Presteigne, Wales

“This would be a fantastic place to dispose of a body” says my colleague casually as we blast through the hedgerows dissecting the farmland stretching for miles around. Taking the thru-roads, keeping the speedo of the hired Fiat Panda as high as deemed safe, our headlights guide the way into The Knighton Hotel car park. Work has brought us from Glasgow, via Birmingham Airport, into the Welsh countryside of Powys; a week straddling the bordering villages of Knighton and Presteigne.

Taking a wander along the high street, local haunts become immediately apparent. I envisage the village drunkard restlessly queuing at Chando’s Kebab and Burger House after a heavy session down the George and Dragon, I picture old Biddy’s window-licking the Antiques and Bookstores that occupy every third doorway, I hear the clanking of the milk cart as it rumbles over the cobbles, dishing out full-fat produce straight off the farm. If you’re expecting a postcard of this vista however, forget it. Apparently the tourist information doesn’t deem it economically viable to sell them, knowing fine well that not even a One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest patient would come here holidaymaking.

The stroll takes my feet past a clock tower; traditional red telephone box at the base. I reach a run-down building – half-home, half-community centre – where in the weeded car park stand the most peculiar selection of items. There’s a ten feet high model rocket, a giant spatula large enough to walk under, a battered orange and blue Nissan, and a shark car; fin on the roof, teeth replacing the front grill, and nostrils painted on the bonnet – a creature from the deep that’s surfaced to prowl the hills and valleys.

My colleague is now on his third annual visit to this neck of the woods and suggests the Horse and Jockey for dinner. We enter the quirky but traditional village pub, greeted by a barman who, from dialect alone, can be placed as being born and bred in the West Country. “There are a Scotsman, an Englishman, and a Welshman…” he starts, as I await the punch-line of an awful regionally-tampered joke. Thankfully however the sentence merely concludes with: “…quite an international crowd we have in this evening!”

We take a seat near the English and Welsh gents who are quietly sipping pints, and over a hearty pub-grub discuss the absurdity of how a Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing can simply just disappear. My suggestion that an alien invasion could be the answer to this mystery is shot down just as quickly as my initial prophecy that the plane is now stranded in Purgatory in a re-enactment of the television series Lost. As the news headlines containing slightly more plausible explanations roll across the screen, two English lads come over and spark up a conversation. Ed works with autistic kids in a nearby village whilst Brian is a simple-minded farmer through and through. Or, as his mate so poetically puts it: “he lets chicken’s shit on his head for eight hours a day”.

“Are you a vegetarian?” Ed queries as I set about my starter.

“It’s only a melon platter; the chicken main course is to follow”

“Why are you having a desert before the main course?” he frowns.

I’m just about to point out his flawed statement when Brian exclaims: “Two courses! I’ve had to save up for a month just to afford these enchiladas.”

After finding out the purpose of our visit they then start trying to charge pints to our client’s tab. Their ruse that we are partaking in an international networking conference doesn’t fool the barman however; the fact that our client doesn’t even run a bar tab further damaging their cause.

I sit in my Jacuzzi the following evening, no urge to see what’s beyond the war memorial dominating the view from Room 14’s second floor window. Room 15’s phone keeps ringing, and Room 12 clearly has a taste for techno music. Thinking back to the elderly couples orbiting us at dinner I struggle to place who may be staying there. Room 13 doesn’t exist; bad luck of course…

Book in hand I drift away from its pages and fantasize about opening up a dental practice. Nobody in this part of the world seems to have a full set of teeth and there appears to be not only gaping holes in these residents’ mouths, but a gaping hole in the market for any gunning ‘tootheologist’. Maybe it’s the addiction to home baking that has led to this denture loss; or perhaps it’s the sky-high market prices causing a deficiency in vitamin B. Earlier in the day my colleague returned from Presteigne with 3 bananas, his wallet £1.44 lighter for the trouble.

Tomorrow Presteigne St Andrews U18s play Hereford United U18s. I think I’ll just run another bath…


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