Sunday 30 May 2021

THE LAUGHARNE DIARIES - A river runs through it

 April 25

River   Jon Mitchell              

Released June 1971


Another sunny day. Blackbirds, competing songs in our yard and the occasional dove.

I walk Rose down to the River Coran for to do her business. The Coran never more than five feet wide rises somewhere north of Laugharne. It flows through the town and out into the estuary by the castle. 


In the sunshine it was particularly lovely; bright and brown, full of reflections, adorned by birdsong. In the middle distance an old summer house just about still standing and a line of pots with peas? Or beans? We wandered down to the castle, sun now high above us, all quite peaceful. Another dog walker greets us, a few small boats doze at low water.


Sian spent the morning trying to contact various utility companies, as we were fearful that we were unwittingly trying to disconnect Barry and Sandra from their electricity, water and telephone supplies!

Friday 28 May 2021


 April 24

Life’s a Gas    T.Rex              Released 1971

"But it really doesn't matter at all,

    No it really doesn't matter at all,

    Life's a gas.


Because of a streetlight outside the bedroom window little sleep. Rosie restless too and moves from bed to bed. Ordering blinds became a new priority as importantly was getting hot water and some heating.


Interestingly we are on calor gas and the previous people had left not a drop in the two forty-seven litre bottles outside in the back yard. Back yard? Did I mean patio? No back yard is more the thing.  We rang the estate agent who rang the previous owner, George, who rang Woody.  There was a knock on the door, it was Woody. Woody had come to help. He was a plumber of some forty year’s experience. He quickly understood the real problem. The gas bottles were empty. He also showed Sian how to switch on the boiler and me how to change a calor gas bottle. However we needed gas.


Woody suggested Tooby & Williams. Tooby Williams is in St Clears a small town just down the road is a vast emporium of hardware, garden ware and anything you need to run a farm or small holding. Ample parking. Sadly, they did not have any calor gas at the moment. I rang Woody. Woody said I should go to Hafren Pet Supplies. “It’s right out of Tooby’s car park and right again, keep going and it’s on the left opposite the Co-Op”. I could not find it. And gave left out of Tooby’s and left again and kept going and found it.


They were very helpful and could sell me a nineteen-litre bottle of calor. Just bring your empty round the back and swap it for a new one.  Ah, well I did not bring an empty. Well we’ll have to have an empty.

OK, I’ll go back home and get an empty. It was a bit of an effort to get a 47L gas bottle in the back of the car. It broke its bonds halfway there and so it was left hand steading the bottle and right hand on the steering the wheel. 


Fortunately St Clears, population 2,995, is only 15 minutes away in the car. St Clears AFC association football club play in the Pembrokeshire League and the highlight of the farming year hereabouts is the St Clears YFC annual show which is held in May.


Made the swap, tapped to pay and one of the boys help me in with my new, full, 19L bottle.

Got back home and connected it up, Sian sorted the boiler and voila, hot water. Phew.


We discover where we live: Sian had ordered two items from Amazon to meet us at the house on our arrival yesterday. They did not turn up. She went up and down the street knocking on doors in case of misdirection. She went to the Post Office. No luck there either.

Today we saw three chaps in the street having a good old chat Glynn, John and tree feller Andrew (?). On a hunch Sian said where to do think mail might go for The Showroom No1. Clifton Street she gestured towards our house. “That’s not no. 1 Clifton Street,” said Andrew. “That’s no.1 Clifton Street.” And he indicated a blue house about three minutes’ walk away. They enjoyed the joke. I collected our Amazon parcels from no.1 and met and apologised to Barry and Sandra.

Sunday 23 May 2021


 April 23

She’s About A Mover                      By the Sir Douglas Quintet                         Released 1969



By 08:15 we were on the road, a few minutes behind our man with a van, Mike, who was carrying all our bits and bobs, beds and mattresses. All this was going to our new home in Laugharne, The Showroom, No 1 Clifton Street.  About four hours later and some two hundred and fifteen miles we were in our new home. Mike was only about 15 minutes behind us.


It was a quick time of unloading, Mike was paid, and he sped off back to the Badlands of Buckinghamshire.


An afternoon of bed assembly and mattress fitting and sheet tugging and we had somewhere to sleep and we kept all the polythene for dust sheets. Downstairs stuff was stored and we tried to figure out how to get the heating and hot water to work. This was one box unticked on our first day.


Sun streamed in through the front windows and we sat for a moment round our table absolutely exhausted. Rising, for one last push, we walked down to the Select Convenience Store for some potatoes and a bag of salad. The microwave was working, and jacket potatoes had never tasted so good. And so to bed. Day one, tick.


Friday 21 May 2021


The Laugharne Diaries will record one man’s journey to ingratiate himself within the community and surrounding areas of Laugharne. 

Off-beat but never off-colour this is an affectionate record of high, lows and enchanting places. When Tim grows up he hopes to be Welsh.

As I write this I am in the badlands of Buckinghamshire. Next week, on Wednesday we return to Wales for another 10 days. We have settled in a remarkable town and becoming friends with remarkable people. 


It is rather like standing on the edge of a new life, when somebody is saying to you “Hey, would you like a new life?"

And you say 'Yes please, that would be nice, thank you’


I think I really know the difference between living in a place and loving a place. There is so much ahead of us, probably most of it will be strange. Yet there is so much to see, enjoy and stub one’s toe on.

Located on the edge of a new life.


Every nook and cranny seems to have a story. Nobody ‘does’ topographical desolation, and piles of enthralling rubbish better than the Welsh. 


Everybody seems to know everybody else. People stand on the street and talk to one another for hours. Jan Morris said that it only takes two people in Wales to form a fully-fledged debating society!

Just down the road.

Saturday 8 May 2021



Borough is one of the oldest markets in Europe going back nearly 1000 years, when London was a small walled metropolis on the north of the Thames linked by a single bridge to Southwark, which had an altogether different culture where different rules applied. London Bridge was a vital artery for all manner of foodstuffs and general supplies and thus the Borough Market was born and continued to prosper.


By the 16th century Southwark was a hive of activity and not just a thriving commercial district. It was also a vibrant playground packed full of pubs, brothels and theatres allowing Londoners to cross the river and let off steam – “think Ibiza, but with fewer foam parties and more Shakespeare.”


Despite recent gentrification the area is still charged with Dickensian atmosphere with history around every corner.

Cross Bones Madonna


A particular favourite of mine is Crossbones Graveyard in Redcross Way, a piece of unconsecrated ground which was the final resting place of thousands of prostitutes known as Winchester Geese and can still be visited to this day, having survived all overtures by developers thanks to robust intervention by local heritage groups. The name stems from the Bishop of Winchester who licensed local prostitution and levied taxes from the proceeds, the remains of his Palace can still be seen next to Borough Market adjacent to Clink Prison where transgressors would be incarcerated and can still be visited today to inspect instruments of torture.


Borough Market continued to evolve as a wholesale food market operating largely in the early hours, until in the mid 1990s a few entrepreneurs including the founders of Neal’s Yard Diary and Brindisa sowed the seeds of the artisan food market of global acclaim that it has become today.

Votive Remembrances: Ribbons tied to the railings of Cross Bones

Wednesday 5 May 2021


Iain Stewart's life-long petrol passion for the Alfa Romeo marque is chronicled here. We thank him so much for a story that took him from the Rootes Group in Reading to the altar in a church in Edgeware. 


As Jeremy Clarkson (amongst others) has said – ‘you can’t be a real petrol head until you have owned an Alfa Romeo.’ I know exactly what he means – but how?

I joined Alfa Romeo GB Ltd in December 1971 after a couple of unremarkable years in the retail motor trade with a Rootes Group Distributor based in Reading Berkshire. I realised that whilst selling new cars was fun, buying and selling used . was far less enjoyable.

So having tired of Hillmans, Humbers, Singers and even Sunbeams I sought pastures new. These names seem like museum pieces now and in many ways they were, their disappearance represented part of the beginning of the end of the once mighty British Car Industry.

But in 1971 I was an eager 22 year old seeking a new direction, it wasn’t easy and it took me a long time to find my way to Alfa Romeo. I can’t really remember at that time how aware I was of the legend that was Alfa Romeo but I soon realised that they were something special. 

Their name and pedigree was well know as was their fabulous Italian styling made particularly famous around that time when Dustin Hoffman drove an Alfa Romeo Junior Spider in The Graduate. 

I started by selling export cars to diplomats and to non-Brits who were eligible to avoid paying the dreaded and painful Purchase Tax, this was a forerunner of VAT but even less fair! I worked for the wonderful John Attenborough who was General Sales Manager of ARGB as well as the youngest brother of the far more famous John (Dickie) and David Attenborough (national treasure now). He was the spitting image of David and many thought them to be twins.

'Take a memo please Miss Moore, it begins, Will you marry me?'

This wonderful job included being the official demonstration driver at the UK HQ in sunny Cricklewood, North London, hardly equal to the hallowed home of Alfa in beautiful Milano but the M1 was close by and the level of plod attention was modest in those days so I was able to show off the cars to some of their ability whilst retaining most of my licence most of the time! Happy days indeed.

After a reshuffle at ARGB I moved to Sales Promotion and spent several years helping our dealers run promotions and events throughout the UK. This included all of the major Motor Shows which were at Earls Court up until 1976 when the UK event moved to the recently opened NEC at Birmingham.

For these major National Motor Shows throughout Europe our parent company in Italy would build a modular exhibition stand to be that could be adapted for use at the various shows. My job included liaising with them over building the stand and deciding which cars to display and we would try and find something special to highlight our history and glamour. They had the most fabulous museum in Milan but were reluctant to send over any of the historic cars from the collection mainly due to the fragility and rarity of some but mainly the cost and hassle! So we tried to find locally owned vehicles that we could display. 

That is when I first met Christopher Mann, a legend himself amongst the historic racing car world and possessor of one of the most memorable Alfas in existence. Since the 1960’s he had been the very proud owner of one of the remaining two Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florios. These Gran Prix racing cars were built between 1923 and 1924 to contest one of the all-time great long distance road racing events of all time. Christopher regularly raced the car at historic events with great success but mainly great enjoyment! I managed to get him to agree to put the car on our Earls Court Motor Show stand in 1975 (I think) and also took it to a few dealer events in the south of England. 

It was a fabulous car, stylish and even then some fifty years old. He showed me how to drive it as he was very keen to share the joy. It had a 3 litre six cylinder engine with a simple four speed crash gearbox (no synchromesh) that took some mastering but that was easy compared with the pedal arrangements! The clutch was on the left as usual but the accelerator was in the middle with the foot brake on the right! Every gear change required much thought until you got the hang of it! I loved driving it, the look, the feel and the noise were intoxicating, truly a magnificent car.

During 1979 I was lucky enough to be granted a bi-lingual secretary as I dealt with our HQ in Milan and that is when I first met Roberta Moore. Fast forward to 1980 and we were getting married and the subject of wedding cars came up. I was brave enough to ask Christopher Mann if I could possibly borrow the RL Targa Florio to do the honours and to my absolute surprise and joy he agreed! So on June 28th 1980 his car starred in yet another wonderful appearance this time gracing the streets of Edgware in Middlesex London. My best man, my brother Alastair Stewart (you know the ITN one) and I roared through the High Street on our way to the church, quite a sight in our top hat and tails.

After the ceremony, Roberta and I drove to the reception in further style, luckily for us we had practised her getting in and out of the car as it was after all a racing car so not well equipped with creature comforts. Mercifully, we managed to avoid spoiling her fabulous dress. Also, as it only had a tiny windscreen on the driver’s side she had to don goggles! A wonderful day helped by a wonderful car.

My ten years at Alfa came to an end in 1982 but I consider myself a very lucky young man to have experienced some of the most fabulous cars of their era. Models that are now all collector items, sadly I never had the foresight to keep one but they all live on in my memory and I think I can claim to be a true Alfa Male.