New readers start here! Every summer, the Arthurian Society makes a week-long pilgrimage to a location rich in sites connected, however tangentially, with King Arthur. Summer 1993 saw us visiting North Wales, and now those of us who embarked on the expedition duly report back. If the following article is a little cliquey, forgive us and ask someone who was on the trip to explain what in Camelot GILLY CARR is on about...
ONLY twelve Arthurians could live in each other's pockets for a week and not fall out!
In summer 1993 the Arthurians managed to get hold of the brand new Clubs Committee minibus, instead of one from our usual company, Spareacre. It did, however, behave just as erratically as its predecessors. Despite Matthew's `creative driving', later involving an encounter with a stone wall, we made it in one piece.
There were many high spots in the week, so I've tried to select the best, along with such quotes as Rhian's `I'm not sunburnt - this is just a young, maidenly blush,' and my reply `Well, two out of three ain't bad!' (Hey, I had to fit that one in somewhere...)
One of the hottest, most exhausting days was spent climbing Dinas Bran, which has to be one of the highest hillforts in the country. In fact, Elspeth even passed out on the way up. Once we had reached the top we had to lie down for half an hour to recover.
The best hillfort, in my opinion, was Dinas Emrys, the site that put Merlin's career on the map. Of course, we spent yonks labouring up the wrong hillfort before finally realising our mistake. However, it was well worth it in the end, as the foundations of Vortigern's tower were still visible. Andrew and Louise suddenly transmogrified into red and white dragons, while Matt climbed a tree and became Merlin the Umpire.
Bryn Celli Ddu, the `Mound of the Dark Grove', a four thousand year old chambered tomb on Anglesey, was the most mystical site we visited. In the centre of the chamber was a single standing stone. It was truly awe- inspiring, or at least, would have been, had not twelve Arthurians packed in and no doubt committed vile acts of sacrilege by taking photos of each other with their arms around the stone, something which I'm sure would have warranted a slow and painful death in the Neolithic!
Unusually for Arthurian pilgrimages, the weather was good enough to visit Harlech beach half way through the week, which was Dave's idea. He had `Certain Memories' of the place. Don't worry, Dave, my lips are sealed! Everyone except me and Marnie seemed to go mad and run into the sea fully clothed, which meant that Muggins here was left guarding a big pile of shoes, watches, bags, wallets and cameras, and trying to shoo away the rapidly rising tide.
Louise came out of the sea absolutely drenched, with every male eye glued to her. James tried to cheer her up by saying `Don't worry, Louise. Your shirt's only see-through where it touches the skin.' Yes, we are talking wet T-shirt competition time.
The holiday continued with trips round castles with long dark tunnels and chapels with great acoustics. There were also many climbs up yet more hillforts and mountains, and a couple of nights spent at Rhian's cousin's house in Bethesda, where Rhian, Marnie and Louise were Disturbed In The Night, and the next day could only be heard to giggle `Bob Delyn, hahaha, splutter'.
On the penultimate day, half the group, armed only with a cheap bottle of fizzy wine, climbed mist-wreathed Cader Idris, and promised to return either mad or bards, true to legend. Needless to say, there was no change on their return - take that whichever way you like! The rest of us went to Llyn Barfog and, whilst waiting for the afanc to show up, performed rain dances (painstakingly memorized by Andrew from the TV series Chelmsford 123 - Matthew) aimed in the direction of Cader Idris. However, it only threatened to rain on us.
On the way home, we stopped off at Ludlow, where we were plied with cakes, lemonade, ice cream and cakes by James's parents. In Oxford, we were treated to a meal at Julie's, and I rushed to the mirror to see how many new freckles had sprouted during the week. (Sorry - private hang-up there.)
It only remains for me to thank Elspeth for the excellent pilgrimage guide to the sites of North Wales, and to apologize for hogging the minibus with my luggage (oops, didn't mean to let that one slip out) and for flooding the bathroom at Maeshafn Youth Hostel.
`It's nice to have a willing slave' (Elspeth on Andrew)
`God! Three years ago! I was three years younger than I am now.' (Dave)