Sunday, May 22, 2016

When Things Go Wrong, Awesome Stuff Happens

Dylan Thomas' Birthplace in Swansea, Wales
Say the word "yarn." Now say it with an "l" instead of a "y" - "larn." Now extend the "ah" sound just a little: "lahrn." Well done! You are now able to pronounce the name of the town in which I reside at the moment: Laugharne, which is in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

I know how to pronounce this word because of a very kind lady my friends and I met at a tiny pub yesterday in Swansea, also in Wales. We had arrived on a train direct from Paddington Station in London. We made our way to the Europcar place where I had reserved a vehicle, which I planned to drive around this beautiful country, because I love to drive, even when I have to be on the left and read road signs at the same time. This is the kind of challenge that makes me happy.

But. We were an hour early, because we traded in our train tickets for earlier train tickets, thinking we were just oh-so-smart. I called the car dude and said, hey, it's six, we're here an hour early! and he said, lady, I'm not coming until seven, and I said okay then! because when you have no choice, it's best to retain, or at least fake, a good attitude.

As the three of us stood in the small, car-crowded Europcar lot, we noticed a little pub across the street with one identifying characteristic: a gigantic sign that said "GUINNESS." Also, a few dudes poking their heads out of the door and yelling things like "Oy!" and "ARrrAAH!"and  BeehhhEY!!!" Fun maybe? Hey, we're not picky. So off we went.

Imagine three jet-lagged grown women rolling rather heavy suitcases across a slender, bumpy road,
Dylan Thomas' birthplace
in Swansea, Wales
dragging said suitcases up three steps into a one-room pub filled with smashed middle-aged men sort of watching soccer but really just using it as an excuse to chug down as much GUINNESS as humanly possible, then, with many "pardon me's" and "sorry's," mowing a path through these pink-faced gentlemen feeling like we had walked into someone's rowdy birthday party. But no, it was just Saturday night.

We stood against the wall with all our crap, trying to make ourselves small and not-quite-so-American, which was really impossible. Everyone here knew each other by first names. Then we showed up.

We ordered drinks at the three-foot-long bar--ginger ale for me, since I'd be driving while trying to do everything in the opposite way I usually do. We sip said drinks. (Except for "J," who chugged a very nice-looking ale.) Then--miracle of miracles--a kind, curious, and completely sober woman walked up and asked where we were from.

"C" mentioned the Dylan Thomas Summer School in Lampeter, Wales, which we had all attended the previous year. Then, this woman, whom I shall call Angel, said, "Oh yes, the house in which Dylan Thomas was born is right up the road." At which point we almost pass out and drop our drinks from excitement, because we are nerds.

Then--seriously, how often does this happen?--Angel says, "I can drive you there and back in ten minutes. Would you like to see it?" At which point we almost frickin' die, because we really are nerds.

OF COURSE, we said, gathering the remains of our brains off the floor where they had exploded, because we didn't want to leave a mess in this nice, friendly pub.

The signs that point to the places
The pub owner agrees to watch our things while we're gone, even stowing them in a back room.  We join her in the car and she drives us to the Dylan Thomas House:

We can barely stand ourselves. The signs in front of the house point to the various towns where Thomas spent parts of his life. He was born in Swansea but moved to Laugharne, and also had a place in New Quay where he drank A LOT and smoked and started fights and wrote brilliantly.

We took pictures of the house and also of the view, where Angel pointed out the Mumbles, a few small islands off the coast:

Angel said the word "Mumbles" is derived from
the Celtic word for, well, "boobs," which is
what happens when you let straight men name stuff
Then Angel says, "Would you like to see the pub where he liked to go?"

You know, brains are even messier the second time they explode. We packed them back inside our heads, got in the car, and Angel drove us by the pub. It's called the Mozart now (no idea) but it's still the same building. We got just a bit giddy.

Then we returned to GUINNESS. It was even more packed then before, the men (to be fair, only most of them) were even more smashed, and a few came up to us and said things like, "ohbe tharin den oof," which was them speaking English, and Angel translated that they were joking that all of our stuff had been nicked, and--let me repeat--Angel was TRANSLATING ENGLISH.

I cropped out Angel's car
We actually did need to pick up a car. Which we did. I drove it back to the pub, where the owner helped us load our bags into the trunk, and we gave him and Angel our heartfelt thanks and goodbyes, and somewhere in all this some guy hugged C, and she's like, time to go.

And off we went.

Now. None of this amazing, spontaneous experience of meeting all of these kind people and getting a personal ride to see two famous Dylan Thomas sights would have happened if we had not changed our train tickets or if the Europcar dude met us when we arrived. On other words, if our schedule had worked the way we'd hoped, I wouldn't be writing this post.

Serendipity manifests when you stop trying to control time.

Photos by ME, so leave them alone unless you ask nicely.


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