This week I happened to watch one of those house renovation programmes on TV. I don’t watch them avidly but sometimes they’re just easy telly to watch to relax to in an evening and as a creative person I love to see what revamps they make. This one in particular caught my eye not for the house itself, or what they did with it, although they made some excellent improvements, no, it was the way the presenter went on about the view from it. He raved on about it, and kept saying how important it was, that as soon as you walked into the lounge the impact of it should be shown. And I knew why he was wowing over it, because I know that view so well, and its had a massive impact on me too. I’ve been looking at that view since I was a child, infact I had my eighth birthday right there in it. And many happy subsequent holidays there, in rain, and sun, wind, and calm. That view is a part of who I am, and the thought of it makes me incredibly happy.
The place I am talking of is Aberdovey in mid Wales. You’ve probably not even heard of it. Its a small town that looks the same now as its always looked. Infact because of the TV programme I thought I’d take a look at in on Google Earth, that useful tool to view any place you want to visit from the comfort of your armchair. And Aberdovey looks the same now to me as its always looked. The same shops are there, the bank is in the same place, the hotels and pubs are the same, the carparking hasn’t changed and neither has the little harbour area. Ok, there are a few small changes like a row of tall stately trees that I clearly remember as a child have gone, and some of the shops are more trendy than they used to be, but fundamentally its still exactly as I remember it.
But the thing I wanted to do, most of all, was take a drive along the road that leads into Aberdovey following the river Dovey down the estaury. And since Google Earth technically allows you to to that, I tried it. And you know what, it wasn’t the same. It didn’t have that same “feel” to it. I stopped the camera at various viewpoints that I know so well, and looked at the view, but it wasn’t the same. It looked like it, but it didn’t “feel” like it.
Aberdovey has my favourite beach. I’ve walked on some stunning beaches, but this one is my all time favourite. And that made me think why it is, is it partly because I have walked on it more than most beaches, so it has a familiarity to it. It is glorious golden soft sand, so its pretty and a delight to sit on, and is at least four miles long and bordered by undulating dunes. The backdrop to the town are the green mountains behind, and infront the estaury opening onto the sea. The beach opposite looks close, and yet to get in a car and drive there would take well over an hour as you follow the river back up and cross at the nearest bridge to drive down again. The harbour is always full of little boats, mostly sailing boats as the wind catches their cables and whips them against the mast in that tapping noise so reminisant of coastal places. The buildings and walls are built in the grey slate of Wales, and the houses and cottages painted white and pastel shades. Its pretty. The tiny gardens are full of brightly coloured flowers as they tumble over walls.
And yet if I was to show you a photo, just any one photo, you’d say “Oh, that’s nice” and smile politely at me.
Because you wouldn’t have that experience that I’ve had. You haven’t been there. You don’t “know” it.
And the thing that has made me think, and write this piece, is not particularly about Aberdovey itself, I’m not doing a tourist information article, what I’m doing is wondering how as an artist I would put all of what I “feel” into a painting of something I’m painting. If I was to paint a picture of Aberdovey, how would I convey what I feel for the place, the way it makes me feel happy to think of it, the memory of the rain coming in horizontally across the sea, followed five minutes later by bright blinding sunshine, the invigorating sea air, the bustling little town, the pretty gardens and the climbing paths up the mountain, the sound of the tapping cables on the little yachts, and the smell of the sea. The picturesque drive along the widening estuary, and a feeling of comfortable happiness when you arrive. How would I paint all of that?
This picture I painted entitled “Breath of fresh air” was inspired by walking along the beach, the way the clouds pass over so quickly letting the sun shine through on the sea and the waves foam against the sandy shore. Its part of the place for me.
There are a few places that I have fallen in love with, and Aberdovey is one of them. St Ives is another, as is Wells, and Faversham.
So tell me, where have you fallen in love with? And why?