Monday

Time and Toasted Sandwiches

Florida, France, Wales: too much travelling in too short a time and I missed updating the hungry writer last week, the first time ever since I started the blog 20 months ago. I thought I’d be angry and disappointed with myself but looking at my diary for last week I’ve decided to be understanding instead. 

Researching for Real Port Talbot has taken over my life. I should have listened to advice and asked for two years. Another Real author spent three years on his. I agreed to deliver mine in 15months. Aaaarrghhhh! Last week saw me…


Behind Sgwd Gwladys, near Pontneddfechan
… visiting an Infants School, speaking with a residents’ association, interviewing the leader of the local council, rummaging through a library’s local history section, attending a community protest meeting, tracking down an old watermill, climbing behind a waterfall, photographing wooden Japanese sculptures, visiting a closed nightclub, walking a trail commemorating the life of Richard Burton, taking a guided tour of the steelworks, looking for a composer’s memorial plaque, searching for a local hero’s grave, tramping through nettles and blackberry bushes for a clearer view of gates and rubble…

And I loved every minute of it. Yes, it’s a lot of research. And a lot of writing. But to feel places breaking open their stories for me as I dig deeper is a wonderful feeling. I want to do my best for the town and its people in sharing these stories with them and the wider world.

I did of course have time to eat. 


And this was one of the best toasted sandwiches I’ve had in a long time: the cheese like a melting fondue, the onions cooked through but retaining their bite. But the best thing about this sandwich was the outside of the bread: it had been lightly buttered beforehand so it had that sweet, toasted flavour that I remember from those stove-top single toastie makers from the 1960s. Do you remember them? This is the nearest I could find on Google images:


And this is a contemporary version which I am tempted to buy. The ‘ears’ are a distraction: they do not, unfortunately, form part of the final sandwich. But you do get ‘Diablo’ branded onto your bread .

I suppose the bigger, multi-sandwich machines are more practical but I have an aversion to my kitchen counter being cluttered with electrical gadgets. I can put up with the microwave, kettle and toaster, but that’s about it. And I like the idea of just dropping this little devil into the washing up bowl after it’s delivered my toastie.

I remember making baked bean toasties with our 1960s version, can picture it propped over the burner on our beige New World gas stove with its eye-level grill. What happened to eye-level grills? If there’s one thing I dislike about modern cookers its grills inside the oven at thigh level, and grills that only work with the door closed. 

But back to the present and my best-in-a-long-time toasted sandwich from the cafĂ© at Bryn Bettws Lodge in the Afan Valley. The valley, in the mountains above Port Talbot, is now known nationally for its mountain biking and hiking trails par excellence and Bryn Bettws is one of a number of accommodation centres in the area. 

The trails range from easy to challenging to knuckle and butt-clenching but think about the toasted sandwiches when feel yourself weakening and you’ll discover the will to continue.

Hungry Writing Prompts
Write about being disappointed with yourself.
Write about time running out.
Write about doing your best.
Write about a gadget that you like.
Write about weakness and strength.