I succumbed at first sight. There are people like that; people who are universally appealing. Admittedly all of us a vulnerable to a certain combination of features. But it is usually an individual matter. Perhaps the shape of a nose, an eye colouring, even a gesture that evokes a childhood memory can trigger a feeling of affinity, a sudden warmth, a gladness that lifts the heart. Depending on the strength of the signal, and how closely it accords with our barely conscious inner picture, we ‘fall in love’, at least to a certain degree. They call it chemistry nowadays. But there are others who have a universal appeal, and they, my friends, are dangerous.
Before I describe her, and how and where we met, I will risk boring you with a bit of quasi-scientific speculation (it may help me rationalize my uncharacteristic behaviour.) It was on a television programme conducted by an ethologist that I found a clue. They are the people who specialize in animal behavior. This particular fellow was interested in instincts and demonstrated that they were innate and not learned.. He had ma cardboard cut-out of a bird. It had a large wingspan and was constructed so that it either had a long neck and a short tail vice versa. Releasing some day old chicks to run around he held the model so that it cast a shadow on the ground. The first shadow was made with the long piece forward. The chicks went blithely on their way. He reversed the cut-out, casting the shadow of a large bird with a short neck and a long tail, the chicks were panic stricken and dived for shelter or froze in their tracks. The ethologist explained that the first shadow had resembled that of a goose, the second, a large bird of prey.
He went on to explain how certain behaviours seem to be wired into the animal’s nervous system and then mischievously proceeded to claim that he could demonstrate that humans too should not think themselves completely immune in this respect. “Why do most people like kittens and puppies, or babies for that matter” asked. He showed by means of diagrams that a certain combination of features evoke a favourable response. Large eyes and a smallish nose seemed to be the key, and rounded rather than sharp features. Reduce the size of the eyes and sharpen the muzzle, show a row of pointed teeth and the effect is entirely different, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the makers of horror movies.

But I have dodged the real issue for too long, prevaricating to spare myself the pain of self-disclosure. Having made my excuses in advance I will tell you how I met a Welsh Patagonian.
It was in Argentina. I, an ex-hippie veteran of the Kathmandu trail bored seeker of enlightenment in the Ashrams, unfulfilled Zen Buddhist scouring Japan for a personal Roshi had found my- self in South America. At first it was Mexico, caught up in the legend of Carlos Casteneda and his tales of the Bruno, Don Juan.

As disillusionment set in with the kind but trenchant criticism of Richard De Mille I drifted South through Central America.
It is a fasc(?????) continent. First the Olmec, the ruins of a civilisation that preceded mine, then the Toltec who left one of the ancient world’s most impressive monuments, – the pyramids of Teotihuacan. After them the Mayans, one of the most significant civilizations of South America.
Enough said. I was sold. Drifting through South America, learning Spanish and Portuguese the hard way, I found myself in Argentina via Central America and Brazil. The Iguazd falls I found more impressive than Niagara, or even the Victoria Falls in my estimation. Sliding my way through the border, my tourist pass clutched in my hot little hand, I headed South.
Buenos Aires is a very modern city. It has hotels, nightlife, all the things that attract the corporate yuppie, but to an old hand iconoclast it was anathema. I had not come all this way to become a clone of the modern world.
I decided to continue South. I met her in Puerto Madryn, which was founded by Welsh colonists in 1865. I was staying at the El Antiguo, which was clean and had cooking facilities. Her name was Mefanwy Thomas and she was working in reception.
Of course in Spanish her surname was pronounced Tomds but the Mefanwy, being suitably multisyllabic for the Spanish language was recognisable. I found the whole concept fascinating, second generation Argentinian, whose grandparents were Celtic – surely this must provide anomalies galore. An Irish-Italian combination would be easier to understand for at least in that case the Celt and the Latin would be sharing the same religion, but I found it hard to reconcile the narrow protestantism of the Welsh chapel with the grandeur of the Church of Rome.
Mefanwy spoke a type of English. It, in itself, was totally beguiling. To the soft Spanish accent was added the lilt of Wales. When she found out that my name was Daffyd Rhys Williams and that my mother came from Caernarvon there was no stopping her. She adopted me there and then, finding me the best room and advising me of all the lurks and perks available.
She appointed herself hostess, nursemaid and guide. Nothing was too much trouble. After settling me in, loading me with tourist brochures and personally showing me the cooking facilities she volunteered to conduct me to the nearest restaurante which she assured me was ‘ muy barato’, ‘Berry Cheeepi’
From what I gathered from the torrent of Spanish she poured onto the head of the bemused proprietor, I was, if not exactly The Prince of Wales, at least of the nobility, and my house was the ’Castillo famoso de Caernarvon’. The restaurateur seemed suitably impressed, it was strange how even the most unlikely looking locals seemed familiar with things Welsh, and bowing and

scraping, fussed about getting me seated. Menus appeared, local delicacies were suggested and I began to hope, in the light of my delicate financial situation, that the cafe was indeed barato.
So it was that I found myself, on my first night in Puerto Madryn, gorging myself on the local seafood, swilling down the local vino, and sitting opposite an Argentinian-Welsh gamin whose huge blue eyes never left my face.
There should be a law about eyes like that, especially when combined with raven black welsh hair and soft red lips that owed nothing to artificial colouring. There have been other women who have had this effect on me, Goldie Hawn for example, but she is a film star and I have never met her in the flesh; but Mefanwy was real, and she was there.
I swear I meant her no harm. Hell, I was at least fifteen years older. But you know how it is. A fellow gets lonely on the road and he must find his pleasures where he may. Besides who could resist a heaven sent combination like this. She, crazy about all things Welsh, to say nothing of the glamour of a travelling stranger to a small town girl; and I, completely overcome by a physical attraction that, if I’m right, was built into my very genes!
Give me some credit. I didn’t race her off to bed on the first night. Besides I was very tired from the journey. But on the following day, when she took me to see the sea-lions at Punta Loma, I saw more than a sea-lion. I had my own little seal, smooth and slippery, sharing the spread blanket on the coarse grass of the dunes. It was a wonderful day. The first of seven wonderful days.
But a travelling man, by definition, travels. He travels light and that rules out excessive baggage, material or emotional. There was no way.
It was hard, of course. There is no gentle way of saying what must be said. But at least I made no false promises, and I didn’t sneak out the back way. She thought she had found the Goose that lays the golden eggs – her ticket out of Patagonia – her magic return ticket to Wales, the golden land of her parents’ fairy- tales.
I am no goose. But perhaps it would have been better if my shadow had shown the short neck and long tail of the bird of prey. Perhaps the poor little chick could have hidden.

© H.St.V.Beechey 1990