The main road from the North to the South led past Dolgellau through the deep gorge of Bwlch yr Oerddrws and straight through western Montgomeryshire into Radnorshire. For its whole length it was four lanes wide with a ribbon of greenery all along its central reservation. The fast traffic went along the two middle lanes, though even there they were allowed to go no faster than sixty miles per hour. Even so, the engines were limited to go no faster than that. Slower traffic went in the two outer lanes.
“It’s ridiculous that you’re not allowed to go for it and do 120 miles and hour down an excellent road like this,” I said to Mair.
“What for?” said Mair. “You can keep a steady sixty miles an hour all the way from Holyhead down to Cardiff, and you’ll do the whole journey in three and a half hours. If that’s too slow for you, you can catch a plane. But all your talking is distracting me, Ifan. This road is radiomagnetic, of course, and here I am steering the car when there’s no need to.”
Without stopping the car, Mair transferred control to the steering panel in front of her and the car carried on by itself. She sat in one of the comfortable chairs and put a cushion under her head.
All around us, the countryside was green and showed everywhere the results of being carefully farmed. We went past tidy villages and small white factories, and I saw nothing which was an affront to the eyes. I was more determined than ever that I was going to stay here in this cheerful Wales, where there was so much Welsh spoken and so much purpose to life, and where Mair was.
From there to Cardiff, we topped just two more times. Mair stopped in the garage just outside Builth Wells to recharge the car. And she wanted me to pay a visit with her to the coal mine in Nantgarw.
The miners spoke English to one another, though many of them spoke Welsh with me. The too were cheerful and full of life, and it was obvious to me as I went through the mine that the Miners’ Committee and the Welsh Government had done everything possible to make the men’s work safer and more interesting. There was no more danger from the dust. The chemical revolution had removed silicosis from the list of dangers to life.
“Don’t you get bored of being in the pit from one year to the next?” I said to one of the miners.
“We don’t have the chance to get bored,” he said. “We all have cooperative farms in the countryside as well, and each of us goes to work on them for three months of the year.”
“For your health?”
“Yes, and to make a change. And for us and the agricultural community to understand each other better. We get a chance, you see, to see the whole of the Welsh economy that way.”
“Is it a cooperative society that owns this pit?”
“Yes, it is entirely now. Until a few years ago we were in partnership with the government. But when we were given the choice, we decided that we were ready to take the pit over in its entirety.”
“And it works?”
“Of course it works. There’s a bit of arguing between us and other pits sometimes, over prices and working arrangements, but the Coal Marketing Board, you see, meets regularly with our committee, and by and large they’re sensible people.”
“You have a community centre in the mine as well?”
“We have everything here; a library, games rooms, a theatre, a refectory, a rugby field – everything. And we have a chaplain and a doctor, and a medical officer and so on. There are hundreds of us here, you see.”
“You don’t need any home life, then?”
“Just try saying that to our wives!” And the men laughed. “No, the men here know what’s good for them. Most of us spend two or three evenings a week at home. And of course, there’re lots for our wives and children to do in the community centre here as well.”
“Do you ever go on strike here?”
“Strike against ourselves? We’re not fools, you know.”
I thanked the miners and went back towards the green buildings of the community centre to look for Mair.
This time, as I went back into the city, I had a chance to see the outskirts of Cardiff. Trees had been planted everywhere, between one street and another and even between one house and another. Yet Cardiff didn’t seem any bigger to me than it had done in my own time. I said that to Mair.
“No,” she said, “it’s not much bigger. About four hundred thousand people live here. The reason there aren’t more people and more houses here is that government policy is against having large towns and cities. Getting people out into the countryside,, away from the towns and the industrial valleys, that’s the intention throughout.”
“And the policy works, obviously.”
“Yes. Not by driving people away from the towns, but through attracting them into the countryside with light industry and good living conditions and making all the urban comforts available. And people are happy to go. Of course there are exceptions. Actresses like me, for example.”
“But your work is here.”
“Yes. But even so, I like the city, I can’t quite say why. And I get to travel all round the country, of course, with the Theatre. I’m lucky, I get the best of both worlds.”
We went comfortably along the smooth road through Cardiff’s suburbs. Almost every house in ever road was a different colour, from purple to saffron, and even the blocks of flats came in all the colours of the rainbow. The biggest blocks of all, of course, were made of gwybrin, and so invisible to all except those right up close to them. And there were trees everywhere. If I could have had things all my own way, I’d have lived in a light green house with Mair in one of these suburbs.