Helicopter crash

The mountains behind the house are called the Rhinogs, and the biggest is the dome-shaped one called Moelfre, 549 metres high. Stand outside the kitchen window, look over the garage and you can’t miss it.

Sadly neither did a helicopter this week. Five people were killed when one crashed in the Rhinogs.

A major air and land search was launched yesterday after the aircraft vanished en route from Luton to Dublin.

Superintendent Gareth Evans of North Wales Police said the crash site was located today and the bodies of all five people on board had been found.

A mountain rescue team found the wreckage in the Rhinog mountains, between Trawsfynydd and Harlech.

Police have not revealed the exact location of the crash as the bodies have not been recovered from the “remote and hazardous” terrain.

It is very rough walking, and there are few safe paths through the mountains. The Roman Steps which start at Cwm Bychan is one. The steps will probably be closed today.


54 year old Alistair Aitchison is probably not the most popular person to pass through Harlech. He may be the owner of an opaque Gibraltar company which owns two of the most noticeable buildings in the town after the castle —  the old St David’s Hotel and the residential tower block for Coleg Harlech, the only skyscraper to be built in a National Park.

Both big buildings, next door to each other on the main A496, are derelict and very shabby.

A large luxury hotel built for visitors to the fashionable resort of Harlech and for golfers at the famed Royal St. David’s Golf links, allowed to slip into decay and degradation under the stewardship of a property company registered in Gibraltar.

Eight years after permission was granted to demolish the hotel, work still hasn’t started.

Parts of the roof have collapsed, windows are rotting and the site blights the town.

In 2009 the Snowdonia National Park Authority granted conditional planning permission for it to be torn down and replaced with a 130-bedroom hotel with 76 holiday apartments — but the developer did not proceed with the project.

Then in 2014 a further application was approved and despite SNPA receiving assurances from the developer work would commence on the new development, nothing of any significance has happened, except for the partial construction of a bat tower.

Local councillor Caerwyn Roberts said the bat building had to be built before demolition can start, although even that has stalled.

He continued: “It is fast becoming a source of major concern for the people in Harlech.

The former Hall of Residence at Coleg Harlech

“The same owners also own the former Hall of Residence site, the tower block, and that is also empty.

“Between them they are holding Harlech back, we’re not happy and we find ourselves very limited in what we can do.”

Aitchison Associates may be registered in Gibraltar, but Alistair Aitchison’s address is Buckingham House, Myrtle Lane, Billingshurst, West Sussex, RH14 9SG.

The Study

My old desktop

My old desktop

Flushed with success at releathering an old desk in London, I set my sights on a bigger project. Not just a desk but my whole study, the throbbing nerve centre of fotoLibra in North West Wales. My desk had been looking a little tired for years and I hadn’t really noticed; much like the growth of extremism, it just crept up on me. Remove the pile of papers and this is what I saw.

But after I’d done the releathering in London, I saw my Harlech study with new eyes. The desk has admittedly seen better days, but then so had the whole room. Frankly, it had become a tip, and we hadn’t even noticed. So a decision was made — redecorate!

The walls are now in Dulux Parchment, the skirting boards are in Little Green’s latest hue Urban and the rest of the woodwork is in Wilko’s Moonlight White Satin. Von has cleverly recycled curtains from Stortford and they fit perfectly.

And look at wot I done to my desk! This is a significant feat of releathering, and it doesn’t come cheap. It’s a nice piece of schmutter, as we say in Harlech. I hope and pray our summer pobl respect it and treat it well, and not use it as a cutting board for infantile projects. If they do, it’ll cost them £300 to replace it.

The releathered desk in the redecorated study

The releathered desk in the redecorated study

Fuse Boxes

It sort of came to a head last year when a visitor to Murmur-y-Don rang to say the upstairs lights had fused.

“No problem!” I chortled merrily. “The fuse box is under the stairs and all you have to do is locate the holder for the broken fuse, pull it out of its bakelite range of sockets, find a card with 5 amp fuse wire on it, cut off a length — 2 or 3 inches will do — unscrew the screws holding the broken fuse in place, thread the replacement fuse wire through the ceramic tube and … hello? Hello?”

Our splendid fusebox

Our splendid fusebox

“He hung up on me,” I reported to Yvonne. “I’m not bloody surprised,” she replied with asperity. “Your great-grandmother contracted Joseph Swan to install that fuse box back in 1897. Isn’t it time you trundled into the twenty-first century?”

Did you know you don’t have to do the thing with the wire-cutting any more? The EU has introduced us to an object called a Consumer Unit, a damn fool name for a fuse box but a fuse box nonetheless. This is a work of genius. We’ve bought two of them. As I write we haven’t got any power in the green room, the yellow room, the landing, the hall or the study, but that’s not the point. Look at these wonderful shiny white objects, with lots and lots of switches. Every man’s dream. When it’s all connected up, as Gary the Sparks has been promising for three days, we will have electric power in all the places we had electric power before.

The garish upgrade

The garish upgrade

And when a fuse blows, all we will have to do is flip a switch, I think.

We’ve kept the Bakelite breakers because once Brexit is implemented it’s my belief we will be compelled to reinstate them. And we’ve got the Whitworth screws to mount them with, instead of those filthy foreign Metric ones. Floreat Britannia and all that. Flipping a switch to change a fuse will be left to those effete, jejune, epicene European devils, not man enough to wrestle in the dark with pointy bits of wire. Hmmph!