“Do you ever regret moving here?” asked a friend, as we stood at the conservatory door and watched a full moon rise over the silhouetted forest, to the left of the bungalow I moved into a year ago to the day.
Red squirrels have been seen in that forest recently. I’ve not spotted one myself yet, but give it time. This is a place where you often have to wait for things, even when you’re in a hurry.
The only sounds we could hear at the time were the twit and twoo of two owls perched somewhere in the nearby trees, and my own incredulous silence at being asked this stupid question again; and by a supposedly intelligent friend.
To be fair to my friend and those previous inquisitors, it is possible I might miss certain aspects of my city life*. There was the opportunity to be at the centre of a busy and commercially abundant environment for a start. Or the chance to be able to pop into my favourite independent comic book shop** and browse through the graphic novels whenever I wanted. Then there were the many free tickets I received on a regular basis; to go the theatre, the opera, the ballet, film screenings, and music gigs, in return for a review. Not forgetting the fact I was close to my primary source of income at the time, a Murder Mystery Company *** I freelanced for; work that took me all around the country.
These were all things I happily gave up for love when I upped sticks and moved most of my worldly goods to North Wales, so my girlfriend and I could settle down together. We moved into a roomy home she’d found for the two of us, close to where she’d been living for nearly thirty years.
Our new home had plenty of space for our combined book collections, plus it also had somewhere we could park both our car and our van, and still have room for a guest to be able to fit their vehicle in as well. Not excited by that? You would be if you lived around here.
Where my girlfriend and I reside isn’t palatial, but you’re more likely to see a red squirrel before you spot another house within walking distance of our home that has both off road parking and a garage. In fact you’re more likely to see a pile of rocking horse shit in the road.
This region of the country is a maze of narrow winding lanes, and most people here have the foresight to push their wing mirrors in when they park their vehicle. No, my girlfriend and I might not live in a palace, but when it comes to parking around these parts, we live like royalty.
So, my old friend and I are stood at the conservatory door. The bats have already entertained us with their nightly show. The evenings are drawing in, and so these shows are getting earlier with every dusk.
One bat swooped so close as to make us step back, for fear it might hit us. We have seen two shooting stars so far, and what my friend claims to be Venus. He could be right. Getting hold of a good telescope is high on the list of things I want to do, once I make a decent enough living from my writing; in order to take more advantage of the lack of light pollution here.
I knew that the same silver moon my friend and I were watching creep out from behind the treetops would soon shine down on the two mountain peaks I can see from the back of the bungalow during the day.
I saw snow dust those peaks during my second season in this region. Right now it is that time of year when trees are losing their green and turning gold and brown.
If we were stood at the kitchen door, to the front of the bungalow, you would just about be able to make out a third mountain peak in the distance, sprinkled with home glows from one of the neighboring villages; as well as the rare late night travelling lights of a car, cyclist, or walker winding their way along one of the lanes. The only sound to be heard from this side of our home would be the rush of a waterfall, less than five minutes’ walk away.
I can remember a moment of disappointment on our first night in the new place when I heard that noise, mistaking it for the familiar growl of traffic I could constantly hear in the background when I lived in the city; a mere twenty minutes’ walk along the toll path from the city centre. This was ideal for a man trying to make his mark on the cultural map of a major city, but not exactly conducive to “getting away from it all”.
It took me a moment or five to work out that the noise I could hear was in fact water from one of the two nearby rivers, crashing over rocks and falling, and not the roar of engines, with their exhausts spewing poisons into the atmosphere.
My new home has a name, not a number. It is called “Llys Menai”. It is Welsh. “Llys” means hall, court, or palace of some sort; although as I’ve already mentioned, we don’t live in a palace, we live in a bungalow.
The “Menai” in the name is a place, as in the nearby Menai Straits. However, if you translate the word “Menai” from Lithuanian into English, it means “art”.
I like that, it is appropriate. Where I now live is a haven for artists, writers, musicians, creators. I am within walking distance of mountains, waterfalls, fields, lakes, rivers, woods, and a fifteen minute drive from the Welsh coast. Go to an art exhibition around these parts, and I guarantee you will see mountains and the sea on display. I live in a National Park. People come for their holidays here. In fact there is a holiday cottage at the top of our drive.
As a dyed-in-the-wool working class Northerner, residing in a rural paradise like this is the stuff of dreams; the kind of dreams that compel people to spend week in, week out in a job they hate, just so they can run away and hide for a fortnight once a year, for a holiday.
So, in answer to the question I’ve repeatedly been asked over the past twelve months I say “Have you seen where I live?”
* That city being Leeds, Yorkshire
** OK Comics
*** Murder One