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Heart's ease - an infusion was said to help mend a broken heart

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A Welsh meander

Wales has always featured in my life, but I realise 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 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 comment:

  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.:)

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