Saturday 28 May 16
1 pm Holyhead, Wales.
I’m sitting on the ferry at Holyhead waiting for it to leave port after my months residency in Stidwio Maelor in Wales. Sad to be leaving but already looking forward to coming back next year. Ideally to respond more to the landscape and atmosphere of the area- through drawing and image making and writing as the mood arises, rather than focusing on a specific goal. I am delighted to have written almost 35 thousand words of my novel in the past four weeks- bringing it up to 75 thousand words. The main stories are well under way with all that time to think and organise as well as get the words down.
The sailors are pulling in the ropes and there are signs of movement. I’m sitting at the front of the observation lounge on deck 8. Misty but calm conditions, according to the captain, which is just as well because I have no idea what the emergency instructions were. The captain spoke very clearly and then the voice with the emergency instructions went down about ten octaves, if such is possible. There are a lot of cute toddlers around with parents and grandparents and thankfully the child who shrieked his way along the ferry queue is nowhere near. It’s a bank holiday weekend in Britain so all sorts of people are on the move.
Speeding smoothly across the grey sea, a misty horizon just visible in the distance, I’m thinking about the hard-working selfless people who run places like Stiwdio Maelor (Veronica Calarco) and what a great opportunity it gives us creative people to focus totally on our work as well as getting out walking and exercising and filling the lungs with good pure air. Yesterday afternoon we walked up to the ‘Borehole’ a quarry hole in the mountain that creates an amphitheatre with a lake at the bottom and holes above with the entrance to several mines. We were only about half way there when there was a clap of thunder and then the heavens opened – a dramatic visit rather in sympathy with the setting- which meant we didn’t hang around. You can climb up into the caves but not when you are soaking wet. On the fast walk downhill back to the house I noticed that the sheep and lambs were standing immobile in the fields, heads in the air as if frozen to the spot – like a still from a film- while sheets of rain poured over them and us. There was only one place to go when we were dry again and it was right next door to the studio ….
Sunshine outside, groups of birds skimming the water in front of the ship, a woman asleep stretched out on a couch to my left, a very nice friendly lady with a very dour unsmiling husband agrees to mind my stuff, queues for food but not at the Barista coffee bar, £3.40 for a coffee and muffin, lots of British change offloaded.
Last Sunday I climbed Cadair Idris– to a lake (corrie) way up the mountain. I had been writing all morning -about 2000 words- and then took off as it was a lovely sunny day. I drove a few miles to the Cadair Idris nature reserve park with the idea of doing one of the easy walks but before long I found myself climbing the very steep lower slopes of the mountain. Really tough going- steps up like climbing a never ending stairs, through a lovely old oak forest, and past steep waterfalls racing downwards. After about half an hour I decided enough and sat down on a chunk of stone looking over a waterfall to catch my breath.
‘Is it much further to the lake?’ I enquired of the next group on the way down- a little girl who looked small enough to just have learned to walk the day before, leaping energetically down each step followed by her breezy mother who assured me that it was just about half an hour or forty minutes. I knew that I would never, ever do the walk again- way too strenuous for me – so I thought ok I can just about do another half hour and at least I’ll have done it once. After another sit down about 50 minutes later I asked another lady if it was far to the lake- ‘about half an hour or forty minutes at the most,’ she said. ‘Don’t think I’ll bother,’ I said, sighing wearily- ‘you’ll get amazing shots from up there,’ she said, looking at the posh camera slung around my neck that my son brought home from Canada. ‘Ok maybe,’ I said and I caught her partner looking at his watch with a frown on his face. It was four thirty by then but the sun was still shining so on I plodded. With the added worry that I was the last person on the mountain …but I did have walking boots on and a compass in my pocket (that I had no idea how to use…) The leaflets always say to bring a compass.
About an hour later I made it. The last section opened out into treeless rock strewn slopes, wet underfoot at times and I kept trying to take note of what I was passing as the track wasn’t very clear. At the top of every new slope I thought this is it surely, only to see another height to climb. The last stretch, trying to pick a safe way across a marshy area – and then there it was, like the lake that time forgot. Useless for photographs of course as how can you capture such a thing in a photograph. The immense stillness and depth of it, the sense of ages past when the ice age was clearing and moving huge boulders and tracts of land around.
Three young people sunning themselves on a huge rock near the lake reassured me that if I fell on the way down they would possibly find me if I went the right way. Only an hour to climb down, hard on the knees and no idea if I was going the right way or not, despite previous attempts to remember landmarks. The compass stayed where it was in my pocket- strange little object that. Was it worth it? Only for the sense of achievement- one corrie high up in a mountain is much like another really…
And no I’m definitely not doing that one again.
The next day I went for a quiet walk by the river near the house to clear my brain after writing for a few hours and suddenly I fell flat on my face on the gravel. I curled up into a foetal position on the ground, trying to feel my head, hoping someone would rescue me, when I realised that blood was pumping from my nose and I’d better get up myself. There was an almighty pain in my head and gravel stuck to bits of my face but as I walked up the lower part of the village with a tissue held to my nose and blood everywhere there was nobody in sight. At a time like that you want people to rush out of their houses and pour sympathy all over you and bring you in and clean you up and make you tea but no. No one all the way to the studio, where help and action were at hand in the form of Veronica and Andra Watkins from south Carolina who drove us in her rental car to the hospital. By that time I realised that I wasn’t dead and my nose had stopped bleeding and other than a throbbing head it wasn’t too bad. They had no xray facilities there and the nurse who cleaned me up told me they wouldn’t know if my nose was broken until the swelling went down. In the event it seems to be ok. Later words of sympathy from Brian in the Slaters arms next door and a very consoling Welsh Lamb cawl- which sounds a bit disgusting but is really delicious Irish stew in disguise. That was the end of writing for a few days as the next day I mostly slept and read and nursed my wounds and felt sorry for myself.
Land ahead, sunshine, an Irish Ferries ship portside trying to beat us to shore. (I’m on Stena Line and very happy with them since they didn’t charge me an extra fare for going to Dunlaoire on the way out(see previous blog)) While I’ve been gone my daughter finished her exams, heartbroken because the cat has disappeared, and as for what the politicians have been up to I have no idea as the only papers I have seen are English rags scaremongering about millions of Turks about to descend on them if they stay in the EU. There may well be tribal governments set up in each of the provinces for all I know and of course the kingdom of Kerry may have declared itself independent with a new Royal family in the shape of a Healy-Rae of some description. (Irish Ferries are ahead in the race. In fact I think they may have docked and be on the way back out again or is that another ship? We are going closer to see..)