Thursday, July 27, 2006

Amlwch Methodist Church Flower Festival

Each year at Amlwch English Methodist Church we organise a Flower Festival. It started when Rev Victor Tudor and his wife Barbara, a keen flower arranger, came to the church in the seventies. Today, Barbara, still with a great interest in flower arranging, has organised another festival.

Today was the start of this year's Festival and, as usual, we received a party of nine ladies from Penmaenmawr Methodist Church. They love to visit us and see what has been done with flowers each year. On Sunday last we had two visiting families in church at the service and they came along to the Flower Festival today.

Not only is there an opportunity to see flower arranging done to a high standard but the visitor can come and share a time of fellowship with friends. We do meals all day long so you can drop in and take a spot of lunch or afternoon tea as you wish. Why not call in at the Copper Miner's Chapel in Wesley Street, Amlwch? We are famous, not just for our flowers, but our welcome extended to all visitors.
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Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Island we love!

It was in 1987 that we first visited the Greek Island in the Saronic Gulf known as Anghistri. This is the spelling we choose to use. It is also known as Angistri and Agistri. The locals say "Anghistri". Our bungalow in Anglesey is also named Anghistri and many believe we have chosen a Welsh name. The Welsh people know it is not Welsh but are equally interested in its meaning. It is Greek for "hook!"

My readers may wonder why I have chosen to show a grave for my picture. I will tell you. One day during our first fortnight in Anghistri we saw an English couple talking to a man we thought was Greek. It turned out that he was English and lived next door to them in Disley near Stockport. His name was Don and his wife, Dena, was Greek and born on the island. They stayed each year on holiday with Dena's sister, Athena.

Eventually we became friends with Don and Dena Lofthouse from Disley. They came to our house and we went to theirs in the off season. Sometimes we went out for the day together. However, one year Don was very ill during Christmas and he thought it was all up with him. But he recovered and got better. The bad news was that he had cancer and died the following autumn. We went over to his funeral and from time to time afterwards we visited Dena. The next year saw our daughter remarry, with me as the officiating preacher at the wedding. Dena and her other sister, Sofia, came to to the wedding. Only a few weeks later our son, David was married and Dena and Sofia came to this wedding too.

Our children loved Dena and thought she had a wonderful sense of humour. But the following year she too succumbed to illness. She had a stroke and was in Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport. As I worked fairly near Stockport I visited her in hospital where I saw she had been quite badly affected by the stroke. After some time she was tranferred for convalescence to another hospital nearer home. Whe Pauline and I visited her there she told us the doctors had said she would not be able to walk again. Dena had other ideas. She decided to return to Anghistri to make contact with a relative who was a consultant in a big hospital. "He will find me a good physio" she declared.

Back she went to that lovely island and she was referred to a good physiotherapist. I rang her there some months later and she told me she was walking again! That was the last time I spoke to her. A couple of years later we went on holiday there to find that Dena had died only weeks earlier. She had experienced great problems having had another big stroke since which she could not communicate with anyone. It had left Athena distraught, and she was still in this state when we visited her just a few weeks after Dena's death.

The grave in the picture is Dena's. As soon as I heard of her death I went down to the cemetery to visit her grave. I noticed that another sister, Maria, had died before Dena and was buried there too. As I walked round the cemetery I saw the graves of a number of people I had known during our holidays on the island.

Whenever we return to Anghistri we are greeted enthusiastically by the people we know in the capital village, Megalohori (in English this means the great place). Our days often start with the ritual of my walking down the road to buy beautiful fresh bread from the village baker, Vangellis. We get our food from the supermarket which has grown in the village centre. Ireni, the woman who runs the shop with Theo, her husband, greets us with the most beautiful smile you could wish to see. Theo has grown like Nontas, his late father, and is serious with never a smile. He became like this, I think, to carry on the family tradition of showing a miserable face!

Across the road is Taverna Fotis which is also the village butcher's shop. Fotis, who comes from the island of Poros, runs it with the help of his wife Katerina. What characters they are! Fotis has the longest face you could imagine but is an artist with a barbecue when cooking octopus or pork chops for his customers. Katerina is the one who goes out each day to catch the octopus. She is a great swimmer and diver and once got a very nasty bite on the shoulder from an agressive jellyfish. It kept her out of the water for many months.

After a long absence we returned one year to the island and Pauline was overwhelmed at the welcome Katerina gave her when she met her! No matter how long we stay away we go back as if we were going home to friends and family.

Anghistri is not a particularly lovely island but we love being there. Many English friends go back each September and re-cement their friendships. This year will be no exception. We shall be there for a whole month in order to celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary on 1st October. Need I say that we are looking forward to it?

The last time we were there the island made the Greek front pages. Readers will recall that some years ago the British Milatary Attache had been murdered by terrorists. Well, the leader of the group had the nickname, "Manifesto". Just before we arrived on the island he had walked into a police station in Athens to give himself up. Interrogation showed that he had been hiding in a cave on Anghistri's nudist beach! As we sat in a bar that evening. when the news broke, we noticed a young blonde English looking woman being interviewed by the TV people. I suddenly recognised her as the young woman behind the bar who had served our drinks. The Greek press had descended on the island to find out everything they could as to whether any of the islanders remembered meeting this criminal. Most of them owned up to having had a conversation with him in a bar or taverna! It was probably untrue but they were going to get what publicity they could!

From time to time we leave the island for a sail to another island and find out what life is like in the Saronic Gulf. But we are always glad to return. It's just the same in Anglesey. We are always able to completely relax when we are in Anghistri. We are welcome and we feel at home. The sea is warm so we have just bought new snorkelling gear to explore beneath the surface whenever we can. We hope to explore some of the mainland this time with perhaps a visit to Corinth. Hopefully we shall make it to the island of Hydra to see all the jewellery shops there. It is definitely our plan to stay for a night at least on Poros which is so accessible and handy for seeing Galatas on the Pelopponese peninsular.

The last time we visited the island we told all our friends that we were hoping soon to retire to another island beginning with ANG - Anglesey. Well, we have made it and can back to report on it this year in September.
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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Amlwch Viking Festival 2

As I promised my readers, we went into Amlwch again in the evening to see the culmination of the day's festival activities. The Vikings had left Madyn Field at 6.00pm and marched through the town to the Port with the Viking Longship on a trailer. The ship was to be burnt on the side of the Port later that night when darkness had fallen.

We drove into Amlwch, parked up and got into the Port area for 10.00pm. There we met so many people we knew and stopped for a chat we actually missed seeing the boat start to burn. Once the boat was well on its way to oblivion the fireworks began. The first two fireworks were more like flares and did not impress. Then a few went up that resembled fish swimming in the sky.

Those that followed, like that in the picture above were more impressive and we were entertained to a good show and fitting ending to a great day. The cost to go onto the field in the afternoon was £4.00 each. It included the port area in the evening so it was good value for money. Value for money is something we can rely on in Anglesey. The event was so well organised that no police were seen patrolling the show field and in the evening they were to be found outside the two pubs by the port but not in the harbour itself. In the showfield there were council staff picking up litter as events took place. Where would you see that elsewhere?

Well done to the organisers! It was an event to be proud of. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Amlwch Viking Festival

Today has seen the beginning of two days when Amlwch is invaded by Vikings. The festival is organised every two years and attracts crowds of people to see re-enactments of beach landings, battles, and a Viking boat burning.

The weather was excellent and the ground on the display field underfoot was very dry. This is a good foundation for any well organised event because they are the two factors over which there is no control.

Pauline and I went over to Moelfre to see the first re-enactment of a beach landing by a group of Vikings from Ireland. The beach was fenced off for the safety of the crowds and the local lifeboat was on hand in case of any seaborn emergency. A few minutes past 10.00am the word came that two Viking ships had been spotted near the lifeboat station. A few minutes later they came into view and were greeted by a great boo from the crowds. Soon their ships grounded on the shingle of Moelfre beach and the warriors lept out onto dry land. The local forces knew they were coming and had grouped their women on the beach as bait to lure the ships to shore. Then the battle began.

The two sides, armed with swords and shields, set into each other with a will and the noise of steel on shield was very loud. It was not long before there were many bodies lying on the beach, most of them Vikings. The local Anglesey men has overcome the invaders and those who could still walk were heading back to sea in their longships.

In the afternoon on Madyn Field in Amlwch there was a Viking encampment with stalls showing the visitors ancient arts and crafts. In addition there was a large arena prepared for a battle re-enactment and a smaller one where the Gwynedd Axemen showed their abilities. The latter was a competition involving wood cutting. Logs of wood were set up for the competitors to show their felling prowess. Following this horizontal logs had to be cut through. The competitors were graded according to ability with the best man handicapped to a count of 30 before he could begin.

They carried axes which were incredibly sharp. I imagine there is an art in sharpening a woodman's axe because the axes went through a great thickness of timber. First to finish by a long way was Daffyd who cut through his log as if it were a twig. It didn't seem to be any efforet at all. But he was, after all, a champion woodsman in competitions all over Wales! Eventually all six logs were cut in half and the crowd gave the men a shout of encouragement.

We then moved to the main arena to see the Welsh forces repell a hoard of Vikings seeking to take over their fort. A pallisade had been built, giving the local warriors some protection from invaders. Through the gate came a line of Welshman, following their Prince to view his lands. Then some of the remaining villagers came out to work in their fields. The hidden Vikings lept out and captured these to use them as a human shield against the Welshmen. A battle ensued with no one the winner so both sides decided to discuss what should happen next. The Vikings were invited to lay down their weapons and accept Welsh hospitality but they had a preference for capturing the entire village and its fields for hospitality of a permanent nature.

The talks got nowhere and so another battle was fought. Next the warriors were called to return to their units where they surrounded their own particular banner. The next ploy was to invite a champion from each army to fight it out and decide the winners on the outcome of their fight. This was fine until 2 Vikings approached to help out their champion. Their move was seen and the response was all out battle with the Welsh the ultimate winners.

It was excellent to see such an event staged in the small town of Amlwch. Tonight we shall be going down to Amlwch Port for the ceremony of the Viking boat burning after dark. Tomorrow I shall entertain you with details of this great event which is due to end with a fireworks display.
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Friday, July 14, 2006

A Tale of Two Islands

Recently we had a week's holiday on the Mediterranean island of Menorca. It was our third holiday there but the first since we came to live on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. This led to some comparisons between the two islands. They are of a similar area but Menorca is long and narrow whereas Anglesey is more square. The population of Menorca is probably greater than that of Anglesey.

Back in history Menorca was ruled by the British. This is why you see dry stone walls dividing the fields of Friesian cattle. The land looks quite different because of the hot summer sun. Everything looks well baked but there is considerable effort going into arable farming as well as dairy farming. The farm buildings are in the Spanish style with beautiful round archways and the gate at the end of the farm lane is often constructed in the same way.

There are two features of Menorca with which Anglesey cannot compete. The large natural harbours at Mahon, Ciutadella and Fornells are impressive. The picture in this blog shows the harbour in Cuitadella. Along the left of the harbour are many places to sit and eat whilst enjoying the view. The quality of their seafood is excellent. The Isle of Anglesey boasts only two natural harbours which are very tiny. Mind you, the harbour at Cemaes Bay is picturesque and the harbour at Amlwch has a very interesting history.

One feature in Menorca which is worth visiting is the convent at the top of Monte Toro. The church itself is simple but possess a very ornate golden altar which is worth seeing. Outside there is a huge plinth on top of which is a statue of Jesus with outstretched arms. The only problem here is that it competes with countless communication aerials.

The roads on Menorca are very well constructed and smooth. Perhaps the only criticism is that there are no coast roads. Each village or resort on the coast is separately accessed by a road. This is good for the fuel trade! In Anglesey we have the A5025 running round the island from Menai Bridge and along the north coast then down the west coast to Valley. There is another road which follows the south coast. Menorca is accessed by sea and air whereas Anglesey, being separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait, is accessed via road and rail. We are soon to have access by air when RAF Valley hosts commercial flights.

In Anglesey much attention is paid to hedges by the side of the roads. These are regularly cut back and ensure safety is not forgotten as far as the motorist is concerned. It also gives the island a clean, well kept look which is important. Another difference in Anglesey is that all road signs are in Welsh and English. Over 60% of the population are Welsh speaking so all signs, by law, must be in dual language.

The people of both islands are very friendly and welcoming. In the past the people of Anglesey were considered speak English and only revert to Welsh if a non Welsh speaker came close. This is nonsense. It is quite likely that Welsh speakers were heard using English words that had no equivalent in Welsh. It should be noted that there are no swear words in Welsh!

Both islands are very beautiful and it is a privilege to experience this. I count myself fortunate to live in Anglesey. It is so clean and fresh compared to the cities and towns of North West England from which we came. Communications with the rest of the UK can be difficult as there are many mountains to encounter when travelling in Wales. There are no motorways, just the North Wales Expressway to take you over to Chester and Manchester via the M56.

Having said all this, we are looking forward to a month on the Greek Island of Anghistri this year and there lies a real difference. It is so small that if they built an airport there would be little island left to visit. Anghistri has little in the way of good beaches and few roads, but we love it. It is like returning home when the locals welcome us each time we stay there. Posted by Picasa