Monthly Archives: October 2017

10/10/2017: A partial audit of the new realm

I’m waiting for washing to wash in Old Landskeria, formerly known as the Most Serene Republic of Landskeria. I think we can safely say the republic has been dissolved, being as there are no ministers (joint, first, or otherwise) to administer the goings-on. Both Former Joint First Ministers have taken up residence with the bats in New Landskeria and are serving as absentee landlords. A worrying situation which I seem to recall had repercussions when it became common in rural communities in 19th century Italy.

We’ve had our first booking for the commercial enterprise that is currently operating in Old Landskeria. And to celebrate, the cluster flies have taken up residence in the loft. Despite the fly-bomb I set off just a couple of weeks ago. Typical.

V has gone to London to work, and will be late because her phone mysteriously broke all by itself shortly after the children stopped playing games on it, and my stupid Huawei Nexus crashed overnight (as it always does when charging) and failed to activate its alarm function on time. Good luck conquering the world, China! I bet Germany will get there before you.

I thought I’d use this time while Fury plays Duplo and the washing washes and the cluster flies perish to fill you (by which I probably mean future me) in on the progress made in the first month of residence in New Landskeria, the as-yet-to-be-formally-named future Republic of Landskeria. And being as I can’t deal very well with chronology, I’ll do it using the placeholder geographical terminology for the approximately 3 acres of land that our new home comprises. (2.5 on the deed, 0.5 disputed territories; more on that later.) We’ll go geographically from south to north, for no particular reason.

The Bog

The Bog is a largely uncultivatable territory, and at least partly untravesable. There’s a lot of Himalayan balsam, and not a whole lot else. Some hazel, some of which has been coppiced. The farmers who neighbour to the northeast have erected a fence relatively recently, on the high ground. Fortunately this provides a dry path to exit our land to the south and pursue the (also boggy) public footpath through horse pastures along Afon Wern toward Afon Cleddau Ddu. We walked it yesterday, but didn’t dare pass the horses with the little dogs, in case they tried to eat them (whichever way round you picture that scenario unfolding). We stopped by the Wern for a picnic and happened to find the kids’ plastic fishing net, which Fury dropped from a rock by the river in the Flood the first week we were here.

The Flood

The Flood is a largely uncultivatable territory, which borders the bog to the south, and stretches from the southern extremity of our border with Afon Wern up to where it meets a discernible former holloway, at which point the brambled growth meets a wall and becomes the administrative territory at the front of the house, which we sarcastically refer to as the Lawn. (There’s no grass. It’s pretty boggy; but you can’t call every territory the Bog.) The flood mostly comprises mossy rocks on flood plain land alongside the Wern, but there’s also some solid and tussocky ground with brambles, hazel, ash and sycamore. And Himalayan balsam of course. An invasive plant, but quite a pretty one; and nowhere near as problematic as Japanese knotweed. The Flood is a largely undisturbed territory, and I’d like to keep it that way in the vain hope that an otter might take up residence. Good for a wander, and to reach a felled tree (an ash, if my memory serves me correctly) which serves as an excellent (if precarious) bridge over which one can access the Forbidden Island.

The Forbidden Island

The Forbidden Island is a disputed territory enclaved between the diverting currents of Afon Wern. The diversion forks opposite the Lawn, overlooked by the Mill and then comes together again opposite the central span of the Flood.  The island is uncultivated wet woodland which I have visited only once and have no plan to develop; however, until anyone tells me otherwise and produces a legal document to support their claim, I’m going to assume the island is a Landskerian island, because it just feels like it is. No grazing takes place upon it, nor coppicing, nor any other form of management as far as I could tell. I removed some litter, and thus my claim was established.

The Lawn

The Lawn is a flat expanse of boggy ground with some low-growing plants, some ash trees, some laurels, some fruit bushes and an elder tree. It also includes the holloway and further overgrown walled structures leading down to the broadest part of the river, where it diverts around the Forbidden Island. I haven’t done much with the Lawn apart from chop down a sickly looking spruce or fir tree (some kind of Christmas cast-off) which had been planted in a daft place. The Leat which used to turn the mill wheel flows between the Lawn and the Chase, pooling high after heavy rainfall around the flimsy roots of both Himalayan balsam and Japanese Knotweed. A fallen ash tree provides a small diversion for the river here too. Technically it’s easier to classify the fallen tree as part of the Eastern Cleddau SSSI (not a Landskerian administration) rather than enter the complicated process of dividing its physical parts between the Chase and the Lawn territories. But if it were divided, its uprooted base would be in the Chase, and its trunk and the various shoots and branches that still supports (though mostly within the body of the Wern) would fall in the Lawn. The Lawn, it should be noted, is also the site of the Old Mill, which was demolished at some point within the last half century. Thus we may rebuild a stone structure there one day, using the existing wall which shores up the bank beside the Drive.

The Drive

We’ve spent quite a bit of time (with help from Mum and Keith) clearing the Drive of mud and leaves in an attempt to prepare it for a gravelling. It stretches from the Pembrokeshire County Council-administered Crundale-to-Crymych C-road to the Shop (a fancified shed which abuts out house); and old maps in my possession suggest the Drive used to extend beyond the Bog (before it was so boggy, presumably) all the way down the public footpath toward the Cleddau Ddu, back when Cwm Isaf was a working farmhouse. The Drive territory does not include the adjoining car-park (which is also part of the same rough concrete structure), nor does it include the Leat, a man-made diversion from Afon Wern, which watercourse actually passes under the Drive twice; once through pipes and a concealed tunnel, and once under rough slate slabs, one of which is perishing.

The Sheds

Perhaps the most inadequately named territory of them all, the Sheds comprises the car-park, several sheds and other historic outbuildings in various states of decay, but also the Garden (overgrown) and (until it is redesignated as a functioning building) the Mill itself; which is not actually a mill at all, but a former woollen factory with an adjoining iron water-wheel. Thus far the actual structures we are aware of are (in order of most useful to least):

  1. The Mill (not a mill) – a large two-storey 1902 structure built from stone quarried in the Quarry, and partially renovated at (as far as we can tell) several different times in the past few decades, containing much old machinery, old furniture, old building parts from this and other buildings, old radio equipment, old optical equipment, old poetry books and other literary materials, and one or more species of bat.
  2. The Tin Shed – a corrugated metal shed with a pallet and hardboard base, found to contain numerous tools in various states of decay, now being used to store wood.
  3. The Concrete Shed – a prefabricated construction on a concrete base comprising concrete panels with a pebbledashed outer effect and a corrugated asbestos roof, bolted together with metal brackets and containing a store of various irregular double-glazed windows without opening mechanisms, a couple of unglazed windows within the structure itself (one of which looks south toward the Chase where a fantastic old alder tree dominates the scene), some heavy-duty reflective workwear which I have claimed for myself, a workbench with a rusty vice, and some other assorted rubbish.
  4. The Milking Parlour (also called the Cow Shed) – a good stone structure with a mostly-functional corrugated asbestos roof and one collapsed southern-facing wall overlooking the Chase, and a recently built open window on the north wall. Containing old cow-milking apparatus, piles of sand and chalk, old rubbish including a radio and a motorcycle helmet adapted into a bird-box, a rusty but functional scaffold, various tools (some useful) and a porcelain cup depicting cartoon dogs designed by a (presumably unsuccessful) Scottish artist.
  5. The Cow Shed (also called the Pig Sty) – a large derelict stone-walled structure housing foliage and hazel withies and an ancient rusty chassis from an early automobile, with no roof nor evidence of a roof, presumably once used to house livestock of some kind, presumably under a roof of some kind. Unless it was just a pen.
  6. The Pig Shed (also also called the Pig Sty) – a small stone structure with reasonable integrity, but severely threatened by mature ash and sycamore trees shoving it over from behind; a good slate and timber roof is almost completely fallen in now, and the one metal camping cup inside is little consolation for the sorry story of neglect this structure tells.
  7. The Cauldron – a square stone structure adjoining the rear of the Cow Shed, with a bricked base allowing fires to be lit beneath an huge integral iron pot (which gives this “shed” its name); various theories have been proffered for the former use of the pot (pig-butchering, wool-treating, workwear-washing) but little evidence was to be found within on the afternoon I emptied it (spectated by Sybil and Fury – the former of whom commented “the strange thing is, I’m still not bored of this). Bits of stone, wood, brick, nails and a hypothesized dismantled iron fireplace were found therein, among the muck and slime.

It should be noted at this point that the Shop (although technically a shed) is not to be found within the Sheds territory, and so will be dealt with when I discuss the house. That this blog post has taken up so much time and data already would suggest I ought to leave the House, along with the Quarry, the Woodland, the Chase, the Common, the North and South Islands, the (disputed) Far Island, the Common and the Leat to another time.

There is much to document, and even more to administrate.

The weather is kind. The environment is good. The economy is hollow.

Your intrepid administrator,

A Velky

04/10/2017: Death and rebirth

In the year and a half since our last update, much and little has happened.

The news is that the Most Serene Republic of Landskeria is vacant. It still exists, but it is no longer our home. This poses both logistical and administrative problems; but opportunities too. We’ve done this on purpose, you see. The area of land which we declared independent from the UK in 2015 is still there, and we still own it. But in the short term we’re planning on renting it out as a holiday let. So it will technically be a vacant state. And we will be a stateless nation. Or, a nation in self-imposed exile; that might be more accurate. But this isn’t a temporary exile like when we had the herringbone parquet put in last year and stayed with my mum and Keith in Hebron. The place we’ve moved to I hope to remain in, and for my sons (by which I mean daughters) and sons’ sons (by which I mean daughters’ children and/or pets) to enjoy long after I am gone. Of course they probably won’t because it’s not in the nature of children to do what you expect them to do or to want what you want them to want.

But a new republic will be born here where we now reside, on the outskirts of the historic and sublime landscape of Mynachlogddu in North Pembrokeshire, yn Y Fro Gymraeg. It will be a Landskerian Republic, because we are as we were (and will be) Landskerians. But I have a feeling it won’t be serene.

I don’t know what it will be yet. Or whether it will be a new state or an exclave. I have a feeling the new country will become the primary Landskerian state and our Most Serene Republic might have to be demoted to the equivalent status of a dodgy tax haven or an oil rig. Like Bermuda or Kaliningrad.

That is the news. I didn’t blog for a long time because I wanted to finish writing a novel. And I did manage that. (Among other time-consuming things.) There was a year. We were in Florida seeing V’s family. We came home and winter set in, mild and wet as it has been in recent years. V’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer toward the end of winter, and died only a few months afterwards. There was a funeral. The rest of us continued to age, and this was (as it always is) most remarkably apparent in the children. Evidence of all that happened in the interim, to us and to the rest of the world, exists; so I won’t detail it inexpertly here. At some point in spring we found Cwm Isaf, and although I didn’t really think we would, we ended up moving here. I booked a van the weekend V took the kids to scatter her father’s ashes in Norfolk.

We moved in here at the end of summer. I’m optimistic about how we can spend our time here. There is enough to keep us going for as long as we have. That’s a good situation. We have some of Calvin’s ashes to scatter here. I think I’d happily have mine scattered here. And I never thought that about anywhere, except Penmon, before. This is different. No sea view. No mountains. At least not for about a mile. It’s a small, wet-woodland valley alongside a thundering river. Terrible internet, but (amazingly) that doesn’t bother me that much yet. (Although I know it will when I work.) The garden is full of old buildings. There’s even a derelict woollen factory, which we tend to (kind of inaccurately) call “the mill”. I picture it as an art factory and a walkers’ hostel. V pictures it as a holiday home, or maybe our home one day. Her suggestions make more sense, but I like mine better.

I never imagined such a place existed, much less that we would live in it. I’m glad we found it.

Among the undergrowth so far I’ve found a miniature waterwheel, a rake, a hoe, a fork, a cow-shed, a huge iron pot, the chassis of an ancient automobile, a Dutch poetry book, some dismantled fireplaces, and numerous other curiosities. I’ve seen nuthatches, robins and treecreepers aplenty, as well as red kites and crows overhead. I’ve heard ravens and owls. I’ve seen numerous pipistrelles and something bigger that might be a noctule. All kinds of funny water-and-wood-loving insects. And some bullhead fish in the Wern. No otters or salmon yet, but I’ve not really sat still long enough to have a chance. Lots of Japanese knotweed of course. And Himalayan balsam. I’m looking forward to next spring when the giant periwinkles will come out in force. I beat a wood mouse to death with a walking stick the other day. I didn’t enjoy it. I don’t think I’ll do it again. I thought it was a rat, and it had been in the house for days, eating the children’s toys and our potatoes, and shitting everywhere. I thought it would move. And then I thought why did I even try to hit it if I thought it would move. I don’t know. And would it have enjoyed being caught in a trap more?

As well as clearing the carpark to its “natural” extent and beginning on scraping the drive clean, I’ve begun to attempt to protect the older, rarer trees (which friends have helped me identify) from the virulent sycamores (which even I can identify). And to work on the drainage, and letting the light in to the sunny side of the house through the thick low scrub-growth. Everywhere in the 2.5 acres is evidence of other humans’ previous failed schemes. We must tread softly. (Not least because the brambles have claimed most of the land for themselves.)

I’ll stop there. Now on to painting, decorating, sanding, filling, tree-felling, wall-building, light-fitting, ditch-digging, bramble-hacking, leat-dredging, and all that stuff. But sleeping first. The affairs of state will have to wait. They’re used to that.

The weather is respiratory. The environment is overwhelming. The economy is tense.

Your friend,

A Velky