If all goes to plan this post will bring us up to April 2005. I’m going to start by relating something that happened either before I moved to Wales, or just after. that concerns my friend Sue. Before I knew her, Sue had experienced breast cancer, and soon after we met, she acquired lung cancer. She had major surgery that meant having a lung removed and she was told that she would be laid up for at least six months. However, only two weeks after having the operation, Sue was up and about and leading virtually a normal life again. Things went along normally for a few years and then she got a cough that just would not go away. She was at the spiritualist church in Swindon one night, when an extremely stupid and unprofessional medium told her, in front of the entire congregation, that her cancer had come back and that she would need another operation. This sent Sue into a panic and when we were discussing it some little time after the medium had so irresponsibly gave her that news, she said to me, “I just can’t face another major operation Richard”. But Holmsey had a brain wave!
I reminded her that just because there may be a need for an operation, it doesn’t mean it has to be a conventional operation. I suggested making an appointment to go and see Stephen Turoff in Chelmsford. Sue was in agreement and I phoned to make an appointment. In the meantime Sue had indeed been given a diagnosis of throat cancer. She was even given a detailed description of the type of strain she had. Then unbelievably, she received information from the hospital saying that for some reason they’d had her samples analysed by a third-party who decided she didn’t have cancer after all. This panicked her even more because she still had the cough and she knew her body, which was telling her there was definitely something wrong. I drove us to Chelmsford on the required day and went in with her when she had her operation. As I said in my previous post about Stephen Turoff, his operations are normally very quick, but this one seemed to go on for around four minutes. At some stage, he grabbed his scalpel and cut her throat. He did not use anaesthetic and there was no blood; just a tiny red mark that was gone the next day. When he left the room to carry out his next operation, I said to Sue, “did that hurt”? She said, “he cut my throat didn’t he”? I said, “yes”. She said, “it didn’t hurt, but it was very uncomfortable”? Just prior to leaving the room, Stephen said to Sue, “now go and enjoy the rest of your life”. She has been free of cancer ever since.
So, there I was living in Wales. I plodded along acquiring the odd client here and there, and just about keeping my head above water. Certain people were a godsend to me at this time. Mainly a man named John Rigby. He ran The Sacred Hands Spiritual Centre in Llandysul. He was a great bloke and seemed to understand what I was trying to achieve. I served the centre as a medium, but John also let me use the premises to run workshops, at no cost to me whatsoever. John also introduced me to my friend, Sarah Thomas, who I am still in touch with today. I got to know Sarah and her husband Kev very well, and some years later after I was back in England but visiting Wales to serve the churches, they would let me stay at their house in Pennant. Speaking of Pennant, that was where Carol and Bruce lived who were going to let me live in a caravan on their land. John Rigby had been a very unwell man for all the time I knew him, and he finally left this life a couple of years back. I will never forget him or his kindness.
Now, the next part of this sort of “round robin” post, I dedicated a whole chapter to in my book, The Amazing Journey, but there was no way that I could write an account of my time in Wales and not mention this. Remember, at the end of the previous post I mentioned a roller-coaster? Well, hold on, this is it!
Hold on…. My lovely people…. A confession…. This part of the story is so incredible that I need to write a lot of detail to give you the full picture. I have therefore decided that it will save me a lot of work if I simply copy and paste a large slice of Chapter 6 from The Amazing Journey. It does mean however that this post will end in February 2004 instead of April 2005, but when you’ve finished reading I think I can safely say that you will forgive me. Fasten your seat belts….
Because of the hilly nature of the land, during times of inclement weather you could be driving along the road and all could be fine, but a few hundred metres further down you could be driving in a blizzard, and then a little further on it would be fine again, and so on. On the Wednesday the weather seemed to be OK and at some stage I went down into Lampeter. As I was driving back to the house however the snow started coming down. The distance from the bottom of the hill up to the house is approximately two miles and under normal circumstances it’s only a few minutes’ drive. But when Keith came in at around 7:00 p.m. he said that it had taken him the best part of an hour to get up the hill because his car had been slipping and sliding. I was a bit worried now but nonetheless I packed some of my things into the car, and decided to leave the remainder until the morning.
I woke up at 07:00 a.m. and looked out of the window. There was a very restricted view from my room but it didn’t prevent me from seeing that the snow was still coming down and that what little I could see outside was a complete white-out. Now I was really worried! I asked the angels for a sign that all would be OK and got back into bed. I got the sign I asked for; it was indicated to me that all would be well, but being human I had more than my share of reservations. I couldn’t get back to sleep either; my mind was working overtime. I knew that things must be bad outside because, even though you don’t get much traffic up there during the course of any day, you do get the odd early morning delivery van and the post van at around 08:00 a.m.
I had a look outside and there were no tyre tracks at all; absolutely nothing, not that I’d heard any vehicles anyway. I looked at my car and all I could see was a kind of vague car shape completely covered in thick snow. I decided to carry on as best I could and proceeded to clear all the snow from the car before packing the rest of my things into it. My understanding was that I should wait for a sign and then just go. At 10:30 a.m. I got the sign but hesitated as I was not sure in my worried state that it was not my imagination. Within minutes I got the sign again as if in confirmation. I then had further confirmation when I heard the sound of a car engine. I looked out and saw a 4×4 Range Rover-type vehicle go past. “What a result”, I thought. I could simply aim my wheels into the tyre tracks of the 4×4 and all would be OK. It was now time to leave.
I had no choice but to drive in the direction I was facing because the narrowness of the road coupled with the thick snow made it impossible to turn around anyway. It was 0.6 of a mile up to the T-junction that would connect me with The Roman Road. The wise Keith informed me that I would be OK once I got up to The Roman Road because it would have been gritted. I said “bye for now” to Keith and aimed my wheels into the tracks left by the 4×4. I had only driven a few metres when I realised I could be making the biggest mistake of my life. Once I set off I couldn’t turn around so I had no choice but to keep going. The car was sliding, the engine was revving and the wheels were turning quite rapidly, but the car was moving, seemingly at minus miles per hour; progress really was that slow.
Looking back, there was one particularly amusing moment at this stage, albeit that I wasn’t laughing at the time as I was already building up to a state of panic. Although it was fairly remote up in those hills there were a few other houses dotted around at various intervals, and I remember passing neighbours both on the left and right hand sides of the road. Both the woman from the house on the left and the man from the house on the right stared in complete and utter amazement at this car that was moving so slowly it may as well have been in reverse, being driven by some lunatic. They both had looks of sheer bewilderment on their faces, obviously trying to fathom out what I thought I was doing.
0.6 of a mile is no distance at all, and normally it would take a couple of minutes at the most to reach the T-junction. But these were not normal circumstances. The narrow road is very windy in places and separated from the fields on either side by walls made from something similar to Cotswold Stone. The car edged its way round a slight bend and the houses were out of sight. I was now driving in a blizzard, still extremely slowly and all I could see was white. Everywhere I looked nothing but white. I started to get scared; I also started to think that I would get stuck, and thoughts such as “I might miss my flight” raced through my mind. Working at the centre near Banbury and the trip to Copenhagen were so important to me it was unthinkable that I might get stranded. Every now and then the car would skid towards a wall and I had thoughts of horror that my lights would get smashed. I called out for Baba to help me, and miraculously, every time the car skidded towards a wall, it stopped centimetres before impact. Little did I know that the fun was only just beginning.
At approximately the half-way point there is a real hair pin bend in the road. As the car went around this bend, it skidded and stalled and ended up sitting diagonally across the road. By now I was really panicking. I got out of the car to assess the situation, I was a nervous wreck and kept calling out to Baba to help me. I got back in the car and started it up. I put it into gear, gave it a few revs and to my amazement I was on the move again. I skidded a few more times along the way but eventually, after what seemed like an entire age, I made it up to the T-junction. This is where things started to get interesting.
My master plan was to turn right onto The Roman Road, which would have been gritted (I know this because the wise Keith said it would be so), I would then follow the road down into the village of Cellan (pronounced Keck-Lan) where the roads would also have been gritted. I was then going to drive through Cellan, up to the main A Road and turn right into Lampeter where I would nip into the library and use the facilities before setting off for Swindon. Unfortunately, things very rarely go according to plan in this world. As I said, I was already a nervous wreck, but I found to my horror that The Roman Road had not been gritted (what happened Keith!?!!??). I had to turn right, it was pointless turning left, but I knew that at some stage the road down into Cellan became very steep and my brakes would be useless in the snow.
When I first turned onto The Roman Road it didn’t seem too bad, but it wasn’t long before I was skidding again. Along this stretch of road there were not only stone walls either side, but at some points there were also ditches. I continued to call out for Baba to help me, and as before, every time I thought I was going to hit a wall or go into a ditch, the car stopped in the nick of time. When I got to the steep part of the road I just gripped onto the wheel for dear life; it was at this point that I learned the meaning of white knuckle ride. I was screaming for Baba now, literally, and I continued to hold onto the wheel for all I was worth. The car skidded, and even though I’ve known for ages that you are supposed to steer into a skid, what did I do? I can’t believe that I steered against it, but that’s what I did. The inevitable happened. I screamed some more and the car stalled again with the back-end appearing to be in a ditch.
I can’t remember if I got out of the car at this stage but I do remember starting it up again and putting it into gear. As before, I gave it a few revs, eased off the clutch and the car just started moving. Unbelievable! My heart rose as I thought I recognised a land mark through the whiteness that told me I was near the bottom of the hill. But it sunk again just as quickly when it appeared to be not so. As it turned out it was only the whiteness playing tricks on my eyes, and my heart rose again when I realised I was virtually at the bottom of the hill. “Nearly there”, I thought as I tried to gather myself for the last stage of the journey. I turned left along the road through Cellan to find that it also had not been gritted. Luckily, this road was wider, it was on the flat and there were also passing places.
There was also the added bonus of the snow no longer falling on the lower ground. Unfortunately, regardless of the passing places the snow still made it very difficult for two cars to pass each other. However, this road was busier than the mountain roads, therefore the problem was more with slush rather than snow and there was still an element of skidding. But to my amazement, every time I encountered a vehicle coming the other way, I was perfectly placed to pull into a recess. About three-quarters of the way through the village my heart rejoiced as the road was suddenly clear. I got to the junction and found that the busy A road in and out of Lampeter was also clear. I turned right into Lampeter and by the time I parked the car I was just about starting to return to some kind of normality, but nonetheless, I was trying to get my head around what I’d just experienced and wondered if it had actually happened. I just couldn’t believe it. It defied all human logic that anyone would be able to drive a car down from those hills in those weather conditions. When I spoke to Keith some time later he said he’d been snowed in for a number of days.
I did what I had to do in the library and set off on my journey. The road was clear and all of a sudden everything was rosy again. I’d driven a couple of miles out of Lampeter when something else quite amusing happened. I was driving along minding my own business when all of a sudden a voice in my head, that was as clear as a bell, said “you should have seen your face, it was a picture”. At first I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I saw the funny side of things and had a chuckle to myself.
My route took me through the Brecon Beacons, and as I was approaching this most beautiful part of the world, the snow started coming down again. I suppose this was understandable as I was once again on high ground. The good thing was that there was a fair amount of traffic on the road and I just tried to keep my wheels in the tracks of the cars in front. There was a fair amount of slipping and sliding and the journey through the Brecons was very slow, but thankfully I reached the low ground without any problems. As I got further and further towards England the snow became less and less. Then just beyond Monmouth it was no more than a bit of sleet, until finally, as I neared Ross-On-Wye there was no evidence that even so much as a single snow flake had fallen from the sky. This just contributed to the strangeness of the day. I couldn’t stop reflecting on the morning’s events and still couldn’t quite believe what I had experienced.
Stay tuned folks, I’ll be back before you know it…