The first was when first approaching the Coed-y-Llwyn Caravan Club Site near Llan Ffestiniog three days ago, caravan in tow. The Site is actually on the edge of a village called Gellilydan, and you have to negotiate a short stretch of narrow road before turning into the Site. The narrow stretch is barely a hundred yards long, though, and any traffic coming towards you has two easy places to pull off into, in order to let you through. You'll understand that it's difficult at the best of times to reverse a car-and-caravan combo, and most oncoming drivers will pull in and let you get past. If necessary, by backing up into a passing space. Well, I do this for other drivers all the time.
But this obviously local woman in a little white van wouldn't. She just sat there, and clearly wanted me to reverse Fiona and caravan, so that she could get past. I tried to oblige. But I was in a tight space, and it took me four attempts to retreat sufficiently for her to get by - and without a flicker of thanks I might add. By this time I felt hassled, and embarrassed at my lack of reversing skill (although most caravanners are equally unskilful). This turned into intense annoyance when I saw that she could easily have backed into one of the two passing spaces. She had simply been bloodyminded.
This rankled. It upset me. And I still feel that (a) it was bad road manners; (b) it was incredibly insensitive of her to sit there impassively while I was obviously not coping well with a tricky manoeuvre; (c) she was a strange kind of woman, not to show some sisterhood; and (d) I got the impression, intended or not, that so far as she was concerned non-locals should be treated with contempt. What a terrible ambassador she made for North Wales.
And then tonight. I am now on Cardigan Bay, between Cardigan and Aberystwyth, at the Shawsmead Caravan Club Site at Oakford, not far from Aberaeron. After my evening meal, and a long and agreeable chat with the couple next to me, Christine and Graham from Wrexham, I drove into New Quay. It's an attractive town built on a hillside, with a photogenic harbour. I thought it prudent to park Fiona some way from the Quay. There was a row of spaces. The plate said parking was limited to half an hour up to 6.00pm - but by now it was almost 9.00pm. So I left Fiona there, believing that she was parked legally on a proper space.
When I returned forty minutes later I didn't at first notice a little folded note under one of my windscreen wipers. I discovered it only once back at the Site. It was a bit of paper roughly torn from a larger sheet, and on it was was written this message in block capitals:
IN FUTURE PLEASE DO NOT PARK HERE!!! LOI
Well, I was surprised at this note (apparently from someone called Loi), because I had read the parking restriction plate with some care, and was pretty certain that I had a perfect right to leave Fiona there. She was in a wide section of road, aligned properly with the parking space road markings, and not in a 'residents only' space. Or was I wrong about that? The Welsh-and-English bilingual plate had been full of words. I wondered if I had missed something. I decided to return if convenient to check the position.
But in any event, I didn't like the tone of this note. I'd had one like it years before when I first moved into a village property, and I'd had the temerity to park in the road outside my own house. A grumpy old codger nearby called Wilf objected, and left me a sharp note exactly like tonight's.
Back then I had a vested interest in dealing diplomatically with grumpy old codgers who were also neighbours. But being a holiday visitor was quite another kettle of fish. I might have made a mistake about where I was entitled to park, so that some local resident could feel offended. (Although not inconvenienced - there were several empty parking spaces available when I drove away) But I was half-inclined to think that this was just another case of 'be unfriendly to the non-local'.
Both unpleasantnesses have occurred in Welsh-speaking Wales, in communities that might well take a Welsh Nationalist point of view. That can generate a mindset in which all English people are despised outsiders. So the animosity might be directed against me personally, as the supposedly arrogant English driver of a posh car no ordinary New Quay resident could afford to buy. (And the style of lettering on the torn-off note, even the use of blue biro, suggested an ordinary person to me)
Sigh. It's so ironic. I mean, I am Welsh. Also, for goodness sake, I am one of a misunderstood and potentially vulnerable minority. I'm very far from being a rich weekender down from the Big City, with a Big Bad Attitude.
I don't deserve this local prejudice. I experienced nothing like it in Scotland.
I went back next evening. The row of parking spaces were all in use. A red 'boy racer' hot hatch with nice alloys and a rear spoiler was parked where I had been. Ha. The parking restriction plate actually said:
Mon - Sat
9am - 6pm
within 40 mins
So I hadn't made a mistake about being entitled to park there for as long as I liked after 6pm. It wasn't outside a house. It was simply opposite The Seahorse pub. I'd annoyed a young man who hadn't been able to get into his regular spot, and either he or his girlfriend had left me that little note.
Vindicated. But the proud boy racer has tarnished my otherwise positive impression of New Quay, and I may never feel like going back.