Leaving our home for waifs and strays, my dear and unassuming husband and I decided to go for a walk on the cliffs nearby.
Within no time at all, we were on the path where I had spent much of my childhood and it brought back a memory, I ought not tell you, but I will!
Mitching school was not something I was proud of but I confess to doing it just the once. Well, the once I can remember clearly! The trouble it caused, made me never want to take a day off school ever again. At least, at the time, that's what I thought.
I had talked my dear friend into purposefully missing the school bus with me and told her about the wonderful adventure we would have instead. But when she saw what I had in mind, she instantly refused to do it. But the bus had gone and there was no turning back.
Inhabited during the Upper Palaeolithic period, Minchin Hole is situated below a small limestone knoll and is one of Gower’s most impressive caves and one the most difficult to get too. But being a wilful child, I was up for the challenge and the weather was just perfect without a cloud in the sky. What I should never have done though, was to involve my friend who couldn’t climb a tree, let alone climb down the edge of a steep cliff especially as we were wearing our school skirts and knee length white socks, not exactly the right attire for cliff climbing.
‘I’ll go first,’ I said to my friend who looked very pale and begged me not to go.
‘Don’t worry about me,’ I said confidently, ‘just keep a lookout for people of any kind.’ You see, it was a small village and everyone knew us and no-one ever skipped school.
As I said, I had never mitched before! Let me add that mitching is an Indian word for truancy and I thought, at the time, I was doing something truly amazing. For at least one day, I was not a school girl but an explorer. I was going in search of remains of elephant, bison, bear and wolves, which had been discovered in the cave sometime before. I have a sharp eye and was convinced that I would find something they had missed, something left behind by smugglers or the Romans.
Anyway, I went first and straightaway I realised it wasn’t going to be easy. The weather was sunny and seagulls screeched and screamed above me and when I looked closer, I could see they had nests everywhere in the cliffs. But it was too late; I was already planted safely on a ledge half way down.
‘Come on! Follow me!’ I shouted to my friend. But she refused and I could hear her sobbing from where I was sitting, contemplating my next move.
‘OK!’ I shouted up. ‘I will go on my own and if anything happens to me, run and get my father.’ I knew my father was at home, probably inventing some other gadget or another. He would be cross, no doubt, if he discovered I had skipped school, but I thought it would never come to that. How wrong was I?
I was exhausted by the time I reached the cave and my knees were scratched and bleeding and then I heard the most piercing cry. It was my friend. No, she hadn’t fallen over the cliff, but she was trying to tell me something. Something very important! If she had stopped crying I would probably have understood her sooner. Anyway, I soon saw what she was pointing at. Again, something I should have considered...the tide was almost in.
Now why I hadn’t considered the tide, has never ceased to amaze me. I had no choice but to abandon my excavation plans and start the harrowing climb back up. But that was easier said than done. I almost died a thousand times, I’m quite sure of that! Slipping and sliding down the cliff, clinging to rocks that jutted out precariously, I could have slipped to my death quite easlily. I could no longer hear my friend screaming and even the seagulls were silenced by my new found fear. The only sound to be heard was the tide below, as the waves crashed against the rocks menacingly.
It took some time, but I eventually made it to the top and flung myself on the grass completely exhausted. My friend was nowhere to be seen. I needn’t have worried however, as I soon saw her running towards me with my father in tow. I knew I was in deep trouble!
‘I thought you would die,’ my friend cried. ‘I just had to go for help.’
As you can imagine, I was ‘grounded’ for quite some time. The experience taught me many things, but I guess the most important of all was to plan things more carefully.Much more carefully. But never give up!