Sunday, 11 December 2016

11th December 2016 - Royalty and Reminiscences

Thought for the day:"For years I had an irrational fear of hurdles, but I'm over it now."

My mother was reminiscing about days gone by, as we tend to as we get a little older. We were driving up to the hospital, a rare trip out for her these days, and passed the old Police House in Pwll, where I lived from 1977 to the early 80's. the two old police houses stood at the entrance to the old Boy's Grammar School, which has now changed into the Carmarthenshire Sixth Form College, but in the old days we had a reasonable time in the free accommodation - one of the main perks of being a police officer in those days...

She remembered the fun occasions when we could walk into the school playing fields early in the morning and collect the mushrooms. I remember a cat that we had - called Oedi (Oedi-puss-rex of course) who used to enjoy coming for a walk with us under the trees that by the main wall.  Times have clearly changed as we drive passed. Have you noticed how all the schools now have the large, normally green, metal fencing around them and locked gates. No more using the school playing fields for a walk with the dog - the occasional golf shot or seeing kids playing football or rugby in their spare time. It seems to have crept up slowly, but all the open fields now seem to be fenced off. Probably saves on the vandalism, or maybe it is to prevent "strange" people entering the grounds in the aftermath of greater awareness of sexual predators, or Dunblaine style horrors..

But as I pass the Police House, the miniature bushes that lined the walls where we used to sit, and the parents used to sit to wait for their children at school finishing time, have grown into massive trees hiding the houses. The Christmas tree that we decided to plant in the back garden so we could save money each year by digging it up and replanting it, which had outgrown its footings years ago - has finally been removed - probably as the roots threatened the foundations...

But I recall some good times at the old police house... It was cold - I remember that!! We had a back-boiler Rayburn which never really did much with the rest of the house except heat the water. We used to go down to the beach to collect driftwood, to save on coal - times were tight... The front door had to be locked and covered with a curtain to keep the heat from just disappearing - but I remember most of if kindly...

And its location was just within the grounds of Stradey Castle - the stately home of Sir David Mansell-Lewis and his wife Lady Mary...  He was Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed. The entrance to the castle grounds was next to the police house by the converted gatehouse known as Red Lodge. It was an ideal place to walk the dogs and children, and only on a couple of occasions did I meet the tall lady in a well used waterproof, who turned out to be Lady Mary herself.

I introduced myself as the Policeman at the end of her garden and she seemed unconcerned that I was strolling around her front garden.

I only called in the house once, it was on a business call - I think it was in relation to advance security for a royal visit. The drawing room shows a seating list for a dinner party with the Queen and Prince Phillip, and some 8 other guests and family, hand written - with ruled pencil marks and hand written names. That was in the late 70's so it may have been associated with that - I do not really recall. But what I do recall was that Sir David did all his work standing up.

The library was very impressive and there was a shelf area recessed into the book cases where all his paperwork was laid out - in a fairly neat fashion. There was a telephone on the desk area - one of the old ones - a squat black version with a dial not a stand up and beg - but a well thumbed address book by the side. And Sir David stood at the shelf and dealt with the business at hand in a friendly manner.

I have not gone back into the house again until this week, when Patrick and Claire Mansell- Lewis, who are the current residents and have been refurbishing the building over the last few years, were happy to have the Susie's Choir - Cor Curiad in for three nights to raise money for Ty Bryngwyn Hospice with a musical evening and Carols... I missed two of the concerts but managed to attend the one last Thursday to help with the set up and to provide the mulled wine and stewarding.
Cor Curiad
And the setting is rather glorious - as they have refurbished the entrance hall allowing for a spectacular stage area on the stairs....

The less mentioned about the little white crosses of masking tape that were put onto the stairs to show the choir where to stand the better!!  Sadly, after a few hundred years of stain, grime and police, the masking tape lifted the colour leaving clear marks on the main feature of this stately house!!  There are few old style iron mongers left these days - but luckily we have one at the bottom of Station Road in Llanelli - and luckily that ironmonger is the sort that will have a tin of old Beeswax on one of the dusty shelves - and bees wax is the sort of thing that you need to try to get the colour back into the wood....  Several hours later, Susie is exhausted and the lady of the house is willing to take over the task - the worst having been averted ...

But it was also the opportunity to see a few of the rooms of the castle - which is now a wedding venue and accepts tours...

The large open fires were welcome, and luckily it was not a particularly cold night - it was wet and dank, but the rooms still took a long time to warm up - but with some 80 members of the public, and mulled wine it proved a popular evening..

My own telephone camera fails to show the full effect, but they made a nice job of making the room festive..  This was the room used back in the seventies to entertain the Queen. She sat with her back to the fireplace - with Prince Phillip opposite... 

So, a good evening was had by all, an opportunity to look inside one of the local places of interest upon my doorstep - enjoy a concert, and raise some money for a good cause..

And with those few thoughts I leave you with this
More than one way to fight your enemies - escalation and new technology rule!

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