Nina Milton, author of the Shaman Mystery Series, welcomes book lovers to the Kitchen Table Writers.
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We first saw the cottage we bought in West Wales in a snowstorm, and fell in love with it instantly A solitary sheep grazed in a small field. We could see miles of white countryside and the house was built of local pink and yellow stone with black slate. There was room enough to keep hens and grow food. We made an offer and started packing our things.
Even so, everyone we knew was very dubious. "Won't it be lonely," they asked. "So far from your friends?"
And, even more worrying, "The Welsh don't like the English. They won't talk to you, unless they're ripping you off."
This concerned us, and, just to get going, we made sure we used an English furninture removal firm to get our belongings from English A to Welsh B. Two skinny boys successfully loaded the contents of our last house into their van and taken it into storage.They seemed okay, but it turned out they were two of the biggest nincompoops known in the trade.
We went ahead to repaint the interior, and lay some flooring, and once we were ready for our furniture to arrive. We rang up and the boys…let’s call them Dumb and Dumber, because I wouldn’t like to reveal theirtrue names…and asked for delivery. ‘Is seven am is okay to arrive,” they asked. “Because once we’ve finished the job, we’ve finished for the day; the earlier the better.”
Our new home
We said that was fine, but did they realise it was a three-hour drive from the depot to our new house? “You’ll have to leave before the sun is up,” I told them.
“No problem,” came the cheerful reply.
Rather over-optimistically, we set the alarm for half six but after waiting an hour, we were taking bets on when they’d arrive. At ten to nine they rang to say they were just driving out of the depot; they’d had a few jars the night before...it was a bank holiday, after all...
Our next call was at midday. They were in the small town just fifteen minutes drive away, where their van was more or less stuck in the side roads.”Don't use the weak bridge!"I yelled down the line. "Why aren't you on the bypass? Why did your satnav send you into the town?”
Sheepishly, they explained their satnav was on their mobile and, (probably because of the few jars the night before) they’d forgotten to charge it up. I gave them the simple directions; thirty minutes later we had a call from two (rather beautiful, it transpired) young Welsh girls out in their car. Hopelessly lost, Dumb and Dumber had stopped them to ask directions. The girls knew the area well and steered them in. Thus, our whacking removal lorry finally arrived behind a small, red mini. The lads jumped out and instantly asked where they could buy fish and chips; after a night on the tiles and a long drive, they were famished. We offered to get food for them if they would finally start work.
The first thing that had to be unloaded was the garden equipment, and we suggested they backed towards the field gate and took everything for the garden into the field. This, they managed without incident, but they had chosen to drive into the field and when they attempted to reverse out again...they discovered the van had gouged itself into the dry soil. They were stuck. Soon, they couldn't move forward, either. We put grit, then blankets and finally, in desperation, large planks of wood under the wheels. A smell of burning erupted from the rear tyres but the lorry didn’t budge. Dumb and Dumber were well and truly stuck.
“Call the AA,” I said. But they blanched at the suggestion. The removal firm might find out just what they’d done!
Finally, I walked the 300 yards down the road to introduce myself to Denise and Dave, our nearest neighbours, and ask if anyone local had a tractor.
“Gino,” they suggested. “He’ll come out.”
The Italian Chapel, Henllan Ceredigion
I’d already heard of Gino. He was the owner of a local restaurant, and of Italian descent. His father had been an Italian prisoner in Wales in the second world war, in a POW camp that was only 3 miles from our cottage. I've since been there, for it has the only Italian Chapel in the UK in which services are still performed, and it is beautiful.
While they were happily sojourning in the Welsh countryside, quite a lot of the Italian soldiers fell for local girls and never went home, and Gino’s father was one of them. Like his dad before him, Gino farmed a dairy herd from which he made the most wonderful Italian ice cream (especially the pistachio). Jim drove off towards the restaurant which was half a mile from our home (half a mile that is a great walk when you’ve had a bottle of chianti) and in seconds, it seemed, was back with a short, heavily built man of around retirement age on a massive tractor. When I offered him a cuppa, he said, "Just a quick one, if you don’t mind, I’m about to start my dinner." Only a true (new) friend would come out as his dinner (cooked by Mama, as well!) was put on the table. I wanted him to talk on and on; I was fascinated by his accent which was English with a blend of Italian and Welsh.
Gino hooked the lorry to his tractor and had it out in seconds. From then on, the move went smoothly. Our happy pair - Dumb and even Dumber - downed their fish and chips and went away with rather red faces (I hope), leaving us to fully understand just what a great place we’d shipped up in. Our clothes were already on their hangers, the takeaway had been delicious, the Welsh sun was shining over the valley and the view from the garden was outstanding. Most important; we had already learnt that the neighbours were wonderfully friendly. Thanks to our Dumb and Dumber removal guys, the auspices for life in West Wales were perfect.