Croeso i Gymru

Before I resume my series on the UK road trip I have to mention a meeting I attended today.  For those who are new to this blog, I work for an organization that provides psychological and physical rehabilitation to torture survivors.  We had a lunchtime talk by an attorney who is representing one of the 70-some detainees at Guantanamo.  I can’t repeat much of what he said because it is top secret.  Seriously!  I’ve always wanted to say that and now it’s true.

Let’s just say that he firmly believes his client is innocent, that his client was tortured severely and repeatedly, and that his client has horrendous, humiliating physical problems as a result.  As the attorney described his client’s symptoms I watched as, one by one, we stopped eating our lunches.

Well, I kept eating.  I felt like a schmuck but it was my only chance to wolf something down between meetings.

Again, for those of you who are new to the blog, it began when my son Vince went to prison.  He was never tortured, unless you count being kept in solitary confinement for a week.  However, this attorney described actions taken by Gitmo guards that were just like things done by guards in Minnesota.  Mostly, it involved random acts of violation.  For instance, out of nowhere they would go into his cell and rifle through his things and scatter them around.  They weren’t expecting to find anything; it was about throwing him off balance, making it clear they could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, and intimidating him so he would never feel safe.

Now he is home free and doing well.  But I found myself feeling upset during the meeting.  It’s well understood in our organization that many former prisoners have PTSD from what they endured on the inside.  I sometimes think I have what’s called secondary trauma, which is caused by hearing the stories of people who have suffered.  So even though I’ve never been in prison I am affected by it.  I just needed to get that off my chest.  Thanks for reading.

Back to the road trip!

Rebecca packed all our gear into the Micra and we were off to Wales.  We agreed at the start that I wouldn’t drive, since I had never driven in Britain and didn’t have an international driver’s license.  But mainly it was because every time she took a turn I was inclined to yell, “head on collision!” because in my mind we were in the wrong lane.

It’s only about 200 miles from Oxford to St. David, Wales, but it was spring so road projects had sprung up everywhere, along with the famous bluebells.

BluebellsRoad Works

We were headed for Abergavenny to spend a night at Rebecca’s brother’s house.  The route was clear as a corn maze.  I had never encountered round abouts and I asked Rebecca to explain the rules to me.

She tried, but I think it’s one of those things—if you grow up knowing it, you just know it—and you can’t explain it to someone else.

Bewildering Sign

We stopped at an outdoor store to buy fuel for the camp stove, which they call meths.  Even Rebecca, a native who had visited Wales many times, was stumped by this one.

ParkingParking 2

Back on the road, I asked, “How is it that Wales is part of the UK but still separate country?” Again, she tried, but it seemed to be another case of “it’s clear and obvious if you were raised here, and it’s hopelessly bewildering if you weren’t.”

We had dinner with Rebecca’s brother and his wife.  Rebecca referred to her sister-in-law’s “charming Welsh accent” but I couldn’t hear it.  We left their house early the next morning; ominous dark clouds and high winds increased as we drove toward St. David’s.

We found the campground at dusk, and when we checked in, the woman in the office retracted her lips and sucked in her breath.  She didn’t tell us we couldn’t camp, but she clucked and fussed with a worried frown on her face before she finally pointed out our site, on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea.

How’s that for a cliff hanger?  Ha ha ha.

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