Well now that I’ve stopped being busy and important for the time being, I feel it’s time I had a rant again. No don’t groan, you like me being a grumpy old man, don’t you? I promise I won’t rant too much, because would you believe, try as I did to dislike Barmouth, it turned out to be quite likeable.
It was off to a good start a) because it wasn’t heaving full of tourists (nothing worse than tourists getting in the way when you’re touring), b) we discovered a little used and even cheaper carpark than yesterday (have I mentioned I have Scottish and Yorkshire blood?), and c) it wasn’t raining! Not vertical, not a 15º angle and not horizontally into your ear at 80mph – no rain at all!
Barmouth’s grey stone buildings do look a bit grumpy on a grey day, but I’ll take the slight moodiness in lieu of sunshine and wall-to-wall tourists which it brings. There is a railway bridge across Asfnargipth’ prtsohmpollksjgfd or Afon Mawddach if you’re not being rude about the Welsh language and just leaning on the keyboard to make some kind of puerile joke.
I can imagine crossing the river on a windy day in a train, with angry horses charging in off the sea and the white-water of the tide rushing out around the bridge pillars bellow you, would be a character building journey. Maybe that’s why the town’s church is so big.
The railway passes a little harbour, then cuts its way straight to the town centre and out the other side. There’s precious few inches of flat ground in Wales and Barmouth is no exception. This is the reason why the railway and train station are given such pride of place in a little town like this where you would have thought the train was a long forgotten form of transport.
The town is only a few streets deep before an ominous wall of rock looms. What to do? Well here in Wales a hill, mountain or a cliff isn’t a place to avoid building because of minor issues like a land slide or just getting there in the first place. No, here they climb the mountains, ride knobbly-tyred bikes across them, hand-glide off them, kayak down them, drive rally cars through them and then when they need shelter, they build houses on them.
The seafront part of the town has the usual ugly and oversized seaside resort “fun park”, over subscription of “jolly” fish ‘n’ chip shops and a few tat shops with cheap signs featuring very poor typography nailed to their facades. In one of the chip shops that was trying its best to look like a cool American diner where the tempting smell of fat wafted into the street, I looked through the window and saw several amply proportioned people stuffing their faces full of burgers in a sort of jowly, chin pushed forward chewing action. The skin around their lips glistened with fat as they tried to contain their huge mouthfulls. I wished I hadn’t looked. I wished the glass was tinted. I wished I had a pair of Zaphod Beeblebrox sunglasses.
Before coming here, I decided to aim low to avoid disappointment, so I was expecting to see this. Accepting this as part of the scene, I had a much better time than I would have previously, especially as Barmouth has so much else going for it. How could you not like a town that has a timber version of an Easter Island man in the sand dunes?! Easter Island on a Welsh beach? Completely bonkers, but somehow works.
Another quirky and unlikely find was a sombre old grey chapel which had been reincarnated as a hippyish Sub-continent/South East Asian inspired shop and café. Outside grey – inside BLAAAAHHH WAKE UP!!! Walk through the door and expect to hear hushed voices and a pipe-organ and you are assaulted by an outrageous explosion of yellow, orange and blue, the sounds of tambours and sitars playing on a very good sound system and the smell of incense. A spiced chia and a couple of samosas later and I’d found my nirvana – in a church.