Monday 16 May
Sunshine is not good when you are in a residency in a beautiful place. You need rain and wind and a bit of sleet even so that you do not feel guilty for sitting at your desk when the sun is blazing down outside. Because we Irish are rain soaked creatures we are programmed to respond to sun with a feeling that it is our duty to go out and make the best of it. I have placated this by taking my chair outside and reading in the sun for a few hours in the afternoon the past few days- and not just reading for pleasure either though I must say it is very pleasurable. I’ve been reading Sherry Turkle’s fascinating book ‘Alone Together’ as part of my research for my novel. It’s a study of the changing role of technology in our lives, and our attitudes to technology. One of the characters in my novel is immersed in an online game and another is trying to come to grips with technology so it is relevant but also very interesting. In view of the impending invasion of robots in every area of our lives we need to develop strategies or ways of thinking to accommodate the change.
It is interesting and to be honest a right pain to be in a place that does not have WiFi considering the themes of my novel, and I have to bestir myself to the pub or café to access it, which creates its own problems. On the other hand not having ready access has made me concentrate on developing other aspects of the novel. So it’s a mixed blessing…or curse!
Besides there is nothing like being on an extended residency to get serious work done. (And also in fairness not having access to the internet!) Yesterday exactly two weeks since I came here I passed the 60,000 word mark. That makes 20,000 words in two weeks. Which makes me think that three months would be sufficient to complete the entire first draft of a novel. And to hope that in another two weeks I will have 80,000 words.
It hasn’t been all work either – we went to meet a fellow printmaker in Bala for dinner and visited Frongoch beforehand as it is just beyond it. When you’ve read all the stories about the 1800 Volunteers rounded up and sent there after the 1916 rising – how Michael Collins set up his networks and how they trained for the guerrilla warfare that eventually brought success against the English forces, it is a bit of a disappointment to discover that there is nothing left of the camp but a small plaque at the side of the road.
My friend Geraldine came for a day and a half and we went up to CAT (in the rain of course- the weather never behaves when you want it to, does it?), the Centre for Alternative Technology- a fascinating place set up by a bunch of engineers and scientists led by … about thirty years ago. They chose a sterile place full of old waste slate on the side of the hill and turned it into a self sustaining experimental and training centre for sustainable energy production.
They have lots of ongoing projects and volunteer workers. They have self build houses, straw bale constructions, and various ongoing studies. I liked the one with solar panels showing the increase in temperature achieved by modifying the designs in different ways using different colours and surfaces.
If only I had the money to do that in Newbridge.
We had heard about the train which goes almost vertically up the hill, powered by a water balancing system which sees the other train begin to come down as the lighter train is drawn upwards and looked forward to trying it out. A bit scary at first.
One of the locals told me that they call the place PAW- in other words piss and wind….locals always have a way of bringing things down to the basics…because of the use of wind technology and a reed bed filtering system for human waste.
I went on a beautiful walk up to a slate quarry in the mountains beyond Aberlliefenny with stunning views up and down the hillsides and had a picnic by the river in the valley with curious sheep keeping an eye on me from a safe distance. I don’t think I’ve seen any cows at all since I’ve been to Wales- just lots of sheep and frisky lambs.
These two Irish red and white setters drop into the pub every evening when it opens at five, competing with the resident pub owners dog for attention and sometimes when it’s fine they sit outside and their owner(from Limerick) has to make them get their paws in out of the way on the narrow footpath when the bus tries to pass. It’s amazing how quickly you get to know the locals in such a small place when everyone is also really friendly.