Personal News

Ceredigion December 2004

We have been living in our new home since February. It's about half a mile away from the Welsh longhouse where I was living while we were house-hunting. There are more rooms than we have ever owned before, so we have a study each, as well as a library, a box room, an ironing room and a cellar among others. There are five loos, though there were six until we decided we didn't need the one in an outbuilding. The garden is a series of courtyards, one of which we have laid to lawn, mainly so that Miranda can have some grass to nibble. We are having the place redecorated in a combination of reds and pinks (the colours are called Venetian Red, Flesh and Georgian 9) by two brothers called Roy and Wyn who live locally and have become friends - Wyn brings us trout that he catches himself, and coffee-breaks have been known to turn into impromptu wine-tastings. The busiest road in Ceredigion thunders past our front windows, but we have got used to it. Twice a day a man drives to the Spar in a tractor, perhaps for cigarettes. Every morning and evening a Land Rover goes by with two sheepdogs in the back barking continually in strict alternation, one bark each, from the habit of teamwork. The traffic stops around 7 o'clock and the only sound heard from the garden is the bleating of sheep. The green hills of inland Ceredigion are on one side of us and on the other is a series of small fields known as slangs, leading to the beach. The sea is the setting for some spectacular sunsets, and even the journey to my work in Aberystwyth is breathtaking. We see foxes, owls, red kites and hares; once, walking on the cliffs, I was buzzed by a bird of prey protecting its nest; it kept whooshing unnervingly about a foot above my head.

We've had quite a few people to stay already, and seemed to have idyllic weather for every visit instead of the usual rain and sea-mist. This has given us the opportunity to explore the area: the Vale of Rheidol steam railway, the waterfalls at Devil's Bridge, the Alternative Technology Centre at Machynlleth (where we got stuck in a malfunctioning water-balanced cliff railway), and an exhausting walk up Cader Idris. (Creina opted out of this one, after her experience of Pen y Fan last year.)

New Collected Poems

It's been a good year for my writing. My annotated edition of W.S. Graham's New Collected Poems appeared in February and my study of Graham, Where the People Are, in August. In June I was named as one of the Poetry Book Society's Next Generation Poets, a list of the twenty best new poets published in Britain in the last ten years. The poets all went to London to be photographed for Guardian Weekend magazine. The photo was taken in two halves and joined together later; while my group was being photographed, the others were in the cafe drinking wine, with the result that all the poets on the right of the picture have red faces.

Creina finished the current volume of her family memoir shortly before we moved. In June she went to London to attend a reunion of Marymount, a school she used to teach at in Zimbabwe thirty years ago, and there was much catching up with old friends by email before and after. We seem to have done more travelling than usual this year, perhaps because we have a new car, which Creina drives ferociously down the country roads. There were several trips to London: we rode the London Eye, dined at the River Cafe, watched a cricket match on Richmond Green, and had another memorable dinner in a Chinese restaurant directly across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament where all the waiters in turn came over to congratulate us for ordering the belly of pork, which is usually unpopular with Westerners for sound medical reasons.

Sky Road

We spent our holiday in Ireland, where we saw gold ornaments in the National Museum, monastic ruins in Glendalough and vistas of yellow sand, orange seaweed, green-brown mountains and grey sea in Connemara. My one attempt at a walk foundered in wind and rain, but we had a wonderful drive on the Sky Road, with a view of the Atlantic foaming over an endless succession of islands.

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