I send you sage and rosmary
from the old tramline,
wild garlic from the banks of the river
and bay leaves, sacred at full moon
from craig y dinas

and despite westerly winds
and driving rain,
each finger of my hand
stretches through this screen,
wrapped in welcome
to greet you, Rebecca,
in offer of Sunday lunch.

Hi Rebecca Carl, 50 yr old poet is inviting you to Sunday lunch--I live with 16 yr old son and 83 yr old mother--who is traditional welsh mum. And by the way cooks a Sunday lunch to perfection. I'm living on edge of the brecon beacons national park in the small town of glynneath. Hope we can accommodate you.
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I look very much forward to the visit in Huw’s House, because his invitation written as a poem was so lovely. Huw lives with his mother in Glynneath, a small but pretty town on the edge of the Breacon Beacons. It is ten o’clock; Huw and his mother are standing at the door and welcome me cordially. They are so kind and in a way ‘cute’. I know already that I won’t forget this day.

Huw is 50 years old and lives together with his 83 years old mother. He has three children: Two daughters and a son, who moved out a week ago. Huw hopes that he will come today, but I think the Sixteen-years-old will enjoy his new freedom and is not necessarily interested in the weekly highlight.

We are drinking tea and talking as suddenly Huw’s mum puts different old-fashioned pink household aprons made of nylon on the table and thinks I need one of these. I say: “That is meant very nice, but I do not need an apron because I won’t cook.” But she doesn’t relent: “Are you sure? You do not want to wear a pinny?” – “Spare her blushes!” Huw answers and kindly rescues me.

The joint of lamb is already preserved in red wine and herbs and needs now his time in the oven. Huw and his mum are starting to prepare the vegetables. They laugh, joke and tell stories. The way they are standing side by side: one could think they are a couple rather than mother and son. Huw is the calmer of both and when she starts to tell stories he mostly disappears. Like this time too.

Huw’s mother tells about the house, the neighbours, and the plates on the wall and suddenly I notice that Huw has gone. I find him in the living room where he smokes a cigarette. He tells me about his daughters, his work as a poet and his girlfriend who lives in America. At this moment Huw’s mother comes in and teases him: “Which one do you mean then? Why must your girlfriends always live in America? I don’t understand this. There are nice girls in Wales too.” She sits down on the sofa and takes a breather for a while.

The vegetables are prepared and ready to cook, now only the lamb must still roast for a while. However, with this subject it comes to an argument between Huw and his mother. He sees that the oven stands on level six and means it is too high, however, his mother says she knows exactly what she is doing. He turns the oven a level down, she turns it up again, he surrenders and asks me: “Do you want to see a little bit of Glynneath? Sundays, rugby is played on the sports field.” After a short walk, a chat with two friends of him, we meet on the way to the sports field, which is not used today because of flood, we finally end up in his local pub.

Well, what should a man do in his situation on a Sunday shortly before lunch? He is not allowed to help with the cooking, rugby isn’t on TV today and on the sports field is also nothing happening. So he goes to mates in the pub. A nice cool pint and Huw is satisfied again.

We cannot remain for long, because I do not want to miss how Huw’s mum gets the lamb off the oven. When we arrive at home, I am already impatiently expected by Moyra, a relative of Huw. She often comes around for Sunday lunch and likes to exchange the newest gossip. She welcomes me friendly and of course she carries proudly one of the pink-coloured aprons I have disdained. She has 100 questions and before I can answer, she is asking already the next one. She is very much interested and open-minded.

Finally the roast lamb gets out of the oven. It smells fantastic and has a marvellously brown colour. While Huw is allowed to stir the gravy, his mother carves the meat. Moyra is present of course and says: “A lovely piece of meat, don’t you think Rebecca? A lovely piece!”

Huw serves the vegetables directly on the plates and Moyra already sits at the table and swipes the meat of her plate. I can not wait to tuck into this Sunday lunch and finally we all sit down and start to eat. The gravy stands in a jug on the table and everybody can take some. The lamb is very delicate and even a star chef could not have cooked it better. The gravy with a twist of red wine rounds the taste very well.

I have known already that Huw does not like typical British peas. So I have brought a tin of small fine peas from ‘Lidl’ and have prepared them in a German way – with butter, onions, pepper and salt. Huw isn’t sure, but after he has tried them, he cannot resist the ‘peas of German kind’. The vegetables: broccoli-cabbage mash, carrots and green beans are fantastic. Besides, I notice that there is this time neither roast potatoes nor roast parsnips. The mashed potatoes taste very well and it is such a lot of meat and vegetables that I almost burst after I have eaten my second plate. Yes, my second plate, I like the food so much that I went, to surprise of the others, with my plate in the kitchen and got myself even more to eat.

A lovely cheese cake is the dessert but unfortunately, I am so full that I eat only a small piece of it. I must say, the cooking has lasted several hours; however, we have devoured the food during minutes. A compliment to the cook!

After lunch we remain for a while at the table whilst Huw is washing off the dishes. His mother and Moyra talk so intensely that there isn’t anymore space for me and I go with Huw in the living room to relax. From the dining room we hear the both talking and they have a lot of fun. After a while Huw prepares another tea for us and then it is already time for me to drive home.

It was miraculous Sunday which I certainly won’t forget. But there will be another special day with Huw’s mum, because I will take her for a trip to Portmeirion this summer as she has never been there.


The guest

A leg of Welsh mountain lamb
that earlier in the week
had danced on green slopes,
where gorse had tested
her thickness of fat,
the steep slopes her elegant feet
and the sheep dog her courage,

now an oven guest
for a traditional Welsh Sunday lunch,
red wine intoxicates her,
fragrant herbs sweeten her,
not just an elaboration of carbon,
a feral, boreal, european
she is alive with fire.

(Huw Knoyle, 2006)


The visit

Sunday morning at 10 am
you step in tentatively past the door,
like dipping toes in the sea,
yet with the power of the waves.

Through the sun tinted kitchen window,
your Saxon hair reflected country blue,
the carrots and the potatoes
being prepared for the pot,
before the Welsh mountain lamb
lovingly cooked in the oven
is checked to see
if it is yet oozing clear juices.

After dinner
we talk of wine, America
and your pending trip to china
with your mother.

It's early winter,
outside the sun climbs its field of sky
and all the while your fingers
tease the camera button with skill,
captivating our character
in moments of frozen time
and Rebecca
with that same skill and character,
at this house
you can open the front door anytime
where there is always
bread on the table for you.

(Huw Knoyle, 2006)


.listen to parts of the conversation between Huw's family - click here