first time I saw you that your name was Eiddwen."
There was something surreal about all this but I did not feel the need to question anything as everything felt totally natural and not out of place at all.
"Now then to get back to your question;
"An elegy is a sorrowful ode or poem."
"An eulogy is a verse or ode that pays tribute to someone!" "If there is anything else you would like to know please ask!"
I nodded at him silently willing him to carry on.............................
"My descendants were known as the 'Phylipiaid of Ardudwy.'" “This translates in to 'The Philyps of Ardudwy'." Their period began in the year 1543 which I must add is the year that I was born strangely enough!"
"We have written several poems for the Vaughan’s of 'CorsY Gedol.' I had heard of the 'Vaughan’s' as they were a very prominent Welsh family.
I sat still totally mesmerised by his poetic voice!
He carried on and did not need any further prompting by now!
He points back at his farmhouse saying, "My home there was recorded in the Doomsday book of 1086."
"What was The Doomsday Book?" I asked wanting to know everything.
"It was a survey of all land and buildings, under the rule of William the Conqueror. So that he could apply taxes."
"I feel that I have been so very blessed in my life." “I have been so lucky to have had a learned upbringing." "Also I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, children and grandchildren."
"Do you speak Welsh?" I asked
"O ydw fy ffrind, 'rwyf yn siarad Llydaw hefyd." (“Oh yes my friend and I also speak Latin.")
"I can remember line after line of legends and so on!"
"However if I do forget a little I add a little out of my own imagination." "As does everyone else!"
He then whispered in my ear. "You must keep what I have just told you to yourself!" "Use it wisely, for your own purpose if you ever need to, but never tell a soul!"
"Oh I promise!" I said, he had no need to worry about this as I would never break a promise!!
"I travel from night to night at times entertaining names of great standing with my talent." he carried on.
Some may think that talking about himself in this way was just a little conceited, but how wrong they would be. I had never met a more down to earth and lowly gentleman. He was simply reciting events as they were.
"However out of all my learned friends, I have found the Vaughan’s of 'Cors Y Gedol' to be the finest people of all."
"Who taught you to be the great bard that you are?" I was finding him to be so easy to talk to, even though he was far more learned than me.
"I think that I would have to say that two grand gentlemen by the names of Gruffydd Hiraethog and William Eleyn to thank for my good fortune!!"
"Did any of your children follow in your learned way?" I asked.
"Strange you should ask that and the answer is, only the two." “Them being Phylip, Sion and Gruffydd ““I taught them at home but he also has his own individual way of expressing himself! “My brother Rhisiart Phylips is also a bard.”
"Surely it is good that your sons have their own interpretation of poetry?!" I asked.
"You have a very judicious nature Eiddwen," “Maybe an old head on young shoulders!" he smiled a lovely, warm almost fatherly smile at me which endeared me even more to him!!
"Your name means 'Fond and Faithful'" my dear.
"Oh thank you for that Sion" I thanked him. I had never known the meaning of my name!!
“Of course, writing is a very personal gift." "No one should ever try to correct the metre or direction of anyone's talent." “Everyone must be allowed to blossom from their own heart." "I only believe in gentle guidance!"
"However I also taught my younger brother Rhisiart.” "Again he also has his own style." Sion added.
"Who are these people of standing?" I asked not wanting to leave any stone unturned.
He straightened himself a little before saying;
"Now then Eiddwen, let me see;"
" I have written eulogies on two 'brother' poets;"
“William Llyn , Sion Tudur, Simwnt Fychan and Morys Dwyfech."
I had heard of these poets and knew them to be men of very high standing indeed.
Then he adds,
"Two to royalty; Queen Elizabeth and Prince Henry who is the son of James I.”
“Others to prominent church men;'
Richard Vaughan who is the Bishop of London;'
'Nicholas Robinson who is the Bishop of Bangor;'
' Dr. Gwynn ( who is a member of the Gwydir family' and 'Dr. William Griffith;'"
"Another one was on the death of Kathryn of Berain."
"The remainder have been to members of well-known Welsh county families.”
" I also wrote one cywydd on marriage ." "The occasion was the marriage of Sir Richard Mostyn to Mary the daughter of Sir John Wynn of Gwydir."
"I could sit here listening to you for ever more," I was very bewitched by the poetic air that surrounded this extremely talented but oh so lowly man!
"I think I know which poem is your favourite one of all" I said, my voice was quiet not wanting to pierce the poetic flow of this moment. He looked at me with an almost mischievous smile lightening his face.
"It's 'Ode to a Seagull' isn't it?" I said with a confidence that I had not possessed until now.
With a twinkle in his eye he says; "Now then how did I know you were going to say that particular poem?"
"You my dear Eiddwen are correct." “It is most definitely 'Ode to a Seagull.'"
“Would you like me to recite an extract from it to you?"
“Oh please do!” was my instant reply
“Then my dear Eiddwen I will have to be on my way as I have to travel by sea to Anglesey within the hour, where I will entertain folk with my 'writings' before returning home in seven days’ time."
"Oh yes please," I was so very overcome by emotion! I could not believe that the great, great Sion Phylips was going to recite a little of his most beautiful poems 'Ode to a Seagull,' here and now and just for me!!
We both made ourselves comfortable and he began;
'Ode to a Seagull' composed by Sion Phylips.
"O thou fair seagull on the water's edge
With thy bosom of shining feathers, and of strong condition
No huntsman shall capture thee, nor peruse thee;
Water shall drown thee not, nor shall any man possess thee;
Thou art a nun whose nourishment is a mouthful from the sea
Thou shrill-voiced daughter of the nooks of the blue sea,
Tarry with wings outstretched on the gentle lake,
Shake there some fish
Which thou art but loth to remove
From thy world-thou immersion is cold.
Thy lively daughter whose food is fish,
Thou art under the steep banks and the waves.
For thy consort then thou dost bewail
With deep lamentation until Judgement day. was there ever on the mighty ocean
A more obedient swimmer?
Soar on high to the land, thou fair light,
And tell where I be detained;
near Bermo by rough wave,
With a cold, seething sea.
'Tis a sad spot, every moment over there,
Where murky sea rides high
There has dawned on the rough shore
A gloomy day from the south east;
The cruel wind has winuowed the gravel,
Has rendered bare the crags which are home of the whirlwind;
Inky has been the colour of the stormy whirlpool
Where the western wind is blowing.
The shore is rough in this arable land
Whenever there are gales from the direction: of the west."
"Mam Mam wake up will you!!"
"C'mon Mamgu, we’re hungry, can we go back for something to eat?!"
I woke up swiftly amidst all the 'get up! Wake up! We want food! Etc.
"Why didn't your mothers take you back for food?" I asked as my fuddled head started to clear.
I smiled a secret smile as the memory came back to me. I still felt so calm and unburdened of my load!!!
"My mum said to wake you up,” stated Ellie very matter of factly.
"And my mum did!" agreed Krystal.
Charlie came running up with a huge smile on his face. He shoved his bucket in my face spluttering in excitement "Look at my crab Nana!!"
"Oh wonderful sweetheart," I laughed as I ruffled his blonde hair.
Carmel and Neyo pounced on me and Lucas who was the youngest bless him was looking at everyone as if they'd lost the plot!!!
"Oh come on then back we go and see if we can fill all those big bellys shall we??!"
I pretended to tut tut!!! However at the end of the day, did I really want to be rid of all responsibility??! No I knew for sure that it was nice to still be needed at times. Not all the time but sometimes was good!!!
When we had finished eating our campsite cooked meal we went for another stroll round the shops because we were leaving for home very early in the morning. The little ones bought a new toy each, Dai some fishing tackle and can you all guess what I bought?
Nothing less than a book on the life of the great bard Sion Phylips.
It was a bit strange because I hadn't come across it in the shop the day before!! However I was thrilled to bits that I had managed to buy a copy. I would read it when I had some peace and quiet at home.
Again by 9pm all the little ones were asleep in their camp beds.
Dai said as we were all sat outside the tents;
"You’re looking very pleased with yourself, a bit like the cat that got the cream!" he said with a laugh.
"Oh it's just so nice to be here" I said as I looked all around. "I've also had a lovely day." I added giving my partner a hug. "Thank you for arranging the bus and bringing us all here,"
"My pleasure." he replied.
The rest of the night was spent chatting, laughing and joking until all us adults were safely tucked up in our beds as well.
By 11am the next morning we were all packed up and on our way back home. By that evening we were all sorted with all suitcases sorted, washing machine on and I said to Dai "It really is nice to go away but it's also nice to come home too!!
"Of course it is," he replied and we sat snuggled up until it was time for bed.
The next morning after Dai had gone back to work, and I'd phoned kids, grandkids etc. I decided to have a read of my book about Sion Phylips.
It was really strange reading about this great man who was born in 1534 but I had spent a whole afternoon with him. As I came nearer to the end I could not believe what I was reading!!
On the 5th of February 1620 Sion was seen to be in conversation with an unknown lady on the North Beach at Mochras (Shell Island).
He had afterwards written in his memoirs the following words;
"Tonight I travel to Anglesey to entertain in my occupation as a minstrel" "However earlier on today I had the fortune of meeting Eiddwen who found it so hard to believe that she was talented!" “I can only hope that my message of 'Believe in yourself' will alter the direction of how she perceives herself and her writing."
I read it over and over again!! I must have made a mistake, but no it was there in black and white. One thing was now for certain and I would definitely not let Sion and his words of wisdom down.
I then carried on reading the final few lines;
'Unfortunately as he was returning from his tour of Anglesey on February 13th 1620 he drowned while crossing back from Pwllheli. He was buried close by his home in the parish church of Llandanwg.'
The day that I had 'met' the great man was February 5th 1620. that evening he was on his way to Anglesey and would be there for a week he'd said. He had 'visited' me 7 days before his death.
How wonderfully mysterious but also laced with ta little sadness it all was and there was definitely a lesson here for me................................
A couple of months later I heard the postman push something through the letter box. I picked up a white envelope with urgent on it. I opened and gasped in excitement........... On the day I had read about Sion's passing in my book I had sent a poem that I had written to 'The Poetry Guild' the first piece of work that I had ever submitted and in this letter in front of me it read that they liked my poem 'The Rivers Of Life' and wanted to print it in a leather clad book called 'Dreams of Yesterday.'
As all this sank in I remembered Sion's words;' Believe in yourself!'
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