1) CHILLY SURPRISE
As in the rest of the country, the snow just before Christmas came as a surprise. It has always been my ambition to get stuck in a pub during a snowstorm, but as my local is only one hundred yards from my house, I feared the excuse would not hold much water.
Unfortunately, the losers were local hotels and businesses. Treacherous roads, combined with an electricity failure for most of Sunday, meant a very quiet day, when normally the Sunday before Christmas can be very busy.
As always, however, the valley looked beautiful and, as they always do in the snow, people lost their insularity and talked and joked with one another in the middle of what is quite a novelty in this part of the World.
It didn't last long but certainly provided a touch of early Christmas.
2) AN INVALUABLE SERVICE
It is just over six months since Stan and Sylvia Smith rescued the Village Shop from closure or, more accurately re-opened it, combining the newsagents and many of the features of the butcher's - both shops having succumbed to the pressure of modern times.
They have set out, they say, to reinvent proper shopping. They are open seven days a week, twelve hours a day and always have a smile and a cheerful word to greet you.
Over their first half year they have provided an oasis, compared to the atmosphere in most supermarkets.
There is also within the Village Shop a big involvement in village life. Sylvia is a community councillor and member of the W.I. while Stan couples his enthusiastic support for the football team with playing a mean hand of crib for the Anchor.
I wonder if the couple realise what a service they have given to the village, especially the elderly, who otherwise face a journey to Chepstow or Monmouth. The couple have created far more than just a commercial enterprise - just look at the blackboard outside, where you can leave greetings or other messages and where Stan puts the football team results when they win and diplomaticaaly ignores them when they lose.
We wish them continued success for the future.
3) JUST POSE HERE
The camera roadsigns (to indicate speed traps) made quite an impression last week when a party of Japanese tourists were seen to park next to the sign to take their photographs of the Abbey.
4) PUB CHALLENGE
Many country pubs make a feature of their garden, not least the Rose and Crown. Normally to visit pub gardens you have to brave the often inclement weather. This one can be viewed in its entirety through the glass door of the main bar and is even illuminated at night. Being just slightly bigger than a pool table, it's hardly labour intensive and is, says Dave Stafford the landlord, the ideal horticultural experience, even though it includes a lawn sweeping down to a pond teeming with fish, all nestling under steep majestic cliffs.
5) NEW PUB OWNERS
In a strange quirk of fate, history has repeated itself at the Moon and Sixpence, with its new owners being very much involved in the equestrian world, inevitably bringing back memories of the Flowers family and their long successful time at the pub.
Licensee Sue Gadsby is joined by husband, Derek, their children David and Victoria; Elaine, her partner Melvin and their children, James and Becky. All have an involvement with horses.
David is an agricultural mechanic, while Elaine has had success in training point to pointers. Melvyn and Elaine ride.
When you walk into the pub there is great camaraderie and cheerful atmosphere. As you would expect from a family with such involvement in outdoor pursuits, they are providing wholesome, homemade food. They seem to have injected a great ambience without losing the character of the pretty pub.
Fascinated by the history of the pub, Elaine told me the reason for the change in the pub's name (originally The Mason's Arms). Previous owners sank their life savings into it and, undoubtedly being aware of the Somerset Maughan novel, were reflecting on what they had done, when the wife looked into her purse and then the night sky and said "Well, all we've got now is the Moon and Sixpence".
6) FLOOD MISERY
The appalling weather meant a very wet and uncomfortable Christmas for many in the village.
We were affected in two ways, first by water pouring down off the cliffs and hills and then by the highest tide I can remember.
The water coming down affected mostly the houses at the Trellech Road end of the village.
Despite many thousands being spent on a flood prevention scheme for the Angiddy, debris blocked the culvert and a torrent of slurry and water swept down the road and through the Anchor Hotel. This is the eighth time this has happened to Alan Butt who saw his Mercedes car destroyed and such extensive damage to his commercial premises that all their Christmas trade was lost.
Part of the deal when the culvert went in was that it would be kept clear. With the well-forecast bad weather surely a watch should have been maintained on this?
On Christmas Eve came the river and what I felt was an appalling decision by the authorities. The immediate problem was the Trellech Road so they decided to build a wall of sand bags to divert the river coming down the road but to do so they removed them from the front of the houses on the promenade. This included my house where we were prearing for what we knew would be a huge tide. It was obvious we were going to have a major problem.
When I went outside to stack our sandbags against the door, I found, in common with the other properties that they had gone. When I went to the other end of the village to enquire what on earth was going on, I was told by the Police that they would return them in plenty of time. As the river was now on the road this didn't seem likely!
We ended up with two feet of water in the kitchen losing our fridge (with most of the ingredients for a Christmas lunch), carpets and furniture. Somewhat more seriously the neighbouring book and antique shops had severe stock damage.
The problem on Trellech Road had been known all day. The council yard was twelve miles away at Crick. Couldn't they have got some from there?
We were told there was not enough and yet on Christmas morning when all the flooding had finished, I found about thirty outside my front door, Cheers chaps!
7) QUIETLY FAMOUS
Tintern resident David Hurn keeps his light hidden securely under a bushel. David is an internationally known photographer who lives quietly in the village and is extremely modest about his achievements.
This month (Feb) he has a Millennium exhibition in Cardiff at the National Art Gallery featuring more than 250 examples of his work and entitled Land of my Fathers. Recently featured in an ITV documentary he came to fame in the 1960s with his dramatic pictures from the world's trouble spots. Among many other things he was also responsible for the stills featured on the Beatles film "A Hard Day's Night".
Tintern wishes him huge success in this major exhibition which runs until March 12.
The pub reopened on January 15 with a bang rather than a whimper! Many locals, delighted to see their popular haunt back in action, lent their support enthusiastically to the regret of most of us next morning.
Sunday saw hordes of visitors, many calling to express their best wishes, having followed the pub's misfortunes in the national press.
The first major function was to be a birthday celebration for local resident, Ralph Arnold. This fell on Burn's Night, yet another excuse for carousing around.
As a footnote, Percy the Peacock would like his many followers to know that he and Pansy survived the flood, watching the proceedings with interest from the roof. Their youngster is doing well and the family wish everyone a Happy New Year.
edited somewhat from Grantley James Diary. Thank you Grantley