As I come to write, I am struck with the rather strange nature of the phrase “rat race”. The human race has forced a fair variety of animals to race against each other for our entertainment (and, more often, as a basis for a wager or three) over the years – but never so far as I know the rat. Then again, as previously established I am no great authority in the field of sport, so perhaps one of Sky’s more obscure sports channels does offer aficionados the chance to see members of genus Rattus going head-to-head on the track.
I should also make clear that despite the title, I have never knowingly participated in competitive sporting endeavour with any creature claiming allegiance to Order Rodentia. In fact, I try to avoid running under any circumstances – competitive or not – as I can move quite swiftly walking and where that is insufficient would prefer to use my bike.
OK, title successfully deconstructed we can move on…
I recently spent a week on holiday not far from Barmouth (Abermaw) in west Wales. This was a week of hiking, cake consumption and generally eating well (even if I says so as shouldn’t as I did most of the cooking) and (mostly) avoiding the responsibilities and stresses for my “normal” life. For the most part as I did this, I was surrounded by beautiful scenery and the sun shone on my upturned apple cheeks (for the avoidance of doubt, this is not evidence of my desire for an “all-over” tan – my skin is ageing fast enough without encouragement from the sun’s ultry-violet rays). Even my base was set in stunning grounds with views down to the Mawddach estuary and across to the Cader range.
In such circumstances, a chap’s mind quite naturally started to wonder if it was really necessary to return to the real world. I’m not that materialistic (am I?) and surely I could survive on the salary I could draw working in a cake shop – and with all those mountains, I should be able to ameliorate the worst of the side effects of my eating any (or all) of the surplus stock (well, I do hate to see good food go to waste – much better that it go to waist!). The desire to leave the rat race was particularly strong on my last day, the Sunday. I was dropped off in Dolgellau and went for a walk around the town – a walk taken from the excellent range of guides produced by Kittiwake (I have yet to find a bad one in any of their walks in this part of Wales – and most have been excellent with very good directions). Unlike previous years, T H Roberts is now open on a Sunday so I could have a pre-exertion slice of cake. The walk was good with nice views of the town and it environs. After the walk I had a little time to kill until my bus would take me back home, and so wandered over to the village cricket pitch. I think this may have the most beautiful setting of any cricket ground in the world – and I suspect is unique in boasting a stone circle in the outfield. As I sat there, with the River Wnion behind me and the sound of willow on leather before, it was very tempting to never leave. With luck a photo should illustrate my point, but WordPress has made major changes to its interface so rather than permitting simple attachment it is now part of a “gallery” (presumably, they will be unable to return my pictures, but I may win a prize).
Eventually I did leave, if only to consume some post-exercise cake from the TH Cafe (you can never be too careful) and catch my bus. There are some things I’d miss if I lived somewhere quite so remote – a viable mobile phone signal and decent broadband for sure. I’d also miss the cultural activities that are possible living in and near more major conurbations – though saying that, I did have a lot of fun at Theatr Fach in Dolgellau with a two-man performance of Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. The other downside is that it is a long way from anywhere and I probably would have to run a car, as public transport is somewhat limited (though there was a later bus home from Dolgellau to my lodgings than Stagecoach offered the Sawston resident on a night out in Cambridge!). On the plus side, I would note that the roads around Barmouth are the best (in terms of surface quality and traffic) of any I have seen in the UK – not much dual carriageway, but then who needs to hurry?
Still, on balance, I shall continue giving the other “rats” a run for their money – but I was (and remain) sorely tempted. If “the man” pushes me too far or the stresses of life in the over-populated south grow too much, I could easily return to the land of my fathers – and I have always meant to learn Welsh to honour my roots. Watch this space…