Saturday, 13 May 2017

How Life Has Changed: Scotland vs. Wales

How Life Has Changed: Scotland Vs. Wales

I moved to North Wales from Stirling in Scotland, after spending my whole life in, or in between, major cities, I didn't think twice about, well...anything, really.  

Everything I wanted has always been right within my reach. Take out coffee? Costa, McDonald's or the slightly dodgy stuff my local petrol station used to sell? Supermarket? Morrisons, Aldo, Lidl, Sainsburys, M&S or Asda?? And those were just in my local town.  Because of this, I've never paid any mind to how I would cope without the amenities I completely took for granted. Until I relocated to North Wales

Yes, Wales has coffee, and excellent stuff it is, too; but it's been a bit of a struggle to find a local outlet close to home. I work in the town of Dolgellau and am spoiled for choice from the gorgeous little bakeries and independent coffee shops that line Eldon Square and its surrounds.

Up in Dyffryn? Not so much. Don't get me wrong. We sell coffee and have charming little cafes, but we're just not geared up to the mad rat race of people who MUST have a double espresso before they can even contemplate going to work. Although I initially wondered how I would cope, and got way too excited when I spotted an *actual* Costa Coffee store in Porthmadog, in the 15 months I've been here, I've yet to venture inside it.  And I don't have plans to.  During the week, I make my own coffee and, on the weekends, Les and I scout out a range of fabulous local Cafes to try. Our favourite is Llew Glas in Harlech, because it's simply superb and the staff, well...they rule.  

On arriving in Harlech, where we initially rented an apartment when doing our whole 'we'll give it 6 months and see how it goes and if we don't like it, we can head back to Scotland' thing. (It's been 15 months and we've now bought a house and I have a job and my family loves coming down from Scotland to visit so, basically, we're NEVER leaving). 

After a few weeks of settling in and exploring, we decided to catch a movie one night. I checked the listings and then checked them again, sure they were only partial results. Turns out they weren't: we were at least 60 min drive away from the closest cinema in the North; 2 hrs from the closest to the North east and 1.5 hrs from the closest to the South. 'How can this be?' I yelled at Les, who was trying to disguise his unhappiness at being made to go out and see something violent and bloody. 'How can there NOT be a cinema anywhere near us?  What do people DO here?'.

Faced with the long drive, we decided against it. Then I realised that, in a year of living a 5 minute drive from a massive multiplex in Stirling; we'd been once.  I signed us up for Welsh Netflix (which is the same as every other Netflix) and we haven't left the house for months.  I jest, of course. We still go to work on occasion. Luckily for us, a brand new all singing, all dancing theatre has recently opened up at the old college building in Harlech and I can often be found, driving very slowly down the hill, desperately trying to read the movie posters as I pass.  I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who's been stuck in traffic behind me while I do this. Have we been yet? No. But we definitely will.  Just as soon as I get through binge watching the new season of Homeland.

I live on the edge of a small town, between open land and the sea. There is no noise. Previously, we lived in a semi detached house in Stirling, on a busy street, with a hairdresser and convenience store across the road, and several pubs nearby.   It was constantly noisy; day or night.  

Now, although I technically have neighbours, they’re not exactly close by and the silence is fabulous.  

At night, I hear that strains of the last train chugging along the Cambrian Coast railway and, apart from that, it’s the farm noises next door which consist of a few sheep and some bulls.  It’s bliss. On a weekend, the sea plane flies overhead, taking passengers on pleasure flights to look at the stunning outline of the Llyn Peninsula, and, on occasion, we also have the Coastguard. He’s looking for people in the sea, usually.   And that’s not quite so nice a sound.  

I’ve always been spoiled for choice with supermarkets and malls nearby to home, so coming to North Wales and living a half hour from my nearest supermarket has been somewhat of a shock. Luckily, I managed to get a job in Dolgellau, which is half an hour in the other direction and has a lovely big Co-op, just next to my office.  It has a lovely selection of wines from around the world, as well as whatever else it is you find in supermarkets.   Food, mostly, I think.

The lack of supermarkets (and often the steep pricing in the smaller towns and villages) has forced me to become far more organised about my shopping habits.   Although I buy the odd bottle of wine on a Friday night after work (and sometimes on a Thursday) when it comes to everything else, I do all my supermarket shopping on a Saturday morning.    I’ve never done this before and would often drive home from work in Scotland, using the time spent in traffic jams to decide what I wanted for dinner, before diving in to one of many, many stores to grab pizza.

Now?  I have to think ahead and decide what I want, like, DAYS in advance.  And it’s great.  The money I’m saving is enormous and, given I hate supermarkets or anywhere busy, going just once a week (with company) is fantastic.  It’s amazing how much more procrastinating I can get done around the house now that I have more time to dedicate myself to the cause.
It also (mostly) stops those additional visits, after a bad day at work, to pick up crisps. And chocolate. And wine, obviously.  My waistline should be thanking me.  As should my liver.

Suz x