Friday, May 18, 2012

Day Five: A Walk with Bethan

The walk - I expected the walk would take me some time, but had not expected just how long. Because I was stopping to write my thoughts down, take photographs and do some drawings, overall the walk took more than 6 hours.
I got lost a few times, and saw, heard and tasted things that would not have been possible without Bethan's guidance. I felt also that I was on someone else's personal journey through memory. The text instructions given by Bethan were personal and rooted in family history. It was interesting to me that while on the walk as I was taking notes I was having a conversation with Bethan in my head - pointing things out, remarking, questioning; was this what you meant?
I am working on putting the journey into a text piece - it was going to be a brochure originally, but it doesn't make sense. My instructions from Bethan were in purely text form, and so the resulting piece should be text as well. I want the poster to be a3 black and white, so that it can be easily and cheaply reproduced. For next weeks exhibitions I want to print a bundle of them, and tie them with string for people to take with them.

The Text:

From the Lion, walk up the hill until you see a sort of stone/concrete box sticking out into the road on your right. It has black railings on it. It's a baptising well and watercress grows in there. Eat some. Feel good spirits.
I am sitting outside the lion. I can smell breakfast, and hear birds and the sound of a hoover. I am just about to start. The hill up looks steep. People here are used to hills, but I'm not. I wonder how long this walk will be and what I will find? I am going to measure my footsteps. Tourists are buying postcards. It's Thursday. I don't have time for postcards today.
I am at the well. A cockerel crows to let me know I am here. The sound of a stream and a blackbird, and the sound of my foot tapping on the wall as I write. How deep is the well? If I fall in will I be able to get back out? A man walks past and asks if I have made a good wish. I hadn't thought of that. I should make one as I eat the watercress. I can't tell you what it is of course.
I can taste the iron as I chew it up, tangy and peppery. There are a number of ferns here. The ones called tongues or something, and the trumpet shaped ones growing out of the wall. I don't know what it's called. I like it here. The suns come out now.
Walking back down the hill, there are forget-me-nots.

Go for tea and scones on the verandah at the Plas. My Taid used to fetch and carry for them when he was still in short trousers. Imagine it is 1926.
At the Plas, I thought it would be full of people but I am the only one. I ask if it's possible to have a cream tea on the verandah, the lady says 'yes help yourself.' It's warm so I sit outside, does this count as the verandah? A plane and then a train.
Were there golfers in 1926? I can hear the puuutt.
A labrador and some posh ladies arrive, remarking on my cream tea. The labrador soon sniffs it out and looks at me hopefully. I am drawing it before I can eat it, which is torturing him and building up the anticipation in me.
They order welsh rarebit, a pigeon gets up some cooing.
It's delicious. A damson fly comes to investigate. While I have been here the place has filled up.

Walk out of Harlech on the top road, past the pie shop and alterations place, past the plant nursery (buy some chamomile from the nursery if possible, it grows like nobody's business)
There's a bush near the nursery, teeming with bees. I have never seen so many. The lady in the nursery says it is cotoneaster. She doesn't have chamomile, but a distant relative. Anthemis copaniana, or something - she doesn't have the other as its not slug proof. Everything in the garden is meant to be slug and snail proof - she doesn't use pesticides because it kills everything else as well.
A baby robin comes close enough for me to touch. I can smell honey, it's a euphorbia. This place is amazing. I can't resist, a geranium, a mouse plant, and a few more whose names I didn't catch. The lady tells me this is her last year in the garden after 25 years, which makes me feel terribly sad. Who will buy it? and will they keep it like this. There are over 200 species of geranium, and a fern garden.
She takes me around to show me the varieties - one is black and hairy, with long tendrils. She says she mustn't get too close or it will bite. She shows me where her collection of plants is for taking to a new place. I will make a new garden, and take my friends, she says. But part of the garden is going with me, back to my little yard.
She tells me which of the plants to select, which is strong and how they like to be treated. She loves them all, she is parting with family members, and I try to let her know how much I will treasure them.
You should see a little opening in the wall, maybe a bench, go up to the prow, look down to the right. The view in the postcard you used for your collage. If you stand where the painter stood, you're pretty much standing on what's known as 'slidey rock.' You will see a slanting rock face with a streak worn smooth where generations of children have slid down in desperate, Craggy Island style make-your-own-fun. Have a slide.
Up at Slidey Rock. Jackdaws are making a racket and it looks like rain. An ice cream van makes its way to the holiday park. You can see everything from here
I leave my plants on the seat and gingerly make my way to the smooth rock. I don't think it will be too slippery, but it really is. I kick myself off and pick up speed unexpectedly and let out a ridiculous shriek. I wonder if the lady in the garden heard me. I think it must be quite dangerous, so only do it once.

Along the road near Coleg Harlech is St Davids Hotel. My Great Taid Ianto helped rebuild it after the fire in 1922 but now it is derelict again. Peep inside. Imagine being 12 years old, vegetarian. There is some wet lettuce and cold tomato to eat. It is like an old people's home in the dining room.
I have walked up past the Coleg. I am sitting on the wall outside St Davids. A man is buying a car from the dealers opposite, cars slide down the road. I have to wait here until the car dealer goes out of sight. Here's a geranium growing on the wall. The mans driven off in his old car. I wonder if there's another entrance further up? I can hear someone inside, maybe clearing up. Sounds like they are hosing the insides of the Hotel down. I feel a bit scared, there are warnings everywhere. The lower windows are boarded up so I can't see in. A chair is on its side, Lloyd loom with gold brocade. This place was fancy wasn't it?
The windows are smashed and the doors are hanging off, bluebirds live here now. Water drips down the black rocks, I'm right in now. Broken slates all over the ground, they are loud under my feet. Everything seems louder because I am trying to be quiet.
I don't like it here.
There's those forget-me-nots again. The cut on my leg is throbbing, where I slid down Slidey Rock and into the brambles. What's next? On the way back round the sound from inside starts up again. It's not inside, it's bouncing from the garage opposite.

St Tanwg's Church is in the dunes between the Maes and Traeth Llandawg. It is old out of time. Look at the faces on it. Go in and sing if there are people singing but there probably wont be. Sing outside instead. Not in English, they will hear you (the ones in the sand dunes).
I am walking along the road now. There's no pavement and the cars make me nervous. It's raining now. There's a little windy path going off to the left, but I don't know if it's where I want to go. I will have to chance it to get off this road. The forget-me-nots are here again, so maybe it's the right way. Bluebells, campion and rhododendrons cover the way.
As it clears I can see the sea and the dunes. This must be right. The sound of a strimmer stops, and I realise it has been there for a while, the hum is soon replaced by a bumblebee, blundering past. Japanese knotweed blocks the view again. Oh dear, it's a forest. It's quite steep and slippery. I have had enough slides today.
Some overgrown steps. I stop to draw them and listen to a conversation drifting up from the beach . Ladies walking dogs discuss why holidays are not much fun before moving on. The ice cream van chimes from faraway and a train comes by, much closer now. As I get down onto the dunes dandelion seeds fly towards me. The track leads finally to a dead end. And a lot of wild garlic. I double back and go up a different set of steps. They lead all the way up to a tall drystone wall, someone's garden. There is nothing for it, I can't go all the way back down now, I will have to sneak around the house. I see an old lady through the window, I don't want to scare her so I hurry around.
Back on the road. Some beekeepers are collecting honey in the field. I can see the puff puff of their smoke to calm the bees. It's nearly five o clock, I better get a move on. Going up the steps from the road I can see the sea. Someone is standing up to their knees, looking out. I hope these steps lead to the church.
They don't. Back to the road again I ask some power walkers if they know where the church is, they point to it in the distance. They tell me there is another one in Harlech, which replace this one - it has the same name - I hope you meant this one. I am going there now, I have come so far.
At the church, there is a sign outside that says amongst other things 'these dunes are special.'
There are two gates into the church. I take the left. The church is locked up, but I can see inside. I think about all the stone tables going around the church, can I sit at one? It's a grave.
The face is almost worn away by time. I don't know any welsh songs so I whisper the names of the places you have sent me into the silent ones ear. I try to draw the king, but his face has almost dissolved to nothing, and has been covered over with lichen. I can hear a tractor and sheep.
From the Maes over to where the boats are moored, the sand is a bit quick over there. Look at the ground. You won't see a boat called Nemo because it isn't there anymore. It used to be there and then one day it wasn't, there was only some oil and bits in the sand. This is a clue.
Down by the water, the boats all turn to stare. One is making a lapping sound. I look for the clue, and find a buoy and some tiny dead crabs. I walk along the beach, looking for a shell for my reliquary, ah, this is the one, it reminds me of you. I think this is the end of the tour, the suns gone and the winds getting up.

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