Monthly Archives: August 2015

23/08/2015: the long, wet summer (part 2)

IMG_5800The photographs will never tell the real story. Mainly because it’s really difficult to photograph rain. It’s been another two weeks in Lanskeria. Another fortnight in which it feels like the rain has never let up; but enough photographs exist in which it is not (or does not appear to be) raining that it must have been dry for some short stretches.

We had one great sunset, which my camera, or rather my camera-skills, could not hope to capture.

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Group shot up Mynydd Castlebythe.

We had an afternoon that was not quite warm, but dry and still enough to convince me we should climb Mynydd Castlebythe. It’s only a few miles to the north (sort of between Tufton and Puncheston), and one never knows; it might not be there in a few weeks. So I took the kids to climb it. Fury hung on my back and Sybil bravely didn’t complain, because I promised her some Monster Munch at the top. While up there we filmed some bits of poems and marvelled at views of the Preselis, St Bride’s Bay, the oil refineries at Milford Haven, and Carmerthenshire to the East. And we ate Monster Munch.

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The first known map of our lands.

I also marvelled at how few tourists were up there on one of the few dry days we’ve had this summer. No tourists, to be precise. I know there are lots of other peaks in Pembrokeshire, and that Castlebythe only has a little lay-by next to it, but the views from up there are the best I’ve yet seen in this county.

Sybil’s birthday fell midweek and it turned out V had a pitch in London. We agreed about a week ago to move the birthday and not really tell her that it was moved. It doesn’t make a huge amount of difference. Four years ago, Victoria went into labour on the afternoon of the day before. Actually, come to think of it, she went into labour very early that morning. Before I was awake. We went into Poole hospital for the second (or was it the third?) and final time around 9pm, having waited for the supermarket delivery to happen, on V’s insistence. V was having pretty regular contractions while the man hurriedly unloaded the bags with a panicky expression on his face. So going to Oakwood on the anniversary of that instead of the day we first saw her doesn’t seem so bad. Plus it was much sunnier that day, so the currents were with us.

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Treasure hunt.

The day before I hid a bunch of empty Illy coffee tins around the garden, having filled them with Smarties and disembodied words from a sentence indicating where even more Smarties (and some Haribo sweets) could be found.  This treasure hunt was put together as an attempt to improve Sybil’s map-reading skills after a poor showing on the way to Mynydd Castlebythe when I asked her to navigate.

She got quite into it. But she was definitely more into the Smarties than the map.

IMG_6560Having said that, she immediately identified the tent, which is still up in East Landskeria as I type, having survived frogs, slugs, spiders, flies and kids. I suppose a lot of the stuff on the map was less pleasing in its plan.

She’d no doubt have approved of Christopher Wren’s attempts to make London more geometrically pleasing following the great fire. Had she been reigning, she might have approved the lot. No expense spared.

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Llanthony Priory

Oakwood was sunny. Which was great, because, as I’ve mentioned, not a lot has been this year. We took Sybil and Fury along with a few friends and their kids, did battle with wasps and did our bests to give the kids a good theme park experience. I’m not really into those places now. Indeed, I don’t think I ever have been.

But the kids tend to like them, and this one’s not so bad as they go, having some underlying hilly structure to it that renders the whole vibe just slightly less grotesquely homogeneous than the usual. I took Sybil down a water slide, but other than that I managed to avoid anything too strenuous. (Although I did get quite nauseous on the teacups; must be getting old.)

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Raglan Castle.

Our child-looker-afterer (never sure of the appropriate modern term) had the kids on Sybil’s actual birthday, while I was assembling loads of Ikea furniture in our bedroom.

I carried on doing so even after I picked them up, and all the way up to the point V got back and we began packing to go to Monmouthshire. I think we all had some sleep at some point in the middle. We must have had.

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Wagoncore.

On the weekend (last weekend) I drove much of the length of the Welsh A40 to take us to Pandy, Monmouthshire, near the English border, to meet some friends for a wagon-based glamping weekend. There were a lot of wasps, but even more beer. That was the main take-away, and on balance seems like a pretty good deal. We went to Llanthony Priory, which was the latest in a never-ending series of opportunities to meditate on what a complete arse-hole Henry VIII was. But it had stunning views, and there was an intriguing kind of mass meditation session going on on one of the lawns. I would have photographed it, but I didn’t want to break anyone’s concentration.

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Fury feeding a sheep.

The next day we went to Raglan Castle, which is pretty impressive by anyone’s standards. We don’t have anything as grand in Pembrokeshrie certainly, but there’s something to be said still for a castle like Wiston, where there are equally good views but absolutely nobody else bothering to visit at any given time. The wagons we stayed in (Gypsy wagons apparently, though I doubt they’ve ever seen anyone of Roma blood) were quaint, and the hosts genial.

The whole place was riddled with wasps though, as was the castle by Raglan café. I killed 15 over the course of the weekend. And yes, I did count. I don’t know how many beers I drank, but I suspect it was more. And a few of those were (very tasty) 10% beers from a brewery called Downton in… Wiltshire I think?

None of those wasps were 10% wasps. I didn’t even get stung. They were weak stubby Biere des Flandres wasps.

This past week has gone by fast. It’s rained incessantly. Enough to prevent any decent walks. We’ve been to the library and the supermarkets in the day and watched a lot of Vikings by night (since I activated my Amazon Prime 30-day trial period). Apart from that I’ve been struggling with trying to repair a broken computer, dealing with an oven that keeps on tripping the mains switch, putting up Ikea lights, assembling Ikea bedside tables and dancing around a Velux windows man who has come to put in Velux windows upstairs in our house, even though it is raining.

I feel for him.

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Walk in Wiston woods today.

My pal and his sister turned up on the weekend to stay a couple of days (him in our sodden tent and her in a B&B over toward the East side of Pembrokeshire). In spite of the by-this-point abysmal weather we got out to Newport beach and he recorded the very first Boiler House Session in my shed last night. He serenaded two human beings and one dog (plus a petrified rat, a bunch of dead sea-molluscs and a whole load of live insects) with six and a quarter songs he’s been working on over the past few years (and one at least for a few decades).

IMG_6703It was lovely and special and I hope to persuade a few more people to do similar things in this same space in the future. It’s a nice place to be. Even if the boiler does sometimes kick into life and make an unholy (or possibly hold, depending on your point of view) racket.

Meanwhile, the garden is muddy and overgrown. The beds have moats around them.

The fruits are all under-ripe and splitting and being utterly devoured by all manner of colourful insects. The carpet is never clean. The shed rood leaks. The conservatory roof leaks. The kitchen is never not full of flies. The dog is getting more and more sure that she owns the place. Victoria is talking about going on holiday to Germany for better weather. Or moving there. Or somewhere else. Or anywhere. Despite my attempts to finally drop roots, I can sympathise, looking back over the wet grey months we’ve just stumbled through.

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Queen bitch.

In other news: being around a lot of creative and successful, or at least successfully creative, people in recent weeks I’ve been bending ears about my stilted intentions toward the second poetry book. Nobody wants it or needs it, but I’m determined to make it. And by the year’s end. This now takes precedence. I still see the establishment of our sovereign nation/pretender state as intrinsically linked.

But the former must come before the latter. Not necessarily chronologically. But prioritarially at least. I’ve got to get this book out before I miss its moment. Meanwhile it’s hard to read while it’s hard to find the time to write. And it’s hard to find the time to write.

And the weather is grim.

But the environment is stable. And the economy is good.

AV

09/08/2015: the long, wet summer

IMG_6373This diary covers a period of two weeks, controversially. So expect less diarising and more historicising. The longer the gap between What Really Happened and the reporting thereof, the less one can realistically expect anything like a true version of events.

That said, I know it’s been summer. And that it’s been thoroughly miserable, weatherwise, for the majority of the time.

Indeed, this summer is officially the worst summer since records began in Landskeria. Which was three years ago. I might have made that joke last time. If so, please feel free to sue me.

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The well.

So we’ve been out on excursions along the Line and beyond whenever it’s not been outright miserable. Sybil and Fury accompanied me to Wallis Moor, where we picnicked on a rock near the farm. We saw some furry caterpillars and a lovely heron on the pond. I did photograph that, but the loveliness-to-photo-quality ratio wasn’t quite matched by my daughters.

So there you go. We also went to Llawhaden castle, which remains in my view the best castle Pembrokeshire has to offer. Certainly the best Landskerlands castle. It’s huge and ruinous and free to look around. The latter is a particularly enticing characteristic.

IMG_5610Pembroke is probably the flagship castle. Then there’s places like Newport and Picton where the crumbling nobles (or possibly just nouveau riche poseurs?) remain defiantly lodged therein like toads, refusing to acknowledge the universal truth that castles are places we take our children to hunt for dragons, not homes.

Not that our toad does that mind you. Our toad just lurks on the front doorstep looking sulky. Lately its taken to lurking outside my Boiler House while I’m blogging by night. Maybe it wants feeding or something?

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Looking for dragons.

Wiston castle is also good, but there’s less to see than there is at Llawhaden. Wolfscastle, despite the wonderful name, is really just a mwnt with an A-road bisecting it. It’s not a castle now. See also Castleblythe and many others. Llawhaden has not one but two large grilles to peer down into and risk losing one’s iPhone 5C in the photographing of. Or one’s shoes, in Fury’s case. Although not yet; no event, just the risk.

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Toward the end of last week we deployed the tent in the top garden (Eastern Landskeria) and marvelled in all its glory.

Then we slept in it for one night and found that we were mostly kept awake by our children. Still, the campfire outside was nice. Sybil huffily told us (so huffily that it was clearly a calculated joke) that she’d rather be watching television. We left the door of the tent open for the dog to get out and wee, so my copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel got completely soaked. And then I had to dry it in an oven. Which is just awful really, isn’t it?

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HQ.

I deployed the broken paving stone bearing our nation’s flag (The New Leaf: blog about that long overdue) outside the Boiler House. It looks great there. I glued it back together with silicone sealant, largely just to save barefooted people cutting their feet on the cracks. It looks most welcoming.

Fortunately we have no silly rules about flag use as yet (e.g. the flag may not be blown by a southwesterly breeze; the flag may not be hung from the rear of a moving vehicle; the papillon may not habitually poo on the flag every evening like clockwork…)

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Blue moon.

After our lovely, but wearying, night in the tent, V’s sister and her romantic partner came to stay for a week, which is the main reason I didn’t blog last weekend. (Thanks a LOT folks.) We forced them to stay in the tent for a few nights because we had done it, and they were kept awake by storms and the threat of rural violence which terrorises all city folk when they visit such Ruritatian outbacks as ours.

I was tempted to sneak out to the shed and rev up the chainsaw a few times, but fortunately for all concerned I was too tired. And the chainsaw is basically impossible to start, even at the best of times.

On the one (maybe two) warmish days in the July/August summer peak we had enormous flies attacking us again.

IMG_6406The largest of these (male dark giant horse, I think) was nothing compared to the female our dog dismembered earlier last month, nevertheless I felt quite proud of having “taken” it, and toyed with the idea of mounting it somewhere in my office as a trophy (inspired by all these celebrity lions like Cecil everyone is so concerned about all of a sudden).

But then its head turned a 90-degree angle while I was out the room, and it buzz-spasmed when I touched it. So I removed it from this earthly plane and thought no more about it.

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Wasps.

In other gross insect news, our visitors spotted a large wasps’ nest being laboured over by a number of the stripey bastards conveniently hidden from our view by a strategically placed drainpipe. (They are clever aren’t they?)

This called for another trip to Homebase. (I have been making many while erecting shelves in the Boiler House.) I kitted up with some Raid and some delightful sounding wasps-nest-foam-destroyer, and made myself very hot with about eight layers of protective clothing.

IMG_5627I hung around sweating long enough for Victoria (who has rarely left the study in the past fortnight, due to having some kind of job) to photograph me for posterity. In case I died.

Then I went in for the kill, and (after about the fourth time; the layers of clothing becoming less with each visit) I managed to get close enough to run some filler up and down the crack under the eaves. I think they’re finally gone now.

This would constitute the fourth organised attempt at a hostile takeover of sovereign territory this year. The previous three were all also by wasps (spotted sooner, fortunately): first in Shed #2 and then in the girls’ playhouse; then having stored their eggs along with some paralysed caterpillars in our windowframes. That was a close one!

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The jawa of Marloes.

In the end I felt a bit bad about it all. I never got stung. They barely even tried to defend themselves. Still, there are plenty of burrowing wasps left along our battlements, so we’re not going short. And I do hate wasps. Animals I hate are exempt from the benefits of my otherwise broadly tolerant (though not quite caring) attitude.

Our visitors left on the weekend, having seen a lot of the inside of our house (due to ongoing rains) and the contents of our Lord of the Rings Risk baordgame box (due to it being awesome), and a couple of Landskerland castles on the last day. We also visited Pentre Ifan burial chamber, which was beset by Northwestern European tourists, and drove aimlessly around central north Pembrokeshire, making a visit to an eerily unlocatable farm shop in a farm apparently entirely run by dogs and rabbits.

The visitors rather rudely took my wife with them when they went; to a Secret Cinema event in London (Star Wars 2/5 or something), so yesterday I ventured with the children to Marloes Sands (an honorary Landskerian port) late in the day to catch the last rays of sunshine.

IMG_6506We also caught rather a lot of cold blasts from an aggressive southwesterly gale. We ate a lot of pizza, and I drank a beer. And then we wondered around being very cold for a bit before having to lug a pram back up the half-mile trek back to the car park (actually carrying Fury and pram as though she were some anointed infanta for part of the way).

Sybil agreed not to complain in exchange for late night TV watching, and in the end it was a very rewarding if tiring day.

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Where dreams are made. As soon as I have Windows installed on my new computer that is…

This afternoon we went out into the rain to investigate the tent (still deployed in Eastern Landskeria). It turns out a frog now lives there. Glad it’s getting some use.

A friend is threatening/promising to come and record a solo acoustic gig in my Boiler House soon, so he can share the tent with the frog for the duration of the stay if he’s feeling like glamping. Or shamping. Not sure which our tent qualifies as. It’s good, but you can’t have a fire in it.

If you’ve read this far you’ll probably want to see a picture of my office area within the Boiler House and see a gif of me jumping over a fire naked. If not, look away now.

firejumpAffairs of state remain largely in stasis, as does the publication schedule for my next poetry book. If Landskeria were in any kind of conflict, it would no doubt be deemed frozen. Or soggy. Fortunately, we are as yet at war with no one. That’s one of the perks of not being known about by anyone.

Just now: The weather is muggy. The environment is stable. The economy is stretched.

AV