I moved to North Wales from Stirling in Scotland, after spending my whole life in, or in between, major cities, I didn’t think twice about, well…anything, really.
Everything I wanted has always been right within my reach. Take out coffee? Costa, McDonald’s or the slightly dodgy stuff my local petrol station used to sell. Supermarket? Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Sainsburys, M&S or Asda? And those were just in my local town.
Because of this, I’ve never paid any mind to how I would copy without the amenities I completely took for granted. This was until I relocated to North Wales…
Yes, Wales has coffee, and excellent stuff it is, too; but it’s been a bit of a struggle to find an outlet close to home. I work in the town of Machynlleth and I’m spoiled for choice from the pretty little bakeries and independent coffee shops that line the main street.
Up in Dyffryn? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a coffee from zone of anything, but it has no need to be geared up for the rat race of people who MUST have a double espresso before they can even contemplate going to work. Unfortunately, I’m still in this group.
Although I initially wondered how I would cope, and got way too excited when I spotted an *actual* Costa Coffee in Porthmadog, in the 3 years I’ve been in North Wales, I’ve still never been inside. During the week, I make my own coffee and, on the weekends, Les and I scout out a range of local cafes to try. This has been come a tradition of sorts and our favourite is Caffi Castell at Harlech Castle. Between the views, the coffee and the homemade cakes, it’s difficult to beat.
On arriving in Harlech in 2015, where we initially rented an apartment when we were doing the whole ‘we’ll give it 6 months and see how it goes’ thing, and decided we’d catch a movie one evening. I went online to check for the local movie theatre and check the listings. As it turns out, we were at least a hour drive from the closest cinema to the north and 90 minutes from the closest in the south.
‘How can this be?’ I yelled at Les, who was trying to disguise his unhappiness at the prospect of being made to out and see something violent and bloody. ‘How can there NOT be a cinema anywhere near us?? What do people DO here??’
Faced with the long drive, we quickly decided against it. I then realised that, in 20 years of living a mile from a large multiplex in Scotland, we’d been once. As so, I signed us up for Welsh Netflix (which is mostly the same as every other Netflix), and we haven’t left the house for months. I jest, of course. We still go to work on occasion.
I live on the edge of a small town between open farm land and the sea. There is no noise. Previously, we lived in a semi detached house in Stirling, on a busy street, with a hairdresser and convenience store across the road and several pubs nearby. It was constantly noisy; day and night.
Now, although I technically have neighbours, they’re not exactly close by and the silence is fabulous. At night, I hear the strains of the last train chugging along the Cambrian Coast railway and, apart from that, it’s the farm noises next door which consist of a few sheep and some bulls. It’s bliss.
On a weekend, the sea plane flies overhead, taking passengers on pleasure flights to look at the stunning outline of the Llyn Peninsula and, on occasion, we also have the Coastguard. In saying that, if the coastguard is out it generally means that someone’s missing at sea. And that’s not quite so nice a sound, tbh.
I’ve always been spoiled for choice with supermarkets and malls near home, so coming to North Wales has been somewhat of a shock. My closest decent sized supermarket is a half hour drive from home.
Luckily, I managed to get a job in Machynlleth, which has a supermarket with a fantastic selection of wines from around the world. It also has whatever else it is you find in supermarket. Food mostly, I think.
The lack of supermarkets (and the steep pricing that often accompanies the products in the smaller local stores) has forced me to become a whole lot more organised about my shopping habits. Although I buy the odd bottle of plonk on a Friday night after work (and sometimes on a Thursday, if it’s been a particularly tough day…), when it comes to everything else, all my shopping has to be done in one go.
I’ve never done this before and would often drive home from work in Scotland, using the time spent in traffic jams to decide what I wanted for dinner. I’d then swerve off the road at whichever store I passed first and pick up pizza.
These days, I have to think ahead, which is difficult for someone as wholly disorganised as I am. This means I have to decide what I want, like, *days* in advance. And it’s great. The money I’m saving is incredible and, given I don’t actually like supermarkets (too many Other People), going just once a week is fantastic.
It’s truly amazing how much more procrastinating I can get done around the house now that I have more time to properly dedicated myself to the cause.
It’s also working wonders to stop those additional visits to pick up snacks… My waistline is thanking me. As is my liver…sometimes.