The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

My Father's Haunts

Wales boasts a remarkable landscape and it was in this setting that my father grew up.  One of the things I wanted to do during our UK visit was to make a connection to the land that my dad called home.

My father grew up in Pembrokeshire - the south-western tip of Wales.  The hills there are not the mountains of northern Wales, but they're pretty damn serious hills.

This is taken from a hill overlooking Dinas, the village where my cousin and his wife live.

Although Dinas is on the northern coast of Pembrokeshire and my dad grew up on the southern coast, this picture and the next give you an idea of the rugged beauty of the place.  This is the beach that lies at the bottom of the hill my cousin's house sits on.  It's about a ten minute walk...

About a ten minute drive a little to the south of Dinas lies the Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber.  These standing stones have been there for over 6,000 years.  The top stone is reported as weighing over 16 tons and is balanced on the tips of 3 uprights.

The large stone in the middle - the portal stone - does not make contact with the cap stone.  This site stands on an unassuming hilltop, surrounded by fields of sheep.

But we have to head south to get the my father's haunts.

My dad grew up in a place called Pendine and my childhood was filled with tales of this place.  I heard the stories so often that I felt I'd know the place as soon as I saw it.  We drove into the village and parked at the lot for the Museum of Speed - which was closed for the season.  When it is open it has motorcycles and cars on display which have broken world speed records on Pendine's seven miles of compacted sand beach.

When they were kids, my aunt and dad were in a movie filmed in Pendine called, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.  My dad and aunt are apparently in the crowd shots as the car races down the beach (along with just about everyone else in town).

Along the beach are caves.  My dad was an avid spelunker as a kid and, according to my aunt, much of it was without my grandmother's knowledge.  These little caves along the beach are not the one that my dad spoke of.

Apparently the deep and dangerous caves are higher on the cliffs.

Speaking of danger - check out this sign:

Doesn't that sign have "Exciting Childhood" written all over it?  Running along the beach are miles of sand dunes that the British Ministry of Defense thought was a good place to use as a testing ground for heavy guns.  Since it was forbidden, my father and his friends would, of course, wiggle under the fences and play hide and seek in the bombed out tanks and vehicles.

My parents actually got married in Pendine and it was a quest of mine to find the church while we were there. In old black and white photos of my parents' wedding day there was a white arch with lettering on it.  My cousin took me to two churches.  One was actually high above the town.  I knew right away it wasn't the right church but they did have the most elegant cenotaph I've ever seen.

In the village was the church I was looking for.  Here it is with the kids standing in the archway.

It was a very special moment for me to see my kids standing in the place where married life for my parents began.

Just down the road from Pendine is the town of Laugharne.  Laugharne is home to Wales' greatest poet and there's a Beynon family connection here...but it'll have to wait until next time.

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