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The Valley

My first memory of Wales is an aural one.   My brother and I were evacuated during the war and arrived late at night in Trelewis, a little mining village by the Rhonda Valley.   It was too dark to see anything of our surroundings, not that we cared much anyway for the winter’s journey had made us far too tired.

It was the sound of rocks that woke me early the following morning.   Having always lived in London, I had rarely heard their raucous tones, certainly not in such great numbers.   I could see from a narrow strip of sky between the curtains that the clouds of the previous day had been swept away.   At first I was undecided as to whether the colour of the sky was grey or a pale, misty blue, but as the minutes ticked by, it became evident that the heavens were clear.   I glanced across at my brother in the next bed.   He was still and fast asleep.   Without moving my head I took in the details of the room that had come to light.   There was a small wooden cross on the wall opposite and behind the door a small cupboard where, presumably, we were to keep our clothes and the few toys we had bought with us.   Beneath the window was a long wooden chest draped with a green satin runner, the secrets of which we were to discover later.   Apart from the two beds in which my brother and I were sleeping, there were no other items of furniture in the room.

I glanced at the bed beside me once more and again at the curtained window.   How desperate I was to see what lay beyond.   Should I wake my brother or should I let him sleep?   The minutes ticked slowly by.   Then slowly he turned over towards me.   His eyes were open – he too had been looking at the window.   Alan and I had always been very close as brothers, often both doing the same thing simultaneously, each seeming to know what the other is about to do.   Our eyes met for a brief second and without a word being spoken, we slid from our beds and crossed to the window.   Had an observer been looking at the rear of 9 Richards Terrace at seven o’clock that crisp winter’s morn, he would have seen the curtains slowly part and two small faces peer out with large apprehensive eyes.

We were almost on a level with the hills opposite.   In this part of the country the Welsh mountains do not present a dramatic outline to the sky; here, they are soft and rolling, rather like the South Downs on a much larger scale.   The hills were quite bare, void of trees, fields and hedgerows, and only one house stood there, square and lonely.   A paddock surrounded by a dry stone wall contained three ponies that tossed their heads in the early morning sun.   One wall of the paddock continued down into the valley to disappear behind a black, tower-like structure topped by two of the most enormous wheels I had ever seen.   From these, thick black cables ran down into a blackened building at the rear.   Everything was black.   The ground, over which ran a network of miniature railway lines and trucks was black; all buildings, shacks and huts dotted about were black; blackness was heaped everywhere.

Now we were conscious of other noises.   The distant rattle of shunting trucks and a continuous hissing sound of escaping steam.   Then the faint clip-clop of horses’ hooves became noticeable from the High Street below, and there appeared for a brief second between the houses a yellow float laden with clanking milk churns pulled by a big brown horse.   The bare hills, the colliery, the grey slate roofs of the village below and the screech of the rooks above, stirred within us a mixture of emotions, emotions that encompassed apprehension, expectation, excitement, loneliness, sadness; and even today, whenever I hear rooks calling on a winter’s morn, whenever I hear the rattle of the shunter’s yard or the sound of newly-shod hooves upon a hard road, I am back once more in Trelewis.   But no longer does loneliness feature in the memory now for I have many dear friends there.   No more apprehension or sadness, for the Welsh hills have afforded me much happiness and security, and beauty can now be seen in that which at one time appeared ugly.   Now, the memory is warm with affection for those sincere people and there is a longing to be among those stony, fern-covered hills once more.

As we descended the stairs later that morning for breakfast, the smell of polish was evident.   Everything shone.   The lino on the stairs had a shine so deep that I grasped the bannister tightly for support for fear that I should slip, and the brass fender in the living room glowed with the intensity of the sun.   The aroma of breakfast sizzling on the big black hob was wafted through the kitchen door together with the aroma of a hitherto unknown delicacy called a Welsh Cake.

The people in that remote little mining village threw open their doors and welcomed us into their houses.   Such was their nature that we, who could justly be called ‘foreigners’, became in a very short time, part of them and their community.   How many London mothers, I wonder, have cause to be grateful for the care and love lavished on their offspring by strangers in a far-off country.

The countryside behind the village differed from the great hills on the other side of the valley.   Here, there were dairy farms.   Hedgerows bound in small fields and cows grazed to the accompaniment of pure crystal streams that tumbled from the mountains further up the valley.   It is in these surroundings I feel sure, that I first became aware of the beauty around me.   I became conscious of a physical and mental freedom that could not exist in London.   Here, one could be alone, one could run and jump and roll in the grass without fear of reprisal, and high upon Wineberry Mountain on the other side of the valley, one could race the winds for miles before a fence or even a dry stone wall would be encountered.   Here on the heights, one can shout with full voice, yet it will be lost upon the wind.   Only a stray sheep will turn its head and the bracken will dip and ripple to the horizon like waves upon the sea.   Up here the ceaseless wind is the ethereal reincarnation of Dionysus, urging one to drink from him and become drunk with freedom.

 

read the collected work as it is published: here

 

 

————w(O)rmholes________________________________|—–

beauty & clouds & grey & hedge & passing & smell & valley wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – Rain
bedroom wormhole: LIGHT HEARTED WILLIAM by William Carlos Williams
black & horizon wormhole: slight sneer
blue & faces wormhole: 11/1 by William Carlos Williams
brown wormhole: The Diligence at Louveciennes, 1870
curtains wormhole: ‘… plane is upright …’
eyes & love wormhole: light of all interaction
green wormhole: 10/22 by William Carlos Williams
hills wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – I took my camera into the fields
house wormhole: quietly in my quiet house
identity & wind wormhole: c’mon – keep up
kitchen wormhole: 10/28 ‘On hot days …’ by William Carlos Williams
London wormhole: {reading right to left}
morning & sky wormhole: then
mother wormhole: in deed
roof & windows wormhole: THE ATTIC WHICH IS DESIRE: by William Carlos Williams
sleep & time wormhole: looking for the right exit
sound wormhole: window
stone & sun wormhole: boiled spangle with soft centre
travelling wormhole: travelling / back
walls wormhole: “And anger it is that lays in ruins / every kind of mental goodness.”
waves wormhole: Valentine’s Day 2019
yellow wormhole: 10/28 ‘in this strong light …’ by William Carlos Williams

 

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