Launch through Time

THE WHITE TOWER – A book from the bees.

My last blog was written in August 2014 just a year from when I began it in August 2013. There is good reason for why it had an abrupt halt which I may write about some time.  For the moment however, I want to write about the  launch of my new book, a book which has been in gestation for over thirty five years. Yes! You read it right, 35 years.

It began in the summer of 1977, on a hilltop in Ceredigion, where the remains of a Roman fortress created a kind of ancient, jagged amphitheatre. During the course of a fascinating afternoon, where it felt that past and present collided,  a friend and I circumnavigated the high flat surface and as we did so we heard a pulsating hum which we could not identify, and which was growing louder.

My friend thought the sound was coming from the ground, but I disagreed, sure that it was somehow reaching us in the wind that blew fairly strong around us. She stooped, to put her ear closer to the scrubby grass to test her theory and when she looked up, shaking her head and about to speak, she halted and an expression of fear took over. Her eyes widened and she stepped back, away from me. She stared; seemingly at something above my head, and raised a pointing hand. I lifted my face toward the sky and saw what she was seeing.

A swarm of bees hovered in a seething pillar only centimetres above my head. Powerless to move, I froze, as they descended moving as one body taking me over from my head to my feet.

They crawled across my hands, my arms, my face and in my hair. They were inside my shirt and around my ankles and feet and I could feel the hairs on my body rising to the patter of their tiny feet travelling my body as though they had a purpose in being there.

A part of me was amazed and I experienced a thrill of excitement, whilst elsewhere in me I felt the natural and desperate fear of being stung all over.

My fear won out, and I found the strength to begin to run, holding my arms up high and shrieking like a wild thing, I got to the edge of the mountain and stopped. I felt them begin to leave me and as I stood leaning against a Roman stone, panting for breath I saw them go. In a lazy upward movement they gathered themselves back into a spiralling pillar, left  me and flew away.

Though I was not stung  I was shaking, and buzzing all over as though I had experienced an exhilarating sauna. I was electrified, despite the whole thing only having lasted two oe three minutes, and I was giving off static for the rest of the day to everyone that came near me. And I was inspired. I had been caressed by a thousand bees who came to me and spoke their secrets through my skin. For five nights following the event, I experienced dreams like never before, full of colour and people from the distant past. I tried to capture some of them on the page by writing a play, which though it was hard for people to understand, was cheeerfully taken on by a group of alternative players in the rural reaches of West Wales who created something wonderful out of a difficult script.

After many years of trying to recapture something of what the bees brought to me, I have finally completed a novel, The White Tower, and it will be launched on Saturday 31st January at  3pm, Small World Theatre in Cardigan. There will be storytelling with myself and Peter Stevenson,  heavenly music with Deuair, and divine cakes. And there will be Llanerch Press with books to be signed. What fun for us all!

Singing the Line into Existence

Singing the Line into Existence

Singing the Line Into Existence, is an incredibly imaginative and exciting art project in the making, set up by a group of local artists. As yet it is in the early stages and they are  seeking Crowdfunding as a way of raising money to get the whole thing done.. The group are determined to get what is really an important multi-discipline project off the ground and are doing their best to raise £8,000 to put their ideas into action.

There has been a movement for some time to see the rail line from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth re-opened, and it would have a profoundly beneficial effect on the whole of West Wales. It would be great from a green perspective, and it would re-connect places that have been virtually out of touch for years. Until people come to this area they have no idea of the vast spaces between towns and villages, and the art brings all of that into its scope. Many ways to raise the profile of this issue have come forward but none more inventive or imaginative than the multi-artist led project just opened titled ‘Singing the Line into Existence’. Led by artist Joanna Bond, a ceramicist, and dancer, the plan is to work up the interest in the restoration of the  line by using music, dance, storytelling and film-making to revitalise the idea and bring it to the front of the consciousness of local people.

Involved in what will be a bilingual project alongside Joanna, are musicians Ceri Rhys Matthews, Elsa Davies, Mary Jacob, and Lynn Denman, video recording and video artwork from Jacob Whittaker, storytelling with Peter Stevenson and Guto Dafis and many more people are involved. People may support the idea of  the re-opening of a rail line into West Wales on a theoretical level, but this is a way to join in attracting attention to it, and helping to create a wonderful piece of artwork. All there is to know about the project and how people can contribute is here on  Wordpress at:   singingthelineintoexistence.wordpress.com

Peter Stevenson : Teller and Collector of Stories.

Folk Tales of Ceredigion

In Ceredigion Folk Tales, by Peter Stevenson, published by the History Press, folk stories local to our own county are, possibly for the first time, given a whole book to themselves, without being tucked into a general Wales-wide folk tales collection. The book is most interesting to those of us who live here, as all the stories are connected with recognisable places, and when one can read a story which has come from Llangranog, or Bettws Bledrws, then one has a reason to read on, as familiarity breeds curiosity. In a way it is like looking into a neighbour’s window to see how they live, though in these stories the people we encounter are very different from those we are likely to meet today. Many of these are the stories that the generation who came up in the 19th and early 20th century would have been telling one another, and within them is the evidence of the certain belief in a world of magic, of conjurers, of tylwyth teg, and otherness, of babies swapped for fairy folk, and animals that have magical presence. Also, within what is a very eclectic mix there are stories about people known for their exaggerated characteristics, like Sir Herbert Lloyd, otherwise known as ‘The Wickedest Man in Ceredigion’ for his evident greed and cruelty. There are the well-known tales, still told today and widely known, like Twm Sion Cati, Tregaron’s own Robin Hoodalike, with his tricks and idiosincracies. Stevenson acknowledges Pritchard, who was the man who made Twm Sion Cati famous and lost his own nose along the way. Indeed he was a storyteller in his own right and a huge character who died penniless. There is also a short piece about Sion Cwilt, the thief and outlaw of Synod Inn who wore a patchwork coat, whose exploits will now live on through the next generation as the new primary school at Synod Inn is named after him, though what brought Cwilt his fame, may be best overlooked. With contemporary tales of Aberystwyth ghosts, and strange things on Borth Bog, and the continuing stories of Nanteos, it can be deduced that though our modern society may have a more prosaic view of life, the stories of strange occurrences and extraordinary happenings are still being enjoyed, that people love to be scared, horrified, amused or simply amazed, and the joy for a storyteller like Peter Stevenson is that these are continuing evidence that folk tales will go on being requested, for ever. (Peter Stevenson launched his book Ceredigion Folk Tales at Awen Teifi, Cardigan High Street on Saturday 19th April with musical accompaniment on harp and fiddle.