Monthly Archives: January 2016

27/01/2016: in search of Gwal-y-Filiast burial chamber (a photoblog)

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New writing table.

When I was young I thought being an adult would be rubbish. I thought it was all about paying bills, and working, and driving kids around to places you didn’t necessarily have any interest in going to yourself.

Turns out I was wrong! There is a bit of that. But mostly being an adult is about marching triumphantly around woodland areas munching Marc de Champagne truffles and looking for burial chambers. And it’s much better than being a kid.

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‘ello ‘ello ‘ello, what’s all this then?

That said, after spending all my spare minutes this past week (in-between child-looker-aftering) building a beautiful table upon which to put my laptop so I can write a bestselling fantasy novel, I found my mana to be somewhat drained.

Luck would have it that the table repaid me for the gift of life I had bestowed upon it, by showing me a new burial chamber I was hitherto unawareofthewhereaboutsof. Mainly because it’s just over the border in Carmarthenshire. But maps know no borders. At least not this particular type of OS map. So after I dropped the kids off with Ann at Nant y Cwm this morning I headed off with my trusty hound Frida in search of Gwal-y-Filiast. And this is the photoblog thereafteruponwhich.

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Hmmm. Seems legit.

I began my quest just north of Nant y Cwm near Llangolman, where my Google Maps sat-nav (AKA, my runephone precariously balanced on a glasses case) took me to this large river masquerading as a road. I think it’s the Cleddau Ddu. Needless to say I did not drive through it. It was moving very fast. Returning to the Llangolman road I had to reverse for that beardy guy in a van that you always have to reverse for when going to Llangolman, and he looked about as grateful as usual.

I did not take photographs for the rest of the drive because I was driving. But it was a nice drive.

Then I arrived at the entrance to the farm as described on the Modern Antiquarian webpage. It looked like this.

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No sign advertising the cromlech. You just have to know it’s there.

My car being left by the side of the road looked like this.

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C U L8R car!!!!1!!

There were bales of hay dumped by the side of the road with fungus growing out of them. I took this to be a sign that the hay was magical and therefore a Good Omen.

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Delicious fungus.

There was also a petrified witch with slate on her soles on top of a tree-stump next to a pond by the domicile. Again, this was a Good Omen.

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Witch.

The path passed through the property to a bright red gate. In European folklore this is always a sign that you are entering a magical realm where the impossible will become possible and vice versa. (This is also the reason phone boxes and post boxes are painted red.)

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A bright red gate. Slightly blurred.

The dog was not particularly pleased about the muddiness of the path. There was basically an ankle-deep stream running down it, following eighty-odd days of straight rain across much of southwest Wales.

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The path skirts the river Taf at a higher altitude.

The aforementioned Modern Antiquarian site’s most recent visitor advised that an old standing-stone/gatepost would signal the path branching off to the left. That there were two of these prior to the proper one led me into two fields, neither of which contained cromlechs.

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Who goes there?

Never mind. They were nice old gateposts. The hole in the first one provided an interesting perspective on the woods and the field beyond.

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Old stone with an eyehole.

The first field also had a purpose-built mud-slide to help me descend back to the main path.

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Great fun. Would leave a five-star Trip Advisor review for this.

The next gatepost’s hole was not deep enough to look through. But it had a pleasing sentinel-like shape to it. So I did not complain.

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Put your finger in. I dare you.

We came upon a hay bale in a winter coat, which was not in the usual sort of place you would expect to find a hay bale. I asked it which way to go and it said “straight on”, then continued its valiant but ultimately doomed attempt to roll back up the hill.

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Friendly magical hay bale.

The roads diverged eventually, as foretold. And I took the left one, for the other descended to the Taf, whereabouts certain death awaited, instead of the nourishing mana I sought.

The gate that I had to pass through was locked with a pretty complex (elemental) magical spell. But, fortunately, earth magic flows naturally through my veins and replenishes with sleep, so I had no shortage of reserves to draw upon in overcoming this particular obstacle.

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Before leaving the wood I nominated this gate for an ENAT Award for Accessible Tourism.

The path was encrusted with lively quartz, and I was tempted to dig up one particularly large chunk and devour it there and then. But I knew I must respect the magical realm and leave it as I found it, lest I risk invoking the wrath of the Ancient Ones. Perhaps I would just pick up a little nugget, for luck, and replace it upon my ascent…

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Delicious veiny quartz.

Strange twigs were also to be found thereabouts. I did not touch them. I did not look at them. I only took this photograph, for I knew that they were snakes in the form of wood, protecting something noble and sacred from the hands of men (and my dog too, which actually has paws, and isn’t a man).

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Twisted snake sticks.

Some of the larger snakes had entwined themselves around the trees. I took a picture and something caught my eye…

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Trees that have been taken by snakes.

I tried taking the photograph again, from another angle. Then I switched on the “dryad-detection” app on my runephone and – sure enough! – one of the trees was an ent, and the serpents were merely entwined around his torso in an old commensalist dance.

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Can you spot the ent?

I knew I was arriving in the vicinity of the burial chamber because the trees were displaying increasingly magical characteristics. Look at the lovely mossy clothing here, for instance:

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Thirsty roots are well watered in these climes.

But when I looked up I realised this was not one tree, but two trees bonded together in natural union. They have been betrothed so long that even their roots now grow together.

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Arboreal love.

As is customary, I approached the cromlech with caution and said the magical words to ensure it knew I came in peace and would respect its ways. Then I sat within and meditated, enriching my body and replenishing my depleted mana stocks in the elements of fire, water and wind. (Like I mentioned before, my earth stocks replenish naturally so I didn’t take any of that.)

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A view from the mouth of Gwal-y-Filiast.

Somebody had prepared a bundle of sticks in the centre of the cromlech. Presumably to trick any unenlightened intruders into the sacred space.

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Lol. Not likely m8.

Of course, even my dog knows that if you light a fire in a cromlech you may never return to the realm of reality, and you must wander the realm of faerie until your teeth are grey and your eyes have fallen out.

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My dog was fearful of the place. Knowing what was to come…

A scattering of mussels upon the leafy ground – shining and blue among the brown beech nuts that littered the woodland floor – alerted me to a threat that my dog had already sensed: there was a water daemon in a nearby realm; and I might have intruded upon its aura. I had to act fast.

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Mussels. Shit.

I sang a paean to the trees in loud growls, spreading my arms open wide and rolling my eyes as quickly as I could (anti-clockwise, because it was still not noon).

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The trees were, at that moment, all ears.

They advised me to put my dog on top of the cromlech, for safety. So I did so without question.

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She was pleased to be shielded from the arena of conflict.

Next, one of the older trees spoke to me. It spoke in a lost language of the dark times when these daemons had run riot over the faery realm. Some of them, it said, had even passed through into the outer world – our world – and taken up prominent positions in local council seats in southwest Wales.

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Ah, noble tree. How deep is your groove.

I asked for names. But all it gave me were these letters, which appeared then as scars upon its skin: TJC.

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TJC. Know the letters. Remember them.

I told the tree I would do my best to find and apprehend the daemonic immigrant next time I was collecting my allocation of orange bin bags for recycling in Haverfordwest. So it agreed to swallow the water daemon who was so close to breaking through to our realm and venting deadly retribution upon me for the violation of its aural integrity.

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The imbibing of the daemon created this large welt on the side of the tree. For heaven’s sake don’t touch it (without leather gloves).

The tree suggested, in a weary voice, that I lay a large trunk across the path to the south, which would act as a barrier against future transgressions of this kind – so long as it remained unmoved. My dog was only too happy to help!

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AWAY DAEMONKIND!!!!!1!!

Weary after my ordeal, I snacked on some of the fungus thereupon the log.

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“Fungus: nature’s mushrooms.”

But the fungus was disgusting and probably poisonous. So I purged myself (from all known orifices) and thereafterupon snacked only with Aldi Marc de Champagne truffles – which are known to help secure newly replenished mana stocks with their natural abundance of saturated fats.

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Farewell, good treefellows.

I bade a hearty farewell to the assembled trees, laughing and joking about the predicament which had so recently been so grave. They told me if I was so careless in future I would probably not even live to see my eleventytwelfth birthday. And I guffawed, because that’s not even a real number. The dog and I travelled swiftly back up the path toward the exit from faeryland. Not least because I cast a spell of swiftness on us both. I do love magic! But I could give up any time. I’m not addicted.

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The portal was in sight again.

Upon exiting the realm I took note of the understated green sign thereupon. The countryside code – all that remains, for many, of the ancient magical ways of our ancestors. But try leaving this gate open for a week and see what happens. I dare you.

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Yeah, you’d better.

I was back by the side of the road, dusting off the dog and re-inserting it into my Romanian sports utility vehicle, when I felt an incongruous lump in my coat pocket where my keys ought to have been. I took it out and, well, would you believe it…

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I forgot to return the quartz.

I forgot to return the quartz.

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SHIT!!!!

Of course, we are usually told nowadays not to take elements of the natural environment from an area of outstanding beauty because of some ephemeral notion that “if everybody did it there would be nothing left.” As though a succession of such pilferings might have a cumulatively erosive effect upon the environment such that matter itself would cease to exist and we would all be reduced to a conceptual realm. But people such as I – adults with a certain level of learning on these subjects – know that isn’t quite the problem.

So I devoured the quartz as quickly as I could. Reasoning that I couldn’t reliably hope to conceal it any other way, should… you know, anybody… come looking for it.

I drove home in my bare feet, with the windows open, singing the Demetae Burial Chamber Song as loudly as I could.

I think I got away with it.

All in all, a good cromlech with a pleasant aspect and a unique setting, albeit a bit muddy.

4/5.

Yours,

A Velky

21/01/2016: invasion of the weird white jelly substance

It was wet.

It was wet.

This January it has mainly rained.

Nearby Eglwyswrw was in the news for having had more days of consecutive rain (85 days, in total) than anywhere else in the UK for many, many years. Anywhere else IN THE UK, note. Landskeria had 86 days of rain. But we don’t like to brag about it. Our garden has been sodden and inhospitable. Our dog has been reticent to go out. Our clothes have been wet. Our car has been filthy.

Rewinding: Christmas was a lot of fun. We stayed at the Lower Mill Estate in the Cotswold Water Park. It’s a sort of de-Americanised Centre Parcs, or a South English art project conceptualizing a modern middle class utopia. It was a great place to walk dogs, and exercise children. The children had a lovely time, and I actually lost weight, which I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do at Christmas – but I haven’t died, so it’s probably nothing sinister. I must have got quite unused to regular exercise, but I decided not to make any New Year resolutions this year because last year I made too many plans and kept looking at them and feeling disappointed with myself.

Wet white jelly and black eggs.

Wet white jelly and black eggs.

This year I will just try to stay alive. Hopefully it won’t prove difficult. If anything else happens, or I achieve anything, that will be a bonus.

So, what bonuses so far?

Mainly that a cluster of thick white jelly-like substances coupled with small collections of little black balls that look like eggs have appeared in our garden. Extensive internet research has revealed that nobody actually knows what they are. The most likely explanations are that it’s frog-related. The temperature has been very warm for the time of year, and yesterday’s frost was the first proper cold snap of the season. Could it have been spawn laid too early? Doubtful: that usually looks like spawn.

More jelly stuff.

Other possibilities:

  1. Frogspawn laid on land, separated and distorted by heavy rainfall.
  2. Frogspawn swallowed (as part of the whole frog) by a large predator then regurgitated close to the area of consumption in its separated state.
  3. A white fungus that also happens to have little black fungi underneath it, invariably, and mainly happens next to, or near to, ponds.
  4. Giant jelly-like creatures living in local space, circling the atmosphere around Earth, somehow fallen from the sky and landed very near ponds or wetlands.
  5. Chemtrails.
  6. The government.
We went to Carew Castle. It was wet.

We went to Carew Castle. It was wet.

What can I say? I’m going for a fox eating a frog and vomiting it up again. But it’s great that nobody actually knows. You’d think someone would. We’ve been around a while. And so have these weird clusters of white jelly stuff. Crazy, huh?

The dog likes it. She keeps trying to eat it, but I won’t let her because I suspect it’d make her vomit.

What other news? Floods and flooding. A new river in the field opposite. We contacted Ordnance Survey about it, but they didn’t seem that interested.

Mum and Keith have moved to Pembrokeshire! That’s exciting. We saw a lot of mum the first week because her internet wasn’t working. It is now, but hopefully we’ll still see her – and Keith too, when he stops working in England during the week.

12494679_10153163511252133_8504329059382291259_nWe went for a walk with them and Uncle Mike over at Welsh Hook, where they’re renting, and found some lovely old abandoned mill buildings near a river – and a (presumably) abandoned Land Rover.

Sybil is back at kindergarten and enjoying it very much. Fury has decided she doesn’t want to go to nursery just yet, but we might ask her again after half-term. Victoria has been working a lot and going away to London and Edinburgh. I wrote a long, rambling corporate blog post (that turned into a sort of existential tract) for our work website. It’s probably not very SEO, but I think it’s good, which I think is more important.

Uncle.

Uncle.

I haven’t been writing much poetry, but I did knock out a sestina the other night by way of procrastinating and delaying getting on with the novel I’m (re-)writing. I also made a brand new under-stairs table/desk by way of extreme procrastination. But I’m very pleased with it. I’ll post a picture when I’ve finished the under-surface storage compartment. Promoting the book I just published seems like a bit of a lost cause. Not a single reply to the PR email I sent out to all the places I thought (or rather, vainly hoped) might be interested in reviewing it. Never mind. I still love you, book. I’ll send a load of them out anyway – but it certainly seems like there’s no hurry.

I’ve been meaning to do some painting but haven’t found the time yet. Time being elastic (and very stretched at the moment) I’m keen to try and worry less about it, and give myself less hassle for not getting on with things, when I’m getting on with other things. I’ll try and just do what I feel like and see where that takes me. Rather than piling up endless to-do lists and sweating and gnashing my teeth as less and less of the to-dos don’t get to-done.

Haverfordwest Priory. Wet.

Haverfordwest Priory. Wet.

I had a day off yesterday because the kids were being looked after, so I took the opportunity to walk up a bit of the Golden Road in the Preseli Hills with Uncle Michael and his dog Tatty (and our dog Frida). That was hugely enjoyable, but also incredibly cold. Nice to get a feel for what future jaunts might be like when the kids are a bit bigger. Note to self: bring gloves.

Tractors are outside, on the road – possibly plotting against us, but more probably mending pot-holes in the road. It is a bit of a state at the moment.

What else? Victoria has employed a cleaner once a week, because I’ve been cleaning to an unsatisfactory standard. That’s fine. It’s hard to find the time to clean.

Kids reading at Nana's.

Kids reading at Nana’s.

I migrated the three websites I own to another company after Bluehost took £300 from my account on CHRISTMAS DAY(!) for their hugely overpriced “services”. It took ages, and was boring. But I’m glad to have our domains and hosting with another company. You can’t let people get away with that stuff.

The singer from my favourite death metal/death folk band bought a copy of my book. So I’m officially happy for the rest of the month. It’s been a bit cold to hang around in the shed looking at all the unsold copies, and though it’s early days I reckon I will print fewer copies of future books. The money’s all been made back, but I can’t realistically think of a way to sell 80ish copies of the first and 140ish of the second. We’ll see though. Maybe if I try a few more live shows or accidentally write a poem that wins a competition. Or a best-selling novel. There’s still time, while there’s still time.

Oh – I’m collecting audio artworks for a new Doubtcast. Have a think about doing something for that if you like.

I've done a bit more of the big fantasy-City map for the novel I'm not writing.

I’ve done a bit more of the big fantasy-City map for the novel I’m not writing.

Affairs of state are ticking along, but nothing major is in the pipeline at this time. We two joint first ministers need to convene and discuss. Get a map out – push some miniature canons around…

Sybil keeps joking about buying her mother a flagpole for her birthday (knowing how much V hates the idea), so this is a source of constant amusement at dinner times.

I had the opportunity to take Sybil to Carmarthen for a dinner at Prezzo and a film (The Good Dinosaur) at the beginning of the month. We had a LOVELY time, and I hope it becomes a semi-regular thing. Oh – we’ve also been getting Hello Fresh meal-plan deliveries for 4 meals’ worth of… erm… meals… every week. That’s been fun, and meant me cooking more, but in a more organised way. Less pizza. Less wine too; but more whisky. And lots of toast, and toast crumbs all over the place – floor, clothes, cheeks, probably ceilings too…

Sorry for the rather random and hasty order of events here. It’s no kind of historical record. But it’s better than nothing!

The weather is soggy. The environment is mutating. The economy is good.

A Velky.