Friday, 22 April 2011

Holiday Diary(5): RS Thomas, etc.

Borth y Gest, Thursday, 14th April

Travelled down the Llyn Peninsula to Aberdaron, where RS Thomas was vicar for many years. I borrowed Karen's camera to take some photos of his church (I've started using flickr to make slideshows you can embed in a blog - you can still click on individual shots to "blow them up"):

Earlier, on the way, we had stopped at yet another National Trust property, Plas yn Rhiw. This relatively modest-sized house was bought by the three Keating sisters in the thirties. It is said that there was a house on the site going back to Roman times and that the foundations include “Roman cement”. The sisters spent the rest of their lives buying up land around it in order to recreate the original grounds. They left it all to The National Trust, in memory of their parents, Constance and John Keating. They left a huge collection of books behind – including a first edition of Jane Eyre, with the pseudonym Currer Bell inscribed on the spine. I thought it was almost worth a visit to the place just to see this. The garden commands a view of Porth Neigwl, the bay known in English as Hell's Mouth. There is a bench in the garden –a recent addition- engraved with fish, animals and birds (try clicking on the photos to see them better). I don't know who made it, but it's beautifully done. The grounds are also famous for their two-seater privvy...

Why two-seater? I always thought twin seat arrangements were to allow people to dig two bore-holes for waste products, saving themselves the effort of moving the shed every time they filled a hole in. These, however, are built over a small ravine containing a stream which is culverted elsewhere in the garden. Perhaps the owners were simply great conversationalists.

We made for the bench in the woods instead, where we sat for a while, drinking coffee and eating the penultimate two slices of the excellent fruitcake my mum had baked us for the week.

Soundtrack for the day for me was I Sing The Body Electric, my favourite Weather Report album. The first track, Unknown Soldier, was inspired by keyboard player and composer Joe Zawinul's wartime experience as a child in Austria. He and a friend were out playing when they found the dead body of a soldier. It's less well known than it deserves to be, but if there is a list of pieces of music inspired by the Second World War out there this should definitely be on it.

Went for a run in the evening, up through the woods and back along the coast. Sat for ten minutes on the rocks at the edge of a calm, gently undulating sea, watching the clouds reflected in the water.


Rachel Fenton said...

Makes me want to get my running shoes on.

Excellent photos, btw.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I wonder what it would have been like to hear him preach in that church. He seems to have had such a love / hate relationship both with Wales and with his parishioners - I wonder what his sermons were like.
Glad the fruit cake went down well.

the watercats said...

I am absolutely loving that bench! and thinking it's about time I went out for a day-trip somewhere!

Dominic Rivron said...

RF: Go for it. One of the things I realised last week was how easy it is to loose touch with the simple enjoyment of life - it's so necessary sometimes to not think about the things that need doing or sorting out, to not even think about trying to use one's experience creatively, but to just experience being alive.

WG: I wonder, too. Have you considered scanning and posting the letter he sent you?

watercats: great bench, isn't it? I used to sell logs for firewood. Hours of work with an axe and chainsaw. I wish I'd thought of making benches instead - and got myself a router (the tool, not the computer kind) to do pictures on them. As for days out - go for it. Good for the soul (see RF, above)

Gwilym Williams said...

Enjoy it all while you can.

As R S Thomas predicted the windows will now be made dirty by peole breating on them.

Unable to afford to live there the locals will soon be pushed out.

I heard on an international satellite TV channel that "Prince William of Wales and Kate have made Angelsey world famous!"

I had always thought his father Charles Windsor was Prince of Wales. Have we now got two Princes of Wales. Perhaps Harry is now a Prince of Wales too?

Well that's the end of another lonely beautiful place of my homeland then. As if they hadn't already crucified Holy Island with that radioactive carbuncle.

R S Thomas must be turning over in his grave.

Dominic Rivron said...

Gwilym: I'd say I was quite hopeful regarding the future of Aberdaron. I don't know much about it, being merely a casual visitor, but in its favour it has the fact that it is so inaccessible. The ends of peninsulas (-ae?)are not far short of islands on a scale of inaccessibility.

swiss said...

liking these dominic. esp as i know almost noting about wales!

Dominic Rivron said...

swiss: Lucky you. I wish I didn't. That way I'd have it all to discover for the first time, which would be breathtaking - especially the North. It's obviously smaller than the Highlands of Scotland, but it compresses a lot of natural features into a small space.

Anonymous said...

R.S. Thomas, a two-seater privy and Joe Zawinul within a few miles of each other! A great read, Dominic.

Dominic Rivron said...

We can say with some certainty that they never shared it. What would they have found to talk about? :)