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Lockdown Diaries - From Cafe to Carefree in Snowdonia

© Nicholas Livesey

The solitude of an empty Capel Curig has restored some much needed peace to the hectic life of landscape photographer and professional cafe grump Nick Livesey. He now spends his days gazing at the mountains instead of climbing them, and his nights playing a mean guitar. ​​​​​​As you'll see here, Nick has turned his attention to film making too.


In these strange and distressing times I am in the extremely fortunate position of being able to walk from my home into a glorious landscape. This short film is an introduction to my privileged and idyllic life here in Snowdonia:

In what has over the past eight years become a Mecca for walkers, climbers, cyclists, paddlers and general tourists, hoards of folk arrive, eat, drink and then leave, many of whom will be shocked and appalled wondering, "What is the problem with that soulless grim reaper behind the counter"?

The man in question is a pedantic old bugger and revels in every opportunity to correct the pronunciation of anyone bold enough to mention their epic conquests of Triffan, the Gleeders or Mole Sideboard. He rolls his bloodshot eyes at those asking for half-shot, vegan, oat milk, caramel lattes, branding them 'abominable metropolitan affectations' and whatever you do, never say "Can I get a Flat White", "Have you got avocado" or "A Sindbad's breakfast but hold the sausage" as the reply is likely to be "Hold your own sausage mate, you look like you've had plenty of practice"!

Behind the gruff exterior, however, he is isn't so bad and as the locals will tell you, he's quite cuddly really. He just wants to be left alone in peace to go on the hill and do his own thing. I am that man.

Moel Siabod from the 'front garden'  © Nicholas Livesey
Moel Siabod from the 'front garden'
© Nicholas Livesey

When talk of the possible closure of restaurants and a potential lockdown began to filter through I was filled with hope and excitement. At Capel Curig's Moel Siabod Cafe we were bracing ourselves for 'the season', an endless succession of bank holidays, tough, stress-filled shifts and lashings of rain on our days off. After 7 summers of it I wasn't sure I could take another without suffering a nervous breakdown so the prospect of a forced holiday where I could walk the mountains every day was extremely attractive.

Six weeks into lockdown, the reality hasn't quite matched up to the ideal. I have been confined to the immediate environs of home and have managed a naughty walk up Moel Siabod but have decided not to do it again in support of and to show solidarity with my many friends at the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation. I've been pondering on changing my name to 'Nicholas Caged'.

Joking aside, the truth is that although I am getting fatter by the minute, losing hill fitness and destroying my liver I have absolutely no complaints and could carry on like this indefinitely. I am one of the lucky ones. I am relishing the prolonged isolation and solitude I have craved for years and in confining myself to an arbitrary 4km radius of my home I am able to explore my local beat in a way that didn't occur to me when I was busy dashing all over the Snowdonia National Park bagging every peak in sight and exhausting the many ways up them.

The night sky in Capel  © Nicholas Livesey
The night sky in Capel
© Nicholas Livesey

Before lockdown my life was extremely busy; shifts in the cafe, writing books and articles, doing ML work and walking the hills in my spare time left me exhausted with frayed nerves and chronic anxiety. I was burning the candle at both ends and it was getting on my wick!

In this new life, this new normal, I have reacquainted myself with the guitar, I stay up late, facetime random people while drunk and call my mum once a week so she doesn't worry too much about me. My days are spent stravaiging the moorland behind my home, getting to know the livestock which which I share this farm and doing my favourite local round where I bump into local friends and the odd inquisitive ram that sends me heading for the nearest drystone wall. I've also been able to start making short films, a project which in the past I just haven't had the time or energy to pursue. I've even tried to capture the millions of stars which show themselves above my home.

It's idyllic and I don't want to change a thing. I don't want to go back. I do, however, feel a keen sense of guilt, knowing that many are not in such a fortunate position and those who love the mountains in particular. Those feelings of guilt have enhanced my ability to be mindful during fleeting moments and practice gratitude for the privilege that is to live in a place that holds my heart and protects me from the horrors of the 'real' world.

Please don't make me go 'back'. If I must then I will, but if you happen to find yourself at the counter of Caffi Siabod when all this is over and I my customer service is found to be lacking, please don't take it personally, it's just that my mind will be elsewhere.

www.nickliveseymountainimages.com


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