You’d have thought after the low of welcoming in 2012 in the windy drizzle of Swansea seafront, that this year could only improve, wouldn’t you? But no, not really.
The start of the day in Glos was lovely. I spotted a pink sky as I drew the curtains and dressed hastily in order to get in an early morning run across the fields as the sun rose. The sun declined to appear but the fabulous sky colours more than made up for it.
The forecast distinctly said Swansea could expect rain at about 3pm in the afternoon but apparently the weather is hopeless at keeping time.
“It’s only a few drops,” I said as we set off on a bike ride from Brynmill at about 11.30am. By the time we hit the seafront it crossed my mind that wasn’t actually the best idea.
We’d togged up but, to be honest I wasn’t completely prepared. While the top was temperate with four layers the bottom, with only two layers, was definitely Arctic.
We cycled into full-on rain with a yobbish westerly wind saying “ ‘ave that” and blowing straight into our faces. It was like being stabbed in the face with millions of tiny frozen knives. Constantly.
The ears froze first (I’d omitted to take ear-warmers) followed by the thumbs inside my gloves, which hurt like they’d been slammed in a car door.
The sand, mud, accumulated vegetative debris and accumulating pools of water soon soaked my trainers and socks and de-sensitised my feet.
“Are your feet like blocks of ice too?” I enquired of Capt Sensible who was tight-lipped and stoic. Although, thinking about it, his face may have frozen into that shape.
“Not so much. I have icy water running down the left side of my foot into my shoe and a constant stream of cold water running down the back of my neck and soaking my collar. Apart from that, everything’s great.”
We were able to ride two abreast because the track – usually busy with cyclists, skateboarders, joggers, dog walkers – was eerily quiet. One women wearing a thin waterproof, rucksack and shorts, ran past us in the opposite direction. She didn’t acknowledge us. I sensed her concentration was such that it excluding all exterior stimulus. She had learned to do that in order to survive. She was probably training to be the only woman member of the SAS. Confirmation, if it was needed, that only the seriously deranged were out today.
But, looking on the bright side, there’s nothing like getting very very wet and cold to encourage you to put a bit of a spurt on. So we hit 20mph on the flat, blatting through the standing water without a soul in the way.
There’s also nothing like getting very very wet and cold to make you think “Actually, I am a bit of an eejit being out in this” and deciding to seek shelter in the warm and welcoming arms of Trams, a cafe in Mumbles. Capt Sensible was only capable of being defrosted with a generous serving of Mega-Breakfast.
It was definitely a day for watching the weather through a window from a warm place with a large mug of hot tea to hand. The view across Swansea Bay to the marina – the tide was as out as out could be – appeared and disappeared sporadically as the height of the rain clouds varied. But no glimmer of brightness interrupted the continual gloom. This was proper Welsh rain.
Pedestrians stumped past clad in saturated outdoor clothing and unsuitable footwear – but at least with those big plastic sandals, the rain drains out of the holes.
Only two children under five seemed properly equipped for the weather in bright jackets with furry-edged hoods and jazzy wellingtons. They’d been having lunch in Trams with mum and dad and were plainly delighted to be back outside in the tumult. They ran to the nearest puddle, stood in it and jumped up and down for a bit, grinning with delight. They skipped off ahead of the parents, no doubt in search of another deeper more satisfying puddle.
That’s the thing with puddle splashing – kids are hardly ever content with just a few shallow puddle splashes – they always have to push it to the stage where they need an entire change of clothes. Ah, how I miss those days….NOT!
After a couple of hours having brekker and then eeking out the time by slowly sharing a toasted teacake accompanied by further tea there was nothing for it but to face the water music and ride once more.
When we passed another caff, Ripples, on the way to Mumbles, we’d spotted two bikes propped up against a picnic table and guessed the riders had taken refuge for an early lunch. We passed it again and noticed the bikes were still there indicating the owners were probably making a day of it.
Even a deserted cycle track wasn’t without its hazards. A West Highland terrier on a long lead shot out of vegetation on the beach side of the track and crossed right in front of Captain Sensible, closely followed by his owner, a stout woman in an anorak with the hood up.
He slammed his brakes on, they squealed and locked, he skidded briefly, his suspension seatpost creaked loudly, yet the lady with the dog didn’t flinch or look. Another lady who was completely oblivious to external stimuli but probably, in this case, not destined for the SAS.
Half an hour later we were indoors, warming up nicely surrounded by the homely scent of wet socks steaming gently on a hot radiator.
There may have been two daffodils in flower in the garden – and, even more remarkably, fuschia flowers – but we weren’t fooled; this is still most definitely, winter.