By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
The Photographer smiled all night while he was asleep and then, he smiled all day! He awoke to the sound of the Magpie walking across the roof and was happy beyond happiness. The Magpie was as mad as mad could be. He walked and stomped everywhere and argued with all the other magpies. He was a raging furnace of injustice, but neither the Photographer or his Assistant had any idea why. He was like a mad artist on speed.
The Photographer and the Assistant had been away on and off for a whole month and the Photographer had new insights into the Assistant’s character that he had been entirely unaware of. At last, he would gain some control over the Assistant, well, possibly?
It is a Saturday morning in Narbeth, Pembrokeshire. This is a stop off point on the way to the Pembrokeshire beaches. The Photographer has parked the car and is slowly making his way to their favourite Spanish deli, Ultracomida. He expects a peaceful cup of coffee and maybe, some tapas as well. He opens the door to an entirely unexpected scene. There is the Assistant happily speaking in a cross between Italian, Welsh and English. She is sitting with a huge gang of people. The whole place is stuffed and noisy. Further, the Assistant, his wife, is enjoying a glass of bubbly, clearly not purchased by her. She is talking away and it is all very Italian. For one moment, he wonders if he is in the wrong country! He is summing up the situation, and sits next to his wife, hoping to show possession. The talk is of “Welsh Italian Ice Cream Parlours we have known”, then the talk was of Eynons pies, undeniably, the best pies ever, ever. This was a group from Swansea, the scene of the Assistants six week summer holidays as a child. The Photographer was familiar with this situation. He could not compete. He ordered coffee and a large slice of frittata. The Assistant was happily devouring a slice of Tartas Ancano with thick cream, and her glass was being topped up. The Photographer was praying that this would not be the usual Welsh Italian drinking session, which could end who knew when. He waited it out but, all was well. Eventually, there were near tears over how much everyone missed the buzz of Swansea, so the gang from Swansea decided to return there for the evening. Saturday night in Swansea could not be missed. The Photographer had no idea that the Assistant really enjoyed her Welsh half so much. It was a surprise.
Tuesday is wet so the annual trip to St. Davids Cathedral is taken. The Photographer gets himself a Photographer’s pass. Literally, only God knows how long the Assistant will be in here. The Assistant had only just visited her friend Maria, who is an Irish Roman Catholic. She and The Assistant share a Celtic passion for religion, which doesn’t really seem the same as the English one. The Assistant looks at sad plaques about sailors lost at sea. She lingers over every sad notice. She lights candles everywhere. She kneels at the altar and prays for her children. She visits the exquisite St David’s shrine, all decorated in gold and portraying the saint in bare feet to show his humble approach to life. She loves St. David. He is her favourite saint. The historian in her visits the tomb of Edmund Tudor, a founder of the Tudor dynasty. She ponders thoughtfully on the Tudors. The Photographer now thinks he has been here so long that he might as well assume that he will never again see the light of day, but he never complains. It’s only once a year.
The Photographer manages to extract the Assistant from the Cathedral and has avoided the meadow alongside. He couldn’t take that today and he is so hungry. This is the point where she remembers the children in the meadow as toddlers and has a little cry. He has avoided that one. He is off for an ice cream and a coffee, but he is not allowed to go just anywhere. He is dragged along the main street past loads of ice cream until they reach an outdoor parlour. It is raining. The assistant insists on buying the ice cream from her pension. This, in his experience, was a very special treat as the moths flew out of her purse. He chose triple choc and strawberry with cookies. He had never had such a large ice cream, but he really enjoyed it under an umbrella as others queued. The ice cream was Italian, of course!
The Photographer was certainly pleased to be home, as his now English wife, poured him a nice cup of breakfast tea. West Wales would disappear for another year and he would have to save up for it. Oh dear! He could never live in Wales. He would never get to grips with it, but, strangely, the Assistant had never suggested it.