This post is being put together in-between complaining to Plusnet about our broadband. It dropped off during Masterchef the other night and has not since returned to a degree that enables us to stream video. Which in turn has meant I’ve watched the entire first season of Girls (which V’s sister lent us on DVD about a year ago, and which was very good) and started reading my EPIC European history book (by Norman Davies) again. I’m just getting up to the late medieval period. Plantagenets. Jagiellonians. Frisians. Schisms. Etc. People are being horrible to Jews. In history I mean. Although, also on Twitter in the present day. Not here in Landskeria though. There is no racism in Landkseria, because everyone is Landskerian. Even the dogs.
At the end of March Sybil had her last day at Nant-y-Cwm kindergarten, and everyone was very emotional about it. Especially us. This heralded the start of the Easter holidays. We had begun plans to go to Ireland to celebrate the Easter Rising (well, just for a holiday really) but events conspired. Nevertheless, we did manage to get away to Cambridgeshire for just under a week to stay with V’s parents and to meet up with her sisters for a day out at a farm in Northants and to celebrate Calvin’s birthday in a very nice pub in the amusingly named town of Towcester. (An English pronunciation-dependent amusment.)
The further things got from winter, the more winter seemed determined to happen, despite having officially missed its window. We have had frost as recently as last week.
It was pretty chilly in Northants too, but the rabbits were huge. The weather in Cambridgeshire was generally sunnier than on the West coast. Sometimes people seemed convinced rain was happening, even before the water was ankle deep. I have it on good authority that for the majority of Easter, the rain continued to fall in and around Landskeria. Real rain. Not that light mist they have in England.
Sybil busied herself with craft activities while away. V’s mum Sally was enjoying her last week at work before retiring and Victoria had bits and bobs to be getting on with, so V’s dad and I entertained the kids on our last day in Cambs by getting the car washed, taking Sybil on a bike-ride to the pub, and wandering round a very large garden centre. When we got home to Landskeria Fury decided to potty train herself, and I took the kids out up Foel Dyrch, in what was – with hindsight – pretty dreadful weather. We hunkered beneath some gorse and ate Quavers.
Despite the contrariness of the weather, after a warm winter, signs of spring were in abundance in advance of early April. Collared Doves were nesting in the larch, as were blackbirds in the hedge, and some tiny birds in the front garden, whose names I do not know.
Torch lilies had begun sprouting. The abundant wild garlic was flowering. The chives by the pond were towering. The heather was purple. The daffodils were waning. Elf cups were popping up on rotten logs in the hedge. And that tiny plant with purple heart-shaped flowers was also getting going underneath the shade of a big hydrangea on the Eastern border with the Letterston road.
Sybil began at Ysgol Maenclochog full time, and soon decided the school dinners were better than our packed lunches. V & I went to see a screening of the Martin McDonagh play Hangmen at theatre Mwldan (very good). I began digging a hole in a flowerbed at some point, but got bored.
We ascended part of the bridleway that heads west from Rosebush to Cwmcerwyn. I tried it with Frida first, then with the kids. Both times we got as far as Pantmaenog “forest” – less than a mile, I’m sure, but a lovely walk nonetheless.
We went to Skomer with Ann and Mark and Raif toward the end of the holidays, and I saw a lot of puffins. Sybil very much enjoyed collecting the bird bones that litter the little paths that criss-cross the island. I picked up a(n almost) whole dead crab from the beach we got the boat from. It is now on top of our woodstore. Not really sure why.
I’ve been rewriting the fantasy novel I began again in Ireland last summer; which I first wrote a draft of in 2006, and which began in my head (and on some old lost Word documents) some time after I moved to England in about 1998. I read the Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England over April – highlighting about half of the sentences on any given page – so now I feel far better equipped to realise a fantasy world. The plot is gradually sorting itself out; or seems to be – but it may yet all come to nothing. That I haven’t played any computer games since Easter has left a lot more room for reading and writing. But one does what one feels like doing with one’s free time (or tries to) and so I hope not to make the hobby become onerous.
We went to Bosherston Lily Ponds, which were lovely and mercifully free from lilies at this time of year and therefore not too busy. The ponds themselves, with the narrow bridges and walkways, are tricky to navigate with a pram, but nonetheless great; the estuary at Broadhaven South (or is it Broadhaven East?) is worth the parking price itself.
I forgot to mention. We got another dog. This one is a pomeranian. I didn’t want another dog, but Victoria decided it would be best for all of us – especially Frida. The new dog is called Pixie (named by Fury, who immediately thereafter began referring to her as “that other dog”) and she is a delight. She has a rounder ribcage than Frida, inferior ears, and a broader stance. She is less flouncy, but more hunched and pathetic in her aspect. She has an amusing habit of cocking her leg to wee, like a boy dog. She growls at the children when they take her by surprise, but so far hasn’t bitten anyone or shown any real signs of agression. She’s managed to fit in pretty well by now; it took her a little longer than Frida because she was already an adult dog (albeit a diminutive one) when we brought her home. Although there isn’t the time or money, part of me thinks I could quite happily have four or five of these silly beasts on the go at any one time. They live about twice as long as great danes, you know, and are almost half as light as a cat. And despite what you might imagine, they love a good walk.
Since Sybil has been at Maenclochog and Fury has begun at Clarbeston Road playgroup a couple of mornings per week, I’ve been trying to explore more of the publicly accessible Landskerlands. This means locating a dotted green line on my central-Pembs OS map, or even stopping on the side of the road by a footpath sign, and sticking the harnesses on the dogs and seeing how they get on. They can be quite selective, and will not tolerate thick bramble paths or nettles. But they love to romp through a bumpy field and sniff at cowpats.
We’ve discovered numerous standing stones that aren’t considered worthy of scheduling by the Welsh ancient monuments folk, and added them to our own OS map with a biro, highlighting in blue the route we took to get to them. Central Pembs is woefully devoid of open access lands (outside the Preselis) and woodland walks. The majority of the routes are fenced-over farmland where the footpath can take a while to locate, if indeed any indication of it still exists.
But the land is rich in prehistoric remnants, and even the most mundane-looking farm track is worth traipsing across on the off-chance. I should also add that I’ve yet to be shouted at by anyone for trespassing in my 4 years here, even though I’ve probably strayed from the green dotted line once or twice (mainly because the maintenance of the paths and accompanying signage is so woeful).
I finally went down the bottom of Llys-y-Frân dam the other day (with the dogs) and had a mooch about down there. Lovely area (lovely church too, where one can avoid the exorbitant £2 parking fee Welsh Water demands). But it depresses me to think about how much more tranquil the valley would have been before this massive wall of concrete flooded it out. How many farmhouses and cottages were bought up and destroyed in the process? 100? 10? 1? Zero? I have no idea. It’s not the sort of thing Welsh Water (who actually took over the existing site in the 1990s, post-privatisation) would have on their website. There’s a tumble-down stone cottage near the dam on the west side where a (locally) famous composer of a well-known Welsh hymn grew up, and a dull vaguely modernist memorial in his honour, unveiled by the CEO of Welsh Water in a grand gesture of corporate social responsibility some time in the ’90s. More than they did for the original unveiling of the dam, which just involved the Queen’s chain-smoking sister turning up to cut a ribbon or pull a bit of velvet away from a plaque.
I was faced with a dilemma the other day when I had to fill in Sybil’s national identity on a piece of paper for school. Welsh? English? British? Landskerian? My heart said the latter, but I didn’t want to unnecessarily cause embarrassment or confusion – and there are already plenty of black helicopters circling our borders at the best of times. So I went for the former. I don’t regard Britain as a nation (because of the ready availability of dictionaries and history books), and she (like me) has spent most of her life in Wales. I did consider Anglo-Welsh, but it seemed pretty pedantic. And I’m really not sure that any such distinct identity really exists.
I suppose Welshness is a broad church – especially here in Pembrokeshire’s Landskerlands, where bilingualism is a very real thing, as is the phenomenon of the Welsh-speaking villages surrounded by Anglophone areas, and the odd folks who have lived in Wales their entire lives but cannot recognize that when I tell them to deliver a curry to Tynewydd, Walton East it might mean the same thing as Newhouse, Walton East. I was thinking of renaming our house (because it’s pretty old by now) but it seems like it’d be more trouble than it was worth.
I went to London the other week for Zef’s 27th birthday celebrations, and slept on his floor, and drank some very exciting cocktails at Nightjar, and played football with his friends in Victoria Park, and ate street-food for the price of restaurant food in a fancy warehouse in Canada Water. Not necessarily in that order. I also popped into the National Art Library at the V&A to witness the reading of a number of sonnets from Live Canon’s 154 publication. One of these was mine, which I wrote on my phone on the sofa in V’s parents’ house, after being sent one of Shakespeare’s sonnets to “respond” to by Live Canon head-honcho Helen Eastman. It was nice to be involved in the project, and I’m flattered to have been included in the book, alongside many better-known and better-liked poets. (Not least Billy himself, of course.) I sense I was making up the numbers, but if this ends up being the pinnacle of my poetic career, I reckon I’ll take that. I still plan to enter some competitions, and to publish at least four more full-length poetry books in the Has Doubts sub-brand, but I don’t expect any of them to sell more than 50, based on projections from the first two, or to be read by more than about 10. Poetry isn’t really a growth market. Mine sure as hell isn’t.
That said I did manage (partly based on my wife’s haggling) to swap a couple of poetry books for just under 5kg of pork this past weekend. That felt good. Got to be up there with the 2nd place in the Fish Poetry Prize in 2010. Maybe better than that, because they never sent me any pork. And I’m pretty sure I had to pay for the book that came out of it too…
Mayday bank holiday weekend has just been. We mowed the lawn, went swimming at the Blue Lagoon at Bluestone, and took Sybil and Fury to the ramshackle wonderment of Clerkenhill Farm for Raif (Sybil’s friend)’s 5th birthday party. It was raining, and nobody was there but our party, but the kids cared not a jot. Indeed, it was nice to have the place to ourselves. I nearly injured myself, and several other people, trying and failing to get up a hill on a peddle-powered cart. But I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
We finally got the “slow down” sign up on the bend opposite the layby outside East Landskeria, and despite kerning issues I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s made from a sawn-up old pallet and a sawn-up old bedpost (I think) that came with shed #2. The verge we planted it on might belong to the council, but they said we could put a sign up, so I hope they don’t mind us encroaching on their territory for the mutual benefit of both our nations. Chances are, it might get knocked down by a tractor before the year’s out. But if it does I’ll try nailing it to a sycamore.
We’ve got some more elections coming up. Welsh Assembly. Police and Crime Commissioner (which nobody really knows much about) and possibly some local ones too. London will be choosing a new mayor, but we will be deciding who represents us for education, healthcare and… something else I can’t remember, way over there in Cardiff. I cut out all the heads of the candidates and mocked up a script for a satirical puppet show in my head:
But, you know, sometimes you have to know when to stop yourself, avoid the glimmering temptations of trinkets on the side of the road, and focus on pursuing your true will.
Affairs of state grind slowly on. Nobody has invaded us yet. But neither has any official international body acknowledged our sovereignty. V knighted both our daughters the other day, which came as a shock because I didn’t think we had such a system of honours in place. Nor would I have supported the implementation of it! They seemed pretty pleased though. I think she may have been getting me back for the other day when she was in London and I decided to fly the New Leaf (our national flag) from a bare sycamore branch to protest the coverage of the (UK) Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations on BBC Radio 4.
Frida has a bad leg. Victoria has a cold. Everyone else is currently well.
The weather veers from heavy hail to summery sunlight.
The environment is exponential in its growth.
The economy is elastic.
Joint 1st Minister, AV