A Welsh meander

Wales has always featured in my life, but it's occurred to me that different parts have featured at different times.

For the first two decades of my life Wales meant visits to the Welsh Dallanegras - my father's two uncles and their families - in the valleys, where, like so many Welsh-Italians, they ran cafes, restaurants and fish and chip shops. As a young man my father had lived with one uncle for a year, working in his outlets and discovering that he was really destined to be an electrician, not a caterer or businessman (though a lasting legacy of this time was that his extremely limited culinary repertoire included chips!)

I recall gatherings and wakes in my uncles' restaurants; lots of fish and chips, followed by Zio Albino's delicious secret recipe homemade ice cream; trips, to Barry Island, Carmarthen or Snowdonia; myriad cousins and marvelling at everyone's lilting, sing-song accents.

Then, aged 20, I became friends with someone from the other end of Wales, Holywell in the north. With her I got to know places like Llandudno, Wrexham and Betwys y Coed, Chester just across the border and drove across the Denbigh moors, where I had an experience of exhilaration which I now know to be of God (here). No valleys lilts here, their accent instead reflecting their closeness to Cheshire and the Wirral, which, on a clear day, you could see from my friend's parents' house.

And then, a decade later, I joined the Society, and within a year came on my first visit to Llannerchwen, our retreat centre near Brecon, in mid-Wales; now, very definitely, my favourite place for a retreat. Over the years it has been a place of healing and regeneration, of stillness and quiet discovery, a true home from home in so many ways. And sometimes, when I go to Brecon, I detour to visit my cousins, occasionally driving across a breathtakingly barren moor, to enjoy a cosy meal, family news, a sense of belonging and affection. Little things, which mean a lot. Thus my Welsh connections come full circle: south-north-centre-south. 

Little things... almost the only thing I know about St David, whose feast is today, is this saying attributed to him, which seems very appropriate for these memories and rambles around his country.

Byddwch llawen, cadwch y fydd a cofiwch y pethau bach
Be joyful, keep the faith and remember the little things

Happy feast, to all those connected with Wales!


  1. I read all about your retreat place in Wales and wish I had known about it last time I was in England. I, too, have a favorite place for retreat on the west coast run by the Sisters of the Holy Names and have been going out there for twenty years now as it is a sacred place for me.
    Love and prayer, Helen
    I love reading your blog and have told other Religious of the Sacred Heart to read it, too.:)


Post a Comment