Monday, January 22, 2007

The Venerable Vi

Auntie Vi, outside Ye Olde Worlde Cafe

On this, my final full day in Pembrokeshire, James and Alison took me down onto the Castlemartin Peninsula.

James and Alison succumb to dreadful antipodean paparazzo

The Stackpole Estate in Bosherston has some famous lily ponds formed by damming three limestone valleys. We walked around some of these to reach Broadhaven Beach.

As we approached the first of several low-slung narrow bridges across the water, Bondi misjudged a mat of floating leaves and other matter adjacent to it, stepped out and plunged into the cold water.

Church Rock at Broadhaven Beach

After our walk I was taken to visit local icon "Auntie" Vi Weston, who has run Ye Olde Worlde Cafe since before WWII. Like the Venerable Bede at Jarrow who digested the world through his reading and interrogation of travellers from all over the Roman Empire, Vi makes tea for visitors in her Bosherston cafe and absorbs the world through her customers, the scores of girls who have worked the tables over summer, and her TV. Still very alert and busy at 85, she asked that Bondi be brought into the tea-room so that both hound and human could be inspected and questioned. "He's been to 16 countries! Marvellous. Marvellous."

Vi has asked me to send on some photos of her with Bondi*. Unfortunately I couldn't get him to smile during the photos as he was so intent on the doggie treats I was using to entice him into a position in the cramped space of the cafe interior.

Bosherston, Tea Gardens c1955

We drove back via Freshwater West Beach and along the top of the Castlemartin Peninsula, looking across Milford to the awful Texaco plant which looks as much like one of Blake's "satanic mills" as anything I've seen on these shores. It's such a pity that it blights such a beautiful area. Some 400 years ago, traveller William Camden wrote in his Britannia:
From hence runneth the shore along not many miles continuate, but at length the land shrinketh backe on both sides giving place unto the sea, which, encroching upon it a great way, maketh the haven which the Englishmen call Milford haven, than which there is not another in all Europe more noble or safer, such variety it hath of nouked bayes, and so many coves and creekes for harbour of ships, wherewith the bankes are on every side indented, and, that I may use the Poets words,

The sea disarmed heere of winds, within high banke and hill
Enclosed is, and learnes thereby to be both calme and still.

*I'm a little wary after the last time I sent on a photo to someone of her vintage. In the early 80s when I was a physics student, I sometimes encountered Prof Julius Sumner Miller in the corridors of the Physics Building and we would have short but memorable (to me) exchanges. I had watched the professor on TV as a young child, and he was undoubtedly an influence on my educational direction. When our third year Physics class photo was taken, I was wearing a tee-shirt with a photo of the Prof demonstrating Hero's Engine. This came to the attention of Ray, one of the lab assistants, who had set up the experimental apparatus for the TV program. He said that the Professor was back in the US, ill in bed and that seeing this photo would cheer him up, and so asked if he minded having a copy sent to him. I acquiesced, and heard no more of it until some time later when I discovered that the Professor had died, and I had visions of him being (fatally) appalled after receiving this photo of a woolly haired young Aussie.

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