Travels of a Navigator, 4th Class: Setting Off

Our trip to Wales is booked as the antidote to the two months of preparation and ten days of mayhem that was Chudfest. We’ve timed it precisely: giving ourselves a week to return all the borrowed cool boxes, crockery and bits of equipment; count all the money; and recover our sleep. I’ve written a ToDo list – and it’s all finished bar a couple of items postponed until after the trip. We’re good to go!

We wake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, finish the last minute jobs – I manage to avoid cleaning out the fridge by being elsewhere in the house; ditto throwing out the dead flowers and washing out the vases – and hit the road far earlier than we expect.

Unsurprisingly for a Tuesday morning during term-time, the roads are empty – or at least as empty as the M5 ever gets – and we cross the Severn bridge at midday, far earlier than we expect. Reluctant to arrive too early at our hotel in the Brecon Beacons, we turn off the main road in search of lunch and the loo. At Gilwern, we find a tiny, free car park and a single pub – but no food. We drink half-pints we don’t want, in order to visit the loo without guilt. Then head to Crickhowell, where we have more luck.

Refreshed, we continue our journey, with me as navigator. But it’s not my fault we go wrong! The sign for the hotel is right on the junction, rather than 100m in advance, as promised in the directions. Later, we will suggest to the staff that the website text is changed to read: sail straight past the turning and then drive for a couple of miles down a country road looking for somewhere to turn around and retrace your steps!

The Gliffaes Hotel is everything we hope for: a country house at the top of a steep wooded hill, above a gentle river. We admire the downstairs rooms – it’s probably just a question of geography that takes us to the bar before anywhere else – then settle in our room. The two huge bookcases of old volumes make us feel right at home – although with two books, three magazines and a couple of Kindles between us, we’re unlikely to run out of reading material.

The usual start of holiday dilemma now hits us: do we jump back in the car and start exploring the locality; put on our walking shoes and stroll across the grounds and down to the river; or kick off our shoes, drink the Prosecco left for us by the hotel, and pretend to read for a few minutes before snoozing away the afternoon? I’ll leave you to decide which option we choose.

Tomorrow: Day 2, It’s Still Not My Fault!

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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