As a precursor to a little trip away in the Knumptywagen, we had a strangely dysfunctional day prior to departure. Our local locksmith came out to fit a replacement cylinder lock to the van’s habitation door – a task that should have taken no more than an hour – but then, may the Good Lord bless him and his clever little set of secret-agent tools – he decided to also have a quick look at our faulty under-seat electronic safe (yes, you heard me right) and spent the next three hours sorting that out, sprawled across the floor of the Knumptywagen, working tirelessly in both an awkward space and the uncharacteristic heat of a summer’s day. This magnanimous act of personal ambition (he refused to charge us any more than his original quote) did however delay us from loading the van with all that was necessary for our planned trip northwards, to undertake what we’d already decided to christen The Lakeland Loop.
Then, news broke that the ill-defined geopolitical region known as Greater Manchester was to be locked-down in celebration of Covid-19 with immediate effect, preventing us from stopping off to visit daughters in Chorlton and therefore catalysing a reappraisal of our route north. Since baby grandson in Chester was thankfully not embraced by the revised lockdown area, we learnt that he could (with the agreement of his parents) find time to make himself available for legitimate smooching.
Post-smooching, we would then also be perfectly placed to reach Wales – more specifically the Lleyn peninsular, an area we’d been keen to explore since memories of childhood holidays emerged from an unrelated review of family photo albums some time previously.
So. Round off the day with a quick visit to the vets with the aging family pet of some 15 years, to return home sadly, but not surprisingly, cat-less, RIP Millie. A sundowner shopping expedition then ensued, to acquire provisions for both a socially-isolating, aged Mother and ourselves; ignorantly load the van with the sort of lightweight summer clothing dictated by that particular day but not sadly and subsequently demanded by Welsh weather – and we’re ready to roll!
Caernarfon was a very agreeable surprise, viewed as it was on a gloriously sunny Sunday, from a secret Knumpty location on the opposite side of the River Seiont. Imposing castle walls, turrets and battlements were almost completely besieged by families all madly crabbing from the harbour walls, so our gentle perambulation became an entertaining natural history lesson, provided by legions of Scouse seven-year-olds all keen to show off their hauls of gullible crustaceans haphazardly stacked and gently stewing in clear plastic buckets.
Following an enjoyably scenic hike along an edge of the Menai Strait, we were disappointed that Covid-19 guidance provided a perfect excuse for the tired, littered and shoddy surroundings of the waterside Anglesey pub. Here, staff Indifference and Ineptitude vied for pole position as we tried to secure a couple of pints of beer. As the evening cooled and summer foreclosed on its lease, we decided to dine in-van and thence enjoyed a peaceful overnight.
“If you don’t like the look of the weather on your phone app, get another app” seemed fitting advice for the following day, as another dose of sunshine, tempered by a fresh seaside breeze, surprised and delighted us as we made landfall at Morfa Nefyn, midway along the Lleyn peninsular’s north-west coast. A cliff-top inn offered free motorhome parking in exchange for food consumed in the restaurant, and with locked-down Wales celebrating their first day of indoor-dining, we booked ourselves a table for two.
Prior to which we enjoyed a fantastically sunny hike along the coastal path, most of which skirted the well-manicured fairways of the local golf course. This enabled us to enjoy at first hand spectacular scenery out to sea and witness the wooden ineptitude of cryogenically defrosted lady golfers attempting to hit golf balls in some form of competition which the All Knowing Navigating Chief Troutess Golfing Handicap of 19 Soothsayer pronounced to be a Texas Scramble, which it clearly was.
The Ty Coch Inn sits in a prime location on and overlooking a golden curve of sheltered sand on a tiny skin tag of geography named Carreg Ddu. On this delightfully sunny afternoon, its outdoor bar (‘We’re closed if it’s raining’, said the signs) enjoyed a well-managed queue of socially-distanced punters, trailing onto the beach amidst the bustle of the British middle-classes. Family groups were all taking the sea, sun and sand without a care in the world and demonstrating not one hoot for the demands of racial diversity which currently so troubles the rest of the world. (It’s really no surprise that this area is colloquially known as Sutton-Coldfield-By-The-Sea)
Chatting families stood knee deep in gently lapping water; pleasure boats pootled in the bay; enthusiastic youths cooled rising sap by charging en masse into the miniscule waves and we sat in the glorious sunshine with pints of beer and pub-sandwiches, simply lapping up the ozone-charged cross-shore breeze and the atmosphere of a lock-down-released August day on the beach.
“Just download the app and you can check-in with us; view the menu; order food and drinks and even pay your bill” breezed our cheery waitress by way of welcome to our evening booking back at the overnight pub. Little did they seem to realise on this celebratory first day of Welsh ‘indoor dining’ that their entire socially-distanced, track-and-trace, device-based ordering strategy was wholly reliant on a wi-fi signal which self-evidently did not exist in this particular establishment. Since it’s claimed that even Kazakhstan enjoys better internet coverage than most of Wales, why would you pin your entire Opening Day Covid-19 Restaurant Recovery Plan on a flawed high-tech solution that completely bypassed the historically well-proven, low-tech keystone of the hospitality sector – good old-fashioned human interaction – conducted at a socially responsible 2m distance? Which it wasn’t, of course, as slightly confused yet still inanely-smiling staff lost all sense of the new normal and simply leant on our table while beers and food were ordered by mouth and delivered by hand.
As such, we enjoyed mediocre food and paid in full (“What do you mean, there’s a half-price Government-backed initiative?”) yet still enjoyed free overnight parking with unrivalled and magnificent views across the beach at Morfa Nefyn.
On balance? Result.