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
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
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.
our holiday in Ireland, where we saw gold ornaments in the National
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.