Rufuis and Dave’s Fortnight of Fun part 5: History

1: National History

The United Kingdom remains united. Personally, I think that’s a good thing. The arrangement may not be perfect, but it’s better than the alternatives. And if nothing else, the referendum has made people think and brought about concessions, The test is now about how the people of Scotland make use of them. I love Scotland and have been many times. Don’t break it.

2: Personal History

My mother’s side of family is from Gower. When we first moved back to Swansea, more than 40 years ago, we used to go out to Gower to visit relatives and I got to hear a number of stories about old Gower, before cars were the norm. There were ghost stories; my favourite is the one about the farmer who was driving his horse and cart down the lane one day when the horse inexplicable veered the cart into the side of the lane, tight up against the hedge. It wouldn’t budge, despite the urgings of the farmer. But after about 10 minutes the horse carried on as if nothing had happened. The farmer told his story and everyone made light of it. But within a couple of weeks, the farmer was dead and at the same time of day, his funeral procession passed through the same lane in the opposite direction.

My great aunt ran the sweet shop in Burry Green and I remember her well. Typical of country folk, she was independent but kind and friendly. There would always be a spread on the table when we called in, and I particularly remember that she used to slice her bread up incredibly thinly. But the highlight was a visit to the shop, where I would always be given something. As a child of about 9, the back of the shop felt slightly scary and there was the dilemma of going there (bad) and getting a bar of chocolate (good). Years later, when my aunt decided to move into a nearby nursing home – typical of her she made her own mind up and did it and there was no persuading involved – I remember helping to clear out the house. The shop had long gone but there were some fantastic old advertising posters.

One trip to Gower I remember was with my mum and dad and we went to a place called Bullin’s Well. At least, that’s what my mum knew it as. It’s Ryer’s Down on the maps. We took the dog we had then, a black poodle named Pickles (after the dog that found the FA Cup after it had been stolen in the 30’s – my dad’s idea) for a run and he thoroughly enjoyed. as I remember, he was fascinated by the horses on the common. I also remember a very low flying Canberra bomber passing overhead; I now know it must have been from the nearby Pembrey bombing range. But the thing that stuck in my mind the most was walking across the common to a clump of trees where my mum claimed there were the ruins of an old farmhouse.

Sure enough, when we got there, the ruins were where she said they were. They were only a few stones high – no shell of a farm house to mark the spot. Mum said relatives of the family, closer to my great aunt than my mum, lived and farmed there. The reason I remember it so well is that my dad took a cutting of a sycamore tree from there and planted it at the top of our garden. Now I live in the house I grew up in, and the tree is still there although considerably taller.

I’d thought about going back to Bullin’s Well several times, and we often drive past it on our way to Whiteford (which has featured many times in this blog). So today, when I was looking for a short walk after our two long days, I decided to go there to try and find the ruins again. Rufus didn’t object, so off we set. We walked up to the top of Ryer’s Down where I found a trig point – they pop up all over the place on Gower. Then we made our way down, following the hedge line back tot eh road. In fact, it was more of a tree line and I had to duck and squirm through some of the thicker parts as Rufus just ducked under the low branches. But everywhere I looked, there was no ruined farmhouse. By the time we reached the road again, I had decided that my memory must have been playing up as there was nothing. But when I got home and looked at the route we took on Google Earth, I spotted a few parts of the tree line we had missed and one part, inparticular, that looked as if it might have had a building on it.

So another trip is on the cards.

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Who are your heroes?

My mum and dad are two of mine. Dad fought in WW2 but that’s too obvious a reason. My parents brought me up in the best way they knew. My dad left the RAF to ensure I had a stable period of schooling for my ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. My mum stopped working to bring me up. Both my parents died of cancer but the way they faced it was something that made me proud and challenged me to live up to their example.

In the looser sense of the word, I would count several people that influenced me at various times during my life. I met a guy while I was a student in London who was training to be a missionary. He was the happiest person I had ever met and while I didn’t necessarily agree with all his beliefs, he was clearly content in his life and it made me look again at mine. My first girlfriend (for limited physical reasons).  A mate who had burst out of his conservative outlook to embrace anarchism. We had a great debate, after a night in the pub,  about how Britain as an anarchist state would work. I’m sure it was great… it was loud.

Various musicians and bands have influenced me. Mike Oldfield, Jon Anderson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind. Some music inspires me. But these people and things are not true heroes.

In the past few years I’ve done some charity fundraising and inevitably I’ve come across some real heroes; people who have made sacrifices and struggled to achieve challenging goals. I met some fantastic people on my last trek who spent a large part of their lives fundraising for charities close to their hearts. There are work colleagues who have been through difficult time and have emerged unbeaten and gone on to champion their cause.  One colleague has just started to celebrate his tenth year of fund raising by embarking on a series of activities to raise £10,000 for charity. His website is here

Perhaps the most worthy heroes are the ones that we don’t hear about. They do their thing without any expectation of recognition and arguably that means they do it with the purest intention. (I don’t necessarily believe that is true or valid as the very nature of fund raising means the need to publicise the activity or event). But these people – carers and Joe Public – are true heroes too.