Celtic Illumination, part 289, Breaking up is hard to do.
It took about two and a half hours for the breakdown truck to turn up. It was a huge heavy affair, almost as big as the coach. When the driver or operator, I’m not sure what his proper title would have been, but when he climbed out of his cab and came over to me I promise you if he had been dragging his right leg and muttering something along the lines of, “The bells! The Bells!” I would not have been surprised. He had an associate with him, not as big but just as monosyllabic, dragging large metal chains around as if they were silk scarves.
They were very quick and very professional, it was quite clear that they knew what they were doing. I felt a little out of place, not that I couldn’t help them but that once again I found myself responsible for halting all the traffic on the A5 road in North Welsh Wales. They clambered back into their cab and set off, heading North towards the coast, with a three mile tail back of traffic crawling along behind them. Considering the job they had to do, they did it very quickly and very professionally. However I was not happy to see their efforts scoring so lowly, as once again, the drivers held up in the traffic jam, were indicating to me that most of them only awarded two points for their efforts out of what had to be a maximum of ten.
I was about to leave the car park when I noticed a delegation come out of Cobdens and judging from the way they walked and the way they held themselves they were coming for me. I pretended not to be interested and made my way toward the bridge. “Excuse me! Excuse me!” shrieked the person I now knew to be the hotel manager. I stopped and waited for them to reach me. “We need your contact details,” “Why?” I asked, wondering why his mother had never taught him to say please. “Because as I explained to you before, we intend to take legal action against you to recover the money we have lost through passing trade this afternoon.” A lot of ideas came in to my head as to what I could say to him but I simply wandered away.
“You are not to use this car park again!” he shouted, after me, and if I had turned around I would probably have seen him stamp his feet. “It’s private property and you are barred from the hotel and its facilities.” I suppose I should have been angry, for to take an attitude like that when someone is in difficulty was beyond me. I always thought we were supposed to help our fellow man. Base camp was deserted, I brought a chair out, made myself a coffee and sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I couldn’t believe how much had gone wrong in such a short space of time. Of course it wasn’t over yet, not only did I have the slight problem of getting everyone home the following day I now had the added pleasure of making a choice.
There were two ways out of the camp site, well three really, but Cobdens had closed their route to me. To my right was a long boggy field, once base camp had been packed and ready to go we could carry everything off across the field and along the narrow lane to the road. Where the lane met the road there was nowhere really I could safely assemble the cadets and the equipment to wait for whatever form of transport was coming to get us. The other route had much more to offer. Directly across from me was the Tyn Y Coid hotel. I had been in once or twice over the years but we tended to stay away from it as we regarded it as an army pub. So soldiers on exercise, or survival courses, in the mountains would be billeted there, however they had an enormous car park where we could assemble our kit and the cadets and wait for whatever form of transport was coming to get us. As with most decisions I was making that weekend there was only one slight problem with the Tyn Y Coed hotel, and their massive car park, in that there was a huge fecking river running between us and them.
(I am not sure if this will work but I have inserted a snap shot from Google Earth to give you an idea of the problem I was facing. If you can see the image clearly then you will understand that when I said there was a river between us and the car park, I mean a river!)
It was the sort of evening where I could have enjoyed a few quiet pints of beer but as I was now barred from Cobdens and had no real way of getting over to the Tyn Y Coed I would have to settle for tea and coffee. The squadron were now returning in dribs and drabs, indicating that the adult staff had shown no effective control over the cadets. I didn’t mind as most of them were smiling especially my two boys. I was wondering whether I should inform the squadron that the following day would see us undertaking a massive river crossing. If they didn’t like the idea it would give them time to think up excuses as to why they shouldn’t cross the river. My other option was to wait until the whole camp had been taken down and all the kit had been packed, the following morning, and then spring it on them.
After our evening meal I took John, the coach driver and wandered off, across the field and around the road, the long way, to the Tyn Y Coed Hotel. Knowing how the jungle drums worked I knew that I needed to get in and speak to someone in charge, make sure that I had their permission to use the car park before the rumours could sprinkle down from Cobdens. It was quite a difficult walk, the ground was very wet and boggy and I could see that we really didn’t have two exit options the following day, we only had one and that was directly across the river. Luckily the guy running the Tyn Y Coed was ex-military and assured us that we could stay in his car park as long as we wanted, which was good news, in an odd way.
I had telephoned Andy to be told that they were sending a bus for us the next day, but it was a minibus, or as he called it a crew bus. Whatever you called it, it would still only hold twelve people. My mind immediately began to calculate the time table for the following day. With the crew bus expected to arrive at eleven o clock in the morning, then undertake a four hour round trip, taking eleven people away each time, my mind stopped working. We would have to start quite early, before eight o clock, to get breakfast ready for the squadron, then break camp and then carry it all across the river to be ready for the arrival of the crew bus. The privilege of being in charge would mean that I could remain with the cadets until the last group left which would mean that I was to sit in a pub car park in North Welsh Wales for most of the day.
John and I had a couple of beers and then wandered back to the camp I didn’t tell anyone my plan, not even John. We were going home, so it didn’t really matter if some of their kit got a little wet. I had an uncomfortable night as it wasn’t so much that I was not looking forward to a long drawn out day the following day but that the river crossing was dangerous. I waited until the squadron were feeding on their breakfast and called them in so that I could brief them. I decided not to tell them what form our return transport would take, just that we would be picked up at eleven o clock in the car park across the river. I instructed them to put one set of dry clothes in an air tight plastic bag and make sure it was secure and to have a towel ready. I was quite surprised at how well they took it. Most of the cadets were quite excited; some of the adults were not.
I was quite prepared to establish the river crossing and secure the rope but one or two of the older cadets asked if they would be allowed to set the crossing up. It was nice to see their enthusiasm lead the younger cadets willingly into the exercise. Thankfully their participation allowed me to stand back and supervise the operation. I could then act as safety man slightly downstream just in case one of them came off the rope. Thankfully none did. We got all the kit and cadets across the river; one or two adults refused to get wet and walked the long way around. Most of the cadets really enjoyed the exercise, needless to say my two boys loved wading, chest deep, across the river sensing a feeling of achievement. I was tremendously happy to see two minibuses turn up, one which towed a trailer. I would only have a four hour wait to endure. I know I said that I had the correct attitude but I can tell you that sometimes it was pretty hard to maintain.