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'How did people manage before mobile phones?' It was the monthly analysis of the phone bill. My bill, but somehow there appeared several long calls – one of 38 minutes - to a certain number that I never used.
'What about the micro wave?' I asked. 'Could you manage without that?'
'Umm. Yes, of course.'
She poured out a huge pile of cornflakes and emptied the last of the milk on top.
'But not before cornflakes. I couldn't live before cornflakes'
This rather put the kybosh on my ideas for a holiday. When were cornflakes invented? 1894 said the book. But I wanted to go much further than that. I had thought of accompanying my great grandfather on his trek to London for the wedding of Queen Victoria. He had travelled all the way from the Black Mountains of South Wales to London, walking most of it, and then turning round, back to the cows and fields of his family. Someone still has the newspaper he bought on the day of the wedding preserved in a huge biscuit tin along with reports of the Crimean war, the Boer war and all the rest. The tin had long ago lost all attempts at colour – it was just a black tin, but the newspapers had survived with only the tiniest yellowing. Statisticians allow 30 years for a generation, but my great grandfater had had children into his sixties. His father had been 48 when his youngest was born, my father had me at 29 which is why I was going so far back.
Mind you what would we have talked about? He was a boy of 17. As far as I knew he had never been further than Tonypandy and market day at Brecon. He spoke Welsh and only Welsh and would do all his life. He wouldn't even have been able to read the newspapers as far as I knew. So how would we talk?. I can read Welsh road signs and know which public toilet to enter, but that's about all. Why was he such a royalist? What difference did it make to him what happened in London – not just another country, but another world almost?. Was he a great romantic? - well he did get married more than once. It was awful to realise how how little I knew. Was it just a sense of adventure? If so why did he never leave Wales again? He wouldn't have much, if any, money. Did he sleep under hedges? When were Youth Hostels started.? I consulted the Internet – 1931. Hedges and barns then. How long did he take? Did he work his way along. It was February 1840. What went on on farms at that time of year? Ploughing I suppose. But his farm was sheep and cows.I don't think they even had a horse or he would have used it surely.Lambing – would he miss that or were hill farm lambs born later. I didn't know.
Anyway could I walk that far? I wasn't seventeen but I was a good walker. Liz on the other hand can bearly manage to walk to the kitchen to get herself a drink. The exercise would do her, both of us, the world of good. I set off for the supermarket. I already had a small bag of Victorian coins and our bags were packed. Three packets of cornflakes joined the other bits and pieces in the back of the machine and we were off – oh and we stopped off at the library to borrow a Welsh dictionary.This I put in the back atopthe sack of presents I was taking – a Kashmiri shawl, some tea, sugar and marmalade, mugs – I knew that they had always drank tea out of bowls – and other such goodies and tucked at the bottom a Swiss Army knife each for great grandad and his brothers.
The journey took about 30 minutes – the Timeway code didn't allow you to travel any faster.After I'd set the controls there wasn't much to do – just time to sit back and think – and panic – I didn't know his name!
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