” Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
A mantra for older age. A Funeral eulogy favourite. Dylan Thomas’s famous poem suddenly came to life last October when I visited his writing studio at Laugharne in Carmathen, Wales. What a beautiful location to become inspired! His writing shed hugs the banks of the river Taf and the writer and poet penned his beautiful words in that serene location from 1949-1953. The writing shed was his workspace. He lived in another lovely little cottage in town called the Boathouse. Thomas’s play Under Milk Wood is said to be inspired by this town.
Laugharne is such a pretty town with its soft, pastel coloured cottages, Georgian townhouses, bird loving estuary, its castle and winding, hilly streets. Another town where I hit the real estate pages to search for unloved, inexpensive cottages just waiting for me to renovate…Alas…..
We used to holiday in Wales when I was a child. I have memories of the soft, layered harmony of the local Welsh male choir rehearsing on a summer’s evening at the small stone village church. The church door was open and at age seven, I stood outside mesmerized by the beauty of their voices.
Wales is a country of extraordinary rugged beauty, a hardy mining and farming heritage and a nationalism that is only now starting to emerge with confidence. The Welsh language is widely spoken and taught in schools. I’d stop in a tiny village bakery and the owner would slip seamlessly from Welsh to English when serving me…clearly a tourist because they knew everyone in the village!
We stayed in Aberystwith, which looked tired and unloved. ” Not gentrified is it?” announced one of the fellow travelers on the tour. Of what I saw of Welsh towns they are not gentrified. Time has stood still. The mines have closed long ago and tourism, agriculture, gas and renewable energy are the main earners. But 21% of the population lives below the poverty line. There are pretty villages and towns like Tenby with sandy beaches and pretty coloured cottages that hug the coastline. The beauty of Wales lies in its rugged coastlines and the magnificent Snowdonia National Park.
I saw Wales with a small group tour but somehow the magic always seemed to happen when I spent time wandering on my own. With two free hours in the town of Harlech I wandered in the rain and mist through the cobbled streets and into the bakery where I met a local woman, Lowri. As we huddled under the awning clutching our saffron buns and bread, it turned out she is the local real estate agent in Harlech and surrounding towns. We got chatting about renovation and the next minute I was standing in her tiny cottage, by the large stone Inglenook fireplace talking real estate! Over a cup of tea Lowri showed me some of the cottages she had sold to “out-of-towners.” Oh my heart starting beating fast. For $A280k I could buy a beautiful 2 bedroom stone cottage with views of Harlech castle- sure it needed renovating. Sure it had no damp course so it was perpetually damp and musty but that could be fixed with a little money. All those TV renovation programs flooded my brain…………
We spent a lovely warm hour by the fire, drinking tea and laughing about renovation follies we had made. A spaniel snored lazily in the warmth, the rain tapped the tiny windows but the thick stone walls made me feel invincible…. Raising my hood against the wind, as I left Lowri’s cosy cottage I was certain that I’d be back to look at real estate…Just one more little reno. of a tiny Welsh cottage. Maybe with a writer’s room like Dylan Thomas. Maybe I’d get inspired to write…Maybe………!
Rejoining our little tour we headed to Tenby and I walked the beach thinking about the feasibility of relocating to Wales and another real estate adventure. What seemed so real, exciting and possible became overlayed with doubts and the impracticality of relocating back to the UK. The serious adult voice listed all the risks and pitfalls of a daring adventure such as this. At 74? You’re mad! On your own? You’re nuts! Another renovation? You’re an addict!
Inspired by Dylan Thomas and Lowri from the tiny stone cottage in Harlech, I came home to scour real estate pages for cottages in Wales. I haven’t bought one yet but I’m still “Burning and raving in my older age.”
Thank you Dylan Thomas for that reminder!
Words and Images by Nora Vitins