Summer Festivals

Every year around now we have an extraordinary number of summer festivals occurring all around the area. In Cardigan we have three together within a week. The River and Food Festival, the Medieval Day, and the Teifi Quays are all aimed at giving the tourists a good show, but they do of course offer opportunities for local people as well. There are many who put up a stall, offer boat rides, bake tasty snacks, offer cookery demos, and so on. For years I worked as a storyteller, but the practical demands of setting up were physically beyond me. Sign boards are heavy, as are all the necessary backdrops, props, seating etc. and getting in and out in a car, walking miles from the car park….no longer for me. However, the storyteller is still there within and if you want to see what I was like when I was on form check this out Cardigan River and Food Festival – YouTube

Holiday Time

ImageGorgeous hot weather today and of course the town is filled with visitors. Cardigan acts as a centre for people staying all along the near coast as although it is a small town, there is no other for at least twenty miles or more. Watching the families jostling along our High Street has made me think about my own holiday in France in Grenoble with my cousin and her family. We actually stayed just outside the town, in a tiny village up a steep mountainside called St Hilaire du Touvet, utterly gorgeous, lovely chalet, fabulous views etc. And it really was a family holiday as went together and we travelled around the area enjoying all it had to offer, from delicious food to visiting the monks making Chartreuse. Bookworm, the place where my cousin teaches English is a delightful second hand bookshop in a place you would never expect to find second-hand English books. It made me think that in future wherever I go I will look out for a second-hand bookshop and not assume they are all gone. We have one left in Cardigan and it is a rare and special thing.

This is a photograph of myself with Jacob, my artist son, and Patricia my cousin and her husband Jean-Marc.

Welsh Chapel Book Review

Wales’s Architectural Heritage.

‘For too long Wales has been reluctant to take pride in some of the best examples of its native architecture,’ so says Huw Edwards in his foreword to a new book from Y Lolfa, and the architecture to which he is referring is that of the Welsh Chapel. The truth of his statement is echoed within this lovely book simply called Capeli-Chapels, where every page displays the highly individual and unmistakeably Welsh character of  its Chapels. Though many, in a way, have been eclipsed by modern, secular life, they remain standing, nonetheless, as a powerful testament to the nation’s spirit.

Manchester artist Tim Rushton, travelled Wales, capturing images of a remarkable one hundred and twenty chapels, and has created, in this book, a piece of beautifully conceived heritage art. From the smallest and humblest building to the biggest and most ornate, every one of the sizeable plates capture in their clarity the differences between them, from the subtle to the obvious. Some strike one as being a standard shape of building, but look again and one may see the variations are in the type of doors and the number and shape of the windows, or the designs of the decorative paintwork. Some of them are small, almost cottage like with a pitched roof, and window either side of a central door. We learn from the excellent background notes in the book, provided by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales that this style is the ‘Gable-Entry’ and that others with wide frontages, often  deep-stepped and pillared, may on entering prove to be ‘Long-Wall’ where the pulpit faced crosswise to a wide semi-circle of congregation. We also discover  why the earliest of them is the plainest and that much of the variety is down to the fact that the practising faiths varied : Baptist, Methodist, Unitarian, Moravian, Plymouth Brethren and Quakers and more still. These variations in faith, account for why in any town or small village in Wales there will be more than one chapel where hundreds of people attended at their particular favourite on Sunday.

Not every example of chapels is a beauty, but they are all interesting and there are some stunners in this book. Their importance is not only that they are examples of Welsh native architecture, but that they are a major part of the socio/spiritual history of all the communities in which they are sited.

Capeli-Chapels by Tim Rushton is published by www.ylolfa.com

The Sound of Thirst

 

When a man who has spent the last twenty three years advising governments and multilateral institutions, about sustainable water management, releases a new book on the subject, those in the business of decision-making are not the only ones who should listen to what he has to say. The Sound of Thirst, is a brilliant title for David Lloyd Owen’s new book, calling on the world as it does to open their ears to hear his findings and to take from them the many possibilities by which we might develop a more realistic and informed attitude toward the provision of water for all, around our planet.

This is an in-depth study of a subject of paramount importance in our time, which proves that for reasons political and climatic there are no easy answers to the many questions the author puts forward. It is not a light read but a serious academic study which contains a wealth of information and a world of complex ideas. It remains however, not entirely inaccessible to the non-specialist providing nuggets of fascinating information regarding the water cycle, and the ways in which other countries are working on provision and sanitation for the masses. It offers not only scientific data and information, but also provides proven and anecdotal evidence to support its claims and to demonstrate our ignorance regarding this most valuable of resources. However, it does mean that the level of discussion and the mass of information contained within it, will stretch most people who are not already interested in the subject of the international provision of clean water for all. The central tenet is that we should become more interested, whether we find it hard work or not.  Unless we become more engaged with the subject and take action on a number of levels, then we will continue with the unsatisfactory situation that exists today with the uneven international provision of urban water and the difficulties of sewage disposal in conurbations.

As a long-experienced consultant and expert on the subject David Lloyd Owen leaves no stone unturned as he goes in search of the ideas which could, in his own words show us ‘Why urban water for all is essential, achievable and affordable’.

The Sound of Thirst by David Lloyd Owen is in hard back published by Parthian Press and available from all good bookshops.

Perfect Moments

I have just finished reading a book called Disputed Land, a clever and thoughtful novel which touches on many themes, not least what we are doing to the environment, but also how we relate and how the capacity we have for good relating, perhaps especially in families, is in effect amongst the most essential of the qualities of human life. Not that Tim Pears the author does not see other things as important. But in the way the book is written, in the first person, as though through the eyes of a man looking back at his thirteen year old self, what struck me was the way that the familial relationships were cast through his eyes. I never had grandfather or grandmother within living memory. The last of them to die was my paternal grandmother who died around my second birthday and of whom I have no real memory and no photos. Theo, the young lead in the book, has a genuinely interesting relationship with his grandfather and there is a feel about it which made me quite envious. Until that is I reflected on the relationship my own father shared with my sons which frankly was virtually non-existent.Their grandfather was, in one way at least, like the grandfather in the book, completely obsessive about his own interests. Unlike the character in the book he had no idea how to engage with youngsters and did not particularly like to. When faced with them he might give them the benefit of talking about his latest invention in terms which no-one but him could understand (my late husband once fell asleep in front of him while he was talking to him, and two of the boys sat at his feet playing a card game but grandfather talked on apparently choosing not to see that no-one was listening). The extraordinary thing is that since he died he has become very interesting to them, his inventions are the subject of a certain fascination, and my stories of his eccentricities are eagerly heard.

Many things went through my head reading this lovely book, and no doubt many of them are nothing to do with the reasons it was written. But almost always in a good novel I find a quote, something which stands out to me and makes a point which however many times I’ve heard it before, I hear it anew. In this book it was a quote from The Venerable Bede, ‘Life is the flight of a sparrow through the banqueting hall’ and the author adds ‘and the banqueting hall is the mind of God’.

Is that not a sublime idea? Now I may forget the majority of the story in Disputed Land, though I will remember its themes, and I may forget one day that I have ever read any books by Tim Pears, but I will not forget that quote. And I have others, in notebooks, on scraps of paper and back pages of diaries, from other books I have read where one line, or one phrase jumped out and gave me food for thought for days, something which arrived at exactly the right time that my brain needed it and lifted my spirit. 

I see these as perfect moments and am always hopeful that my own books may carry one or two of them for other people because surely others experience those brief, sharp, delights, of finding a string of words that perfectly express a hidden truth.

Writing not Blogging

What a hasty and ill-thought post this was. Maybe daily changes in mood and external circumstances should be taken into account before getting so negative. I will remember this and work out gradually a way to cope with the small learning skills which so enrage me when I feel defeated by them. There are many more interesting things to say than to go on about how to blog. Better to just do it! So for what follows – a pinch of salt! As a writer of many years, with several books published, and a background of journalism, the idea of having a blog genuinely appealed to me. After all, living in a fairly remote part of the world, this could be the perfect way to say the things that are important ‘in the moment’  rather than writing them in the next book, or the next issue of a newspaper. I began a blog with a real enthusiasm, my son helped me through the initial steps and then left me to my own devices, therein lies the rub. What I mean by this is that with help beginning is okay, but the continuity of learning attached to working with technological functions never ends, and therefore one spends time learning things which are actually secondary to the real reason you are doing them in the first place. If, like me, you happen to be of the older generation and therefore slower at learning, it is possible to spend so long finding out how to do something that there is no time left to do it. One could say that there are courses and that once learned these processes stay with us, but this is not so. Every time I sit down to write a new passage for my next book, I am using skills already learned, Word behaves more or less the same today as it did when I learned to use it in the 1980’s, so all I do is write. If I want to blog, I have to learn all sorts of things – what is a hash tag? why make a link? how do I share? who with? all very obvious to most bloggers no doubt,but not to me. It makes my brain ache. The ideas I once had for expressing in my blog sink beneath the confusion I feel when I look at the screen. It began with me thinking I had some interesting things to say, some local issues to introduce, and perhaps on a better day than today I might take up the challenge and try again. But today, my own experience explains a lot to me, about many of my peers, won’t actually go near a computer and are simply terrified by it all. Even if they face the challenge of learning something today, they will be expected to learn something else tomorrow, and any purpose they may think they have for trying to do it in the first place fades behind all the stuff they have to get through first. So, I’m going to do some writing instead.