Thursday afternoon, April 7th, 2022
“Bobbie, what a lovely surprise!”
Michael motioned to the chair beside him. We chatted for a moment, then I noticed the other members of my group gathering at the café exit, preparing to begin the hour-long tour of the Library itself.
“Michael, do you have time for a little chat? ” I said. “If not, I understand of course, but if so, I should go make some quick arrangements.”
He said yes, so I walked over to the group leader, explained my situation, and asked if I could be excused from group activities for the second time in the same day. She agreed, and I promised to be ready and waiting at the coaches by 2:30 pm.
Taking a seat with Michael, we smiled and shook our heads, pleased at how natural it felt to be chatting in person. It was familiar because we had ‘seen’ each other a couple times a week for several years now, ever since September 2017 when I joined his private online Creativity Circle group. His website, Go Gently, explains much of the very interesting back-story.
In the years that our international group of friends met, I discovered what had been missing from my life: a creative community of like-minded people, folks who know it’s not easy to have a creative habit, to go to the drafting board, or the typewriter, or the music studio every single day, especially if your health presents an additional layer of challenge. Thanks to Michael I learned I can set a timer for 20 minutes, and thereby, as he says, “take one small step each day to move my creative project on a little.”
When the original incarnation of the Creative Circle was disbanded due to Michael’s health concerns, he found a way, creative as ever, to continue to produce content on his Patreon page so that it would be fulfilling for his supporters, while at the same time being less taxing on Michael’s limited energy resources. It has been a win-win for all of us.
Knowing all this, I was pleased and still a bit surprised to see him here in the café, away from his hillside cottage, having a ‘tiny adventure’ that I was lucky enough to stumble across. We had our sketchbooks with us (of course), so we enjoyed a little ‘show and tell’ time, sharing our drawings and telling tales. At one point we both looked up at the clock and simultaneously said, “What now?” That brought on a laugh, and I got to hear his rippling chuckle in person, what a treat.
“Here are the options,” Michael said. “We still have 45 minutes or so before you need to catch your bus. We can indulge in a fresh pot of tea between us, share a plate of Welsh cakes for dessert, and carry on talking. Or, we can take a quick jaunt in my car, down past the town to the sea where I recorded a few of the videos you have seen. I would happily show you my place if I could, to see in person the Horizontal Oaks, and meet the chickens and Ounce [Michael’s famous cat], but that would take far too long and a lot more energy than I have available as you know. What do you say?”
I would have been happy with either choice, but the thought of a ride in his bright yellow car to a favorite quiet place won out easily. We drank our last drops of tea, left the Library, and strolled into the full sun of midday, easily spotting his car amongst all the grey and white and black ones. Off we went!
A few minutes later we found ourselves at a good stopping place by the sea wall, and clambered over it to get to the rocky shoreline. There, to our left, was the old cement-and-stone breakwater that ran down into the sea. It gave us a place to sit, to take deep gulps of salty air, and to simply ponder for a while. I loved the sound of the water burbling through the smooth stones as the waves ran back out to sea. It was haunting, like wooden wind-chimes, only with rocks and water instead. Absolutely lyrical, and once you have heard it, you never forget it. The air was fairly calm, so all we heard was the gentle pulse of the waves stroking the sea-stones over and over.
To be on the safe side we headed back early, and sat in the car park near the coaches, waiting until my gang of fellow travelers started drifting out of the Library in groups of twos and threes. Michael and I got out of his car, hugged, and smiled as we said goodbye for now. I will see him again in a couple weeks of course, online, in one of our monthly live chats on Patreon. For now though, I cherish the lingering taste of the salt breeze, and the small round stone that somehow made its way into my pocket.
Our coaches got back on the A487 and headed south again, with over 70 miles still to go, about two more hours before reaching our final destination of Lamphey. We took a brief detour through Aberaeron, a small town of about 1,500. The multi-colored Georgian houses along the quay were charming, and we learned the harbor had supported fishing and shipbuilding industries in the 19th century. Nowadays, curiously, it is also known for its production and sale of honey. Dylan Thomas, the poet and writer, had links to this handsome town as well.
As we rode along, I noticed the change in rhythm that happens in our group about 4 o’clock on most days. About that time there is a palpable shift: people are suddenly a bit weary and are restless to get ‘home’. That was very true today, and we were relieved to hear that in a short time we would be arriving at our hotel, the Best Western Lamphey Court. That last hour in the coach offered scenic views to a quieter-than-usual bunch of folks, at least that was true on the “Introverts Coach” which has been my refuge for most of the trip.
After arriving at the hotel, collecting our suitcases, and being given our room keys, we were happy to learn that dinner would be delayed until 7pm. Plenty of time to find our rooms, flop on our beds, and grab a quick horizontal rest before our next meal. We will be here in Lamphey for three nights, and because we are having a later-than-usual start tomorrow (9 am departure), there is ample time tonight to unpack, settle in, and still get a very good night’s rest.