This is a poem by National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn, it was commissioned by Reading Friends, a befriending project coordinated in Wales by Literature Wales in collaboration with national partner, The Reading Agency. Introduced in partnership with public libraries, local communities and voluntary organisations, the scheme aims to enable, engage and engage older people and people with dementia and carers by stimulating conversations from reading.
The Journey’s Beginning
The seats still held the last warmth of summer,
as the bus went from Cerrig to Llanrwst.
But that was just the journey’s start;
from the bareness of Uwchaled, to the grey walls of the town;
from the hesitant gurgle of Nant Hendre Bach
and the relaxed classrooms of my school nearby,
to the corridors of the county school
and the River Conwy’s confident flow…
* * *
It was an odyssey of fifteen miles or more,
from Cerrig to Llanrwst;
from my native area and childhood home
to the shrill world of the English tongue.
There was no means to travel back and forth,
I stayed from Monday to Friday in town –
An eleven year old in lonely lodgings.
You had to be in by half seven each night
for supper with a woman who was no relation,
at a table where talk was on rations
and she guarded the bread and meat like a hawk.
Then to bed, searching for sleep
between cold sheets.
And a strange house’s squeaks
were my good night kiss.
* * *
Back and forth I went each week
till my life took new rhythm
and Monday mornings were less of a rift,
because I had a benefactor
on the bus to far-off Llanrwst;
his welcome as willing as the tongues of tickets
that he wound from his machine.
And that kind man, (William Jones, the conductor)
would willingly tarry at the terminus
before the bus turned back for Cerrig
buying many a cuppa for this lonely girl.
The taste of our chats would linger,
long after the cup was emptied
and back on its saucer – till the next time…
* * *
And it came to pass that I followed the river to the sea,
and this time there would be no return,
as I slowly put down roots near the strand,
and grew used to the constant waves
of the shrill English tongue…
But as I faced the twists and turns of life
I would sometimes recall
the bus long ago from Cerrig to Llanrwst,
grumbling through the gears
as it wound like an eel past Padog;
and I would recall my former protector,
William Jones, and the bus on cold mornings
its windows blank with condensation.
He sent me a telegram you know,
the day that I married your father;
and I attended his funeral too
in memory of the conductor,
but also in thanks for those cups of tea,
the godsend that warmed my heart…
* * *
Its sixty years and more
since I made this place my abode,
with the sea in earshot,but far from the streams of my youth.
I ‘ve long since arrived here,
but in some ways never left;
my native area has a grip on me still.
That bus long ago
went from Cerrig to Llanrwst –
but my journey still goes on…
Ifor ap Glyn
National Poet of Wales