The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Having 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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).
It 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.
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.