So where's the snow?

Muddling through life from Austria to Wales; God, life and a small black dog

Welsh Oaks

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Our family has long told tales about things, like how my maternal Grandparents were both born in Athlone in Ireland, a few miles apart. Only one family was a Catholic family, the other part of the English army that was based there at the time and Protestant! Other tales have proved true too.

I’ve also known we have a Welsh connection, but the people to ask are long gone. I was hoping I could track down a cousin Jill, last seen at my Grandmother’s funeral in 1984. Then by chance, while looking for something else, I found a little card, noting the death of my Great Grandmother, who is buried in Cardiff.

So that got me on one of the big websites, to find my Grandmother had two sisters, one disappeared to the US and I think the other committed suicide. So no relatives on that side. I looked up our Winchester relatives, but with so many siblings on my Grandfather’s side, soon gave up. I’ll have to brag to people here that my Great Grandparents are buried here and not tell them they’re Irish!!!!!

But I’ve made a few wonderful contacts, and we are swapping things. But suddenly, the whole thing, most oddly, is just reeking of death to me. All these people are long gone and no relevance to me. I need to walk away and get on with my current writing projects.

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The Bus

Having waited to see how costs go with the house, we have used the local bus. Cfenpennar is at the top of quite a steep hill-we’ve improved our fitness with walking up it, not a few times!

But there is a local bus, which sort of runs hourly, but not during the driver’s lunch break and the school run, and the last one is at four. But we got our bus passes and use it all the time. If you catch one down, you get a good half hour before he returns, the bus runs a long loop.

There’s a regular group of pensioners, and the driver knows everyone. In fact his mother gets on quite often and gives him grief over things, much to everyone’s amusement. People all say hello when you get on and ‘Tara’ when we get off. Someone I heard refused a lift back down to Mountain Ash as she wanted to catch up on the local gossip on the bus!

The bus is run by a local company, and there is a standing joke about them breaking down. It’s happened twice since we’ve been here, once with a totally brand new one. The older ones really struggle with the hill, chucking out clouds of diesel. You can walk faster than them on the steepest bits.

And of course, there’s dodge the cars, with the narrow streets and parking, cars get out of the way and have to reverse to get out of his way! For a few days the bus had to turn around at the pub because two Range rovers were parked so that he couldn’t fit between.

We like the bus but as of today, we have finally bought a car. We are determined to keep using the bus,and doing trips up to Aberdare it’s part of the community, we get into wonderful conversations at the bus stop with complete strangers. Not to mention, we’re a bit nervous, not having driven on the left for over 14 years…



It’s only since we’ve been here in Wales that I’ve come to reluctantly admit just how much the winters were getting me down in Austria. It’s lovely if all you have to do is skim down a mountain and have a drink at the end or just watch it fall and take photos (Well I did love that).

But. When you have to live day in day out with it, as it compacts and hardens into ice underfoot and you have to keep your eyes on the ground, or like me put spikes on your boots all the time, the thrill wears off. Or the obsessional snow clearing of the stuff, when you have a huge yard, and the neighbours are tearing out with shovels the second it stops falling, it becomes an irritation. I always felt we didn’t need to clear so much, most of our neighbours weren’t even there in winter, so why clear their garages?

Let alone, when you get ‘Tau wetter’ when it rains then freezes and the whole place turns into a skating rink. Walking on ice had me permanently in a panic, although the nails helped.

The day in day out, changing of layers of clothes to take the dog out and the paths that became inaccessible in the woods. Yes, I really was going to pay 20 euros to go up in a lift, walk on a piste and get mown down by skiers! There were lovely walks, which we did find, but few and far between. But daily runs with the dog lost their appeal.

Here, it has been raining since Christmas day, now over 2 inches. There is mud and slush over the paths, the dog comes back wet, and I’m quite often soaked. Do I panic when I slip in a bit of mud? No. It’s a soft squelchy landing. I’m happy slinging wellies off, towelling the dog and as it’s not so cold, no need for layers of coats.

I’m home.


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Living through a veil

Austria or Wales?

No, I’m not talking about being a Muslim! It’s a revelation that’s come to me since settling here in Wales. It is just such an utter relief to be able to freely communicate, chat away. It took a few weeks for the sense of having to prepare my sentences before I spoke to leave. I do get occasionally caught out when someone says, ‘Half Four’ meaning 4.30, in German that’s 3.30.

I worked, I had friends, I chatted away. But there was always a sense that I wasn’t being me as I would in English, some of my humour I couldn’t communicate. If I lost the context of a conversation in dialect, I was dumb. That I couldn’t be as eloquent or clear as I would in English, no matter how I tried. I often wonder how my German sounded to people, like English Geordie, but in German???

There was this invisible barrier around me all the time. And it’s only know that I can acknowledge and perceive it. Dave and I watched out local evening news from the Lungau recently, and I was relieved that I could still get most of it, I wouldn’t want to lose the ability to speak the language.

And all around me, the scenery, houses, blew me away; that sense never left. But not because it was home and I could take it for granted, I was a constant visitor, marveling at this new land, which never became as familiar and as comforting as an English village or town. Now I’m home and there’s no possibility of misunderstandings, if I don’t understand, I can take on the people around me and their wonderful sense of humour.

A complete and utter relief.