Monday, 16 March 2015

Cyfaredd 1: Visit to Bridge

Hi Everyone

Now that I have settled into my residency at Stiwdio Maelor in Corris, North Wales, I thought it time to report on my first few days in the UK, where winter is verging on spring.

Crocuses, one of the first signs of spring. 
Before I do that, just a word about the title of this posting. I have now been to this part of the world four times: to the USA, UK, Ireland and Europe in 2007 (with Jo); to the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, Ireland, in 2009; to England, Wales and Scotland in 2013, for a conference and for research; and now to the UK again, to visit the same three countries. As some of you know, I handwrite all my first drafts, whether of poems, stories, articles or memoirs, and then enter them into the computer afterwards. Whenever I’ve typed up the notes and journal entries for my previous trips I’ve given the project a name. The one I’m using for this trip is the Welsh word for enchantment, cyfaredd. I feel this word sums up what I hope to experience in England, Wales and Scotland as I work on the next draft of my novel, continue to research settings, and re-connect with what I see as my spiritual homeland.

Gracie (Mrs G), Simon and Lise's cute cat    
Now for my report. I arrived at Heathrow early on the morning of Thursday, 5 March, and headed straight down to Canterbury, then on to the little village of Bridge to stay with friends for a few days. I suffered a little from jetlag, but the many walks and inspiring conversations I had with Simon and Lise over-rode any tiredness I felt.

Unlike where I live in Melbourne, I can leave the house at Bridge and within a few minutes I am in the country. The one thing I like about walking in Britain is the use of right-of-ways. People have been walking alongside and across fields for centuries and it is illegal for farmers to block such common law tracks. And so we walked across fields filled with the song and ascending flight of skylarks—the first time I had ever heard or seen them—and past other fields where the first lambs hobbled on thin legs as they chased after their mothers and once there knocked at the teats to get a drink. Walking by another field, we watched a kestrel hover high above, waiting patiently for something small and tasty to make a sudden dash to safety. And at another field we saw a young fox break out from scrub, its square-like head (or so it seemed from our perspective) out of proportion to its red, black and white lean body.

One of the surprises about Bridge is the number of esoteric, literary, artistic, and historic associations either in the village itself or in surrounding areas. The co-designer of the Rider-Waite Tarot, A E Waite, lived his last years in the village and was buried in a nearby graveyard. Joseph Conrad lived for a time in the ‘Oswalds’, a house not far from the village. At the pub The Duck in Pett Bottom (what a wonderful name, though not as vivid as Lynsore Bottom), Ian Fleming wrote You Only Live Twice. And the sculptor Henry Moore lived for six years in a house in nearby Kingston.

The house in Bridge where A E Waite lived his last years.

The ‘Oswalds’, where Joseph Conrad once lived.

The Blue Plaque on the wall of The Duck.
The Blue Plaque for Henry Moore.
Given that one reason I am in this country is to experience the historic and mythic landscape I wish to evoke in my novel, Bridge also offered appropriate omens. Just outside the town is Old England’s Hole: a hollow in the landscape that is reputedly the site of the last battle between the British and Caesar. Naturally enough, it really should be called Old Britain’s Hole, the English (Angles, Saxons, etc.) not arriving on these shores until several hundred years after Caesar’s time. And nearby is a ridge that holds an Anglo-Saxon cemetery.

Old England's Hole. You can just see the lip of the hole.

The ridge that is the site of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery

A movie I took of the location of the 'hole' and the cemetery.
That’s about it for now. I hope you enjoyed this little tour of Bridge and environs. Any comments would be most welcome.

Pob hwyl (Welsh for ‘Bye’)


Cattyrox said...

thanks for the update, Earl. I'm in Napier - after a five hour bus trip through picturesque countryside, including broad, stony rivers that remind me of Scotland. Went through Palmerston North where Jen Compton had a residency. Weirdly, all this while listening to a Penelope Lively novel on audio! Happy writing!

Earl Livings said...

Thanks, Catherine. Glad you liked the post. Have fun in Napier. Happy writing, too! Cheers, Earl