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Childhood Holiday: North Wales; Llanberis, Snowdon, Slate and a Princess; Short Story Response to a Challenge

Author:

Ann loves to write stories & poems & is always eager to meet challenges issued by other hubbers or herself, to exceed her comfort zone.

Slate Quarry

Didn't They Have a Lovely Time!

‘Boom!’….. Boom!’ In the dark, heart pounding, head under the covers, shivering, seven-year old Ann waited for the next ground-shaking explosion.

Her mother’s aunt lived in Llanberis, North Wales. They visited each year for a short holiday. She couldn’t wait to leave.

Not that she didn’t like the aunt, not that she didn’t like Wales, but she was afraid of the night-time explosions. In a dark cottage at the foot of Mount Snowdon, close to slate quarries with slag heaps* all around, the immediate landscape was bleak, depressing, scary. At night, the whole scenario held another dimension of fear for a young girl.

She couldn’t sleep until those two or three explosions had been counted out. They were detonations set to split the slate on the hillside.


Come daytime, the village of Llanberis was a hub of activity, a community depending on the quarry which yielded the largest slate production in the world. Next to the beautiful Llyn Padarn, the lake at the base of the highest mountain in Wales, the panorama took in sweeping green lower slopes and crack-sharp crags.

Ann tried to ignore the slate-grey quarries and absorb the rain-soaked luscious green hillsides leading up to ridges impossible to walk. It was a land of contrasts; day and night, green and grey.


Llyn Padarn and Llanberis

Llanberis by Llyn Padarn, Dinorwic Quarry in the background.

Llanberis by Llyn Padarn, Dinorwic Quarry in the background.

Royal Visit

That morning, Dad had some exciting news. At first, it wasn’t welcome information that they were going to the quarry. The reason, though, provided another contrast for Ann. Important people were visiting that day, important enough to bring out the whole population plus the press and others from miles around.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon were touring the quarry.

Dad was in his element. His passion was photography and here was an opportunity like no other to catch royalty in an unusual setting. He placed himself on a wall, somewhat precarious, giving him almost a bird’s-eye view over the scene. More than average numbers were present, yes, but no huge jostling crowds, no heads in the way.

The royals were arriving at the local station, repainted in their honour a few days before. They were then driven to the quarry in a sleek, black Rolls Royce, complete with appropriate insignia flying from the roof.

Ann had visions of regal robes and the beautiful Princess in exquisite splendour. The figures emerging from the car didn’t meet her expectations. A handsome couple, yes, young and recently married. But of course they were visiting a quarry; hardly the place for high heels and tiaras.

Princess Margaret sported something akin to wellies** and a scarf hiding her glossy hair against the wind and ready to cope with any slate dust daring to touch it. They were ushered to a basic truck on the rails which took them off and around the site. The crowd dispersed, off to the pub or home to discuss the most exciting day of the year.


Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon

The Royal Couple in the quarry truck.

The Royal Couple in the quarry truck.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon being welcomed to Llanberis  (Ann's head just above the car bonnet, her father standing on the wall, rear right, with camera)

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon being welcomed to Llanberis (Ann's head just above the car bonnet, her father standing on the wall, rear right, with camera)

Ann had been close enough to the royals to touch them but she didn’t dare. There were smiles all round and her father had his precious photos, like no others in his portfolio.

The next day, the local rag*** printed a photograph of the Royals’ arrival. Plain to see were Ann and her father, her head peering over the car bonnet and her father up on the wall to the right, doing what he loved best. They were famous! Pictured with royalty! Ann would treasure that photo for ever; for the royalty of course, but mostly because a photo of her and her father together was a rarity. Both loved to be behind a camera.


Railway Trip

There was one more treat to come. Despite the worrying night-time detonations, Ann slept well with the knowledge that they were going to ride the Snowdon Railway in the morning. A single track, narrow gauge rack and pinion railway, it ensured that, despite the steep incline, there was no risk of the train sliding backwards!

The weather forecast was not good. Snowdon is often shrouded in cloud. From the little station, Ann and her parents took the old-fashioned train to the summit. For the first time, she looked down on the rooftops of Llanberis and across to Llyn Padarn. A higher lake near the summit struck her as strange. It looked out of place on the steep slopes, a bubble suspended in green.

Then, as the summit loomed out of the mist, the drizzle came down and visibility plummeted. They walked hoping for a gap somewhere in the cloud, but no luck, so took the same train back to the village. The clouds did break on the way down, allowing more gasps at the breathtaking views.

'Look there! See that bird? Wow, you can see the whole lake too!'

Ann and her parents loved trains and were happy with their outing. No clickety-clack, just a clonk, clonk as the rack and pinion allowed descent; safe, solid, dependable little red train.


Time To Go Home

Those few days and scary nights were over. Ann considered the trip an overall hit but would be glad to get back to her own house, warm and safe; her world of the known, the familiar and the loved. Free from explosions.

…………………………………………………………………………………..............

Glossary

*slag heaps or spoil tips - piles of shale and small pieces of slate heaped up close to the quarry, often remaining for years, giving a sombre, derelict feeling to the surroundings.

**wellies - Wellington boots (rubber high boots for farmyards, country pursuits etc.) We sometimes call the uppercrust country folk ‘the wellie brigade’!

***local rag - local newspaper


Snowdon and Its Railway

Almost there, just the ridge to climb!

Almost there, just the ridge to climb!

Wales' Highest Mountain

Snowdon is 1,085 metres above sea level, second highest in Britain to Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands. It is located in Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd.

Legend tells us that Snowdon is the burial place of the giant ogre Rhita, vanquished by King Arthur. It's also said that Arthur’s Knights sleep beneath it.

Since 1896 visitors have been able to experience this special unique railway journey to Snowdon's summit.


The Challenge

Bill Holland abandoned his photo prompts this time and changed tack. I’ll let you judge whether or not I’ve covered the following instruction:

‘So no photos today, just one instruction: write about your childhood! It can be a poem, it can be a fictional account, it can be autobiographical in style, whatever, but it has to be true, which is tricky if it's fiction, but you'll figure it out.’


Visit to Wales

© 2020 Ann Carr

Comments

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 03, 2020:

Thanks Flourish. I have so many childhood memories, maybe I should do a few more! It's fun to do. I appreciate your visit.

Ann

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 02, 2020:

What a wonderful memory and response to the challenge! The photos, too, are excellent. I can identify with having fewer photos of oneself because you’re always behind the camera.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

Road Monkey: That's interesting and sounds like fun! I don't know Moel Siabod but you obviously did well. Those sort of outdoor pursuits are brilliant.

Thanks for the visit and for your great input.

Keep safe and well.

Ann

RoadMonkey on October 02, 2020:

I lived in Wales for most of my childhood and at the age of 15 went on a CCPR (Central Council for Physical Recreation) trip in February to a mountaineering centre near Snowdon. It was a trip for many schools and we were divided into groups. One group climbed Snowdon, though they did not reach the summit. My group climbed Moel Siabod and we DID reach the summit, though it was just a pile of stones!. We had to sleep out at night under canvas in snow. That was quite an experience. We also did abseiling. The views from Moel Siabod were also spectacular. I have never been on the Snowdon railway though.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

Thank you Anupam. I appreciate you reading and your kind comments

Keep safe.

Ann

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on October 02, 2020:

Loved reading your experience.

Wales looked amazing. I saw it through your eyes.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

Thank you very much, Linda, for your kind words. It's longer ago than I care to remember but writing it made it seem like yesterday. I had a wonderful childhood.

Keep safe and well.

Ann

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 02, 2020:

Ann, what a wonderful story. I enjoyed every ounce of it. When I saw that you had written in response to Bill's challenge, I knew it would be a treasure--and you didn't disappoint. Thank you for sharing this little bit of history with us.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

I'm smiling too, after that wonderful comment. Thank you, bill! I relived the whole thing whilst writing - I could still feel the fear and the excitement.

Thanks for the challenge.

Keep safe!

Ann

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 02, 2020:

What a marvelous trip, what must have been so exciting for a seven-year old. Loved the descriptions. Loved the way you made us all feel the apprehension and excitement of those days. Well done, my friend. It's always a treat when you spin a yarn, and I now enter my weekend with a smile on my face.

Bravo!

bill

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

The slate tips are mainly in the north, Eric, so I'm guessing those might be coal tips or something else, not sure. I don't know Cardiff at all. It's strange how descriptions can skew the memory, isn't it? Like parents' accounts of what you did as a child becoming your own memories. Thankd for getting back and leaving your valuable input.

Ann

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 02, 2020:

Ann it blurs a bit but it seems to me that going to Cardiff was our first foray into the "country" of Great Britain. It probably is all wrong but your description of piles of rock (slate) gave me a vision of Roman rock piled up near the castle.

My first "clonk clonk" was elsewhere so I don't think we did that tour. The vision of the lush greenery (I come from a desert) contrasted with the deep deep black is still in my mind. Probably your descriptions kind of just became part of that memory -- if you know what I mean.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

Thank you, Lora. Glad you enjoyed this. Snowdon is indeed spectacular. I haven't been to North Wales for many years.

I appreciate your kind comments and your visit.

Hope you're safe and well.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

Eric, I'm honoured to be treated like royalty! Glad you enjoyed this. Did you ever get to Wales? I lived there for a few years but came back to England which is my home and always will be. This trip was made from Sussex, the south-east, so was a bit of a trek!

Keep safe!

Ann

Lora Hollings on October 02, 2020:

A great read, Ann. Your expressive writing brought your story to life as I could easily form a picture in my mind of a seven-year old scared of explosions but also excited about meeting royalty. What a wonderful opportunity for you! And to be so close to this royal couple certainly had to be a real thrill. The train ride sounds awesome. I would love to take this journey to Snowdon's summit. Your photos are just wonderful too!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 02, 2020:

Thank you, Doris, for such a warm comment. I'm glad that you enjoyed this. Wales has lots of beautiful scenery as, of course, does my country of England. I like your comment regarding those who think they're royalty!

Good to see you. Keep safe and well.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 01, 2020:

Thank you, John. Yes, the proof is key! I appreciate your kind comments.

Hope all's well with you.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 01, 2020:

Yes Mary. I still feel it now. Thank you for your kind comments.

Be safe!

Ann

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 01, 2020:

Aye Ann. I caught glimpse of such splendid and indeed set the boys to task, lower the mainsail, swab the deck and lay to rest ye arms. I go to my quarters to read a fine bit of memory from a master. Delay not the setting aside of trouble and triumph, it is time to savor the sweet writings of my lady.

I got nothing but Thanks. Thanks for being you and sharing it.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 01, 2020:

Ann, you outdid yourself on this challenge. What an enjoyable read! To think that you and your father were able to be photographed in the same photo with royalty just blows me away. Of course we have no royalty here, just some folks who think they are. I love how you brought in some history of your country along with some very beautiful scenic photos.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 01, 2020:

I enjoyed your childhood tale Ann. How wonderful to be so close to royalty and have the photo to prove it. What luck that you and your dad were both in the captured photo,too.

Excellent writing as always, and a great response to Bill’s challenge.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 01, 2020:

I can feel the excitement in the photos. I would be thrilled at your age. What a unique experience to be around royalty, so any inconvenience in the place would be easily forgiven or forgotten.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 01, 2020:

Thank you, Pamela. It was exciting and I am back there when I talk about it. Sadly, Margaret didn't have a happy marriage and she relied on the booze and the drugs, partying away her life I suppose. She was so beautiful but badly treated, being made to split with her first love.

I appreciate your kind comments. I was a lucky girl to have such great parents and an extremely happy childhood.

Keep safe and well!

Ann

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 01, 2020:

This is a great story, Ann. I can image a young girl being afraid of those explosions at night. I think know you would be close to royalty would have been so exciting.

I think this is an excellent story of an exciting event in your childhood. It is truly unique. You more than met the challenge, Ann.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 01, 2020:

Thanks, Shauna. Glad you enjoyed this. I was about 7 but I can't be really precise. They were on tour shortly after their marriage so I guess this was close to the top of the list as it was near Snowdon and Princess Margaret's husband had the title of Lord Snowdon.

I can remember the fear but I don't think I mentioned it, even to my parents. I don't know why as they were very understanding. I suppose I thought I was being unduly silly. Funny what you do when you're young.

There are so many memories, I wasn't sure what to pick but I might do a few more just for fun.

Thanks for your kind words and for your visit - always good to see you.

Keep safe and well, Shauna!

Ann

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 01, 2020:

Ann, what a thrill it must have been for you to be so close to royalty! Although, I can imagine your disappointment when they appeared as ordinary people. But, as you say, it would have been inappropriate for them to be dressed in all their regalia to visit a quarry. What was the purpose of their tour?

I would have been frightened of the boom-booms, too. How old were you during this particular visit?

I enjoyed this peek into your childhood. I've never experienced anything like it, so it was a real treat for me.

Great job, my friend!