Colin arrived to pick us up at 10:30 as arranged and we drove over to Hammersmith to pick up his mate John from a flat there. It took about half an hour to get clear of London and outside Heathrow Airport I took over the driving as Colin was buggered after a weekend on the piss!
At 85mph it didn’t take long to cross the Southwest of England on the M4 Motorway and we crossed the severn Bridge and into Wales at about 1:30. After following a maze of road signs we eventually found Griffithstown at the bottom of one of the small valleys that run down towards Newport. We went to a pub to collect our thoughts and have a beer then found Coed-y-Gric road and Number 17¹.
Colin and John headed back to Bristol and Janice and Brian came out to meet us. They are really nice people and live in a comfortable, untidy house with their daughter Rachel and their 12 year old dog Topsy. Their son David is out in NZ for a year. After we had settled in they took us for a drive around the area. We first went to a lookout above town where we could get the lie of the land and in all directions, green rolling hills led up to barren windswept tops above. As we drove from one valley to the next we passed through many tiny villages, their terraced rows of houses clinging to the steep valley walls. Once, all of these villages would have serviced a colliery but nowadays the mines have all closed and hard times have come to the valleys.
The landscape of South Wales is honeycombed with old mine workings and massive piles of tailings tower overhead. Sheep grazed green fields between the villages. Back at the house we had a cup of tea then went on one of the Maurice family’s nightly pub crawls ending up back at home at about 10:30…pissed!
¹ My cousin Janice (a New Zealander) and her husband Brian lived on this street in the town of Pontypool.