Every summer and every Christmas we would emigrate across the border, to my father’s family in North Wales. The run up, as a child, was insignificant. The reality now was my poor father driving as much as 12 hours (sometimes more) up piddly little A-roads normally stuck behind some lorry or caravan, and not being able to overtake in his Triumph. We would normally leave London about lunchtime, loaded up with sandwiches, blankets, Lego, the old Hacker radio, and boiled sweets in a little round tin. The journey through London was uneventful, and I always knew things would be better once we headed up the stretch of road with the big bridge high above (Archway, start of the 3 lane A1). We would make good time, and normally be in the midlands within a few hours. I always remember passing the old Dunlop factory, with the sign for London the other way signifying 111 miles. Also passing a huge coal fired power station (now replaced by typical Wimpey style new houses) next to the M6 then looking on the right hand side for Pebble Mill. Oh and lets not forget Spaghetti Junction. All these landmarks to make the journey shorter, in my father’s eyes anyway.
In the Christmas sojourn it would normally be dark by now, and boredom would have set in. Lego motorways had been made, including bridges and arguments had broken out about the fact my sister had taken what little Lego was left, and we couldn’t see what we were doing anyway. We used to leave the motorway for a break normally at Hilton Park Services, and then the real slog would set in.
Now, those that haven’t sampled the A5 from the Midlands to North Wales are in my opinion, very lucky. Thomas Telford’s road to join London to Holyhead was in its day a remarkable engineering feat. When we were travelling it, it was the only realistic choice and all those twists and turns would have the most hardened child trying to expel their ring orally. For the record, I don’t think I ever got travel sick from the actual journey. I think I suffered from terrible travel sickness ‘by proxy,’ namely that my sister would be the first victim, and the stale stench of half digested jam sandwiches and stomach acid would have any child retching. The rest of the journey would be spent with a washing up bowl in your lap. Sometimes we would stop for tea in Shrewsbury. I think as time drew on, my parents realised this was a good thing. The reality was on a full stomach we would fall asleep and wake up just outside our ultimate destination. More landmarks would be spotted such as the sleeping giant (a large hill just outside Llangollen), the roundabout my Mum drove around the wrong way (don’t ask), Betws-y-Coed (pronounced Betsy coid when we didn’t know better) full to the brim with tourists always. You knew you were nearly there as you passed scenic delights like Llyn Ogwen, and my cousin told us that it was 13 bends from Llyn Ogwen to the last bend into Bethesda, so we would count with apprehension. We would arrive late (how late I don’t know, being of the age of not caring about time), weary and travel stained, to open arms. The whole family would be there to greet us, and the next hour would be spent saying hello to each and every family member before us kids would be packed off to bed.
More adventures in God’s own land soon…
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