This website gives access to the archived website from my time as the MP for Birmingham (Selly Oak) between 1992 and 2010. Work as an MP was all-consuming but, despite predictions to the contrary, I took up retirement with relish and the days still seem to fly by.
In 2012, we moved to Wales to live off-grid in a house that would have started life as one of many ty-un-os (‘house in one night’) homes built in our part of North Radnorshire on Crown land (so not owned by anyone local!). It was therefore tolerated by local custom (though not strictly legal) that, to keep their homes, the builders had to start their work after sunset and smoke had to be coming out of the chimney by sunrise next morning. It’s likely that the endeavour would have involved friends and family and a lot of planning. The size and shape of our garden demonstrates boundaries that would have been formed by an ‘axe throw’ in all directions. Materials for the building would have been assembled in advance and it’s clear that the mudstone used for the construction of our house came from a small quarry on the hill behind the house.
In the 1901 Ordinance Survey map, our house name is the anglicised version. Last year, we researched back to an 1817 Map (part of a Thomas Budgen map) which showed the house name Ffynnon ymenyn – named after our well – said to be a 12th Century Holy Well. People have lived here for thousands of years, evidenced by several tumuli nearby. It feels a real privilege to be able to just be here.
The house was deemed uninhabitable after Radnorshire District Council made it subject to an Agricultural Holding Order when they rehoused the last tenant (the smallholding having been brought up by a larger farm) and that was its status when we bought it in 1980. At that time there were fears that nuclear war was a real possibility (remember “Protect and Survive”?) Our thinking was that, having somewhere out in the wilds with its own water supply might give us a chance of surviving longer, as well as a project for family time and future retirement.
It’s quite hard work living here, especially keeping warm in winter, though many improvements have taken place over the last 40 odd years. Our small wind generator and growing number of solar panels provides us with sufficient electricity to have “all mod cons” – quite a contrast from the two gas lamps and caravan stove we started with. My pride and joy is the garden, especially the wildlife pond and over the past few years, I’ve taken up gardening for food, following Charles Dowding’s “No Dig” methods and installing a Keder greenhouse built to withstand northern gales.
After I retired, I started learning Spanish and am reasonably competent. At least good enough for getting by in La Alpujarra, the part of Spain we visit for spells during the winter. I keep up to speed with podcasts from Notes In Spanish! In 2021, I decided to start learning Welsh through the Say Something In Welsh App, which I highly recommend – even better than the Michel Thomas method I used for Spanish. This is giving me great enjoyment and I’ve amazed myself at the amount my septuagenarian brain is able to retain. After a weeks’ residential course at Nant Gwythern, my next step is to start real online conversations but I was held back from this after being hauled back into front-line politics in 2022.
For most of the time I have lived in Wales, my political life has been within the Constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire. I have been active in running campaigns in my local Labour Party branch of Knighton and Presteigne, including the by-election campaign in summer 2019 and have held various roles in the party at constituency level, including Chair. In 2022, I was supported by Welsh Labour Grassroots as the Left candidate for the place on Labour’s NEC reserved for a representative from Wales. It was always going to be an uphill struggle against the well-known incumbent and, somewhat to my relief, given the direction of the Labour Party in the last couple of years, I didn’t succeed. However it was a real privilege to work with the young team that helped run the Campaign, without whom we would never have received such a respectable 40% share of the vote! The bilingual website we set up at lynnejones.wales records our efforts and is now an archive of the Campaign.