|Photo Jane Elizabeth|
It was Saturday evening and the pub's restaurant were getting ready for a busy service. In the lounge bar, at the table next to us five ladies of a certain age enjoyed a pre-dinner drink while they studied the menus. They were dressed smartly and their combined perfume gently suffused their corner of room. They didn't speak to each other much - perhaps the evening was still young, perhaps our presence was inhibiting. I wondered where their husbands were. The barmaid took their order: the popular choice was a steak, well-done, not cheap at £14.50. "No, no peas with it" said one, firmly, affronted at the suggestion.
The other side of us sat a family : parents, daughter-plus-boyfriend, younger sister, granny. The boyfriend was making an effort: sitting up straight, hair and green t-shirt both well clean, Earring, yes, but a discreet one. Bracelets, yes, both wrists, but not too many; Necklaces? Yes, three, but including a crucifix so not too menacing. He sipped his beer and listened carefully laughing in the right places. I concluded that the pair hadn't been going out very long. The barmaid took their order, the popular choice was a steak, well done 'does it come with french fries ?'
In the next bar a group of men watched Leinster v Munster on S4C. with the commentary in English. They were drinking cold Guiness and lager.
And then there was us - three egregious English Mountain Bikers with wild stories of how fast we had descended White's Level* and hitching up our trouser-legs to compare cuts and bruises. For where there were once mines and freight railways in the Afan Valley, there is now the Afan Forest Mountain bike centre, with 100km of purpose built, hair-raising single-track bike trails which draw mountain bikers from all over the country, alien lycra-clad beings in the valley communities. The barmaid came and took our order: The popular choice was three more pints of bitter.
We cycled 70 miles in three days, back-breaking climbs and tingling descents. In the evenings we cooked for ourselves and at lunchtimes we had vast and welcome portions of carbohydrate based meals at the Afan Mountain Bike centre. I punctured twice and broke a valve once We got soaked to the skin and covered from head to toe in mud. We had an excellent time.
We were there from Friday to Sunday and between us we probably spent £500 in Cymer. I wonder if that is enough to keep the village afloat.
*not quite this fast