Thankfully, I have never been to prison as a guest of Her Majesty. I am no McVicar, and for me the pleasures of day release will, touch wood, never be an experience to endure or enjoy. Yet, with the topsy turvy state of affairs over the past year and a bit, a rare release from the mundane feels just like that, as we get a taste of freedom, of sorts.

I must confess I have grown tired of the ‘rules’ and am unaware as to what they are in their current guise. Add to that I chose to take a 36-hour flyer the weekend just gone, to Wales, where the rules are different. Apparently, travel is allowed, which then threw me as we made quickspeed along the M4 where messages directed us to ‘minimise’ travel. This proved a tad too late as I was laden with a mountain bike, tonnes of biking kit and a wife on her inaugural trip to sample the delights of South Wales.

Wales. It was not the scenery that was memorable in Brett Elliss recent trip to South Wales

It was not the scenery that was memorable in Brett Ellis's recent trip to South Wales

It was an increasingly rare outing and the first time we had been ‘abroad’ for a couple of years, so we were understandably excited, despite the expected deluge of water. I always believed that the easiest job in the world is that of a Welsh weather forecaster. All you would need to do is come on, any day of the year, point at the map and say ‘rain’ before walking off to tumultuous applause.

I set the bar exceptionally low with my wife, explaining the area was like Redruth but "rougher" and asking if she had ever been to Grimsby or Luton? The Travelodge is, as always, basic, but it ticks the boxes, and for 30 quid a night for a family room, we could live with the muddy bike tyre trails along the communal walkways and the absence of room, or any other type of, service.

Surprisingly, as we were only there for the night, it had not chosen to rain, although the temperature was a bit on the fresh side. We then spent an hour or so trying, and failing, to get served at a bar. Of those that were open, they either required pre-bookings or there was a huge queue to sit in a wind tunnel at the top of town which, although tempting at around two quid a pint, was not my idea of fun.

Thankfully, we stumbled across a small inn which looked like it had previously lived as a kebab shop, decked out with cheap £20 gazebos on the street outside. As is usual, there was the stereotypical, unintelligible alcoholic male, sitting with army surplus jacket on who, I think, agreed we could share the table with him. He was joined soon after by a guy who looked like Terry Nutkins, said hello to his buddy and then sat in stone cold silence for the rest of the evening.

A child passed a pint to Alcoholic Linda through the window of a car

A child passed a pint to 'Alcoholic Linda' through the window of a car

Then it got all ‘Welsh’. The landlady introduced herself as "10 kids Carol" as "I have ten kids but" and "my name's Carol", before showing off a few of her brood. One of them stood by our table for what seemed an age holding a full pint of lager. I enquired as to if she was OK, to which she explained "I’m waiting for Alcoholic Linda". A few minutes later a Vauxhall Corsa skidded to a halt in the middle of the pedestrianised high street, beeped, and was served a beverage through the car window before wheel spinning off without spilling a drop. "Comes every night she does, but" explained kid number 6, or maybe it was 7.

Next up came the pitbull show. One of 10 kids Carol's kids’ boyfriends, it turned out, was breeding pit bulls in the back of the bar, and he wheeled out the most gorgeous puppies before a hoodie-bedecked scally took the smallest, cutest one, of my arms and scarpered in a cab. I thought he had stolen said K9, but ten kids Carol (TKC) explained he had just bought it and wanted to get home to the rest of his menagerie. "We call him three dogs Ewan, but that’s his fourth, so well have to work out a new nickname now, but," she explained, looking genuinely dejected.

The evening was capped off by eating what was advertised as Chinese food, out of trays, using wooden forks, perched on the corner of a Travelodge bed before I got early onset hypothermia the next day on a Welsh mountain, as her indoors consoled herself with the delights of the out-of-town shopping experience. As we wound our way home, me soiled in cold Welsh mud and her laden with large carrier bags of tat, I asked her for marks out of 10. "You weren’t wrong. It’s rubbish," she said. "A one out of 10 at best, but I absolutely loved it! When can we come again?"

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher