'What if the news were nothing more
                       than the secrets of seashells on the seashore....'
                            (Karine Polwart : 'The News')

   This is a place I've dreamt about. It's almost like the Aber of my childhood, except that we aren't on a hill, but the edge of a harbour.
   It's heartening how this strange house gradually accepts us.
   To begin with the front door just won't open and other doors are just as stubborn. In time their teeth unclench, stop their grinding.
   I hear the house's spirit speak only once : it's an old lady's voice and it merely greets with 'Merry Christmas!' Nothing else.
   I forgive the grandfather clock its hunting scene. The other one's stopped on 6 o'clock. The barometer hardly moves the whole time we are there.
   Maritime weather : just as I recall those winters in Aber, with no snow but waves constantly crashing against the prom and huge breakers thundering onto Tanybwlch's storm-beach.
   But it's at night ,more than any other time, that I'm taken back.
   I hear that most distinctive of winds, straight from Cardigan Bay with it's high-pitching whistling as if it blows in the lost spirits of every sailor wrecked out there in the dark.
   Though my body is steady and rooted firmly to the ground, my mind's at sea, as though the whole house were a ship set sail on a dream journey. 
   In Penparcau, on Pen Dinas, I often used to  imagine my bed was a boat which could fly high, buoyed on that strong wind like a seagull balancing on its currents.
   But unlike Aber - with its retail parks and supermarkets - here is a town to fit my head ; a town without a supermarket to speak of.
   A town with a chippie called 'The New Celtic' where the chips are - dare I say it? - delish! A town with a bakery called Y Popty and bread of a morning risen with dawn, like those boulangeries of many a Breton holiday.
   A beach full of driftwood for the hearth : gathering winter fuel this Christmas. Even one shop so white inside it snows felty, downy flakes on your hair at the window display.
   Especially, a town where Welsh is everyday, not just for occasions : language of aisles, taverns and cafes.
   Dylan and Caitlin stayed here and maybe Milk Wood was a farm nearby.
   You can certainly imagine all those characters up to no good, or asking the sun to wipe its feet.
   The town's cleaner with his broom-trolley looks like he walked out of that play for voices, as he trundles up and down the car-park and streets, ready to pounce on any stray chip or carton, like a gull at a train station.
   To think, so many pass through to Elsewhere (as we always did), just north or south; somewhere grander or busier.
   You can walk from here, but always come back. Along the river-path and on to the disused railway track, or down the coast to cliffs with their peculiar folds and faults.
   I gaze out at night to see the bright string of lights of the Hive and they glow like thoughts of honeyed ice-cream.
   If the shells of my ears are full of sounds of the sea, then my eyes are afire with memories.
   My wife expertly twists our well-read newspapers into plaits to start the fire, where she lays sticks and logs in small pyramids. She too is taken back, to her Belfast childhood.
   On the beach, across calmer water before the waves break, I skim stones, counting the number of times they bounce as though I were competing with my younger self.
   Rain and sun, stillness and storm : changing so frequently in a town where so little alters.
   A Welsh Balamory : pastel shades of houses like the flavours of that famous 'hufen ia blasus'.
   'Manchester House' and 'Wellington Street' ; 'Liverpool' one side of the river and 'Birkenhead' the other : a place once wanting to be away from itself. Now, with its two tongues, a smaller version of what Cymru could be, once was and will never be again.


                                           MINAWEL

Living at the edge of the breeze,
at the brink of the harbour
with no boats coming or leaving
this storm-soaked winter.

At first, the front door refused us
like others in this eccentric house ;
the hall's barometer always read 'Change'.
conservatory roof beaten by the rain

I loved and loathed the whistling wind
which kept me awake at night :
down the road from Cardigan Bay
searching for a wreck to wash up.

We gathered kindle on the beach,
it burnt like pods of dry seaweed,
cracking and popping; flames telling
of shopkeeper and sailor, land and sea.

With beer-barrels for neighbours,
townsfolk like fresh, warm loaves ;
Afon Aeron and waves were conversation
mingling, freshwater and brine.




Note:    Minawel -   edge of the breeze


                            
 


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