An old pile of papers

“Mollie Salvers was lonely. Not alone, but lonely”
So starts a story I began on the 11th February 1995 – about the time when I was reading a great deal of Thomas Hardy and the Bronte Sisters. I never finished the story, but I did write a full synopsis, which I share here:

Mollie and Joseph (her husband) split up.
Mollie goes to stay with her Aunt Constance in Oxfordshire (“Aunt Constance was a strange creature of obvious wealthy ancestry. She was respected within her countryside village as one of the oldest and wisest residents and, as a young woman, had been courted by many a hopeful youth”).
She meets Adam, who she loved as a child. Adam is a recluse and has changed greatly since their childhood – his sister flung herself from a cliff after a failed love affair – he has never recovered.
Mollie still loves Joseph very much. She discovers she is pregnant. When she tells Joseph he is happy, but thinks it is better if they don’t get back together.
Mollie finds herself growing closer to Adam. She needs him, but he falls in love with her.
While on a walk on the cliffs, Adam admits he loves Mollie. She tells him she doesn’t feel the same. Joseph turns up – he has heard everything. He picks a fight with Adam. Mollie tries to stop them and is pushed away. She is hanging by one hand off the side of a cliff. Joseph turns to a nervous wreck but Adam helps her up.
Feeling useless that he couldn’t help, Joseph throws himself off the cliff.
Adam and Mollie live happily ever after.

That, there, people, is an Oster / Price masterpiece that will never be written…

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Hiraeth

Wikipedia will tell you that the Welsh word Hiraeth has no direct translation, but that the University of Wales, Lampeter (that’s right, the best Uni in the world) attempts to define it as “a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, and the earnest desire for the Wales of the past”. I’m not sure that, as a non-Welsh girl, I’m allowed to claim to feel this, but I will claim it nonetheless. Maybe it’s the childhood holidays I spent in Wales, with English grandparents, but Welsh cousins. We’d stay up ‘late’ at night, playing Red Indians (we were non-PC back then) and creating Pagan rituals to the moon. This was, I’m sure, an invention of my beautiful cousin’s – she has always been so very creative, so very romantic… so very Welsh!
Maybe it was the years I spent living there through University. I had never felt so entirely comfortable with any group of people, so utterly accepted. There was something beautiful and very special about living in such a small space, being known by almost everyone you passed. Even now, I know it annoys the Husband and the other ‘spouses’ when we all get together and all we can talk about are the glory days of our student youth. I think it’s unusual how many of us are still in touch, but that might just be what happens when you’re thrown so viciously into such a tiny and incestuous group. I count many of these people as family, even if – when I meet them for drinks these days – I can’t actually remember what it is that they do for a living.
Or maybe it’s that there really is just something magical about Wales.

I spent the last week in Wales. First, staying with Mummy Wordman in her haunted house in Llangollen. I’m always disappointed when I don’t see ghosts. I’m a true believer (I subscribe to the Fortean Times for Gawd’s sake) and yet they don’t come visit me. I can only assume this is because they don’t, in fact, exist. Which didn’t stop me from being freaked out when, after a fairly sleepless night, I asked Wordman and Bee if there were ghosts in the house and they just looked at each other and said “Do you really want to know?”. I had to drink an awful lot of wine to get the courage up to go and sleep alone in a room that has two doors (Where does the other one go? I’m told it’s just a cupboard, but I’m not so sure).

Cherry Tree. Imagine being able to leave your house and walk mere metres before you find yourself on a mountain. Wake up in the morning and hear nothing but the birds and the breeze in the trees. Make tea by the Aga, collect the coal from the shed, sit by a roaring fire all day. This is a life I dream of. I nearly moved in permanently. There is a kind of poetry around mountains, it gets in your lungs.

[I want to write about the Little Man who makes me smile so. How we played NeeNaws in the cushions, how he learned to say my name and melted my heart, how he dragged me round the house with a hose putting out fires, how he giggled as I turned him upside down, how tickly his tummy is, how much I love him. But he makes me gushing and silly, so I won’t.]

After Llan, we travelled back to Ponty for Wordman’s birthday. It seems to have become a tradition; the same people watching the rugby on his birthday. Maybe it was a tradition before I knew him again and got invited. Last year, Cardiff were playing away, so I was totally unprepared for Cardiff on a Match Day. The sheer number of people was dizzying, even for a Londoner like me. Everywhere you looked there were people in their Rugby shirts, the pubs were rammed, you could get your face painted on the streets. Noise, excitement, laughter… and none of the worry that at some point someone will get stabbed. It was a Wales / Ireland game. The only time I’ve ever seen two opposing teams so happily drinking (and singing!) together.
We watched the match in the Rugby club next to the Stadium, so that we could hear the roars. I wore a borrowed Lions shirt, and tried not to speak too loudly in my English accent. Later, I was amazed to find myself being dragged away from talking to men in a club. “It wasn’t like that!” I protested, “we were talking about the problems that arise from teaching Religion in such a multicultural environment as London, or whether the early-nineties really were a fashion minefield – he wasn’t chatting me up!”. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that this is the way Welsh men chat you up. It is a big step up from “Oi! Wanna snog?!” – which is all I remember from my brief single years in London. (but easier to avoid, if you are – like I am – happily married!). Even I, though, recognised that being hoisted over the shoulders of a gentleman who then called for a taxi, was probably a pick-up. But, then, I deserved it for telling him how much I liked Gingers… And even he was smiling.

[Note to the Husband: None of them was as lovely as you, I promise]

People talk to you in Wales. They smile and greet you as you walk past them on country roads. The women in cafes call you ‘love’ or ‘bach’ (which always reminds me of the Best Friend – who so loved hearing it). People stop in the street to catch up, because they all know each other. Everywhere there is laughter and song and history.

They voted Yes. I think it was a good thing.

A new leaf buds


Spring. It’s definitely here today. And with it, comes a renewed desire to live. Maybe I’ve spent so long at rock bottom that I’m finally rested enough to start to pick myself up. Or maybe it’s the dawning realisation that no one else is doing anything remotely useful to aid my recovery (by that I mean professionally, not personally – I am surrounded by beautiful people) so it’s down to me to get back on my feet and pull the broken parts of my soul back together again.

Whatever, I feel good today. There is hope. I even caught myself singing out loud!

At the weekend, some beautiful flower fairy sent me some narcissi (or little daffodils) in the post. They had come all the way from the Scilly Isles, and the brilliant burst of yellow really made me smile.

There was no card, though I searched and searched, so I had no idea who they were from. Asking around, I came across many people, who all said “Oh! They’re not from me, but I wish they were!” – there’s a lesson in there for all of us.

After a while, the mystery was solved by my lovely cousin. They had been sent by my Auntie Sally, which was a much lovelier surprise than any of the people I might have suspected. It’s always nice to know that someone is thinking of you.

 

Over the last few days, I have attempted to get out and about a little more than I have been. Firstly, out of necessity. I had a meeting with the headmistress. It wasn’t a meeting I was particularly looking forward to (though I should have known better, she is a wise and honest woman) so I felt really lucky to find myself sitting on the bus next to a chatty woman and her grandson. “Did you hear what happened to the 93 bus stop?” she asked, as I tried my hardest to stop my hands from shaking and not have a panic attack about being on the journey to school.

“No” I replied.
“They nicked it. One day it was there, and then it was gone”. We had a laugh about that, and she took my mind off everything. (Except, maybe, how it is possible to steal an entire bus shelter from a main road in Morden without anyone noticing, and also why you would want to…).

Today, the little old lady who stopped me in the park to remark on how lovely it was that I was wearing purple when everyone else looked so gloomy (she agreed it was nearly spring) and the man at the coffee shop who gave me a free shot of the richest hot chocolate I have ever tasted, and the boy who remarked to his mother and I: “You can’t walk through the river. You’d get wet”, were further proof of what I have begun to suspect: Not only are there still some lovely people in the world, but also – and you don’t have to go with me on this one – there are sometimes people who are real answers to prayers. The prayers of all those people around me of real faith are daily sending people to make me smile. And for that, I thank those people and Whoever Else is responsible. I feel very blessed.

 

Postscript:

One other reason to be joyful. The council came to dig up the road the other day. I got cross, thinking it was for some awful reason, and then, yesterday, some lovely men came and planted a row of these little beauties.

 

Hurrah for Local Councils everywhere (while there’s still reason to hurrah).