Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Me and Mine – May 2022

The Lady of the Manor and I were watching old videos of the kids last night, reminiscing while wearing some strong rose tinted glasses about when they were small and went to bed before 7pm and watched nice programs in CBeebies rather than Minecraft on YouTube. One of the great things about being a dad blogger during those early years is having so much documented to look back on, yet for one reason or another I have got out of the habit of writing. Ideas still come to me when out running or watching the kids just like they always have, but writing is fairly low down the ever growing to do list.

A list that has had ‘phone plasterer’ on it for 4 week and ‘finish insulation’ even longer, hard to fit those in around work, school runs, dad’s taxi for swimming lessons and triathlon club and dog walking. Somewhere in there I also need to prioritise time for my exercise, self care as the media like to call it, but important nonetheless. Just like our spaniels I am much happier when exercised and fed.

But this felt a like a good time to pause and put fingers to keyboard for the first time in a good while (2 years actually and only 4 posts in the past 5 years!). Funnily enough I’m typing this while sat in the van while the boys do cycling and running with the triathlon club, a moment of peace and much better than aimlessly scrolling Instagram.

We had a lovely weekend just gone celebrating Henry’s birthday (2 children now in double figures is a little scary) with bowling on Friday night with 6 of his friends and then a day out at the Smallholders show at the Royal Welsh Showground.

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The cleansing fog

A country in lockdown, no one allowed out
Yet people still having barbeques and a kick about
The government says only go out if you’re a key worker
But the builders just won’t listen, “screw this I’m no shirker”
Mother nature gets angry and says, “enough is enough”
I’m taking back control, watch out it’s about to get rough
It starts one morning, creeping across the fields at dawn
Covering villages and towns, before any curtains are drawn
The cleansing fog spreads from coast to coast, filling every nook and cranny
It engulfs every living thing from the youngest baby to the oldest granny
Some complain that it tickles, others that it chafes
But wherever there is fog the virus is no longer safe
Then one day it’s gone, blue sky is visible once more
The country wakes and wonders is it finally safe to go out the front door?
Yes! Lockdown is cancelled, the fog has done its job
Time to get back to normal, but don’t go back to being a nob.

A perfect Welsh Airbnb?

Well we think it is. Yes that’s right folks in the months that have passed since my last post we have finally finished our perfect Welsh Airbnb. It’s taken quite a while, featured a lot of head scratching and a good helping of swearing (how can changing a light be so hard?) but we’ve got there. Mostly by ourselves too which I’m quite proud of, we had a plumber help with fitting the shower and an electrician fix the wiring to the shower but that’s it. It may not be perfect if you know where to look but I think it looks great.

What can you expect if you stay?

Tons of original features; the large solid front door, the tiled hallway, the mega high ceilings, shutters on the window and not forgetting that beautiful sink. A big bedroom with loads of room and beds that can be either set up as a twin or a super king.

We’ve set up a kitchenette in the fireplace with a kettle, toaster, fridge and china so you can fix yourself breakfast and snacks. For meals there are plenty of good pubs within a short drive or 1 mile walk into the village.

perfect Welsh Airbnb
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A little slice of Welsh heaven

This is the view from our front door, forget the rest of the house this view alone had us sold before we even set foot inside. Even now I have to pinch myself a little bit that I get to look at this as I get dressed in the morning and as I shut the curtains at night. Whilst we don’t live in the Brecon Beacons National Park itself those hills opposite are inside the boundaries and we pass that lovely burning beacon sign every time we drive somewhere. 

The area

The Western side of the Brecon Beacons is definitely less well known than the Eastern side with Abergavenny, Crickhowell and Brecon to name a few towns that are firmly on the tourist and outdoor enthusiast paths. But I encourage you to drive a little further and explore this quieter side and the area towards mid Wales. Simply stunning and you’ll find some fabulous small towns with independent shops and quiet forests where you can go for miles without seeing another person.

Not that we knew much about this area when we started looking, but the more we saw the more we realised we’d discovered some wonderful. The search brought us this direction purely from a monetary point of view, as we widened our search area North from where my job is we discovered our budget went that little further and ticked a few more boxes on the wish list. (if we could have stretched another 100k it could have bought the perfect house, always the way of course). For us the location also worked for my commute towards Swansea, about 50 minutes door to door, which isn’t perfect but is doable. However coming home and slotting back into countrylife soon makes it ok. 

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A Welsh adventure

Helllooo – ooo – ooo, is anyone there, there , there? *Taps on screen* So, it’s, ahem, been a while. 2 months shy of 2 years in fact since I posted here, I’ve written a few posts over on my running blog but fair to say I’ve lost the urge to write.

But an awful lot has changed since that last post (still making awesome sourdough though which was the subject of that last post), we’ve moved countries for one. Which is the main subject for this post, I thought it was about time I shared a little update about this Welsh adventure we’ve embarked on and some of the plans we’re making for the future.

I’ve written in the past about the dream of finding a job that isn’t in an office, or a job that is more closely linked to my passion for running, cycling and the outdoors. The Lady of the Manor and I have also always dreamed of owning a smallholding and trying to live a simpler life. So at the end of 2017 as I found myself in a job that I really wasn’t enjoying and was becoming quite stressful we decided to stop talking about the dream and just get on and do it. After all, if it doesn’t work out we could always move back again.

So that’s the reason why we decided to make a change but where does Wales fit in? Quite simply Wales ticks a lot of boxes for us; the countryside is stunning and perfect for running and cycling, house prices are lower if you’re willing to be away from the major south coast cities (perfect for us) but there are still reasonable employment opportunities for us both. What we hadn’t expected to find was such great small towns full of life and independent shops or such a welcoming and fun community, particularly at school.

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Sourdough September – how to make the king of loaves

There is something quite magical about sourdough, this glorious loaf that miraculously rises from some water, flour and salt. When you explain to someone for the first time how it’s made they never quite believe that it’s possible or for that matter just how easy it is. Sure the process to make sourdough takes some time and some patience, but in terms of actually doing something to make it the time taken is less than 20 minutes. Once you have a starter that works and get into the cycle of feeding it and making a loaf you will soon become addicted to baking what is rightly known as the king of loaves.

Being the good social media user that I am I of course post photos of these wonderful loaves when I bake them at the weekend just to make sure folk know exactly how awesome I am. Over the past month or so this has resulted in a few people asking me for the recipe so they can have a go at baking a sourdough loaf themselves. I happily obliged and wrote up my method and recipe to share because what can be better than spreading the sourdough love? Unfortunately they are now doing their best to upstage me and make better sourdough than I do, but I shall try not to hold a grudge.

The recipe is mostly based on one from the Fabulous Baking Brothers (of Hobbs House bakery, makers of truly amazing bread) with a few tweaks I’ve learnt along the way. I thought it would be useful to share the recipe here also rather than sending it out on email each time. There are a few approaches to making sourdough but some seem a lot more complicated than this and this simple, straightforward approach seems to work well so why make things harder?

If you ever wondered about sourdough and the mystery of how to make it please do give it a go, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make something so tasty. There is definitely no better time of year to start either, as the days get noticeably shorter and colder a warm slice of sourdough with butter on is just the tonic! If you do decide to have a go please do share the results, I’d love to see them. Always happy to answer any questions you may have too.

Before moving onto the recipe I thought I’d share some photos of the loaves others have made with this recipe, if this doesn’t convince you to have a try I don’t know what will.

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Breakfast with Father Christmas at Wyevale

I can remember the first time we visited Father Christmas with the children, it was Matilda’s 2nd Christmas and we thought it would be one of those perfect parenting moments. She’d be enchanted by all the pretty lights and Christmas activities and then sit with Father Christmas and chat about what she wanted for Christmas. The reality was a child who cried when they saw Father Christmas and refused to go anywhere near him or his grotto so we took our free present and left. Since then things have got a better and I think we’re reaching peak excitement about Father Christmas before she gets a little older and starts to hear rumblings about whether he’s real or not. So when Wyevale invited us to meet Father Christmas over breakfast at our local Wyevale garden centre (he was stopping by to buy some carrot seeds) I jumped at the chance.

As we all know Father Christmas gets around the country and you can meet him in many places these days from the classic school fayre to a restored steam train and who knows what else in between. But I really quite enjoyed meeting him over breakfast; it’s quite a relaxed and civilised environment that doesn’t involve queuing or crowds and with the garden centre not open for business it was lovely and quiet. Plus of course it meant I could eat a cooked breakfast and drink coffee while the children met Father Christmas, perfect!

colouring at wyevale christmas

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