Alyn W. Ashworth
Outside Interests

My Scimitar GTC Cars I know, I know - everyone's interested in cars, well, every bloke at least. Or maybe not? Anyway, I've put this interest first as I've been messing about with cars since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. After a 1963 minivan (no heater, even) and a 1953 Ford Prefect, I got the use of my Dad's Ford Classic for a couple of years, and had to completely rebuild the engine working from the Ford manual and absolutely NO background experience and help - interesting!

While a student, I acquired the first of my Plastic cars (well, fibreglass) - a Tornado Typhoon, supposedly based on a 1939 Ford Pop, but only the back axle and rod brakes were original - new body, tubular ladder chassis, Buckler gearbox, split front axle, but still no heater!

Then in later life, after toying with a TR4a, I alighted on a Reliant Scimitar Se5a, and I've driven Scimitars ever since - brilliant workhorses and the ideal useable classic. I currently have a rather rare GTC convertible (number 372 of 442 built), which I just love cruising around in.

I also have a little 2-seat Scimitar SS1 as a run-around and a 1983 Yamaha Virago 920 bike.

On the footplate of NGG16 Class Beyer-Garratt no. 143 (c) 2009 Frank Tweddle - thanks, Frank! Steam Well, I've been a steam locomotive fan for longer than I care to remember, cycling round the country from loco shed to loco shed, staying in youth hostels with my mate Ian 'Fanny' Fleming (no relation! - and are you out there anywhere, Ian?)

However, having moved to Wales, I've recently had the chance to get up close and personal to some of the most historic and impressive locos that are still running. I've spent one day a week over the last few years helping out on the Welsh Highland Railway, based in Caernarfon, and have now risen to the dizzying heights of fireman.

It's impossible to descibe the experience of being on the footplate of one of the Beyer-Garratt articulated locos - 60+ tons of raw energy, and the most powerful narrow-gauge locos ever built (and in Manchester, of course!).

Plus there's the superb scenery that includes the Aberglaslyn Pass (voted the most beautiful spot in the UK by the National Trust) and views of the Snowdonia National Park as we snake up and down the incredible gradients through the foothills of Snowdon itself. Even the rain has a poetic feel to it up there, and when the sun comes out it's simply stunning.

If you've never experienced it, then I guarantee it's a day out you'll never forget.

Hen Wlad Welsh I bought my first Welsh Dictionary when aged 11 and camping with the Boy Scounts in Nantmor near Beddgelert, and the interest has lurked somewhere at the back of my conciousness ever since. So it seemed the natural thing to do to start learning Welsh as soon as I moved over to live near Denbigh. Two reasons, I suppose.

First of all, just plain courtesy - if I'd moved to Greece I'd have learnt Greek, or if to Portugal, then Portugese, so to learn Welsh seemed an obvious, polite thing to do in return for being allowed to live in the beautiful Vale of Clwyd.

And to live in a country without making as least some small attempt to speak the language is not to really live there at all, but merely to be a lodger, and I can fully appreciate the temptation to set fire to the houses of those incomers who, like Edward I, believe that their home is their Castle, and sod the locals.

Secondly, as an intellectual challenge - everyone tells me that Welsh is a dificult language to learn (there's an easy one, is there?), and I love a challenge. But learning Welsh has been a wonderful experience in so many ways - I've made more, and better, friends than I could ever hope for - both Welsh and English (and even a New Zealander).

Not only that, but it has opened the way to so much else that I've found fascinating about Wales and its people. Thanks especially, of course, to my Welsh tutor Mair, who has been so encouraging and such a wonderful friend. I suspect I'll never get to be as fluent as I (or she) would wish, but I shall stick at it.

PC Bloody Computers I suppose it would be surprizing if, after working with computers for around 40 years, I hadn't developed some small interest in them. But "small" is the critical term in the previous sentence. I feel as if computers are at a corresponding stage in development to that of cars at the end of the 19th century - still needing a specialist professional mechanic/driver, with the controls on every model arranged differently, and with lots of new ideas, good and bad. How long we'll wait for computers to be distinguished more by styling than performance I have no idea - but it must come in time, I suppose.

Back in the pre-IBM-PC days, a trip round a computer fair was a whirlwind of contrasting and contradictory ideas, with every model so different and with such a terrific driving force for the development of improvements (real or illusory). The advent of a "standard" home computer has been a double-edged sword, and the battle is still raging to see how it cuts the mustard (and the prize for using inappropriate mixed mataphors goes to......)

A trip forward in time by about 50 years would be a real interest for me - but, alas, one I'm unlikely to achieve.

Music Music I blame my Dad. If the pub had a piano, he never had to pay for a pint. He could play anything - he'd sit and watch Top Of The Pops (he loved the "Strolling Groans" as he always called them), and then get on the piano and play all the latest stuff in the style of Fats Waller.

Apparently my parents had decided not to force me into having piano lessons, and were taken aback when aged about 9 I asked somewhat agrievedly "When am I going to learn to play the piano?" Off I went to Mrs Mallalieu the very next week - and although I can't remember her really, I have also to thank her for the start of my love affair with Wales - so taken was she with my playing that she let us stay in her caravan at the Gorse Hill caravan park in Caernarfon (Carnarvon then, of course!) at a reduced rate that we could just about afford.

But I couldn't possibly descibe my interest in Music in a few paragraphs. I still play the piano, of course, but my musical taste has developed so many branches, from classic Indian Ragas through to Bryn Terfel at the Gwyl Faenol noson Tan y Ddraig. Not to mention The Strolling Groans.

Table I turned Wood Woodwork classes in school were a great basis for a practical approach to life. And a lesson in perseverence - given a quarter sheet of sandpaper and being expected to use it till it was shinier than the wood it was smoothing developed thrift, persistence and muscles - all necessary in our trip through life!

Building my own Electric Guitar also expanded my musical horizons, of course, and taught me so much more about wood than the "standard" fare of stools and coffee tables. And since then I've always enjoyed using timber - even to the extent of making from scratch the doors, windows and roof of the conservatory I built many years later.

And then, about 20 years ago, I went on a whim to a wood-turning class, and that opened up a whole new world once again, which I hope to see a revival of once I can get my lathe set up again - pressure of space prevents that just now!

Hmmmmm - that must be enough "interests", surely. Although I haven't mentioned the most important one - life, and living it!