Only last Friday it was still spring – a hot spring at that. I travelled to Glamorgan University to take part in a workshop, lecture and reading on the residential component of their MPhil in creative writing. It’s wonderful to have an attentive, engaged audience and it was good to read with Kevin Mills, whose next collection, Libra, is simply stunning, at an event hosted by Philip Gross and his colleagues. Afterwards Philip took me and Kevin for an Indian meal at an unlikely looking place on an industrial estate in Trefforest – just to show how deceptive appearances can be (it looked like a converted fast food place from the outside), the meal was excellent, and the place was even called The Cinnamon Tree.
It was still spring on Sunday when Mavis Gulliver and her husband Richard called in after exploring Cwmorthin. Like me, Mavis is working on a poetry sequence inspired by abandoned slate workings – in her case the Scottish slate islands – so it was fascinating to compare notes once Mavis had seen ‘my’ village.
Then on Tuesday it was suddenly winter again and today I woke up to an odd noise coming from the phone as the power went off. We were only without electricity for a couple of hours, the shortest cut I think we’ve had in Tanygrisiau in the last ten years, but it was so cold. I was grateful that Rowan had already got the wood burner in the kitchen going and it didn’t need much encouragement with a gale roaring down the chimney while outside there was a blizzard of snow.
There are times when the mood of a place or weather acts as a metaphor for an emotional landscape – in writing the device of pathetic fallacy can be used to great effect – Emily Bronte is the queen of pathetic fallacy in Wuthering Heights – those gales on the moors mirroring the emotional upheaval and violence. As Anne Carson says astutely in her poem ‘The Glass Essay’, after reading Emily Bronte’s depiction of Heathcliff calling the ghost of Cathy to come in as another storm rages:
I fell on my knees on the rug and sobbed too.
She knows how to hang puppies,
Looking out of the window this morning at the snow hurtling in every direction, frenzied by wind, I wondered if I’d summoned the April snow. On Monday Cinnamon’s Paypal account was hacked. I was at my desk so saw the email saying I’d just bought an iphone (which I hadn’t) arrive. While I was filling in the fraud form online another email arrived and another so I had to abandon the forms to shut down my card while the business was still solvent before going back to sort out the mess. The subsequent form filling and phone calls took all of Monday and going over all my online accounts to change passwords ate up a chunk of Tuesday.
Then I got a text to say my youngest daughter was in hospital. She was hit by a bike and had a head injury. When I finally got to talk to her she was leaving the hospital for home, but had to put down the phone and return quickly when the staples popped out as she was walking. She’s much better today, but I hate that useless feeling of being so far away when there is an emergency and it’s exacerbated by the fact that tomorrow my other daughter will be twenty-four – wonderful, except that this is the first of her birthday’s that we won’t be together. The very good reason for that is that she is having a break away in Somerset and Bath with her partner. It’s a well-earned treat and I’m delighted she is off enjoying it, but I still miss her.
Somewhere in the daze of fraud and accidents and nostalgia for birthdays past I’ve done a very odd thing – I have a system for train tickets and they are labeled and put in one place only as soon as they are opened – but in the melee of events I’ve lost two envelopes of tickets. I’ve searched all the sensible places. I’ve tipped out bins and recycling boxes. I’ve even looked in the towel cupboard and underwear drawers.
It is so easy to lose attention for a moment and then… the tickets have disappeared, money is leaking away before your eyes, a bike is on top of you, your baby is twenty-four, the hot spring sun has turned to furious flurries of snow and the world is cold and white and slippery. Soul is ‘hewn in a wild workshop’ Anne Carson says, quoting Charlotte Bronte’s preface to Wuthering Heights. Indeed it is, and yet this snow won’t last – soon we’ll be able to sing with the writer of the Song of Songs:
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come…
And, of course, happy birthday, Tamsyn.