My post last weekend, in which I owned up to writing a new novel, seemed to attract some interest. So although it’s still early days, I thought I’d share a little excerpt from what I’ve written so far. Claire (the narrator) and her father are in a hotel in the seaside resort of Llandudno, having scattered her mother’s ashes on the Great Orme (a headland outside the town) ….
The evening meal at the hotel was traditional English (should that be Welsh?) fare – prawn cocktail, leg of lamb with two veg, and treacle pudding to finish off. Not really my thing, to be honest. I was still quite full from lunch, so I left most of the vegetables and no more than pecked at the pudding, but it seemed to do the trick for Dad. “Not bad at all,” he said, wiping his lips with a napkin. Quite an accolade, coming from him. There was a little bar in the corner of the communal sitting room, which had a view looking back towards the Great Orme, its cliffs now tinged pink by the setting sun. He readily agreed to my suggestion of a nightcap and we settled ourselves in a pair of armchairs facing the window.
Pretty soon, we had the place to ourselves. We sat in reflective silence for a little while, but after a few sups of his Guinness, Dad turned to me and spoke.
“I’m glad we came here. You see, it was always the place where she was happiest, even though we never lived there. Not just when you were little: we came here when we were courting, more years ago than I would care to remember.
“I would pick her up from work on the back of the motorbike, and we be off down the country lanes – there weren’t any motorways in them days. There wasn’t a speed limit either, so we’d go off like the clappers, dodging tractors and people on horses, but you know, in all the times we went there, we never had a crash and she never fell off once.
“If it was summer you could get there while it was still light, but sometimes I had to stare down at the road because we were driving straight at the sun. But I loved it when we came over that hill, and you could see the sea for the first time, and you went onto the long straight road along the coast that meant you were nearly there. And you could tell you were in Wales because of all the funny names of the places: Abergele, Llandulas, Colwyn Bay. And when we first saw the sign for Llandudno we always cheered and she would wave her arms in the air and almost fall off the bike. It was supposed to be ‘Thlan-did-no’, and sometimes people would give you black looks for saying it wrong, but to us it was always ‘Lan-dud-no’, and let them think what they wanted.
“As we slowed down coming into town you could hear the seagulls. No matter what time of day it was, you could always see people walking about, taking the sea air – you could sometimes smell the salt in the air blowing off the water. We’d take the long straight road over to the West Shore – slow and stately, like we were the king and queen – then we’d roll into the Snowdon View Guest House and say hello to Mr and Mrs Morgan and drop off our bags. We were always too late for dinner, but they’d make us a sandwich, and if there was still a bit of light left, we’d get back on the bike and go along that winding road around the Great Orme and up to the top. There was a seat where we could sit and eat our sandwiches and watch the sun go down over the mountains. And when we were done canoodling, she would sometimes say ‘it’s the best place in the world, this. When I’m gone, don’t stick me in a hole, scatter me over this hill and I’ll be happy.’
“I feel better now we’ve done that for her. The worst thing about how she went was that I never really got to say goodbye. Now I feel I’ve done that, as best I can.”
He paused for a few seconds.
“I’d like to come back now and again to pay my respects to her, like. Maybe I’ll bring her a bottle of wine and empty it out on the grass for her. She never was much of a one for flowers.”
“Of course, Dad. We can come back here whenever you like. All you have to do is ask.”
His expression changed.
“And when it’s … you know, my turn to go. I’d like to be brought back here and scattered up there …” he pointed at the Great Orme “… in the same place, so’s the two of us can be together again, after a fashion. Better scatter me neatly, though, or she’ll make a fuss. And if you’re bringing wine for her, a couple of bottles of this stuff wouldn’t go amiss an’all.” He took another sip of his pint, and winked at me.