Monday 31 December 2007

New Year in the UK

Happy New Year to all from the UK!!

I'm writing this with just an hour or two to go to the New Year, although those of you back in NZ will already be in 2008, have had a good sleep and be going about your day!

It was a quiet day today, due to several factors. We had planned to go to Mavis' to work on the family tree after a bit of shopping, but it was a rainy, overcast sort of day so we didn't get underway until later than planned, and I've got back problems (again) although I am still mobile. I have been lying on the floor looking odd as I do my exercises (thx Norah!) but I haven't been able to keep up my swimming as I had hoped. (It's a bit like NZ at Christmas/ New Year - everything shuts down and normal opening patterns go a bit haywire!) I've been walking wherever I can (and distances are not so great that I can't) and that has been helping a bit.

We went to Tesco's, as there was a wee bit of shopping to do, and I needed to upload the pictures from the camera, which I have now done. I also visited Borders (wonderful shop). We spent an hour shopping, then another hour getting out of the car park... heheh
Seriously, the traffic was appalling!

In the afternoon I visited Mavis, and although we didn't work on the family tree due to the time I got there, we did take time to look over the map and see where I would be in the next week or two. We take in Laugharne, West Wales and Cardigan as the main points. I hope to go to Swansea on the way as well, particularly to look at the university there as Dad lectured there before moving to NZ.

In the next few days, before that, I am doing a tour of the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, and a tour of the Rhondda Heritage Museum (I think I mentioned that before... or did I?) which has a simulation of a coal mine. We are also considering a visit to Carreg Cennen Castle ( or some alternative.

I do know that the odd Welsh gift/souvenir shop is on the cards... I can't leave here without a few Welsh dragons!

Wishing everyone a brilliant New Year - all the best for 2008!

Sunday 30 December 2007


Still can't get the blog working with photos :o(
It's also the fact I can't get the pics reduced in size to something reasonable...
Contact me on the 'teacher' email if you want me to try sending the odd pic through to you separately...

Interesting day today - went to a place called Llanwonno where there is a very historic church - in which my grandmother was married! Mavis suggested this trip, and she is full of information and stories. I am going over to see her tomorrow afternoon with the family tree (well that's the plan, anyway.) I also now have two books of photos of old Rhondda, one I bought and one Mavis has given me. I have photos of some places in the present that correspond with the old ones, such as Hannah Street in Porth... Nice comparisons...

Went to a lovely old pub called The Griffin tonight (it is locally known as 'The Bog' because of it's location) at Pat's request to meet some of his mates, who gave me a hard time for being a New Zealander who didn't support Graham Henry... heheh

The blog will have to take a break from around the 7th to the 15th as I will not have internet access (or so it seems based on my itinerary). Sorry about that. I'll keep trying to see if I can find a way around this problem without going through expensive public access cafes.

Hope you have a good New Year's eve - I'll make contact to see if 2008 actually arrives, as I will still be in 2007 (that's weird, eh?)
BEHAVE yourselves!

Saturday 29 December 2007

This is what it is all about!

Today was what this trip is all about! I visited the house where Dad (Grandsire) grew up, and the street where Mum (Grandma) grew up, but we weren't sure of the exact house. Hopefully Alun & Sandra can fill the gaps. I picked up all sorts of information about the family, including the fact that there was a great-uncle who lived with Dad and Don, Richard. He was my grandmother's youngest brother, and since she was married with her own house, she took him in to bring him up.
Education was very important, as miners tried to find ways to prevent their children ending up working the mines like them. My grandmother had inherited two houses and one was sold to pay for Dad's university education.

They ran a shop next to their house, and were considered a bit 'posh' as they had some money. The miners used to come in and buy one cigarette and one match on their way to the mines. They couldn't buy more as they weren't allowed, obviously, to take them into the mine.

We saw the chapel where Mum & Dad were married (now turned into a retirement home but the facade has been kept on the building), travelled around Porth (where Dad grew up) and Clydach Vale (Mum).

Anne has arranged a tour of the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff next week, and we are going to go to the Rhondda Heritage museum when it re-opens after the Christmas / New Year break. It is a museum for the coal mining in the district and includes a simulated mine!

The weather was fine but with a cold wind this morning, but the rain started up again this afternoon and we had to cut the sightseeing short. However, we will pick it up again at the first opportunity.

One interesting fact, for me, is the fact that I have distances completely wrong. Going from Penycraig to Tonypandy is not a case of traveling between villages, but a case of walking down the street - and you go from one to the other in the space of a few steps. The Rhondda is one big area, kind of like a big town with suburbs, but each 'village' contains it's own identity here, has it's own shopping centre, own rugby club etc...

I had always wondered how Dad could walk or cycle to see Mum when they were 'courting', but now I know. It wasn't that much distance after all. Of course cars are used today, but even I could walk from one to the other... I must find out how they met...

Friday 28 December 2007


I started the day with a walk to Tonypandy Square, looking at the shops, seeing the different layout of the houses. Here they are terraced, the entrances right on the footpath. I did a little shopping, buying an item or two with the Welsh Dragon on, and looking over the Doctor Who merchandise which we don't get in NZ (there was a wonderful T.A.R.D.I.S.!)

The rain has been falling all day, solid and steady, and I am going to have to track down either some good wet weather gear or a decent umbrella if I am going to stay reasonably dry - or the rain is going to have to stop!

Lunch (a beef and Guinness pie) was at Castell Mynach with Mavis, David & Julie, and Anne, Daniel and Jonathon. Remembering that darkness falls just after 4:00pm here at the moment, it was dark when we headed for home!

Pat arrives home from his ship tonight, and Anne is taking me sightseeing tomorrow (assuming the weather picks up). I'm being made very welcome wherever I go, which is awesome! We are a short train ride from Cardiff, and about 30 minutes drive from the coast. Swansea is wihtin easy reach, and the sightseeing will take me up through the Rhondda valleys.

Hopefully there will be more to report on tomorrow - I haven't checked the forecast yet!

Thursday 27 December 2007

To Mum and Dad

I'm here...

27 December - Wales

We started the day by shifting my photos to CD in Boots in Brentwood, then hit the motorway. I've decided the motorways aren't very scenic, but we detoured off them and stopped for lunch at a pub called 'The Dundas Arms'. They served me with a nice local beer called 'Leaping Lord', and served a cracker steak! Beside the pub is a canal, and a lock, with several barges tied up nearby - a great sight.

We arrived in Wales crossing the Severn River via a h-u-g-e bridge (tolled) and then I was there... In Wales...

A short trip later and I am being hosted in the heart of the Rhondda Valley by Anne & Pat. Stories of the history and family are already starting, and the Medal has come up for discussion. Mavis has some documentation which should allow us to narrow the search for the details of the award, maybe even lead us closer to the citation.

Many thx to David, Julie and family for hosting me when I first arrived. I appreciate all you have done to help me settle in and get me started on my journey.

Tomorrow will see a start to walking around my parent's home area, and the history of the area is a focus also.

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Boxing Day

We started the day with a walk into Shenfield. We checked out the railway station where I will be leaving from for the London Tour part of this trip. I return to Brentwood / Shenfield in mid-January.

On the way back we visited St Mary's church which originates in the 13th century. It is a wonderful piece of old England architecture. Peaceful and serene are the words that spring to mind.

We took Thomas back to London after lunch and David gave me a brief tour of the business part of the centre city. It was just on dusk, so the photos aren't great, but I will go there again in the daytime in the London Tour. We visited Lombard Street, London Bridge, the Guild Hall, saw the Bank of England and Leadenhall Market, where they used to sell game and birds eg poultry.

(Have a hunt for the story of 'The Blind Beggar' pub on the 'Net... ;o)

I'm fairly certain I will have some sort of access to continue the blog in almost all the places I am being hosted, and the photos get closer. I now have them on computer, but as yet they are still in original, large format. I have to find a good PC based program to reduce them in size.

I am heading to Wales in the morning. This is going to be quite an emotional day for me, I feel, and I will be spending about three weeks meeting family and seeing where my parents grew up. The plans in place take in large parts of Wales from the South to the West and North.
I have been hearing about this place for nearly fifty years...

Tomorrow I will be there...

Tuesday 25 December 2007

Christmas Dinner

Okay... I've rolled away from the dining table where we had turkey (with gravy and cranberry sauce), leeks with cheese sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon, delicious crispy roast potatoes, roast sweet potato and parsnip, carrots and brussel sprouts, and finished with a true Christmas pudding with cream and brandy butter. The temptation to creep to a comfy armchair and snooze is h-u-g-e..! heheh

Christmas in the UK

Greetings to family and friends back in NZ! Merry Christmas from the UK (although for you, Christmas Day is now over!) We started the day with smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toast, accompanied by champagne. Unfortunately it is not a white Christmas and is a wet day, very similar to a wet day in Southland.

David & Julie are fantastic hosts, and took me into Brentwood yesterday, just a 5 minute walk from their home, where I spent several hours just wandering the main street, investigating the variety of shops and spending a little more money than I intended!

I have been introduced to the wonderful tradition of the English pub, with wonderful names like "Ye Olde Green Dragon", "The Swan" and "The Slug and Lettuce"!

Heathrow has been having fog problems with many flights cancelled, soI seem to have come in in time, missing the majority of disruptions.

We travel to Wales the day after Boxing Day, where I will be staying with Ann & Pat, and starting in on the real business of meeting family, and seeing where my family come from. I will have photos soon I hope to put up, but they are huge if I bring them straight in off the camera, so I will have to do some manipulation first.

In the meantime, this 'blog' has been started and I hope to hear from you. If you want to email, just use my usual 'teacher' email and I will get back to you.

I'm off to see how the Christmas turkey is coming on!
Merry Christmas all!