Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 17

In November 1968, Huw moved in with Gwyn, Janet and the girls and within days it was as if he had always lived there. It only took a couple of weeks for the honeymoon period to end before a more normal and realistic family life took over with Janet complaining to Huw about leaving his clothes and other things all over the house. Huw grinned at her and said they were learning what it was like to have a teenage son round the house. Janet took it in good part and said that was no problem, but if he wanted to be fed, his clothes washed and to be allowed out at weekends, he was not going the right way about it.

Haddie and Betsan didn't get tired of having a brother around but didn't understand that it was not appropriate for them to walk into the bathroom while he was in the bath or to walk into his bedroom without knocking on the door first. Gwyn fitted a bolt to the bathroom door which solved that problem, as the door had never had a key. The girls were made to understand that Huw's bedroom was off limits for them unless they knocked on the door and were invited in. He loved his five-year-old sisters, particularly reading bedtime stories to them or, as time went on, he made up stories which they liked even more. The household settled down to a regular routine.

Huw continued to do well at school although he still failed to establish any close friendships. The four boys who had attacked Gareth never returned to the school but Huw never knew whose decision that was. Few people knew the extent of the role Huw had played in changing the culture of the school so comprehensively but he settled down to studies, at least without the hostility he had experienced previously. Gareth and Huw kept in contact quite well, writing to one another once a week, supplementing letters with regular phone calls.

One morning in late February 1969, as Huw was coming down to breakfast, he heard the sound of the post coming through the letterbox and, on retrieving the letters, was pleased to see there was a one for him postmarked Caernarfon. Gareth's parents had invited him to come and stay for the Easter holidays, which in that year had fallen at the start of April, so Gareth was hoping the weather would be relatively kind to them.

He rushed into the dining room where the family had already started eating breakfast. "I've just had a letter from Gareth and his parents have invited me to stay over the Easter holidays. Is that all right with you?"

Gwyn smiled. "Funny you should say that; it looks as if I'll be able to give you a lift up there."

Huw was confused and asked, "Are you planning a holiday up there or something?"

"I was going to tell you this evening but I've got an interview for a new job as Head of Department at a school near Caernarfon the day before school breaks up. We'll all be going up on the Tuesday before Good Friday and my interview is on the Wednesday. You know that you mustn't say anything at school of course," explained Gwyn. "We will be staying with my brother in Bangor and now you will be staying just up the road in Caernarfon. You're lucky, you were either going to have to have a camp bed in with the girls or sleep on the sofa in the living room. I'm sure you'll be more comfortable with Gareth. We plan to stay for the whole two weeks so you need to check with Gareth's parents how long they are expecting you to stay, but you can always move across to Bangor."

Huw was delighted and could hardly contain his excitement. "OK, I'll ring them tonight and sort out how long they're prepared to put up with me." He paused for several seconds and said slowly, "I think I might take a bus down to Pwllheli with Gareth while I'm up there and try and see my Nain and Taid. I want to ask them why they cut their ties with mam and me after Mair and Dafydd died."

Gwyn frowned. "That could be very painful -- you even run the risk of them slamming the door in your face. Do you want to you risk it?"

"Well I have thought about it a lot and it couldn't be any more painful than it is now, where I just don't know why they did it. I did try asking mam several times but she wouldn't talk about it. She just told me that they wanted no further contact with our family," he said sadly.

"That reminds me," said Gwyn. "Do you want me to take you down to the hospital to see your mam before Easter?"

Huw grimaced and shook his head. "I call the hospital every couple of weeks as you know and they always tell me that there's no change. They are good in telling me what she has been doing and how they are treating her -- well, in a non-technical way. I can't face going down there and her not recognising me again. I just hope one day she'll start responding."

Janet's face was a picture of concern. "Oh Huw, I can't imagine what that feels like. I know I can never replace your mam, but you need to know that Gwyn and I love you and will be the best parents we can for you."

He smiled gratefully and carried on with his breakfast amidst Haddie and Betsan's usual non-stop chatter. He gathered up his breakfast things, wished the family a good day and left to cycle to school. He had chosen not to travel with Gwyn as he had decided that he did not want everybody knowing that he lived with one of the teachers at the school. That was a potential opportunity for people to get at him and he was still very cautious. Several of the pupils closer to him were aware of the situation but they had made no unkind comments. He was excited about making his phone call to Gareth that evening with the result that the day at school dragged on and on. As soon as the bell went, he rushed to pick up his bike and cycle home. Within seconds of arriving back home, he had picked up the phone to call Gareth. The phone was answered by his mother. "Hello Mrs Williams, it's Huw Jones here."

She interrupted him, "Huw. No more of this Mrs Williams nonsense, I told you to call me Beth. I'll get Gareth for you."

"No, wait a moment Mrs... er, Beth," he said quickly, "I wanted a word with you as well. First, I want to thank you for the invitation to come and spend Easter with you and I'd very much like to come. The thing is that we are all coming up to the area from a day or two before the end of term until the end of the holidays, so it is over two weeks. The Evans are staying with Gwyn's brother in Bangor so I will get a lift both ways. I needed to ask you how long you were expecting me to stay. It's not a problem because I can spend some of the time with the rest of the family in Bangor."

Beth laughed, "Huw, what do you think would happen to me if Gareth were to learn that we had said you could stay less than the whole time you're up. Our lives wouldn't be worth living! Of course you can stay here the whole time. I have one moody son who is likely to turn into a ray of sunshine once he learns your plans."

"Thank you so much, Beth. You're always really kind to me. I'm looking forward to seeing you and Mr W... David soon. We will be arriving late in the day on Tuesday, 2nd April if that's okay with you." He realised he ought not to say anything about the interview. "Gwyn has an important appointment locally on Wednesday morning so we are leaving before the end of term."

They chatted for a few moments briefly after that, then, Beth called Gareth to the phone. Huw brought him up to date with the news and Gareth was thrilled that they would have a longer time together than he had expected. They chatted together for half an hour making plans for how they would spend almost three weeks together the following month.

The remaining weeks of term passed quickly for him as all the teachers were increasing the amount of work for their GCE courses. With rugby matches most weekends and homework every evening, he didn't have much time to think about his plans for the Easter holidays.

The morning of 2nd April arrived. It necessitated an early start for the Evans household as they had a long journey to make. Haddie and Betsan were too young to remember their earlier visits to Wales but babbled excitedly about seeing their uncle and aunt in Bangor. Gwyn's Cortina car was groaning under the weight of the five people and the large amount of luggage that their long stay necessitated. Fortunately, Gwyn had a roof-rack so several of the cases were carried on the roof covered by a tarpaulin and held down with large quantities of rope.

Despite everyone's best intentions, they didn't leave until almost 10 am but it did mean that they missed the rush-hour traffic. Within an hour, the girls were clamouring for a toilet stop which established the pattern for the whole journey. It took almost four hours before they hit the Welsh border near Shrewsbury and then they travelled up the old traditional coaching route of the A5, pulling into Caernarfon at four o'clock.

David Williams had provided excellent directions so they went straight to the house and pulled into the drive. The house was a 1920's semi-detached property with a large bay window at the front and a well-tended garden. It was on the main road between Caernarfon and Bangor that ran parallel to the Menai Straits separating the island of Anglesey from the mainland. The view was quite spectacular.

Evidently, Gareth had been looking out for them as the front door flew open and Gareth ran out to the car. Huw jumped out and the two boys embraced warmly. Beth Williams came through the front door and she too gave Huw a welcoming hug while the rest of the Evans family got out of the car to stretch their legs. The girls continued the pattern they had established that day by immediately asking if they could use the toilet. The women took the girls inside while Gareth and Huw sorted out his suitcases. They brought his luggage into the house, with Gwyn following them in.

Gwyn and Janet accepted the obligatory cup of tea and sat down with Beth to talk about arrangements for the next two weeks. The two families agreed that they would spend Easter Saturday together at Bangor and Janet then gave Huw the mandatory parental instructions to behave himself and to do what Beth and David told him. Huw simply grinned at his foster parents and opened the front door for them to leave. Amidst laughter, the four members of the Evans family climbed back into the car to continue their journey the six miles to Bangor.

"Let me show you where you're going to sleep," said Gareth as he grabbed one of the suitcases and led the way upstairs. Huw followed on with his other suitcase and they walked into a bedroom.

"You're sharing with me," said Gareth, "Hope that's alright with you. We've hardly moved in yet and there are still loads of unopened boxes in the third bedroom but there's plenty of room here." He looked worried and said quickly, "If you'd prefer your own room, we could clear out some of the boxes and move the spare bed here into the other room."

"Here will be fine," said Huw. "I'd sleep in the garden shed if that's what it needed for us to spend time together. Anyway, we always shared a room in Reading and I used to get to sleep eventually from sheer exhaustion after a couple of hours of your snoring."

He was hit in the face by a well-aimed pillow thrown by Gareth. "I do NOT snore, you dirty liar!"

Huw laughed and threw the pillow back. "Well, maybe not but I definitely think you need more teasing. You have it too easy here."

Gareth showed him where he could put his clothes and helped him to unpack. The room was somewhat cramped as it contained two single beds, a wardrobe, two chests of drawers, two nightstands and a couple of chairs. "Why don't we push the beds together so we'll have room to walk round them," suggested Huw, "We'll just have to remember we can only get out the right side."

Gareth agreed and they rearranged the beds and nightstands, taking out one of the chairs which gave the lads much more space and made the room far less cramped. Furniture rearrangement completed, they decided to come down and see if there was any more of Beth's home-made cake and, of course, another cup of tea!

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