A famous Maori proverb asks: what is the most important thing in the world? The response is He Tangata: It is people, it is people, it is people. What has been the most important part of our first three weeks in the British Isles? He Tangata.
We’ve just enjoyed a beautiful week in western Wales, discovering what I’m convinced must be some of the most beautiful beaches in the British Isles. A visitor humorously suggested to me that if “Llangrannog were in Cornwall it would be ruined by visitors, but as it’s such a pain in the neck to get to its beauty is unspoilt”. But despite the beauty of this rugged stretch of coastline it’s not merely the environment that we’re in that’s made it so wonderful. It’s the people that we’ve shared it with.
We’ve been staying with old friends of Pete’s. The kind of friends you don’t see for years and they welcome you like a sibling. The kind of friends who give up their beds to make you comfortable and share their treasured family holiday like you would a day at the park. A humbling welcome to follow an already special time with our families up north.
To add to the rich fabric of experience over this six-month trip, Pete got in touch with his old dear friend from university days, who invited us to his family haven in a remote corner of Cardigan Bay. It’s a place where locals speak Welsh and the community policeman is also the part time fisherman, surveyor of all lobster pots on the coastline, and eyes and ears from his picnic table on the beachfront. Llangrannog is not only a beautiful place but it’s a rugged stretch of coastline that lives up to its legends of dragons fighting with giants, leaving flyaway teeth (or probably a geological stone stack) to mark the shoreline.
Pete’s friend Tom comes to this mythical place a couple of times a year. Never enough he says. And on one of those trips he hosts a 4km sea swim to raise funds for the Great Ormond Hospital in London and the Wales Air Ambulance Service. When he realised that we’d be in the UK for the summer, he included Pete in this year’s group of hardy swimmers. Pete came in second today, but most importantly all 15 swimmers came into the bay safely and raised over 500 pounds for charity. Doing something like this means so much more than a beautiful week away. It was a personal challenge for Pete and a rewarding experience to support people we may never know, and to enjoy the people we do.