Wednesday, 9 November 2011

In Wales in the company of The King of Britain's Daughter

I walked uphill on a muddy green track which might not quite take a small car.  Then it narrowed and became barely suitable for a pony.  I could just see roof timbers higher up.  It was very steep, and there was no sound but the sea, far below.  The green track led to a cottage which someone had begun to renovate.  But not recently.  It was unmistakably a little bereft, a little sad.  Beautiful slabs of stone fenced its tiny garden, and a mighty granite post marked the gate.  I put my hand on a delicate roughness of lichen so white it looked like a splash of paint, and stepped up, but with the odd feeling always present when you know your touch and step is the physical echo of so many others. 

I sat down on a big stone under the empty window of the cottage, looked out to sea and fished a book out of my pocket.  Just out of the wind, and for ten minutes, I enjoyed the company of Gillian Clark. 

Seal's head in water,
Bran's footprint in a slab of rock
Deep enough for a child to swim.
An ess of light as far as Ireland.
Salt in my mouth and the wind to lean on.

Later we climbed Yr Eifl's curving peak and looked down onto the Iron Age ruins of Tre'r Ceiri.

Beached for good on the high-tide line,
the houseboat leaned to sea,
at odds with the level earth
in its ballast of stones
and fishy drifts of sand.

Cargo of cuttlefish,
bladderwrack, blue mussels
the horn of a unicorn,
the skull of a curlew
and maps for the journey,

the King of Britain's daughter
making for open sea
past headlands like drinking dragons,
marked by that neolithic stone
from the giant's pocket.

All week we had stones, sea foam and radio.  We had slate caverns where they played ghostly recordings of Blaenau's male voice choirs, and bookshops in Caernarfon and Porthmadog where readers talked books with the bookseller and no-one had a loyalty card.


  1. Lucky you. It sounds wonderful and brought back so many memories - hiraeth. Now, that's a good Welsh word for you.
    All best.

  2. What a beautiful word. (Googled it). Thanks Steph - will be in touch! x