Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Prodigal Cousin Returns

Dear Readers:

Before I start waxing poetic about adventures, I want to state one milestone:
As of today, we have lost 4,333 soldiers who were fighting in a war over oil.

They were sons or daughters; fathers or mothers; husbands or wives; brothers or sisters. Now they are memories. Say a prayer for them and the poor people who were murdered by a sick man in a Pittsburgh suburb health spa. Now I know why nuns would direct us to pray for a peaceful death.

On with the entry:
Please excuse this summer's lagging distribution of updates. My school's calendar came to a close and I took off for
an overdue visit with the Divine Miss "Z" and her parental units. It was grand, as always. Daughter dear is making her way along her route to being called Dr. Daughter Dear. She started her program this summer and is going at it great guns.

You GEAUX, Dr. Daughter!!! And, if you had to move a lar
ge distance away, thank you for making it the land of the drive-
through daiquiri in the "sealed container" as illustrated on the right.

For those of us working on a modified school calendar: school is back in session! With the
kiddos showing up last Monday, things are cranking up for another spectacular year. For
the last eight years, I've been teaching fourth grade, most
of which have been in a dual language (English-Spanish) setting. It was a great experience, but time had come for a new assignment. Now I am teaching "talented and gifted" 4th and 5th grade children as well as supporting K-3 classroom teachers in their quest to educate TAG students who were identified early. A new quest is always good for keeping you on your toes or, at the very least, constitutionally regular.

If I may quote from the movie Auntie Mame, "Life is a banquet and most suckers are starving."
So it seems that in the era of the economic down-turn, I set off for my version of a European tour including:
AS WELL AS PORT TALBOT, SWANSEA, ABERAVON, MAESTAG, PENTYRCH, PONTRHYDYFEN, and a host of villages in dire need of vowels.

Ms. Dawson and I are going to start a cottage industry selling exterior car magnets reading: CAUTION: YANKEE AT THE WHEEL. The fine art of driving on the opp
osite side of the road than what you are accustom is worthy of its own lengthy blog entry.

Writing about my trip is going to be presented in reverse chronol
ogical order. As a familial nod to my lovely relatives, I want to start with my visit to see them in Wales. Although
I was facing the reality of traveling there solo, at a timely point, my colleague and brave driving buddy, the Divine Miss Jasmine Dawson, determined that Wales was a great destination for her too.

As wild and crazy single gals, Jasmine and I travel well together. There is a certain consideration and balance demonstrated when we go to new countries which makes the trip enjoyable for both. Our plans were to meet in London at Waterloo Train Station: she from the US; me from France. The train station was switched once it was found out that Eurostar train
s now travel from St. Pancras Station. Being well schooled in li
turgical information and church history, I can assure you I have NEVER heard of St. Pancras prior to this train ticket. I've since come to know that, while in his teens, St. Panny was martyred for refusing to worship pagan gods and serves as a patron saint for teens.

Which triplet has the Toni?

St. Pancras Train Station, EuroStar Train @ St. Pancras, St. Pancras himself

As soon as I disembarked from my train and met up with Jas, my first request was to worship my own god, St. Champagne. Because of a shady Parisian cab driver, I had missed my intended train and was forced to arrive at St. Pancras over an hour late. Although I am not 100% successful, I do try my best to be on-time and where I am suppose to be, so missing
my train made for a solid dose of personalized anxiety. Jasmine, displaying patience in high-definition format, knew I'd do my best to be there as soon as possible. So, off we were to what is touted to be the world's largest champagne bar. In the contest of identifying the where-abouts of Scoop in an earlier blog, the winner is MR. BILL RUDIN!!! Bill, just between you and me, there is a suspicion you recalled the backdrop more from personal experien


Please refer to the M-4 Highway and focus on South Wales from Cardi
ff and then to the west

Before leaving Alexandria, I dropped by the library to pick up my requested travel book on Wales. It was incredibly unbelievable that this book was still on any shelf anywhere. Its size is 10" by 11" which is a large travel book by today's standards. Published in 1974, its maps show the majority of the roads we needed to travel as PROPOSED beyond a certain point. Motorway Number Four, aka: M4 was indicated beyond Cardiff as a dotted line. Thank St Pancras it was, in fact, completed along the same planned route. Regardless of the age, I love this book for its stories and suggested places to visit. As the librarian told me: HO
W MUCH COULD WALES HAVE CHANGED? Being unfamiliar with Wales, I was at a loss for an a
nswer at that moment, but, overall, it has changed quite a bit as I have come to find out.

Opting for an international dialing package on my phone was a smart move and relatively cheap for $5.99, plus phone calls. Being able to phone people, even at a $1.00 a minute, was worth the charge in terms of saving time and effort. After a few quick calls, Thomas Thomas decided to meet Jas and I along the road once we exited the M-4 at Bridgend. That way we could follow him to his home. Well, Thomas' great intentions lead to a little confusion as the spot he described never appeared to us. He was relegated to waiting by the roadside as we ambled about the area folding and refolding our maps, stopping at petrol stations, asking p
eople who didn't know, and traveling forward, we made it to his home before he did.

Dor, short for Dorothy, opened the door to us
and, in short order, provided us with a lovely cup o'tea. On our heels was their grandson and bon vivant, Gareth.

We all met. We all talked and never, never, never did we stop the conversation. For that matter, there really wasn't even much of a lull. We talked. We laughed. Many times we a
ll took our turns repeating our thoughts since our collective honeymoon included tuning in our ears for varied accents. Yet, we all never stopped smiling.

At first, Thomas and Dor tended to apologize, in advance, to their visitors that there really wasn't much to see in their area with the exception of castles and pubs. Being a history geek and a reputation for being a drinker or voluntary designated driver, well, pubs were well on my map. All was well with the world. They apologized that we wouldn't have all that much to do and might become bored. By the end of our stay, the new quote of our hosts was that we were leaving way too soon. They needed more time to show us around. We needed more time to explore and see what was available to us. Unfortunately, we readily agreed that we were leaving too soon.

Photo: Celebrating the first return of a O'Brien-Hennessy descendant to Wales in 125 years.

Top row: Scoop Murphy; Juan; Richard Thomas
Bottom row: Dor Thomas; Thomas Thomas; Jasmine Dawson

Amusingly, although everyone in the formal portrait is dressed as if they are noble of birth, Scoop is adorned in a floral frock, and perhaps projecting the role of a "Bridget" or an Irish maid being there to address their needs. God help them if they are waiting for Scoop's domesticity.

Time is not my friend all the time. There is so much more to present and it is growing late. Please stay tuned for further installments of the WALES INVASION and the balance of my trip.

Before I close for now, I need to say a great big thank you to the entire Thomas and Dorothy Thomas Family for making us welcome, showing us a fantastic time, and being so easy to love.

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