Author Archives: alexandervelky

03/05/2016: Beltane

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.

IMG_9840

Deflated mud monster.

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.

IMG_9881

Obese rabbits.

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.

IMG_9930

Making a kennel for her new charity shop puppy.

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.

IMG_9957

On the side of Foel Dyrch.

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.

IMG_9977

Collared doves’ eggs.

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.

IMG_9980

Elf cup.

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.

IMG_9984

Torch lily.

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.

IMG_9999

On the approach to Foel Cwmcerwyn.

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.

IMG_0090

Puffin.

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.

IMG_0103

An unfinished map of an imaginary city.

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.

IMG_0125

Estuary downstream from Bosherston Lily Ponds.

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.

IMG_0228

Pixie and Frida (their Kennel Club names are MUCH longer…) perched on a stone at Gors Fawr.

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.

IMG_0403

Exploring the Landskerlands.

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.

VCJE8021

The Step-Sister Stones. (Named after the nearby Step-Aside Bridge.)

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).

IMG_0449

Dam.

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.

IMG_0337

Trick questions.

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.

IMG_0362

Spring toad unsettled by digging dogs.

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.

IMG_0378

Live Canon launching 154 at the V&A.

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.

IMG_0509

Pork joint.

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…

IMG_0505

Victoria and Amber seesawing with Fury and Myfanwy. (And Sybil.)

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.

IMG_0490

Sign. Of the times.

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.

IMG_0466

Democracy in paper.

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:

IMG_0492

Choice.

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.

13015269_10153358175542133_6069075041088410465_n

Our Most Serene Republic.

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

20/03/2016: February ills, March joys, and a walk round RNAD Trecwn

Our last full diary update was two months ago amid the monsoon season of January. Something about that constant rain left us all with rotten colds for much of February. Sybil spent half term constantly vomiting and lying on the sofa all day, but was surprisingly chipper considering.

Once the illnesses shifted (except Fury’s, as she tend to hang on to them longer) kindergarten term began again. Vcitoria has been popping off around the country and we’ve been taking the first steps to properly establishing the business (Velky & Velky). Sybil has been preparing to move on to Ysgol Maenclochog, a state school and therefore her first taste of non-Steiner education. She’s excited about it, but a bit confused so far by how much sitting still is involved. We’ve had carpets put in to the study and the girls’ room. They’ve had a bunk bed put in. Well, I put it in. We’ve been looking around houses with Mum and Keith. We even looked around on without them! A lot can happen in two months. When I’m not finding time to write text entries here I tend to social media the updates as pictures via Instagram (along with stupid miscellaneous stuff like food). At some point I might try to integrate the feed into this website, but until then – and until I find myself more frequently sat at a desk – the updates will be sporadic and jumbled like this.

So, what else has happened??

Victoria’s parents visited, Mum and Keith went on holiday to Los Angeles to see my brother Adam and his family. Sybil practised for her drama club production of Wind in the Willows, and Fury very patiently put up with me taking her for walks in the thick mist and pouring rain. I do try to keep the longer ones for Wednesdays when she was being looked after by Ann.

But together or otherwise we’ve visited many wonderful places in the past couple of months: Gwal-y-Filiast burial chamber, Holgan Camp in Drim wood (where I nearly had to abandon the car in a muddy ditch), Gors Fawr stone circle (an old favourite by now), Dinas Island, the old mill at Welsh Hook, Wallis Moor, Rosebush & Bellstone Quarry, Parc-y-Llyn burial chamber, Rudbaxton Rath, Mynydd Castlebythe. We even went on holiday for V and her sister’s birthday at the end of January. That was ages ago but probably didn’t fall into a diary entry. So, for the record, we went to Llantwit in the Vale of Glamorgan and visited the Welsh heritage park or whatever it’s called, in a relatively posh village on the outskirts of Cardiff. It was cold.

I built a table so I could write a novel. Pretty sure I already mentioned that. I got back to the novel after a month off being ill in February, but have recently been distracted by compiling an arts podcast about fear, which I’m excited about as some of my favourite musicians, poets, etc. have contributed things.

At the risk of this snowballing into a regression-therapy session, the children and their mother are happy and healthy. (They are playing duplo, she is in bed.) We will later build a fence to try to prevent the dog from getting herself killed on the road outside our house. Affairs of state have been slow of late, but I have a few state-sponsored art projects I’m trying to get past the join first minister.

The weather is encouraging. The environment is blooming. The economy is stable.

And with that I will leave you with some pictures from a recent jaunt around the abandoned naval base RNAD Trecwn. The photographs are not in chronological order:

IMG_9614

“For the shepherd’s sake” is a polite way of saying “For fuck’s sake”, I think.

IMG_9684

Sheep apparently get into the valley, though people are not allowed.

IMG_9682

The steep slopes that descend to the valley floor are bare cliff faces in some areas.

IMG_9680

Photographing part of the old railway, and a depot or warehouse of some kind. (Engine shed? Is that a thing?)

IMG_9669

Suspect graffito on the external wall of a knackered little office.

IMG_9668

Probably Billy Bragg did it then.

IMG_9663

A view from the desolate platform.

IMG_9662

Old signs.

IMG_9660

Shed thing. Shooting from the hip with a camera phone. Please excuse the tilt.

IMG_9653

WC? WMD? YMCA?

IMG_9650

One of the most beautiful areas in all of Pembrokeshire. Seized by the state in WW2 then sold to private developers. This land… This land is your land…

IMG_9648

When we first arrived I was worried someone would arrive on a manually propelled rail vehicle to tell us to leave. With hindsight, that was unlikely.

IMG_9645

One of many bricked-up excavations cut into the side of the valley (in a herringbone formation, so I’m told) years ago to store naval mines. The company the Royal Navy sold to wanted to store low grade radioactive waste in them, but locals complained. Now they’re bricked-up. Wonder what (if anything) was inside when they sealed them?

IMG_9641

A little canal that guides the water that flows down the southeast side of the valley.

IMG_9637

If you can’t find a footpath, the water will guide you.

IMG_9632

At some point this was a matter of state security. Now there are many man-sized holes in the rusted fence, and nothing within worth securing.

IMG_9631

A very hirsute form of lichen.

IMG_9627

Some kind of pumping station at the top of the river/waterfall. The concrete area outside it was ankle deep in flowing water. Not sure what’s going on, but it ain’t doing what it used to.

IMG_9623

At the top of the valley we found a little brick cabin (probably one of many). The door was half-smashed. Within were ladders descending – probably all the way into the tunnels below. We couldn’t get in without causing criminal damage, so we left them be.

IMG_9622

WM. Not sure what that signifies.

IMG_9617

There are two layers of this surrounding the valley. It seems very unlikely they will be repaired or replaced to protect the business park they keep threatening to build.

IMG_9616

The view south toward Puncheston over one of Pembrokeshire’s few dry stone walls.

Adios,

A Velky

22/02/2016: Rudbaxton Rath and St Leonard’s Well

In lieu of a full diary update (which would at this time mainly feature illnesses and rain) here’s a photo-blog account of our visit to Rudbaxton Rath and St Leonard’s Well, near Crundale.

IMG_9149

“Rath” is apparently an Irish word, commonly used for forts and earthworks across Pembrokeshire.

The access to the rath is via a small and unremarkable lay-by opposite the driveway to either Big Rathe or Little Rathe (I forget which), which I assume is a farm. Possibly the farm that owns this rath, and possibly named after it. There is no sign for the rath, although it is a scheduled ancient monument. The public footpath sign remains here, which is something. Many of those I’ve explored in Pembrokeshire have either been deliberately removed or, which is more probable, damaged during hedge-trimming and never replaced by the council. This has happened just down the road from us since we moved here and nobody seems to care particularly. The bridge on the same public footpath has rotted away and was thick with brambles. It probably gets a couple of walkers a year. Rudbaxton Rath must at least attract some regular visits – from dog-walkers, history geeks, or teenagers looking for somewhere to drink cider.

IMG_9150

View from the field toward the lay-by.

The gateposts at the entrance to the field had nicely constructed stonework. Perhaps I should have photographed them, but I was more concerned with preventing my dog and children from being run over. People go by pretty fast, and there’s no parking area as such (let alone a gift shop). Fury took the walk slowly, but eventually caught up with us.

IMG_9152

View to the north.

It’s not especially high, but it’s a prominent bump in the immediate vicinity of the Rudbaxton/Crundale area, so as you climb the field along the fenced border you can see the masts at both Woodstock and Crymych to the north, as well as the peaks of the southernmost (and tallest) Preseli hills. Those that I recognise are Castlebythe (southwesternmost) and Cwmcerwyn (highest).

IMG_9153

This does not equal a gate.

What looked like a gate from the bottom of the field turned out to be just part of the fence, with a few horizontal stakes attached. I’m not sure if this is officially a viable thing to put over a public footpath (though I’ve seen far more blatant obstructions to rights of way on Pembrokeshire farms) but it made accessing the rath with two small children and a small dog a little bit tricky. If you have trouble climbing, this might be as far as you can go. It wouldn’t win any accessibility awards that’s for sure. And I tore a small hole in my jeans climbing over, as the back of the top horizontal stake is lined with barbed wire.

IMG_9154

Northwestern entrance to the rath.

The children were immediately impressed by the wooded earthworks, which was fortunate because I tend to find that can go either way. The banks of Rudbaxton Rath are impressively distinct though. It’s bigger than Scollock Rath (over the road from us) or Holgan Camp, which we visited just last week. The field at the top is relatively high and flat compared with the surrounding hill, which is naturally severe on the far side sloping down to what I assume is Cartlett Brook (whose source skirts Landskeria), and of course artificially exaggerated by the banks and ditches that encircle it.

IMG_9155

One of the rath’s wooded banks.

The rath has a page on Wikipedia (impressively) which notes – like the other sources I’ve read – that the rath is thought to have been used as a camp in the English Civil war. No visible stone fortifications remain, so presumably what is now a mature woodland was then a ring of stockades. The shape reminds me of numerous other iron age forts too though, and given the excellent defensive capability of such a location it seems very likely that medieval and later forts here were built on existing earthworks built by Iron Age folk. The modern antiquarian page is lacking at the moment (so much so I’m tempted to create an account). That website tends to be better populated when there’s mystical New Age-friendly prehistoiric stuff to look at. (Especially large stones.)

IMG_9156

The kids enjoyed climbing the outer wall; but the inner wall was a bit steep and brambly for them.

It’s amusing to note how the council were apparently planning to improve access to the site back in 2003 (according to the post on MA). Presumably whoever had that hope never quite managed to translate it into an actual plan of action. For such a lovely site to be borderline inaccessible and unsignposted is a real shame, but rather typical of the approach across the region. They’ll whack pictures of Pentre Ifan sunsets across the tourist literature, but when it comes to prioritising access to the many, many wonderful ancient monuments across Pembrokeshire there seems to be little enthusiasm.

IMG_9157

The top field. Presumably it’s used for grazing cows or sheep. (I’d guess cows.) But neither were in evidence.

IMG_9158

A view southeastwards to the far end of the camp’s inner circle.

The top part of the enclosure, being relatively flat and surrounded by trees, would make a lovely campsite. No idea what access is like (presumably there’s at least a way for tractors to get to it) and I’m sure it gets wet and windy at times, but it seems a shame for it to be more-or-less free from human activity when it’s been a people place for so many centuries.

IMG_9160

South along the outside of the fort.

IMG_9162

Walking clockwise around the banks of the rath.

We walked a short way around the rath to get a better sense of the place. I hadn’t brought my OS map, but I recalled that the green dotted line went all the way up, so even though we’d had to climb over a fence to get in, I was quite sure we were allowed to look around. I’m not completely sure why medieval monuments (especially castles, but also ruined abbeys, priories, etc.) are so much more treasured by our tourism and heritage industries. Perhaps it’s because of the certainty they offer by their association with verifiable historical records and relationships with continuing societal and political structures. The relative obscurity of sites like this (even when they do have an association with later historical records, which Rudbaxton Rath has) seems to be born as much from an intellectual embarrassment as from any kind of discernible policy decision.

IMG_9163

Kids, exploring.

IMG_9165

Pretty dense undergrowth; some of it must be impenetrable in summer.

IMG_9166

Hello, what’s this?

Upon rounding the ramparts a little we came across what looked like an entrance to hell. Quite an exciting thing to find in the banks of a rath, and very unusual in my experience. Closer inspection reminded me that the OS map had said there was a “well” up here, so this must be it. It’s a lovely little arched enclosure. No idea when it was built or whether it’s typical of wells of its kind. Coflein says it’s dry, but it certainly wasn’t after months of rain this winter.  They also say it’s post-medieval. Which would fit with the solitary fact(oid?) I know about medieval architecture: that rounded arches went out and pointed “gothic” once came in toward the end of the period.

IMG_9168

Is that a gothic arch?

The well was apparently part of a chapel that was in use in medieval times, and probably much later. Ruins remained until the mid-19th century, but now all that’s left is this little unlikely collection of bricks, built into the side of the rath.

IMG_9169

St Leonard’s Well. (How are you?)

IMG_9170

A little alcove bit. Possibly for putting statues of the Virgin Mary on. Possibly not.

IMG_9173

Preparing to offer a sacrifice.

I’ve no idea if you’re meant to throw money in this particular well, or whether that clearly pre-Christian habit is officially encouraged by the clergy nowadays. But I grew up near a holy well on Anglesey (St Seiriol’s) and there was always money in that – well, unless my older brother had been to it recently. That was protected by Cadw and had pretty decent access because it adjoined a medieval priory. Who knows what St Leonard’s chapel (as it was presumably called) did to upset everyone? Maybe it was built in an inconvenient location and its demise pre-dated the relatively modern interest in historical conservation.

IMG_9175

Throwing money into the well.

Anyway, we were taught to suspect most small enclosed bodies of water of being wishing wells, and to treat them as such. Sybil wished for a toy pony. Fury didn’t tell me what she wished for.

IMG_9179

Looking down from the top of the north bank.

IMG_9181

The inner circle, from the north bank.

IMG_9184

The rath has retained its shape very well. Presuming this was its original shape.

Unfortunately it’s true what was written on the MA site: just beyond the abandoned holy well is a ditch descending the north side of the rath, and somebody has decided to use it as their own personal landfill site. Whether it’s the farmer who acts as custodian of this land, or a neighbour taking advantage of their proximity to a rare patch of unmanaged and relatively invisible woodland, one cannot speculate. But it’s a state.

IMG_9187

Bin bags, plastic, paint tins, part of an old bed, an old trailer, etc.

IMG_9191

Everything is part of nature though, technically, isn’t it?

IMG_9193

And tyres. There are always tyres.

I found this quite upsetting. No doubt there are much more important things going on with a much more significant effect on the environment. And I suppose anything and everything humans do is by definition a part of the “natural” world. But at the same time I can’t help but think anybody who dumps a load of old rubbish on the side of an ancient earthwork by a disused holy well is a massive arse-hole.

Iron Age people dumped their rubbish where they liked. As did Medieval people. It wasn’t until very recently that semi-decent state-provided facilities started popping up around the place helping people recycle and dispose of unrecyclable rubbish in a societally approved fashion. We even have a small area in Eastern Landskeria (behind the woodshed in fact) where rubble and difficult building materials are stowed out of sight and out of mind. But that empty plastic paint carton looks pretty recently disposed with. And that could quite easily fit in a bin bag.

Of course there were a few old cans of cider strewn around too. I never did that, even when I was a lairy teenager and used to go drinking in such places. But I can see how it happens. This though? For such an enormous collection of junk to have built up in one place over the years suggests a prolonged abusive relationship somebody (possibly a few people, but entirely probably just one) has with their own local natural environment, and a disturbing sense of ownership and entitlement. Having lived in Wales for most of my life I know that a lot of people here either don’t know or simply don’t care about how beautiful the place they live in is, and how lucky they are to live in it. Or perhaps they’re just a very “vocal” minority, whose opinions are to be read clearly and regularly in the KFC packaging that’s strewn in the hedges that border our republic. (Impressive in a way, considering the nearest one I’m aware of is in Carmarthen.)

Should this come as a surprise? When sites as impressive as Rudbaxton Rath remain unsignposted, uncarparked, unlived-in, unloved, uncared-for, and rendered almost inaccessible by local land-management decisions, it probably follows that they are considered appropriate places for rubbish to be dumped.

EDIT: On reading A hiftory of Penbrokefhire by George Owen, Efq. of Henllys, Lord of Kemes (1603), I found that Owen mentions the Rath very briefly in a section subtitled: “Places not inhabited”. He mentioned “St. Leonard’s Rathe” as “an old fort on high ground.” So there we are. It was old news in Tudor times…

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

IMG_8800

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.

IMG_8799

‘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.

IMG_8720

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.

IMG_8798

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.

IMG_8797

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.

IMG_8724

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.

IMG_8725

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.)

IMG_8729

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.

IMG_8738

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.

IMG_8742

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.

IMG_8744

Old stone with an eyehole.

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

IMG_8745

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.

IMG_8746

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.

IMG_8747

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.

IMG_8749

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…

IMG_8752

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).

IMG_8753

Twisted snake sticks.

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

IMG_8754

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.

IMG_8755

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:

IMG_8757

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.

IMG_8758

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.)

IMG_8765

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.

IMG_8766

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.

IMG_8767

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.

IMG_8770

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).

IMG_8773

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.

IMG_8789

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.

IMG_8777

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.

IMG_8779

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.

IMG_8780

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!

IMG_8782

AWAY DAEMONKIND!!!!!1!!

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

IMG_8783

“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.

IMG_8786

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.

IMG_8795

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.

IMG_8796

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…

IMG_8794

I forgot to return the quartz.

I forgot to return the quartz.

IMG_8791

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.

12/12/2015: dwindling grains

12189018_10153042039337133_1640256763050268950_n

Templeton bonfire. Looks like a djinn.

Almost a full two months since our last diary entry, which is a shame because I’m bound to only remember the events most significant to me and which occurred most recently.

October went quickly.

I had trouble while the Kickstarter campaign was running to do anything but glare at my email inbox on my phone, constantly swiping to refresh. It’s a weird sort of pressure to put one’s self under, and I hope not to have to do it next time, but can’t realistically imagine another way of funding a book and securing more than a handful of orders at once.

It worked again, fortunately.

12141501_1503088306651645_1038816762555940856_nHalloween is Sybil’s favourite time of year, so while V was back and forth to London for work we went to walk around a spooky maze at Picton Castle. I also hired an access tower from Brandon Tool hire and set to work painting the Landskerian independence mural on the side of our house.

It didn’t take too long in real time. A couple of days’ work at the most; but it was bitty and broken up by childcare duties and the intermittent rain. Still, the finished article is pleasing to my eye. It’s unusual for a coat of arms, I think; but still recognizable as one. It felt necessary to get it done before the book was published, and indeed it was done before the book was even funded. No doubt the psychic energy emulating from the mural helped to push the funding over the target amount and beyond.

12065859_10153029870377133_2658517520815003528_nOnce the Kickstartering was over I got to panic about something completely new and different: the book launch event I’d (sort of) organised in London. Bonfire night happened. Jon visited and we went for a lovely walk up the coast by Abercastle, discovering a splendid Cromlech called Carreg Sampson and witnessing a couple of choughs pecking about in the grass by the cliff, and a delightful display from some starlings. Fury came with us and Sybil went to Carmarthen to go shopping with V.

The following (very rainy) morning Jon and I recorded some readings of poems in the shed, which was very useful in helping me work out which ones I could remember, and perform adequately, live.

10420125_10153052931757133_558384550417544449_nAs well as the usual duties of taking children to classes in cars, failing to teach Fury how to swim on a weekly basis and keeping the library books coming and going, I found myself mired in a prolonged piece of copywriting work throughout much of November, having amounted to no fewer than six drafts by the time I finished in early December. At least I think I finished. I’ve not yet heard anything, or indeed billed for it.

But this combined with planning for the event and the arrival of the books themselves and the accompanying requirement for fulfilling Kickstarter rewards (pamphlets, certificates, flags, etc.) meant that November blinked and I missed it. My mother came up at some point to look for houses, but we didn’t find one. Well, not THE one.

12196027_1283039331721902_3435568295492665286_n

Celebrating our independence from the UK.

Victoria’s parents came to stay too for the last part, and we got to witness Sybil’s acting debut in a production of the Elves and the Shoemaker, in which she mainly stood right at the front of the stage yawning, and occasionally waving to Fury. Nevertheless I feel I can impartially state that she was by far the most promising talent on display.

Fury’s second birthday was a delight. She was looking forward to it for weeks, and very much enjoyed the attention, and the play Sybil happened to be doing on the same day, and the visit to a new(ish) trampoline park by Haverfordwest airport.

12278629_10153076671522133_1205800128429257401_n

An arch at Rosebush quarry.

I had a terrible cold that week, and on the first day it really kicked in (the Monday following my brief visit to London for the Indelicates’ “Elevator Music” album launch party) I remembered I’d agreed to go to Sybil’s kindergarten and help with the construction of a fire escape. I could barely drag myself out of bed, but having done nothing by way of volunteering all year I sort of felt like I had to. In the end I helped dig out a hole in an earth bank and then constructed a section of dry stone wall all by myself – on an empty stomach, I might add. I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

I hadn’t quite recovered by the time the book launch loomed, but driving to and from London in the space of two days (and sharing the drive with V, who was able to commit to attending at the last minute thanks to some brave volunteer childsitters and dogsitters) was much more manageable a task than getting the train there and back on the weekend. The latter meant over 12 hours in a confined, uncomfortable space that was generally either too hot or too cold.

12342653_1512784132348729_5057545310557254776_nThe book launch came and went. It was a tremendously enjoyable experience for me. It felt hugely self-indulgent. I did two sets of about 12 poems combined – some read, some performed – including a “cover” of a Yeats poem set to a friend’s music. (More on the gig here.) It was a shame not to have the kids there, but they would have been very bored. I look forward to embarrassing them with such things in later life. I was very grateful for the support of friends and family alike. V, especially, was enormously encouraging and helpful. I’m glad she was able to come, even though I had long got used to the idea that she might not be able to (because of work, kids, etc.)

Steve about to perform "Advertising space".

Steve about to perform “Advertising space”.

The launch also saw the official declaration of independence for Landskeria. I had meant to involve the audience by getting them to sign a document as witnesses, but our printer packed up at the last minute. So in the end I just read the state poem. At some point I should probably inform the UK home office or the foreign office (not sure which) but it feels official to me now, which is what matters most. We got a flag made and everything.

Tynewydd - the capital of Landskeria.

Tynewydd – the capital of Landskeria.

While the rest of the world (at least the world according to the news) is being bombed it’s nice to have a bit of peace and tranquillity, somehow only made more so by the stormy weather. Aeroplane trails criss-cross in the sky over Landskeria, but we are no one’s business so we don’t have to scramble them or try to shoot them down. Our airspace can take the violation.

Kindergarten term has come to an end. The countdown to Christmas has begun. We will spend it with the Keebles and various in/out-laws in Gloucestershire. Now that all the book stuff is out the way I can look forward to it.

We have a new shed to hold the wood pellets on the far side of my Boiler House (more commonly referred to as “The Shed” in spite of all the other sheds which are more shedlike). Our borders have been cut by the gardener and now I can patrol no fewer than three stretches of walkable hedge. There’s a large overgrown tree-stump I’d never found before on the East-facing border of West Landskeria. I took the above photo of our house from it. I was toying with the idea of a flagpole for our new flag, but V has vetoed it. After the mural, I might just let this one go for a bit. Sybil, however, has cottoned on to how much V doesn’t want a flagpole, so keeps cracking jokes about getting her one for her birthday in January.

Jon and Fury at Carreg Sampson.

Jon and Fury at Carreg Sampson.

The new year will also bring with it Sybil’s transition to a proper school (she is 4 now after all) and possibly Fury’s transition to a playgroup in Clarbeston Road. (Though it should be noted she greets every such suggestion with a firm shake of the head and a “No” at the moment.)

We will also be going to Florida to see V’s american family at some point. And maybe even getting a new floor put down finally. Beyond this I have relatively few expectations for the year.

I will try to get some reviews for the book. If I manage, they will probably be as negative as last time. But who cares? It’s already paid for itself and even given me a few bottles of wine by way of profit. I’m pleased with it. And I will try very hard to make the next one better.

Our independence will not be recognised by anyone. But the more independent we become, the more of a reality it will be. We might start to look at ways of producing our own electricity. Fracking. Uranium mining. I reckon a flagpole might attract a few bolts of lightning…

Until our next update (which will probably be in 2016) let it be known that the weather is stormy, the environment is volatile, and the economy is bearing up under the global strain.

A Velky.

15/10/2015: the bat is out of the cage

Nine days has passed since I wrote (and forgot to post) the following paragraphs:

Another week has passed by in Landskeria. That probably doesn’t sound like news, but bear in mind this is more of a diary than a news bulletin.

IMG_7157I almost reversed over a dead fox early in the week as I was pulling out to drive Sybil off to kindergarten. It must have been killed recently (hit by a car or a tractor) as there were no flies on it, and only a bloody mouth and the general stiffness indicated that it hadn’t just lay down there in the road for a nap.

I carried it by its rigid paws and put it on the side of our driveway. Not really sure why, but I didn’t want its body to be further damaged by the uncaring passage of heavy vehicles.

IMG_7169When I got back I decided I wanted to keep it. The proper thing to do is to phone the council and have them take it away, I think. But that seemed wrong. And not just because it was now on sovereign Landskerian land, which the council have little or no business being on.

Of course I still pay council tax, because I still enjoy the trappings of Pembrokesherian civilization (especially the fortnightly rubbish collection). But The dead fox had become my responsibility. And that ultimately meant hiding it behind some rocks in our lay-by in the hope that it will naturally biodegrade there (AKA be eaten by insect larvae) and there will be a skeleton for me to remember it by.

IMG_7195I always liked collecting animal bones as a kid. And we always pick up any bleached remnants of sheep or rabbit when we’re out walking on the hills. The kids like them too. I somehow doubt the carcass will remain unmolested by other megafauna; most likely some foxes will sniff it out and come and drag it away. But they may do so if they wish.

Autumn is in full swing; the coolness is just about there in the air, although the weather is brighter and more joyous than it was for the majority of 2015’s summer.

IMG_7189We’ve been walking up at the hill a couple of times; plenty of ponies, sheep and ravens. But it’s too dry for mushrooms. Unheard of in a Welsh autumn! Funnily enough I noticed one of those Ordnance Survey height market things (I forget the real name; they look like runes) on the Snack Rock on the side of Carn Sian. Never noticed it before, but it must have been there because I don’t think they make them anymore.

What else has happened this week? V nearly went to London but then didn’t. I drove around a lot, taking children to and from places. Our car is due a service actually. It’s only been with us since January but it’s already done about a million miles.

IMG_7147I made a preliminary design for the mural I plan to paint on the wall on the side of our house. I’m pretty pleased with it; but it’ll look much better when the hydrangeas are rendered in paint as opposed to permanent marker.

^ AND AT THIS POINT Victoria arrived, from Porlock, or wherever it was she’d been to. And I forgot to finish the diary. I was going to mention supermoons through Velux windows, looking at houses for my mum, and Hercules and Charlotte’s visit, where (as Fury keeps on reminding me, at odd moments throughout the day) “Herc fell in the pond”. We also spoke briefly to Adam, who was hungover in what looked like scorching LA sunlight.

IMG_7150What has happened since then? Another weekend: Victoria took Sybil to London to see her aunts and her cousin. (Sybil’s.)

I stayed here with Fury and Nana and Pepé came to look at houses. It was a tiring but very enjoyable weekend in which Fury got to stroke many cats, dogs, and almost some chickens. They found a couple of houses they liked, but it seems doubtful either will be The One. One of them was very vague about its price, and had structural complications. The other was lovely but a bit far from us, so I worry they wouldn’t be able to babysit quite as often as they must surely want to.

IMG_7216

Story time with Hercules, Fury and Sybil. (And Victoria.)

Days disappear into emptied diesel tanks, and out of the chimney of the pellet boiler, into the cold autumn sky. I’ve been taking Fury to the hills, and to the standing stones and stone circles, desperately trying to get a long-running poetry video recorded and finished.

I launched the kickstarter campaign for my next poetry book, and that’s going pretty well so far. (Touch wood.) And finally, today, I drove to Brandon Tool Hire in Narberth and hired an access tower (like a mobile scaffold thing, and actually began painting our independence mural! (The aforementioned Landskeria coat of arms.) I’m very excited, and slightly worried V might have second thoughts. Oh well, I’ve begun now. I won’t post a picture just yet. I’ll wait till a little more is done.

Now, I’ve probably missed out all sorts of things that have been going on. But if I don’t cut this short now I’ll forget to post it again and October will crinkle up and fall from the sky to be blown away by winter winds.

The weather is delightful. The environment is changing. The economy is stretched.

Yours,

A Velky.

28/09/2015: a smoking chimney

IMG_7036

A witch.

We’ve had the fire going over the last few days, even though these have been the driest and (possibly even) the warmest days we’ve seen since… June? Probably?

For some reason we seem to have an exponentially increasing washing pile. Perhaps it’s the universe expanding, and thus our washing pile expanding with it. Perhaps it’s that the days are getting shorter and thus there’s less time in the days to do washing. Hard to tell.

What’s been going on then?

IMG_7120Sybil’s back at kindergarten. Fury’s back at her weekly swim in Haverfordwest. Sybil’s back at her weekly swim down near Kilgetty.

Sybil has started an after-school drama club on Friday, despite not quite being at school yet. She’s loving that. She’s learning a song about raising rent maliciously to force a poor shoemaker out of business. She’s “a baddie”. Funny that, what with all the rent-control, property-dev, gentrification, protests/riots in the news.

IMG_7119But all that’s happening in London. Here in Landskeria we just have after-school drama clubs, and those funny late-flowering pink succulent type plants that the bees and butterflies go mad for. And those grassy red flowers that spring up along all the borders. They might be a type of lily. I have no idea.

They are a lovely echo to the many daffodils that sprouted so many months ago in spring, and I suspect they might be bulbs; but my recognition of our native flora is sadly lacking. So much lost knowledge.

IMG_7109The non-butter flies (AKA the flies) are going mad for the dying autumn sunlight on our South-facing white external walls, and the gaps left by the ventilation flaps in our Velux windows, and (consequently) the inside of our house. Again. Bloody flies.

Fortunately we have a few real genuine (non-cannibalistic) spiders. But I am always told to get rid of them when they grow too big. So I take them to my shed. And they might stay there. But suspiciously similar spiders of similarly gargantuan proportions soon turn up back in the bath.

The fireplace is surrounded by washing, which I ought to be folding up rather than writing this. Victoria is (finally, after three years in the county) at her first Welsh lesson. And I am preparing for my First of December POETRY BOOK LAUNCH, which will (assuming I can raise the funds to print it) mark the publication of my new poetry book, as well as the formal declaration of our nation’s independence from the UK, by a recitation of the state poem in the capital of the UK: London.

I’m excited. Aren’t you???

IMG_7060

F, S, A.

Last weekend (not the one that just happened; the one before that) we met with Victoria’s cousin’s family in Bream, in the Forest of Dean. Sybil and Fury got to hang out with their (possibly removed, possibly second?) cousin Aster, who is a veritable whirlwind and much more similar in character to Sybil, despite being closer to Fury in age. She celebrated her second birthday (inasmuch as a two-year-old celebrates anything, which is to say, inasmuch as they tend to celebrate everything). And they got to meet their new baby cousin Peggy, the very tiny and very cute daughter of V’s middle sister, whose family had driven up from Newbury to drop by and say hello. Suspicions about chess-grand-mistress-credentials could be neither confirmed nor denied at this stage. But I can say that I didn’t beat her at a game of chess once during her visit.

IMG_7073We went to Chepstow, which was culturally interesting as a Welsh border-town, but not especially picturesque (apart from maybe the bit by the river, which we only drove past). It did however house one of those terrific/horrific children’s play areas in a warehouse on an industrial estate, which is always a pretty much readymade recipe for the best children’s birthday you could hope for.

And there was a massive Tesco.

We also popped to Symonds Yat, thus technically straying from Gloucesterhisre into Herefordshire, and seeing that awful “Here you can” sign. And Symonds Yat, which is lovely.

But seriously… “Here[ford] you can”??? Awful. Worse than the worst Travel Destination country-branding projects. Just get a county flag, dammit, Herefordshire. I like you, but you need to get with the program.

I read two poems from the new book at the Cellar Bards night in Cardigan. It seemed to go well. I enjoyed it anyway, which is the point of a hobby. And it was nice to hear so many powerful and versatile voices (in poetry and prose) as one tends to when making the effort to cross the county border (and the Preseli Mountains) to rock up at the Co-op car park at 8pm of a Friday.

mockupI will be spending the next few weeks recording poetry videos, practicing poems, writing press releases, deleting press releases, rewriting press releases, curating some regalia, panicking, picnicking (hopefully) and, of course, looking after children. We will also be welcoming the only next-gen cousin from my side of the family so far, Hercules (and his mother).

I’m so excited about the next poetry book I’ve already started mocking up covers for volume four! (Volume three is half-finished, collecting dust in a drawer in The Cloud.) Foolish of me, as there are much more pressing issues at hand.

The weather is sunny. The environment is prickly. And the economy is good.

AV

09/09/2015: termtime eve

IMG_6923

From Carn Sian.

Driving through Maenclochog, it’s becoming evident that people are back at school. By all the schoolchildren all over the place; and the fact that I can’t get a parking space outside Sarah’s when I roll into town at 3:15 on my way to a mountain/hill. Even though I urgently need snacks with which to bribe my children up the aforementioned mountain/hill.

We (the Russian We) chose to keep Sybil at kindergarten for the first two terms of this year, so we’ve had two whole days more with her before she goes back. Which has been fun. It’s very much the norm having them both around so it’ll be sad for Fury when she’s not there in the mornings again. They’ve formed such a bond over this summer.

IMG_6881V’s parents have been down over the past few days and looked after the two of them most of the time.

This has been great for my productivity: I’ve painted a flagstone; I’ve repotted some fungus-gnat-riddled plants; I’ve (finally) taken the tent down in East Landskeria (leaving a bare and sorry looking octagon of misery behind in the top lawn); I’ve bought a sack barrow to move all the flagstones I mean to paint; I’ve got a draft of the new poetry book ready for final proofreading; I’ve filmed and edited a poetry video (for the first time in five months); and I’ve painted the walls around our new Velux windows. Actually that one last bit I think I might have done last week.

IMG_6827

Steve was here on holiday, so we met up for a swift one.

But I still haven’t mown the lawn. Maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow autumn term begins in earnest for us. (That bit of your life where you’re not beholden to school terms is over before you know it, kids.)

The gardener (who comes once a month and does more work in a day than I manage all year) has trimmed the edges for me, so all I need is a day with sun and/or a light breeze. Come on Landskeria, you can do it.

IMG_6889

My latest flagstone: the Pembrokeshire flag.

Negotiations with V concerning the mural (or lack thereof) continue to stagnate, with brief encouraging signs followed by wintry glares across breakfast tables. I’m taking out my artistic urges on our paving stones for now, but all that’s really stopping me letting loose on the side of the house is a big enough ladder and an awesome enough design.

The paints were from Aldi by the way. Trawl the internet (and your local homewares stores) for masonry paint in loud colours and you’ll be lucky to find a bold beige. Rock on down to Aldi looking for some cheap meat and veg and, hey Palermo, there’s your £5-a-tin every-colour-of-the-rainbow paint that apparently adheres to any given surface you might have mastery over.

IMG_6865

Getting eaten by a dinosaur at the dinosaur park.

We’re looking forward to a long weekend with V’s cousin and her family in Gloucestershire, and then Christmas with the Keebles in the Cotswolds, which sounds like it should be a hit ’80s Christmas movie. I’m sure it will be.

Another baby Keeble has been born, finally; this time in London. S & F have their second first-cousin, this time on the maternal/matriarchal side of the family. V has already met her and S is looking forward to it. I can’t imagine I’ll get to until Christmas, but I don’t doubt she’ll have memorized the alphabet backwards by then, because her mother is a teacher at a fancy school and her father is a maths genius. She’ll probably be a chess grandmaster (-mistress?) by her third birthday.

IMG_5984

Sybil and Grandad. She took this herself on timer!

I’m pretty sure Fury will be a wrestler. Sybil’s destiny remains uncertain. I’d kind of like to have a family business for her to take over, because I had no idea what I’d do as an adult when I was a kid. And I think I’d have liked some certainty. Or an option. One of either would still be welcome, but (I don’t care if this sounds sentimental) having the opportunity to be a dad is the best “employment” I’ve yet come across. Even better than being a copywriter! Definitely better than being a poet, although technically I’ve never really made money out of that. Which is probably for the best. My children are much funnier than anyone I’ve ever sat next to at work. Even the good ones. (Shout out Ben.)

I’m rambling, which is what happens when I set out meaning to be concise. And have to write stuff while my super-slow rural broadband is still working out if I’m allowed accompanying images or not.

Let me think whether there’s any other news…

IMG_6823

Lung? Heart? Liver???

Our dog Frida has been gradually dismembering a pigeon corpse over a period of about a week. We think she found it in a hedge. We still haven’t run out of the month’s supply of Waitrose wine we had delivered almost a month ago(!) Although we have cheated a bit by having beer too in-between.

I’m trying to organize a poetry book launch in London, but thus far my efforts (which have been draining) amount to little more than saying so on Facebook and then emailing a pub that hasn’t emailed me back in the five days since.

Morrisons in Haverfordwest seems to have been cursed; a van was on fire in its car park yesterday and today a lorry full of straw fell over on the roundabout right outside it. This might not sound like news to you, but this is Landskeria’s equivalent of the Ottoman Empire’s defence of the Dardanelles in WW1.

IMG_6069

Kidz.

The world (the wider world, beyond the shores and borders of our privileged bubble) continues to show all the signs of heading toward some sort of boiling point. I assume/hope it always looks like that from afar. But a lot of people seem quite afraid of the future right now. I’m not. I’m getting a sack barrow delivered any day now. And a shed after that. Yet another shed. This will be the fourth shed in our garden. I type this from the first.

I will be prepared for the future.

The weather has a lot of explaining to do. The environment is fertile. The economy is good.

AV

A technical aside: if some of these images appear the wrong way around, blame WordPress. I spent precious time editing them and it seems to have overruled me. Also, if anyone knows how to retain the click-through links to the original-size images, do let me know. It’s annoying that they all become static stamp-sized thumbnails.

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.

IMG_5682

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.

IMG_5710

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.

IMG_5712

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.

IMG_6601

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.)

IMG_5855

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.

IMG_5857

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.

IMG_6639

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.

IMG_6693

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.

IMG_6705

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