My long awaited trip home to Swansea has passed in a whirl of catch ups, crepes, milkshakes, coffees, dinners and birthday cake.  The food highlights also included a famous Joe’s Ice Cream! But more of that later . . . It all began with Marilyn Monroe Ave.  Yes, you read that right! It’s the name of a table at Swansea cafe, ‘Starvin’ Jacks’.  I used to eat there a lot, when I worked in the city centre.  They do a gorgeous salad, with everything from potato, to tikka pasta, to mint rice.

richard booth's books
Every holiday needs a shopping trip to buy books, doesn\’t it? Here\’s the Literature Department in Booth\’s, Hay-on-Wye. Moonez / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Anyway, it’s the perfect spot to meet up with a friend and that’s exactly what we did!  Emz arrived bearing birthday and Christmas gifts, full of news and an excellent festive plan which involves drinking coffee and eating treats, all the way up to the big day itself.  She’s finished her Christmas shopping already, so the time can be spent savouring the season.  Well, I’m almost on board with her, as I only have a few more gifts to buy . . .

Swansea provided a great opportunity to shop for my side of the family and I’ve left everybody’s presents, wrapped and tagged with Mum and Dad.  Hubs and I also hit the streets of Hay-on-Wye, collecting books and gifts as we explored favourite shops and new additions.  Booth’s is looking really good these days. It’s always been at the heart of Hay and traditionally had an ‘old book’ feel.  That atmosphere has been retained, despite a range of new titles, which greet browsers as soon as they come through the door.   Downstairs is still for crime and upstairs, for literature.  A coffee shop is now in place on the first floor and the whole shop is somehow brighter for these subtle changes.

I’m guessing you might like to hear about the books I picked up . . . Firstly, I spotted a brand new copy of ‘The Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel in Booth’s (for a reduced price) and secondly, I finally managed to get my hands on ‘The Night Watch’ by Sarah Waters – a book I’ve been meaning to read for years.  All my other purchases were for friends and family (as they should be in the run up to Christmas) but I’m happy to have my festive reading sorted out, way ahead of time!

The main event of our Swansea trip was my Dad’s 80th Birthday.  The family gathered together at ‘The Greyhound’ – a bar and restaurant out in the Gower (an area famed for its beauty).  We ate huge portions, made toasts and shared news.  Afterwards, we went back to my brother’s house for more food, a magnificent birthday cake and fireworks!

Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a sojourn to Mumbles.  We had pasties and lattes in Davies’ cafe, bought a beautiful owl necklace in the Welsh Craft Shop (one of my Christmas pressies) and also purchased some goodies in the wine shop and a sparkly something for my sister-in-law in the jewellery shop – Eden.  And of course, we couldn’t resist sitting down to a ‘North Pole’ Ice cream in Joes.  For those who don’t know, a ‘North Pole’ comes in a plastic boat and comprises of sweet vanilla icecream, packed between wafers.  It’s  available with a range of sauces, including: chocolate, coffee and strawberry.  We chose chocolate marshmallow.  Took me right back to my childhood!

After such a lovely stay, it’s been a little difficult to come back down to earth.  But I’m working on several projects, including a novel, so I’ll have plenty to keep me busy until the next time!  I’m not sure quite how I decided to write a novel . . . I have written them in the past, but I’m usually more comfortable writing short pieces.  I suppose it’s just the fact that the idea came to me and I really can’t ignore it.  So, wish me luck!

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