I don’t want these early entries on Wales to be clouded by my personal life. The truth was that coming to Wales felt like a miracle. When I try and summon up a picture that best embodies the new optimism and strength I felt in September 2015, this is the first one that comes to me.
Driving Along Welsh Valley Roads at Speed on a Bicycle
Its eight-thirty in the morning. The last mouthfuls of coffee have been gulped down and the cereal has had time to settle. I am wearing my beige rain mac (which is in actual fact no such thing) and a beautiful blue scarf. I sling my bike lock across one shoulder and don my beret. I’m almost ready for my final preparation: slipping on a pair of brand new, pillar-box red ‘beat’ headphones. They entirely blanket both ears. I feel cacooned; delicious. I snap my radio into life: Radio 3. It’s the classical music breakfast show. Then it all begins, I sweep my smoky-grey road bicycle into my arms and out the farm’s front door. I begin the gruelling up-hill ascent, guaranteed to get the blood in my veins pumping. The old asphalt is cracked and glossy with morning dew; a few leaves have fallen onto the farmer’s track. I have time to observe these details as my legs tick over and over, a piston-pump to the palpable and accumulating weight of gravity drawing upon me.
Once at the top, I am ready to plummet down hill on my bicycle: her wheels are thin and rain-slicked, her brakes are in perfect condition. All the time I am listening to a beautiful version of some classic music overture, symphony or operatic aria. It is the music score to the cinematic thrill of that morning’s adventure. Then the real ride begins: the view ticks over like a film reel: There is Rheidol valley, there is the wind farm in the distance. The sky above me is bright and blue; the air fresh and crisp. I know I cut a great figure on the bike: my beige mac skirting about elegantly in the wind. The ease is only matched by the exhilaration: I am gliding, flying, scooting along the road. I might as well be driving a 1930s racing car like Olivier in the opening sequence of Lawrence of Arabia. There is no other car on the road, so it all belongs to me: the fleecy white sheep in fields, the bright grassy air. I am nose-diving, bombing along the road in the countryside in the morning on my bicycle and everything pulses with the heroism of my flight.