Rains and ruins: A visit to Tintern Abbey

One morning in early July of 2009, I was contemplating ways and means to avoid thinking and writing out my dissertation, a dissertation which would culminate a year’s worth of stay and study in London. It was a year in which I studied a bit and travelled a bit (though not necessarily in that order). So when I received a mail about a day trip to Wales for a very affordable sum from the travel club I was a member of, I immediately signed up for it. So desperate I was to escape my dissertation that I didn’t even look at the details of where we would be travelling to in Wales.

It was only when I got into the tour bus that I got to know that we were headed for Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle via Gloucester. Now while neither Chepstow not Gloucester sounded familiar, Tintern seemed very very familiar. Literarily familiar. English school book familiar. But I just couldn’t place it nor get it out of my head. Even the heavy rain, which followed us all the way to Tintern and beyond and back to London, couldn’t distract me from trying place Tintern Abbey. By the time we reached Gloucester, I could take the uncertainty no more and sent a text message to my brother back home in India, asking him why Tintern sounded so familiar.

His reply took a long time coming. The route to Tintern from Gloucester took us through the ancient and beautiful Forest of the Dean, where upon Tintern vanished from my mind to be replaced by Harry Potter ! Tintern returned to my thoughts only after we left the Forest and passed through some of the most beautiful villages imaginable.

Just as I noticed the signboard for Tintern, my cell phone beeped. It was a one word text message from my brother, which said “Wordsworth”. A single word was all that it took me to place Tintern in context.

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Travel Shot: A wedding in Wales

1 August 2009: Newly weds at a photo shoot at Chepstow Castle, Wales

One rainy and damp day in August 2009, I was at Chepstow Castle, Wales, walking around and delighting in its various nooks and crannies, when I came across a newly married couple having their photographs taken. During my year-long stay in London and my forays to other places in England and Wales, it never happened that I visited some historical place or park and came away without seeing a newly wed couple having a photo shoot there. When I first saw such a shoot, I thought it was a professional shoot for some bridal paraphernalia ! It was only later that I figured out that it was a tradition for newly married couples to have a photo shoot at a nearby historical site or park.

This couple at Chepstow Castle was oblivious to the rain and the muddy trails on the bride’s gown, as they laughed and giggled and posed for the camera. I waited for them to finish, so that I could pass through the door to the other side. While waiting, I couldn’t help noticing the different textures of stone, wood, metal and fabric , not to mention the fresh green of the grass in an otherwise almost monochromatic frame. Even though I felt like I was trespassing on the couple’s privacy, I could not resist taking a photograph.

As they finished, and the photographer beckoned me to come through, I heard the bride asking the photographer,

“Rhys, you’re sure the mud on my gown won’t show in the photos?”

“100% sure, darling. What’s Photoshop for?” replied the photographer.