Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bras across the Menai Strait

Today on the Menai Bridge strange things were happening. Macmillan Cancer Support in North Wales had asked women at many workplaces to donate £1 plus a bra. The result was that there were more than enough bras to stretch across the Menai Bridge and back. I know because I helped remove them at the end of the day when it rained on us!

Eleri Brady, Fund Raising Manager for North Wales for Macmillan Cancer Support (seen here on the bridge today)telephoned me and asked if I could find two people to come along and take part in a bucket collection on the Menai Bridge. You see, I am the Secretary of the Anglesey Committee for Macmillan Cancer Support and so Eleri phoned me to help with the event. I recruited the assistance of Joan Cadman, a seasoned campaigner for Macmillan who lives near Cemlyn Bay. At 4.00pm I met up with Joan and we drove to the mainland side of the Menai Bridge.

We then went onto the bridge to find Eleri who was being interviewed on Coast Radio when I arrived. Next job was to get our buckets for collecting plus the high visibility vests we were required to wear. Joan and I, together with Mary, a council member for Macmillan went to the Anglesey end of the bridge. We collected a reasonable amount but felt we could do better by joining forces with the others at the Bangor end of the bridge. Once there we were kept busy by the huge numbers of drivers who stopped to donate to our cause. They were wonderful people.

Many cars stopped especially to donate and this was good. Then, to my surprise, a bus stopped and the driver invited me to get on board and collect from his passengers! Some grumbled but I got some donations, including one from the driver! It was very exciting. One driver apologised for not having any change as he donated a £20 note! We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Our collection time lasted from 4.30pm to 6.30pm. After this we began to help remove the five hundred bras that were linked together across the famous bridge. Now the rain began to fall. We cut all the nylon ties and the string which attached the underwear to the bridge in record time. Not a single piece of litter was left to offend the Gwynedd Council. As I collected the bras in I pretended to read the labels, "34b, 38 Double D, 36a etc. We laughed as we brought the bridge back to its original condition.

When I was standing on the Anglesey side a man came over to me. "I came here just to photograph the bridge," he said, "but its festooned with bras!" He gave me a donation and I told him how to get under the bridge to take some unusual photos. It was a short but happy time. This is the pleasure one derives from working on a stunt to raise cash for a deserving cause.

Had I not come to live in Anglesey I should never have known about today's stunt. It makes a difference to cancer patients and we get loads of fun doing it. It is a privilege to be part of it. I certainly have never enjoyed fund raising as much as this. We collected loads of money for a worthwhile cause. It gives you a glow!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cruising on the Balmoral

One of the many discoveries we have made since coming to live in Anglesey is that each year we receive a visit from MV Balmoral, a restored excursion steamer, which offers a number of different cruises in the area. Last year I saw the vessel approaching Menai Bridge Pier and was impressed with its stately passage along the Menai Strait. I determined to sail on her this year.

We slowly pulled away from the landing stage and immediately turned to pass beneath the two bridges. It was fascinating to do this as we had a view of the bridges not normally seen. From the deck the mast seemed to just slip beneath the steel arch of the Britannia Bridge. We passed an island in the Strait which had a house on it and the photo shows this. You can see that we had some very heavy clouds to accompany us.

As we sailed up the Strait it was fascinating to see both sides from a new angle. Beaumaris looks very attractive from this angle. Its castle looks very squat too. We continued past Anglesey turning to port to pass Puffin Island on its west side. I discovered that there are some ruined buildings on the far side of Puffin Island, invisible from Black Point which is a favourite place of ours. Now we were into open water as we sailed along the North Wales coast parallel to the A55. It is surprising how far the sands stretch from the mainland as the tide ebbs.

Eventually we reached the Great Orme and I was trying to guess which cave had been shown on the BBC programme, Coast. As we sailed past we saw the vintage coach taking passengers along the road that encircles the Great Orme. I remembered a day some years ago when I too drove along that road with a late work colleague, Tom Grinter. The Balmoral turned when it reached Little Orme and we began to sail back towards Anglesey.

The ship itself is lovingly maintained and cared for. Each year she receives much attention during the winter months to prepare for the next sailing season. Originally built in 1949 she was designed for excursion work which was then very popular with holidaymakers. Her final days were spent on excursions around the Bristol Channel. She was rescued by a group of enthusiasts who had already bought the Waverley, sole surviving paddle steamer languishing as a failed floating restaurant. Both ships have been lovingly restored and are are of a similar age. The Waverley was bought for just one pound! A lot of Heritage Lottery Fund money has ensured the survival of these two ships. Like the restoration of steam locomotives, they have to be able to do their original job in order to be truly appreciated.

Long may MV Balmoral keep sailing and we look forward to seeing her again next year when we hope to sail in her around the entire island.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Anglesey Seafood

Many years ago we came on a holiday to Anglesey with our friends, Alan & Ann and their daughter, Mandy. We had been the previous year and really enjoyed it. Our headquarters had been a four bedroomed bungalow in Lanfaethlu. The owners were a small family and the father was, like me, a local government officer. A couple of miles or so from Llanfaethlu was Porth Swtan where there is a seafood companhy. Inside there are several concrete ponds with lobsters and crabs being fed until they are ready for sale. We went there with Alan & Ann to ask if we could buy a coup[le of crabs which Ann would dress and put on the table for dinner. We bought the two crabs which we collected later. They were excellent and acted as the centre of a great meal.

Now we have been here in Anglesey for over two and a half years. We are now residents. the other day a friend of ours whose husband takes out a boat to fish for lobster, crab and scallops, offered us the chance of some seafood from her freezer. We went round to her house and bought two lobsters and a crab at a silly price. Tonight we ate the larger of the lobsters and Pauline declared it the best meal she had ever had. We finished off with pears in red wine and the meal was a total success.

To come to a seaside place and be able to eat seaside fare is absolutely wonderful. We have not yet been here for three years and now we have found someone who can supply such quality food it is wonderful. As we were eating lobster with salad we decided we would drink the bottle of Pouilly-Fume we had in our wine rack. It blended well with the lobster. It just goes to show that being members of the Sunday Times Wine Club has its benefits.