Llandudno on a drizzly summer afternoon.
The Great Orme looms darkly over the seaside resort like a monstrous mammoth. Its bulk sticks far out into the sea and a few cars potter around it along the coast road, their passengers admiring sheer cliffs that are slapped by perpetual waves. The cable car which takes you swiftly and easily to the top of the mammoth’s back is the longest in Britain and promises superb views. But not today when the mountains over Conwy Castle are faint in the mist. You cannot even glimpse Talyfan, Drum, or the two Carneddau (Llewelyn and Dafydd, named for the last independent Prince of Wales and his brother). Anglesey lies flat and dim under cloud. Grey sea begins its twice daily return up the river estuary and the few mussel pickers will soon desert the open sands for the safety of the shore. Eastwards the Little Orme at the far end of Llandudno’s prom occasionally shows through the rain, while Colwyn Bay and the long coastline of North Wales are invisible.
And on fine days they say you can see as far as the Isle of Man and the Lake District!
So return to the town – and not even the prom is inviting. Yes, on a sunny day with the wind blowing off the Irish Sea, people parade along the broad walkway as they have done ever since it was built for Victorian holiday makers. But today even chip-snatching seagulls have deserted the gusty air and wander disconsolately along the sand, seeking tidbits among the shingle.
But the long main street is more cheerful. Brightly coloured umbrellas and raincoats jostle happily from shop to shop. Children in rainbow wellingtons drag parents into cafes for cokes and buns covered in sticky sickly icing. Tourist shops are crowded with damp shoppers looking for mementos – daffodil decorated mugs, pens with dragons curling long tails along the shaft, Welsh rugby shirts And those boxes of fudge advertising Llandudno prom – the same fudge that’s sold all over Britain with postcards stuck on their fronts - St Paul’s in London, Wastwater in the Lake District, Clovelly in Devon.
Finally to Waterstones bookshop. A very friendly experience. Staff have put up my posters round the shop and set up table and chair with a pile of books ready for signing. They bring me very welcome coffee from the coffee shop upstairs and ask how things are going? Customers are jolly and ready to chat. I’m greeted by an old school friend come specially to see me. The purchasers make light of the weather as they buy my book to remind them of their holiday.
And outside the sun shines at last, the umbrellas are folded away and the raincoats packed in rucksacks or stuffed under buggies. Down to the beach then, and grab an icecream – watch out, kids, for the returning gulls!