We were starting to get hungry by the time we arrived at our hotel in Lampeter, a small university town in mid-Wales that deserved more attention than we had time to give it. Personally, I blame the football. The trouble was, it was the European Championships and we arrived as the match was starting. And Wales were playing England… so the pub was packed, noisy and every TV was surrounded by a crowd of supporters. Food, we were told, was off the menu until after the match and inevitable post-mortem period.
That was okay… a brief discussion revealed that we both rather fancied fish and chips… and the best place to get them is always beside the sea. I hadn’t seen the sea for a while… and it wasn’t all that far. Unless you take the wrong road, or miss a turning because you are talking… but even then, driving through beautiful countryside to find an alternative route is no hardship. And it was worth the drive… the sea was beautiful in the late afternoon sunshine.
The sky seemed to laugh at any thought of the torrential rain we’d had for half the day and the sea was an inviting blue… but, we really were hungry by that time and the little seaside town of Aberaeron, with its inlet and pretty, multicoloured houses, was bound to have what we fancied. Fish, chips, mushy peas and a pot of tea for two… it doesn’t get much better than that.
Satiated, we sat for a while by the estuary in the evening sun, watching the seagulls… and a cormorant who was also having fish for dinner. It was amazing to watch its mastery of air and water as it dived, resurfacing a huge distance away, over and over. They are incomparable fishers and have always fascinated me.
I remember being told about them as a child and how Chinese fishermen trained them to hunt fish for them with rings around their throats so that the birds could only swallow the smaller fish. Cormorant fishing is slowly dying in China, but seeing the birds pleasing only themselves was wonderful.
Another flew in and we watched them fish for a while, enjoying the unusual spectacle and our surroundings. The warmth was nice too after the rain and we strolled through the rainbow-hued town, finally heading back towards the sea. The shadows were drawing in and the dark clouds were gathering once more.
“Avert your eyes,” said my companion. Upon which, I immediately looked… well, you would, wouldn’t you? And just as immediately regretted it. Two fully dressed and decidedly merry young men were frolicking in the waves. By fully dressed, I mean merely that their apparel was still vaguely attached to their anatomy, but not necessarily in the right places or with any attempt at modesty. I averted my eyes. Whether they were celebrating or drowning their sorrows, it was a little hard to say. Personally… I blame the football… But at least I had seen the sea.