Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

As a child, every Good Friday, my two sisters and I were packed into the family Austin 7, and driven early (about 7 a.m.) to a village called Llandderfel, near Bala in Merionethshire. This is where my Mother grew up. The day was pretty well planned (!). There was the village Eisteddfod, which is still a national treasure in those them parts... There are singing competitions for all ages, ditto poetry recitation. In the evenings, there are similar competitions for the adults, followed by choirs, both men, women and mixed voices. The morning was taken up with "Prelims". This was where the contestants were taken to the Vestry of the local chapel, and made to perform. The best five or six were allowed into the main Eisteddfod in the afternoon. As my sisters Ann, Menai and I had to perform individually, sitting on hard benches for hours was the norm, so there was little time to spend time with my wonderful Grandmother. There was also the duet competition (Ann and Menai) and the Trio (all three of us) I did the soprano bit. I was always in a light blue double-breasted suit (short pants), and gray knee-high socks (not white). I sang my little heart out, and one year, about 1951, I won first prize for singing, and got 4/6d. This to me was the equivalent of a gazillion dollars today, but was actually 23 pence in new money (45 cents). But imagine what you could buy with that kind of money in 1951! I was allowed to go to one of the three village shops, and buy a Crunchie Bar, and a bag of Crisps with blue paper-wrapped salt inside. Of course, I had to present my Ration Book. But I still had four shillings left. Saved some of it all summer. I nearly always came away with money after the Eisteddfod, so I’m glad I learnt to sing. People don’t appreciate me doing that today, but their loss.

I'd love to have been there again today. Menai was the music adjudicator there a few years back, but never bothered to tell me. My parents would have been so proud! All my cousins, Aunts and Uncles, were there at these events, and Auntie Nell (my Mother's sister) kept us well fed. Nain (Grandmother) lived with her in the village. Today the amount of cooking would have been a major feat - there was no electrickery in the village. There were about nine of us plus her family of five! The hall where the Eisteddfod was held was lit by gas lamps. Shades of Wild West? Probably! We'd all have to stay until the last competition, which would be about 1 a.m. A good Eisteddfod always lasts until at least 1 a.m. If it's before midnight, it was not a success! Then the long drive home. 30 miles. In an Austin7. It took an hour, and we were not allowed to sleep. Mind you, it was always so cold, it was impossible to sleep! We had a traveling rug, but one of my sisters always hogged most of it. Those that know my sisters will be able to guess which one did that. There was no heater. In fact there was only one windshield wiper! The drive was also over the mountains, and fog was always a major problem. Dad had to stick his head out of the window to see where he was going, then his glasses would steam up. We’d eventually get home, and hurry off to bed.

The hope of a lie-in was dashed as my Dad always got up at 7 a.m. Rain or snow. If he was up, everybody was up. And no chance of an afternoon nap either. There were always “manly” things to do. Weeding, chopping firewood and carrying coal to the living rooms. I was always sent to the village to collect the groceries, which my Mam had listed for each store. In those days, we paid our bill at the end of the month when Dad got paid. I don’t remember what my sisters did on those days, but at least they were indoors.

Happy days…. Sometimes.

Here endeth today’s lesson.