Today I had an appointment at a school on the edges of the national park. I thought to myself ‘Head home the way I came or head towards the mountains and stop off for a bit?’ I opted for the latter and even thought about going for a proper walk; even in my shirt and tie and brogues. I think it was the looks I’d get that put me off so I decided to call by Llynnau Mymbyr and just sit on a rock and watch Snowdon from across the lake.
I felt like I needed some space to think and a school party on the lake put paid to that so I decided to head off to the Ogwen Valley. As I was climbing up the bank, I saw an old man on his own. He was probably wondering why a man in a suit was jumping from rock to rock trying not to fall in the water. I said hello and the lilt of his reply told me that he probably spoke Welsh so I switched languages to test the water. We talked about that great leveller, the weather, and flitted from where he was born to how the area had changed over half a century. As I talked to him I thought of my dad and how he always, without fail, made an effort to speak to strangers and find out more about them. I must admit that as a kid I found this a bit embarrassing and would find myself telling him ‘don’t even think about it’ as he headed towards another person he didn’t know. During my conversation, he told me that he’d lost his wife a year ago and how he missed her terribly and would come out for a walk to think about her. I told him about my dad and we talked about how tough it was. I tried to reassure him that she was still with him. With this, he reached into his shirt, pulled out a chain and showed me her wedding ring that he carried around his neck. I shook his hand, told him I’d loved talking to him and we went our separate ways.
Talking to him brought a lot of things flooding back so I headed to the bridge in this photo and sat beneath it, listening to people and the river making their separate ways onward. I thought about Elfyn, the old man, and was glad I’d spoken to him and hoped that our meeting perhaps had made some small difference to his day. It made me realise that we really need to shake off the shackles of embarrassment and talk to people, especially those who are alone or may be vulnerable. What’s the worst that can happen? A red face as we’re told to do one? Surely it’s worth the risk. My dad would have liked that today and it almost felt he was speaking through me. I decided right there and then under the bridge that I fully intend to embarrass my sons by to speaking to strangers. They will pull me by the wrist towards the car as I did to my dad but perhaps, when they are older men themselves, they will stop and talk to people like Elfyn like I did today.