Chapter one: In which we drive to Wales, find the cottage in the woods, read George Borrow and have our photograph taken with a jolly crew.
There is a balance to be struck between making, doing, working and creative thinking. And so we threw a few things in the camper van and drove off to a small cottage deep in a Welsh woodland to shift our mind to creativity. The narrow track twists and dips for some two and a half miles through the trees – steep, rough and bordered by a working forest with waving woodsmen. But once we arrive the peace envelops us. High above the Ffestiniog valley you can see the mountains and forests from the cottage windows. The only sounds are birds and the occasional motorbike in the valley below – a muffled roar lasting seconds and then gone.
I am reading Wild Wales by George Borrow (1803-1881) a travelogue of his journey around the principality in 1854 and published in 1862. It’s an exceptionally good yarn and best dipped in to rather than read from cover to cover. It should be subtitled ‘man on a verge of an argument’ as most of his encounters seems to be with scoundrels which he gets the better of, or conversations where he proves he has greater knowledge, but it creates a tension which drives forward the narrative. You can read it online here, and find more about Borrow and his other books (which I also recommend about his time living with the Gypsy community) at the George Borrow Society website.
On one of our travels from the cottage we came across this happy crew and slipped, unnoticed, through time to join their laughter. I, of course, am on the extreme right holding both a mackintosh and a mackintosh square for Wales is sometimes damp and I am of an age when these things begin to matter. I am sporting a particularly fine moustache and my phone and van keys are secreted in a holdall mocked up to look like an ancient box brownie camera.
Benjamin is on the back row, extreme left, momentarily distracted by a passing woodsman I fear. The chatter of the group was interesting – they were off to walk the Precipice Walk at Llanelltyd and we thought we might join them but the 21st century called and we found the hats and boots and heavy clothing uncomfortable so we ran away giggling as interlopers who hadn’t been rumbled.
Do come along for the ride, if you have nothing better to do of course.
- Yn y fforest fawr – a loose translation in Welsh of ‘in the big forest’ and if it’s not then someone is bound to shout.
- Found photo from the Wednesday market at Machynlleth