This bit on Wales carries on from our most recent visit to Southern England, Wales and Ireland. Sorry, no real insight into Doha life in this post, just a recounting of how some Doha expats experience the little things in life when away from Doha
We had no idea where the road might lead as we headed into Wales on our journey to Ireland. Our first glimpse into pub life in Wales as we stopped for lunch in Newport was slightly reminiscent of Ponderosa’s in Hamilton, Ontario circa 1978 … but much appreciated by Smilin’ Vic for the yummy double portion of Yorkshire pudding.
It was Father’s Day, so the place was packed; the crowd and excitement fairly drowned out the ‘f’ bombs being dropped by the dudes in shorts behind us. We pretended to blend in seamlessly and fully grasp the Gaelic being directed randomly our way. The weather was great, people were happy, toasts were being had. We were cool.
I took advantage of the free wifi while there to google ‘best places to stay in and around Cardiff’ and happened upon a little gem called ‘Mirskin Manor’. With a rich history dating back loosely to the 1100’s, and following wartime occupation as a hospital, this imposing property was later converted into a hotel at some point in the 1980's.
So it is that we drove down into Cardiff to enjoy two nights there, with me spending the first afternoon sitting in the gardens reading and writing, and Smilin’ Vic and Kiddo exploring the grounds and chillaxin’ as you do when wandering with no true destination in Wales.
We spent the next day touring the area, visiting Castle Coch in the morning, and Cosmeston Medieval Village in the afternoon. While the 18th Century Gothic Revival castle was impressive, Cosmeston and our tour guide Reeve Ross proved a highlight that would be hard to beat this vacation.
Reeve Ross ('we' later came to refer to him as ‘Handsome’ Reeve Ross) and his muscles greeted us in full Medieval dress at the entrance to the village with a warning that this would be a tour like no other and that there would be loads of talk of ‘poo’.
Well, if you’re looking to grab and 8-year-old’s attention (we won’t mention the 52-year-old’s), open and frank talk of poo is likely the best way to go about it.
Others on the guided tour may have completely disregarded Handsome Reeve Ross’s silly accoutrement (somewhat reminiscent of a diaper over tights) and toilet talk and focused solely on an occasional glimpse of bulging bronzed biceps … I’m just assuming, mind you.
hunk host proceeded to walk us through the history of this charming rebuilt medieval village, reconstructed approximately 20 years ago on a chance call when a local senior, aged 102, shouted out to the construction crew about to build a parking lot over the castle and village site.
Apparently she called out to them from her home just next to the site: ‘And what will ya do wid da castle den?’
At which point excavation halted immediately, crew put down shovel and spade and proceeded to have tea with this charming little old lady who regaled them with tales of playing in the castle ruins as a young girl, years before the quarry was built and local villagers began pillaging stone and rock from the site.
A little digging revealed that under the overgrowth remained the foundations of several village homes, barns, a bakery and village ovens. Reconstruction began soon after, and Handsome Brave Reeve Ross was the archeologist called in to lead the excavation and later assume the role of manager and tour guide.
And so began Handsome Brave Hunky Reeve Ross’ life as a connoisseur of ‘poo’. From the beginning of excavation, all efforts were made to ensure as authentic a rebuild as possible, with all stone on the houses stuck together with an emulsion of hay and poo that was poured into a large pit and trampled on by enthusiastic and fairly mad archeologists keen on recreating the glue of the day. Much like Italians crushing grapes, this crew of mad Welshmen padded about in a vat of poo, day in and day out, massaging turds with their toes until achieving the perfect consistency.
Two hours with *Handsome Brave Hunky Savvy Reeve Ross* passed by in the bat of an eye, as he
flexed his muscles explained to us the rich contribution of Medieval times to the English language as we know it now, running through examples such as ‘by hook or crook’, ‘the bottom of the barrel’, ‘curfew’ and many more.
He moved on from talk of poo eventually, turning to talk of wee as a wool bleaching agent, oats as a curing agent, bacteria in the ale, and rats at every turn.
His discourse on life and death in Medieval times was truly captivating, making the village, the atrocities of the true filth of the times, and the horror of the ensuing Black Plague come to life.
In all seriousness, if you are passing through Cardiff, do take the time to stop in and say hi to Reeve Ross. It’s more than worth the 5 or so odd pounds for the two-hour tour, and any additional donations would be well spent on contributing to this truly worthwhile endeavour.