Purely by chance, someone on Facebook mentioned on the same day that they were going to Barmouth. Instantly, I was transported back to Barmouth on a certain Sunday in the mid seventies. (So now Facebook can do time travel? Well, of course it can!)
My flat mate had recently passed her driving test and was keen to test out her skills - and her tiny Citroen - on a long journey. She'd found out about a special deal at a pleasant looking hotel near Lake Bala in North Wales. (How, without the internet? No idea. An advert in a paper maybe?) The journey was not without its thrills - it was February half-term, the coldest there had been for years; the sun shone, but there was thick snow on the ground, and the little Citroen had to struggle valiantly on the mountainous Welsh roads.
We were teachers, and it was half-term, so we decided to tack on another day and go to the coast. We would go to Barmouth, we decided, after the Sunday lunch which was included in the hotel deal.
|I know this doesn't show the actual town, but it's such a lovely picture I thought I'd use it anyway. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)|
We found a B&B, then wandered along the beach shivering and marvelling at the sight of snowflakes drifting down and settling on the sand. Then we headed back, and asked the landlady if she could recommend a pub where we could get a bite to eat. The house had high ceilings and cold rooms, and the idea of a cosy fire in a convivial bar appealed.
"Oh, no pubs open at all," she said cheerily. "Not on a Sunday. It's chapel here, you see. No drinking on a Sunday. Oh no."
We flinched. "Oh. Well, how about a cafe?"
"Oh yes, there's lots of lovely cafes in Barmouth. But not on a Sunday, oh goodness me no."
Could she - would it be at all possible for her to do us a sandwich?
"Oh no. I'll do you a lovely breakfast in the morning, but I don't do food in the evenings, no. And it's Sunday, see? I'll be off to chapel."
We wandered the streets disconsolately, looking for a rebellious corner shop that might be prepared to sell us a bar of chocolate or a packet of biscuits. But no. In 1970s Barmouth on a Sunday night, all doors were closed. Except, obviously, chapel doors. The snow fell, and our stomachs howled.
But it was certainly a lovely breakfast.
Scroll back a few more years, and a typical childhood Sunday before Sunday opening came in went like this. Sunday morning, Sunday school. (Which I resented. My parents didn't go to church, so why did I have to go to Sunday school?) At home, the radio would be on - Forces Favourites, then The Clitheroe Kid (unaccountably voiced by a grown-up) and The Navy Lark or Round The Horne. Then Sunday dinner: usually roast beef, occasionally roast lamb or pork. Never chicken, because that was expensive and only for Christmas. Then apple pie and custard, hopefully thick. Dad worked shifts at a power station, so he wasn't always there - but we still had dinner at dinner time and his was plated up for when he get home.
In the afternoon, if it was summer and Dad was home, it was off to Shipley Wood for a walk. If not, then it was the Sunday matinee - an old film, obviously in black and white, because everything was. And films on television then really were old - they were films my parents had seen in their (to me) far distant youth: George Formby, Bob Hope, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Then it was time for tea: salad, tinned fruit and cream, fruit cake or Victoria sandwich. The good old days? I don't think so. Except for Round The Horne. And my mother's delicious apple pie and custard. And of course, the incomparable Fred and Ginger. So maybe not all that bad. And better than a day spent traipsing round shops? Well, that would depend on the shops...