For the last week I have been on a ‘travel and landscape’ writing course at the Welsh National Writers’ Centre at Ty Newydd near Cricieth on the south coast of the Llyn Peninsula, an area of Wales I have never visited. Outstanding course, outstanding group of people. My writing may, or may not, improve but my priorities have changed. I insisted on brutal honesty in the tutorials. No point in politeness hiding unpalatable truth. I now recognise that in order to have a book published and see it in the shops I must first become a TV celebrity. The alternative of having famous parents has passed me by.
In the meantime the blog will continue and will hopefully improve as I strive to reduce the amount of waffle and to make it a cliché Not-Spot. It seems that my tendency to go off at a tangent is a literary technique known as a ‘turn’ designed to maintain interest, though I suspect that it is intended to be used more subtly.
Ty Newydd, the former home of Lloyd George, who neither knew my father nor was known by him, is set in modestly large grounds near the small village of Llanystumdwy to the west of Cricieth. The structure of the course allowed time each afternoon for the 15-minute walk from a small gate at the edge of the lawn down to the Wales Coast Path and follow it around to Cricieth.
On Tuesday I took my camera for a walk down to the coast and along the beach. The path was muddy, in places liquid mud, inimical to sandalled feet so I wore boots for the first time in months. Under grey skies I couldn’t but reflect wistfully that less than a week ago I was swimming in the Aegean, still enjoying warm sunshine. I had no inclination to swim in the grey murkiness of Cardigan Bay.
However, as I walked someway morosely along the grey beach by the grey sea under the grey sky my attention was suddenly taken by the richness of the micro-environment. Seaweeds, shells and multicoloured pebbles, products of a tidal range considerably greater than the 6 inches in the Aegean, almost shone in the grey light. Birdlife too, oyster catchers, gulls, herons, curlews, cormorants and even swans, thriving in the food-rich habitat of the intertidal range and the small estuary where the fresh water met the salt. I saw more birds and more species of birds in 10 minutes than in 3 months on Symi.
Wednesday and the sky was blue but the sea was still grey, the air cold. Again I walked along the beach, this time continuing into Cricieth. A few flowers added small splashes of colour but were very much end-of-summer rather than Autumn life bursting out of powder dry Symi soil. A few elderly end-of-summer visitors, swaddled against the cold in winter clothes, walked hunched up along the road in front of 4-story terraced Victorian B&Bs
I had checked the internet before I left and planned to get cash from the town’s only free-withdrawal ATM but found that in order to justify their bonuses the directors of the “The world’s local bank” had closed this local bank a month ago and taken their ATM with them. I was directed by a disgruntled local to ‘Bargain Booze’ opposite where I could get a very modest amount of ‘cash back’, but it was enough for a caffeine fix in the very good ‘Caffi Cwrt’.
Thursday afternoon and a small group of us walked along the beach into Cricieth …. in rain which increased from a steady drizzle to a downpour. We sat somewhat glumly in Cadwalader’s Ice cream Parlour, dripping water all over the floor and licking ice cream before the route-march back along the road. The weather was so wet that this time my camera stayed in the rucksack.
Three days, same walk, three very different experiences. Once again I couldn’t help but reflect that a major attraction of the Greek islands is the consistent warm, sunny, blue sky weather in summer.
I came to a conclusion over the week. It was evident from the group sessions that I lack the descriptive skills of the others on the course and when I try to adopt a different style, a different ’voice’ as Rory Maclean, one of the two very good course tutors, calls it, it doesn’t work. It’s not me. I guess I lack the imagination and verbal dexterity. So I’ll stick with my own ‘voice’, letting the photos show the place and add comment on the experience.