This is Bryn Mawr, a "Gentleman's Residence" to the much grander Plas Tan y Bwlch, down the road. Built in 1843 by the Oakley family, massive mine and land owners in the area of Maentwrog, North Wales.
We stayed for two holidays with the redoubtable Mrs. Roberts in the village of Maentwrog, a charming old lady we found by chance, the first time we just took off for a holiday to Wales. My Dad never booked a holiday because he never knew when his work would thin out enough for us to go away. So he'd come in one lunchtime and tell my Mum to pack....we'd be leaving that evening and driving overnight to Wales. He fancied Wales. We went up via Lake Vyrnwy and Bala and ended up going past the then new Trawsfynnydd Nuclear Power Station to Maentwrog.
Mrs. Roberts fed us like royalty, put us in feather beds and assumed we would be going to church (chapel!) on Sunday. Only time we ever went to a normal service in our lives. Mum had to borrow a hat, which she never usually wore. The thundering bloke up front (what do they call Welsh chapel vicars?) gabbled on for what seemed like hours in Welsh and no doubt had a good dig at the English while we were there. The following year we were told with near apoplectic apologies that she was full for the week and all she could suggest was a "nice Liverpudlian family who planned on opening Bryn Mawr as a B&B having just bought it in a bit of a state." We left Mrs. Roberts to her guests and chapel and found an imposing Victorian pile up a steep entrance drive. Dad pulled the Westminster round in a lazy arc and almost immediately a shiny sleek Red Setter bounded round us and peed on every wheel. This, we would come to discover would be a ritual he never forgot, every time we stayed. Some years we went up three times a year. Sometimes just once. In those days you just went away with a cursory call to the school or maybe a note if you had time. We never did and, of course, I never missed a thing, such was the snail pace at which anything happened at Romford tech. And anyway, if they wanted professional PA equipment for their damned sports days, they'd button it and wish me a nice holiday.
On fussing Rex the Red Setter sufficient to allow access, we were welcomed by George Brake and his wife, who explained that we could stay in the one room available if we didn't mind the smell of paint. So captivated were we by the house, the dogs (don't forget Pepe the untrimmed poodle who never moved from the threshold when people appeared) and the Brakes, that we agreed to anything he asked.
In fact, over the length of that holiday we helped paint three rooms, which Dad then plumbed safely, as he did the kitchen. He then found that the Lister Autostart generator needed a good going over, so he fixed that, mechanically and electrically. All this and we still got a holiday. When we left, George refused to take a penny. Subsequently, we stayed another 12 times, always working on the house in some way and always never being charged. Only on the final occasion did we actually pay as the Brakes had decided it was all a bit much and they'd had their daughter's wedding to pay for and were regretfully moving on.
As soon as we realised we would be unlikely to stay again, we missed it. Because of the weather that last year, my Dad refused ever to go again to Wales! We went once as a family when I now had kids the same age I was then. I couldn't even get up the drive as they'd fitted gates and they were locked. I couldn't do more than show my family old cine we'd took of our holidays there. Of Dad's constant efforts to take a picture of the place, but he could never get a view from a distance, unlike now. Apparently the grounds lost 450 mature oaks in a storm of 2013.
Long before that, "MY" house had been bought by that effete, fat, stargazing mincer, Russell Grant. I was told that by the manager of the Oakley Arms in the village when I decided to ring him off the cuff one day. I emailed Grant, but of course, someone like him would never answer. Now he's trying to flog it, or maybe he has. Had to drop the price too. Apparently the daft sod spent half a mil on a bloody kitchen! Chances are he don't even cook! The Lister Autostart must have gone too.
We always started the day by running round switching lights on until the familiar wheezing noises resulted in a pulsing light and dim effect until it all smoothed out to a rythmic chugging. At night, the last light switch would have it slowing down to a final wheeze and all would be calm.
Who owns it now I neither know nor care. They will NEVER appreciate Bryn Mawr like we did. They simply wouldn't have the ability or reasons to love it as much. They will have shelled out 1.25 million for it, with everything sorted, done and dusted. George paid about 4000 for it back then and had all the fun of simply making it work, with our help. Alison's Welsh fiance told us where to find the best beaches (Borth y Gest) and how to get into Portmeirion for nothing down the side of Bertrand Russell's house or round the headland from Boston Lodge. We took the Festiniog Railway from Bryn Mawr's own halt, took Rex up the hill for walks or over on the river for a swim.
It will always be MY HOUSE. And bollocks to Russell Grant and his kind.