#FridayBookShare ~ Anywhere The Wind Blows by Jenny Lloyd @jennyoldhouse #Historical Fiction @ShelleyWilson72

BetweenTheLines

#FridayBookShare ~ an excellent idea created by Shelley Wilson

With the weekend approaching it’s the perfect time to seek out new books to read, so Shelley created a Friday Book Share meme to help search for that ideal read.

FridayBookShare

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Time to say goodbye.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow

So much has happened since the first book in the trilogy, Leap the Wild Water, was published in 2013. I remember how it felt when the book ‘went live’. It was like diving into deep water, not knowing what lay beneath the surface. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I published it on a hope and a prayer that someone, somewhere, would think well of it. I never imagined just how many people would be carried away, as I was, by Megan’s story, or the praise my writing would receive.

I am truly and forever grateful to all those readers who let me know, in person or through their reviews, how much they enjoyed my books. It is readers who decide if writers sink or swim and I have been blessed by the encouragement my writing has received. I am not a person who has a great deal of self-confidence or self-belief, so without that encouragement, the second book in the trilogy, The Calling of the Raven, may never have seen the light of day.

Now, two eventful years since I published The Calling of the Raven, I’m finally publishing the last book in the Megan Jones trilogy. I came close to giving up on it. The loss of Morgan knocked me off my feet and for a while I couldn’t think about anything else. I miss him so much and preparing the book for this step to publication has given me a focus.

With the last book in the trilogy, it is time to say goodbye to Megan, et al. Saying goodbye isn’t easy as I’ve come to know these characters so well they are like old friends to me. They have carried me along on a breath-taking journey across the centuries and into the intimate details of their lives and struggles. Megan is a woman with courage, compassion, and a capacity for forgiveness which many of us can only aspire to. For me, she is what every heroine should be; portraying the possibilities lying within each of us.

From the very first, I have felt these stories were not being told by me so much as by the characters who ‘speak’ through me. My role has been merely to shape their experiences into the form of a novel. So I am grateful to them, too, for choosing me to tell their stories. I shall never forget them.

Which brings me to the last book in the Megan Jones trilogy, and to celebrate the launch of Anywhere the Wind Blows, the new updated kindle edition of Leap the Wild Water will be FREE for 5 days from August 1st 2016.

Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/73tq302Ov71

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

 

 

 

He went to heaven in a brand-new coat.

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Those who have been following me, on this blog or social media, will have seen lots of photos of Morgan and Jess. I write the following in the hope that it might help someone else faced with the heart-breaking decision I had to make a week ago.

It never ceased to surprise me, how even when he seemed to be fast asleep, snoring even, Morgan would have one ear cocked and one eye half open and spring up the moment I got up from my seat. I thought you were sleeping! I’d say. It always made me smile, how even when asleep he was aware of exactly where I was and what I was up to.Now he is no longer here and springing to attention at any move from me, I am more aware than ever of just how devoted and attached to me he was.

While I sat at my desk,  he’d want to lie in the foot-well. I’d have to place one foot either side of him and carefully move my chair forward so that his head rested beneath. It was a tight squeeze! I’ve written three novels with him lying here between my feet, fast asleep and snoring…

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If I got up to leave the room, he’d follow my movements with his eyes, and he’d be at the door with his tail wagging, the moment I so much as thought it was time for a walk, and long before I’d reached for my coat or boots.

Through him, I became aware of things I said to myself out of habit. ‘Right, then!’ would have him on his feet in a second. A shout of exasperation, or a certain swear word, would have him on the alert, searching my face, his eyes great pools of curiosity and concern. Then I’d have to reassure him – it’s okay, pup, take no notice, it’s nothing to worry about, just me blowing off steam!

Now, still, I feel the impulse of my hand to reach out and stroke, the impulse to speak and reassure, so ingrained are my responses to him. Then reality kicks in – he isn’t here anymore, tuned into my every emotion.

I’m beginning to see that I was as tuned into him on a subliminal level as he was to me – that I was always aware how my own emotions affected him – happy, sad, joyous or despairing – whatever I felt, he felt it, too. Being aware of this, I would try to buffer the effects of the stresses in my life on him. If I was reduced to tears about something, he would come and rest his dear head upon my knee – and I would be trying to reassure him not to worry, that all would be alright. How many times – more than I can count – did I pick myself up for his sake? My love for him, my concern that he should have a happy life and not suffer because I was suffering, was what gave me strength to overcome the rock-bottom times in my life.

If someone came to the house or stopped to chat along the lane, he would be there by my side, trying to be part of the conversation, talking his doggy-talk which no person could understand.  He never used to ‘talk’ to me like this, perhaps because he felt our understanding went beyond words. But he was well aware that speech was the main means of communication between people and tried so very hard to speak to others and be understood. Some people found it amusing, I think, but some probably thought it pretty weird.

Then, one day back in March, something changed. He began trying to ‘speak’ to me whenever I was near –  a low, mumbling, pleading sound I’d never heard before. It was a sound which filled my heart with dread.  Though I did not know it then, it was the beginning of the end for Morgan.

Too many times I’ve heard people say of their dear departed loved ones – if only the doctor had listened and acted sooner. Well, the world of veterinary medicine is no different to ours. But to be fair, the end result for my Morgan was always going to be what it was, even if they’d listened sooner, but his suffering may not have gone on for as long as it did.

I’ve looked at the calendar on my phone, at the number of weeks that went by. Phone the vet. Take Morgan to vet. Phone the vet. Take Morgan to vet, on and on and them telling me there didn’t seem to be anything wrong and to come back again if he didn’t improve. I’d be back again within days. There was even a suggestion that the steroids he’d been on for something else at the beginning of the year had made him a bit ‘loopy in the head’. And all the while, it was heart-breaking and frustrating beyond belief to listen to him trying to tell me what the matter was and me not being able to understand. All I knew was that something was amiss.

The last straw came with the arrival of a new vet at the practice, who became positively hostile to my request for Morgan to have pain-killers. He refused to give them, told me to come back again next week if he was no better. I’d been told to do that too many times. He said ‘pain-killers are not a treatment’. (Neither was doing nothing!) He was an arrogant man who seemed to view my request as an affront to his authority. I told that vet that I had not brought Morgan all that way only to be sent away, yet again, with nothing to help him. He grudgingly gave me just 2 tablets to be spread out over 4 nights. They made no difference at all.

By then, Morgan was now struggling to sleep at night, tossing this way and that, moaning with pain at intervals which had me lying awake at night, anguished for him. Incensed and bewildered by the attitude of that vet, I took Morgan to a different practice, nearer to home. The minute the new vet examined him, she said she believed the problem was in his hips. Why, oh why, did the other vets not even consider this, I asked myself? If this vet was able to, then why weren’t they? She booked him in for an x-ray. She showed me the x-ray plate. His hips were in a terrible state, riddled with arthritis. She said, from now on in, it was a case of ‘management’. I was so relieved! At long last, we knew what we were dealing with and what to do for him.

He was put on a high dose of glucosamine which would be reduced after a month to a maintenance dose of one per day. And, without question or argument, he was given the pain-killers I’d had to beg for and so grudgingly received, previously.

As the weeks progressed on this regime and he got no better, in fact seemed to be getting gradually worse, I began to pray. He will turn a corner, he will, he will, I told myself while waiting for the glucosamine to work its magic. I bought him a large memory foam mattress in the hope of making him more comfortable at night, which was when, with no distractions, he seemed to suffer most. His pain-killers were increased and still the sleepless nights went on.

In desperation, I sent away for a light-therapy unit which was meant to be beneficial in the treatment of arthritic joints and dysplasia. He continued to get worse. It was all too little, too late, for Morgan. I went back to the vet and was told the brutal truth. The kindest thing to bring an end to Morgan’s pain was euthanasia. He was already on a high dose of painkillers but, at my request, I was given a higher dose and told to come back in a week with a view to putting him to sleep.

As it turned out, we didn’t have even that week. Over the next twenty-four hours, the pain suddenly got much worse for him and the last grain of hope that he would turn a corner evaporated. The end of his life rushed towards us with such rapidity that I only had that one more night with him. At three in the morning, I made the decision that I had to admit defeat and put an end to his suffering as soon as possible.

As I sat up with him and stroked him, clouds of his fur floated around and surrounded us – for a couple of weeks he’d been shedding his old coat as he always did at this time of year. He went to heaven in a brand-new coat, shedding his physical life along with his old coat.

The next morning, I phoned the vet and arranged to take Morgy on his last journey. I will never forget what Morgan did after the phone call.  He led the way to the car. I opened the door. No more pain, now, Morgy, I told him, no more pain. He did something he’d never done before. He reached up and thumped both paws on the seat, as if to say ‘right, let’s do it!’ I lifted him up (he was no longer able to get in the car unaided) and he sat in his seat, tail wagging, looking ahead with excitement.

Given my emotional state, having to take him to end his life, his behaviour seemed bizarre and baffling.  Along the way, I felt him thump my arm with his paw to get my attention; I slowed down and turned to glance at him. He was gazing deep into my eyes, his eyes soft and misty with love. He wasn’t looking anxious or concerned as he would normally do at seeing my distress. He seemed to be smiling. I placed my hand on his head, stroked him, and told him ‘I love you, too, darling, I love you, too!’

He sat back in his seat with a sigh, staring intently ahead, with that open-mouthed smile of his as if he was excited and pleased. I was utterly bewildered – I see why, now. For the first time in all our years together, I was not seeing my own emotions reflected in his response. Here I was, torn apart by grief at the knowledge I was about to lose him, and there he was, seemingly as happy as could be.

He had never feared going to the vets as some dogs do. Whenever he went, even when ill or in pain, he always had a smile and a wagging tail for them. On his last visit, he was the same as always. He faced his end with no fear at all and was gone from me so quick… it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, to put an end to the life of he who had been so dear to me.

Anyone who has had to do this will know how it feels. We never imagine that one day we will be called upon to do it. When to do it, seems to be the hardest call to make. If I had known my hopes were false ones…if I had known it would end this way…if I’d known from the start that it was pointless trying…if, if, if. I couldn’t have predicted how it was going to end. From that first day when he tried to ‘speak’ to me of his pain, my only objective was to find out what was wrong so that we could make him better. Where there is life, there is hope, as they say. But when there is no hope left, what is there? Love, and to do the most loving thing we will ever be asked to do – let them go.

Morgan let me know on that last journey, God bless him, that he was ready to go, and was grateful to me for releasing him from his pain.  I am certain now of that, although at the time, being a human, I failed to understand.

He was so loyal, loving and giving. He didn’t have one aggressive bone in his body. He lived life to the full and with passion. When I think of all the adventures and walks we shared; beaches or mountains, rivers or seas, woodlands and meadows, he loved them all, exploring every inch of every place we went. And each time he saw we were leaving for pastures new, he’d leap up front, excited to discover where we were going next. Most importantly, he was loved and he knew that he was loved, and that is the greatest comfort to me.

He was the most remarkable soul. I will never know his like again. He was one of the greatest blessings in my life. But Morgan is not grieving, Morgan is not suffering, and I would go through this heart-rending pain and grief a hundred times over rather than see him suffer.

I’ve reached some form of acceptance – that the ocean of life will go on crashing upon the shore, however much we may try to swim against the tide. And much of our anguish comes, I think, from our not being able to change the course of things when they head in a direction we do not want them to. It’s necessary to accept not only my own limitations but those of the people who we expect to be able to do far more than they actually can. I suspect that the arrogant vet was coming from a place where he was not prepared to accept the limitations of his own knowledge.

Never let anyone try to persuade you a dog is ‘just a dog’. Knowing Morgan has convinced me; they are wiser, kinder and more generous souls than many humans are.

Please share this to pay tribute to Morgan and all the other wonderful dogs who give us so much in their too short lives.

In memory of Morgan; 16th March 2007 – 15th June 2016

 

 

 

A moving account of a bygone age.

The following account was passed on to me by a fellow lover of Welsh history. It conjures up a by-gone age which we will never see the like of again, and so I felt it was important to share it.  It was written by Jenkin Lloyd, Tregaron Registrar, and the article is a translation of the original which was published in the Cymru, 1912. So here it is, enjoy!

A funeral in the Highlands.

In our minds the word “Highlands” seems always to be associated with Scotland because that country is divided into highlands and lowlands and the word is seldom used in connection with Wales. But Wales too has her highlands, where we find people who live almost entirely some 1000ft or more above sea-level. I refer to the wide range of mountains which divides Radnorshire and Breconshire from Cardiganshire together with the people who inhabit these grassy expanses so well described lately in these pages by Mr Daniel Davies, Ton.

Small holdings and farms can be seen scattered here and there on this wide plain – although fewer now than formerly – where, from generation to generation there has dwelt, a race of people who have remained more faithful to old Welsh customs than their lowland brothers, a race of people with characteristics and habits peculiar to themselves. Nevertheless, these people differ among themselves in certain respects, for example, while the western side is completely Welsh speaking, the eastern slopes have been subjected to English influences, so that while shepherds on the one side work their dogs in Welsh the dogs on the other side are worked in English. Neighbours, whose animals graze side by side, attend places of worship situated as far as 12 miles apart and while some of these speak English in Builth Wells market, others do their buying and selling in Welsh in Tregaron market. We, in the lowlands, refer to these Welsh people as “the people of the mountains” and it is natural that the chapel on the river Camddwr where these dwellers congregate to worship is called “Soar of the Mountains”.

But my intention was to give an account of a funeral in these highlands. Of all our national characteristics nothing is more peculiar to us than our funeral customs and in the mountains there are particular reasons why these old customs have survived without being influenced in any way by outside agencies.

On the morning of the first Sunday in the year 1876, at Bethesda Chapel, Llandewi Brefi, Tomor Lloyd, having made the usual announcements, made a further announcement somewhat as follows:

“The funeral of Shan, wife of John Jones, Pysgotwr, will take place next Wednesday. Mr Abraham Oliver will preach at the house at 10.30 and the burial will be in the church of Llandewi Abergwesyn.”

Jac and Shan Pysgotwr were two people who lived in the mountains. It is from warm-hearted respect that I give them the familiar names by which they were known to their neighbours. Shan came of a family from the borders of Breconshire and Radnorshire – the burial place of her ancestors was at Abergwesyn and there too she wished to go. Jac came from the valley of the Upper Towy and the story goes that when Shan was the senior maid at Nant-yr-euch he used to visit the farm to court the junior maid. On his arrival there one evening, after the usual greetings, Shan came to tell him that her junior was not at home, and somehow from that night onwards Shan, the senior maid, became Jac’s sweetheart.

They got married and after several moves from place to place, eventually settled down in Pysgotwr, and it was there Shan ended her days at the age of 85. They lived a quiet simple life throughout their long span and according to what I can gather the main ambitions of their lives were: to be hospitable to the stranger, to help the poor, to pay the old debt before incurring the new, and when the end came to leave sufficient to settle all accounts, and to have an oak coffin and a gravestone. And all their hopes were fulfilled. When I returned home after the service on that Sunday morning they announced Shan’s funeral, I could hear my father and mother, while at dinner, speaking of the old lady as if no one but they were present. At the end of their discussion my father glanced towards the long table where I and some others were partaking and said, “You must attend Shan’s funeral, they will need help to carry”. The news of the old lady’s death was no occasion for rejoicing but at the same time I could not suppress a smile because a funeral was almost the only excuse for a “day out” for a spirited and healthy lad. It was not long before I found company for the journey, namely our genial neighbour, Joseph Morgan the shopkeeper, who was the family’s “universal provider”. And so, on a fair winter’s morning, we set out from Llandewi. I was in my element, riding a high-spirited cob that was to be sold at Garon Fair the following March: neither horse nor rider one would think had a care in the world.

From the village of Llanddew our path was to the east along the bank of the River Brefi, rising to that part of the mountains which forms the watershed dividing the waters of the Teifi from those of the Brefi. It was along this path that Rowland, Llangeitho, travelled on his way to Ystrad Ffin and in his lament for Rowland Williams, Pantycelyn, refers to these mountains as the Dewi Hills and the name is most appropriate for to the west stands Llandewi Brefi and to the east Llandewi Abergwesyn, with, in between the two places, some 18 miles of wild mountainous country.

In order to cross the shoulder of Bryn Caregog we had to climb over 1000 feet, then we descended to a spot where, within the short distance of about 100 yards, five small streams unite. This is the beginning of the river Pysgotwr. Near the same spot, where about the same number of roads and paths meet is a place called Postgwyn, named (it is said) after a fingerpost that stood there once upon a time, but the old post with its directions had disappeared years before we passed there that morning. Old Daniel Jones, Y Bryn, used to say that he remembered seeing the remains of the fingerpost there in his young days. What fitter site for a fingerpost? Not a house within miles, and how different from the idea of the present generation, which is to place fingerposts near towns, villages, stations. I see no reason for this, other than the rules bearing of good manners, namely, that to ask a question of a fellowship to whom one has not been formally introduced is gross effrontery.

After leaving Postgwyn we followed the river Pysgotwr for about a mile and arrived at the home of Shan and Jac where the neighbours had congregated. Here the bier had been brought the day before on the backs of little mountain ponies (how, I cannot say). It was a lonely place. If a circle of 4 miles radius were drawn with Pysgotwr as centre, less than 70 souls, counting men, women and children, would be found living within its limits. Hence, one could not expect the congregation to be a large one.

The Reverend Abraham Oliver had already arrived and while those who proposed carrying Shan to her distant resting place were taking a little nourishment, he delivered the funeral sermon to the old people, the women and children of the neighbourhood. It was not the numbers of mourners nor the costliness of the mourning apparel that was the dominant feature of the funeral but it’s pure, unostentatious simplicity.

The sermon over, we set out for the place of burial some 12 miles away. At the head of the procession, riding a shaggy pony with a horse-hair halter was Nathaniel, Y Ddinas, an old neighbour of Shan’s. He led the way, holding a long hazel stick in his hand like the sword of a general, and indeed he was a general for it was his duty to decide the route our journey was to take along this vast pathless expanse, and how long each team of four bearers was to carry its burden. Nathaniel’s judgement on the latter important problem was not determined by distance or by time: if the way was fairly level the team had good measure, but if the path was rough the measure was shorter. Careful judgement, sound common sense and a good eye for country were Nathaniel’s strong points, and of these we had ample proof before our journey was over.

Before we had gone 100 yards from the house we turned eastward where a long slope faced us. Every ditch was full of water and every bog was dangerous to both man and horse, but in spite of all these difficulties everybody was in a good mood as we now climbed the high mountain which separates the Pysgotwr valley from that of the Doethie. The number of bearers was but 20, and eight of us would ride in turns and lead the remaining horses for all would be mounted on the return journey that evening.

We soon reached Maes-y-Betws where it was necessary to decide which team of four bearers would ford the rivers. After crossing the two Doethie rivers we faced the mountain and climbed Rhiw’r Gelynen, or Rhiw’r Gelynion (as some call it). The ancient paths and tracks in these mountains are very steep and fall sharply sometimes, for they were intended for sledges and are still used as such. Such a one was Rhiw’r Gelynen and it was not surprising now, to notice that progress was slower with conversation very much on the wane.

Before reaching the crest of the mountain the path turned south along the ridge for a short distance and below us was Cwm Nant-Y-Benglog with a lonely house of the same name at the bottom of the steep valley. When he travelled along this path some years previously, Cerngoch composed the following verse:

Behold a rugged “cwm”

That only cat or hare could climb:

O spare me from rearing children

Within sigh of Nant-Y-Benglog!

The old bard had lost a child there through accident a short while before this and the place must be seen before the full meaning of the verse can be sensed.

In spite of the extreme cold at the bottom of this steep valley we found the ascent out of it warm work and when we reached yet another crest, the Camddwr valley opened out before us. As we descended towards the river the path took us near Soar chapel and I recollect well what struck me most forcibly at the time was the similarity in size between the Chapel itself, the caretaker’s house and the stable. This equality of size seems particularly appropriate; and I leave it to the reader’s imagination to find out the circumstances which call for it.

(The writer implies that the size of the congregation in such an isolated chapel was so small that the chapel and stabling for the worshipper’s horses did not need to be any larger than a house. J.)

After leaving the Chapel the way improved compared with what had been our lot till then and our General was quick to take advantage, for he signaled the changes with his stick less frequently. The carrying now was easier and Nathaniel at the head worked his legs on either side like two wings moving in rhythm with the movements of the pony. Nature too seemed to have taken a hand by cleaving a way through the back of the merciless mountain, and once again we lost sight of Cwm Camddwr while Cwm Tywi opened out before us. But before we take a last look at the old chapel I must quote Cerngoch’s verse:

On the banks of the Camddwr river

Stands a temple to our Saviour;

Whoever comes over such country

Proves himself a true Worshipper.

Shan was one of the ‘true worshippers’ all her life, and she had great regard for Soar but she wished to return to her own people for her last long rest: and in this respect she remained a typical Welsh-woman.

As the panorama of the Towy valley opened out before us we saw ahead Pant-y-Clwydau on the eastern bank of the river. The way to Abergwesyn ran along a small brook that had scooped a bed for itself down the mountain side and after crossing the Towy we climbed Rhiw-yr-Yeb (as it is called). This was far the steepest place where I ever shouldered a bier and indeed I almost believed that Shan had become much heavier in the course of the journey. To this day I consider that it was a feat to have carried Shan up this steep incline and Cefn Coch, the mountain that Rhiw’r Yeb was but a preliminary test.

Eventually we reached the top whence, for more than 3 miles we covered places so rough there was not a sheep track even for us to follow for any distance, but we felt perfectly safe under the leadership of Nathaniel who soon brought us within sight of the Irfon Valley. My spirits rose once again as Abergwesyn and the end of the journey appeared in the distance, and as we went downwards to the church through Llwynderw woods I placed my shoulder under Shan’s coffin for the 47th time. By now everybody – both man and beast – presented a worn-out appearance and as the sun disappeared behind the mountains it cast long shadows across the valley.

We turned into the graveyard and passed through the doorway of the ancient church. There were signs of neglect everywhere in the churchyard and in the church itself the walls were bare and the roof had fallen in except for a small portion that remained above the rickety pulpit. The priest went through the service with due solemnity and never, I am convinced, did he face a more sober congregation; and while he spoke of the sure and certain hope of eternal life I confess that my mind wandered back to my father’s house in Cardiganshire the other side of the mountain over which I had plodded my weary way till the end of the day. Shan’s grave was filled and I bid it farewell feeling that I had faithfully fulfilled my duty by her. After nourishment (for man and beast) we set out on our return journey across the mountain and arrived home shortly after midnight.

After making a fair reckoning of ascents and descents made during the outward and return journey, I consider it as if we had carried the bier and corpse over Snowdon from Portmadoc to Llanberis and back again. How different were the feelings of the rider, and his poor mount too I fear, on the return journey. I felt so heavy that I wondered how my horse could bear up beneath me, and the horse, poor creature, walked as clumsily as an old 15/- hack from Rhos Fair.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/73tq302Ov71

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

 

A glorious day in May

I went for a walk up the valley beyond my house, today, and didn’t realise I’d forgotten my phone (and camera) until I arrived at my destination. Such a twit, I am, sometimes. Hence, no photographs, so I’ll have to rely on words in a weak attempt to capture this stunningly beautiful place which is nearby to where I now live. The following is typed directly from the notebook I carry with me, raw and unedited, so please forgive any errors.

I sit beside the stream near the end of the valley. I can’t quite believe there is such a place as beautiful as this, and so near. I sit beneath the dappled shade of the gnarled and ancient hawthorn; my seat an ancient former gate post lying on the ground. Behind me, the steep and massive slope of Eppynt rises to the heavens, its greening rise graced with jagged outcrops of rock from which hawthorns have taken root and flourished – splashes of brilliant green against the dark rocks. Scree has spilled like waterfalls down parts of the slope as if the rocks have given up their tenuous grip on the mountain.

A pebbled stream trickles beside me, its source a deep ravine at the valley’s end. The stream is low, quietly trickling a narrow path between pebbles and rocks.

To the west of me rise the forested slopes beneath the Rhiw where spilled-milk clouds sail across the forget-me-not blue. To the south, hawthorns grace the steep banks of the stream. Beyond them, many miles distant, I can see the mountains beyond Beulah and Llanafanfawr. They are cast in shades of pink, lilac, blue and gold against the cloud spattered horizon.

Silent, so silent – only birdsong, distant lambs bleating, and the breeze blowing through the trees. Mayflies dance in dizzying, short-lived circles. The cuckoo calls. Shadows race across the slopes, chased by brilliant pools of sunlight.

I leave my perch and climb up to the woods, entering the cool, deep shade. Follow the velvet-green path, its edges hemmed with glossy leaved bluebells. The path is smothered, here and there, with nodding wood-sorrel flowers,  so many it is impossible not to tread on some.

The path declines into the distance – as far as the eye can see, bluebells on all sides. Where the trees become deciduous, the bluebells explode into a glorious, vast expanse of indigo blue, and bright pools of sunlight pour down like liquid gold from the canopy.

I take the route on the left when the path forks ahead, quickly immersed in the heavily dappled shade of the massive beech trees, their leaves as smooth and silky soft as new-born skin.

On and on, the bluebells stretch, suffusing the air with their perfume. The path here crunches still with last winter’s leaves and twigs. Above my head, gnarled branches, splattered with brilliant green, stretch up to touch the sky. Beneath my feet, swathes of lush, deep, new grass shimmering in the pools of light.

Heading for home, ancient and mighty oaks towering above us. The wind is stronger here, sighing through the leaves above, swaying the trunks of the pine trees beyond.

I have come full circle and emerge onto the flower be-jewelled lane with its glorious views towards the mountains; Drygarn Fawr, Garn Wen, Gribyn, Gorllwyn.

Bye for now!

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/73tq302Ov71

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

A writer’s country strife alias ‘clueless’ in Wales.

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I wrote this piece a while back as a guest on a friend’s blog. I have since moved and am no longer the owner of these two darlings but my time with them and the beginnings of our relationship shall never be forgotten. It is a good thing to be able to laugh at one’s self, I believe, and in the light of the weather giving us little to laugh about of late, I thought I would share this so you can all laugh with me at my former clue-lessness in the sheep-buying world.

I’ve always approached anything mechanical with some trepidation. I generally distrust any machine, including my car, if I don’t know how it works. So it was with unusual recklessness that I decided to try a ride-on mower to keep down the grass in my half-acre paddock. It was a second-hand mower, hence it came without instructions. I assumed it would work like my car; turn the ignition, the engine will start; let your foot off the clutch and away to go. All of which happened, but it was only when I found myself hurtling towards a tree with no room for manoeuvre that I realised I didn’t know where the brakes were and didn’t have the luxury of time to find out. I leapt from the beast and hit the ground running. I’m guessing I’m not the first person to have abandoned ship in this way because someone invented a mechanism which automatically cuts out the engine when the seat is vacated; thus the mower was saved from being wrapped around said tree.

Following this experience, I decided what I needed to keep the grass down was a more manageable kind of beast, and I set about a quest to buy myself a couple of sheep. After all, I’d grown up on a farm, what could possibly go wrong? I asked one of my brothers, Phil, to come along with me to a forthcoming sheep sale, based on another wrong assumption; that he would have more idea than me. Off we went to the sale.  I’d set my heart on a couple of Welsh Black Mountain sheep, though heaven knows we had more than a couple of ‘black sheep’ in the family already, including me.

Into the ring they came, in groups of two or four, and the bidding began. With my heart pounding, I proceeded to wave my programme in the air at intervals, and got the winning bid on a lovely pair of six month old, black lambs. Only when I went to pay did I realise the figure I had bid was not for the two but the price of each. I raise an eyebrow at Phil. He was obviously not as knowledgeable as I had hoped or he would have known this, wouldn’t he? At this point I should have had a sense of foreboding.

To be fair, since leaving the farm of our childhoods, neither of us had been involved in farming in any way. It’s astonishing how much one forgets over forty years. This lapse of memory was to become more evident over the coming hours.

With receipt of my payment in hand we go off in search of my lambs. They are not in a pen of their own, all ready and waiting for me as I expect. What we are faced with is a large pen of thirty black lambs all huddled together in a corner with their backs to us, and all seemingly identical.

“Which two are mine?” I ask Phil.

He gives a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, “I suppose you just take your pick?”

“Oh! Great! Those two look sweet, I’ll have those,” I say, pointing out two from the indistinguishable crowd.

Welsh Black Mountain lambs are WILD. They race, they kick, they bleat, and they buck like untamed horses. After chasing these beasts around the pen for some minutes, we decide to grab hold of whatever we can and hang on for dear life. They are so strong; it takes all our strength to carry them, kicking and writhing, out of the pen and down into the waiting trailer.

“Phew! A bit wild, aren’t they?” Phil says, as we bolt the trailer gate behind them.

Job done. Off we now go to the supermarket because Phil needs to do a bit of shopping. All the while, the lambs are trying to kick and buck their way out of the trailer. On returning with his shopping, Phil takes a peek inside.

“Oh! Come and see this!” He says. “Look! They’ve got numbers on them.”

So they have. Buried in the wool under their chins are paper tags with numbers penned on them; eight and twelve. The penny drops. Phil looks at me. I look at Phil. We hadn’t seen the numbers earlier because while we were chasing and catching the beasts, they were naturally facing the other way.

“Oops,” Phil says.

The two lambs I should have taken were the third and fourth of the group of thirty that were brought into the ring, and so would have had the numbers three and four attached to them. It was obvious now we see they are numbered.

“What a stupid idea. They could at least have put the numbers where we would have seen them,” says Phil.

No doubt the auctioneers weren’t expecting two complete novices to turn up or they’d have stuck the numbers on their backsides.

“I thought you said you’ve done this before,” I say to him with an accusing glare.

“Oh, well, we can’t take them back now. It won’t make no odds, anyway, they all look the same,” he says.

We head for home, accompanied by the loud bangs of our wild companions trying to kick their way out of the trailer. Perhaps they sensed they had been wrongly abducted.

By the time we get to my place, some two hours or more have passed since we had abducted those lambs. We back the trailer up to the open gate leading into my paddock and unleash the beasts. They race across the paddock and do something I’ve never seen lambs do before. They hop, skip, jump, then take a flying leap over the stone wall boundary straight onto my neighbour’s hill.

“Well! Ruddy hell!” Phil says in his most infuriating laid-back style, while I am wringing my hands with angst.

“You’ll never catch ‘em now, they’ll be gone,” says he, stating the bleeding obvious.

I go indoors to make a cup of tea; the only thing to do when you don’t know what to do next. A light is flashing on my answerphone. While we wait for the kettle to boil, I play back the message. It is a woman’s voice and she sounds furious.

“Please phone the auctioneers immediately you get this message.”

“She doesn’t sound very happy,” Phil says with hearty cheer and I give him ‘The Look’ that tells him this is not in the least bit funny.

When I phone the auctioneers I discover the mayhem we have left in our wake.

“The sheep are numbered for a reason!” I am informed in an officious voice.

“So buyers get the sheep they have bid on, not someone else’s sheep!” The woman goes on, her voice rising higher with each word.

“You have caused a great deal of confusion and trouble!” She says, her voice rising to a crescendo.

“I’m ever so sorry,” I squeak.

“And so you should be! Well! Someone else now has your sheep!” she says with a note of triumph in her voice which makes me suspect the ones which have gone to someone else must have been the better pair.

“We’ll never be able to go there again,” Phil says when I put down the phone.

My neighbour and his dog eventually found my two on the top of his hill, a couple of days later, and brought them home to me after I’d erected a fence above the wall to keep them in.

Not surprisingly, it took them some time to settle in and grow to trust me. They were the best of friends, their relationship cemented during their shared trauma of being abducted by a couple of ne’er-do-wells. At first, their capacity for jumping walls and fences knew no bounds. They had a few adventures over the following months until I made all the fences high enough to restrain llamas. On one of their adventures they ended up a mile away after taking a trip down the country lanes. I suspect they were going in search of their rightful owner.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy, historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

 

 

An unforgettable writer’s paradise.

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It was at Tonfannau, in 2015, that I began writing Anywhere the Wind Blows. A major character in the book is called Cai Traherne. He appeared to me first in a dream and then over the coming weeks his story began to unfold as I sat on this remote beach where the Dysynni river meets the sea.

There is a scene in the book which is instantly recognisable as Tonfannau. Aptly translated ‘the place of waves’ (of which there was a myriad when the wind blew off the sea), it was the place where I conquered my fear of visiting remote beaches alone after recovering from the freak accident of 2014 – it was like jumping back on a horse after being thrown.

I spent many hours here, hand writing the first draft of Anywhere the Wind Blows or combing the beach for driftwood thrown up by the tide, while Morgan and Jess explored the rock pools. I didn’t see another soul along this beach. My only company was Morgan and Jess, and the cormorants and wild swans that came flying down the river valley to land on the shoreline.  I stayed for over six weeks with the motor-home parked up in an idyllic location nearby – this place, translated from the Welsh, is called ‘the parish of the blessed’. Blessed is how I feel to have so many memories of my time spent in this paradise. It was the one place I visited which I wished I didn’t have to leave. It was devilishly cold some days with the January and February winds blowing off the sea…

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…in the distance is the snow capped mountain of Snowdon.

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Tonfannau is a place where the wild sea has reclaimed cliff top buildings and moulded them into the shapes of waves…

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…and stone walls are things to gaze upon with awe at the craftsmanship involved…

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…and gate posts are works of art….

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Of all the places I stayed, it is the one I most lost my heart to and wish to revisit one day to walk this road which was the daily one back to our base.

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When I left here I traveled inland. Following the injury of 2014 I thought I’d never be able to climb another hill. What more romantically named place could I prove myself wrong than on Velvet Hill?  Velvet Hill overlooks Llangollen on one side…

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… and Valle Crucis Abbey on the other…

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Near here is the holy well which George Borrow drank from when visiting this fabulous ruin…

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After perhaps too long travelling hither and thither, I found myself longing for more familiar territory…

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I returned to retread those ancient paths which had led me to my ancestors and writing inspiration…

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I knew then where I needed to be. I needed to go home. ‘Home’ to me has always been among those beautiful hills and lanes where I grew up in Mid-Wales. I found a little cottage to make my home, along a country lane less than a mile from my birthplace, with nearby views of mountains I have loved all my life….

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…and places where I walk in the footsteps of my ancestors…

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When I climb Mynydd Eppynt and look from west to east, I can locate the birthplaces of my daughter, myself, my mother, my grandmother, a great-grandmother, a great-great grandmother, and the resting place of the great-great-great grandparents who came across the mountains from Strata Florida to make their home here….

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Perhaps home is not so much where our hearts lie but where the soul feels it belongs.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow      The Calling of the Raven updated book cover      Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

 

 

 

 

A ghostly encounter on a journey into the past…..

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I have never been afraid of ghosts, not even as a child growing up in a reputedly haunted house. In fact, I was thrilled and fascinated by the stories of an older sister who told of her too-close encounters with our resident ghost. The living have often scared me, but not the dead. My lack of fear is just as well, given what happened to me when I went in search of a house where my ancestors once lived, an experience which is the subject of this post.

My journey to find my Welsh ancestors spanned two and half years, hundreds of hours of research, and culminated in the writing of three historical novels. When I began the journey, I never imagined what it would lead to. Of all the journeys I have made, it was the most moving, surprising, and inspiring of all.

Along the way, I had experiences which reignited my faith in there being more to our existence than can be explained away and diminished by science. The experience I shall write about here is an extract from the notebooks I kept at the time.

It was a journey in search of the place where my great-great grandmother had her illegitimate child taken from her to be boarded with a woman who took in these poor children for a living. When this great-great grandmother got married some years later, her daughter was brought home by her uncle Morgan to live with him and his housekeeper.

This story was to spark my imagination and lead to my writing historical fiction. The great-great grandmother, her brother Morgan, and her daughter, were immortalised as Megan, Morgan and Fortune in Leap the Wild Water, The Calling of the Raven and Anywhere the Wind Blows.

My journey to find the place where they’d lived, Caegwyn, was possibly both the eeriest and strangest of all. Its location on the old map showed it to be as remote as any place can be, high up on the top of the central hills of Abergwesyn. The modern map showed it to have been swallowed up by the dark, lifeless and ever-growing forests of the Forestry Commission. So I set out on the journey with little hope of finding much more than rubble. It seemed to me that ‘progress’ had wiped out all before it in its march, including the homes of my ancestors.

I park the car by Beulah Church, don waterproofs and walking boots, and hoist my rucksack on my back. It’s a blustery day, patches of blue sky disappearing and reappearing between threatening, pregnant clouds.

I take the track that goes past Caemawr and past the ruins of what was once Cefngardis farmhouse. Just above the ruins, this track joins the ancient, green ridge-road that comes up from Aberannell farm and over the hills of Abergwesyn, and goes all the way to Cardigan. It was the old drover’s route in the days before the railways came. Thousands of Welsh cattle and geese trod this route, over hundreds of years, to be sold in the markets of England.

I walk up this track under a canopy of trees which border the track on both sides. Then the avenue of trees comes to an end and the track goes over open hill before skirting craggy rocks. The hill falls away steeply on my right, smothered with ancient oak trees. I walk until I reach a summit on the track and stop to look down the valley that opens up below me. Way down at the foot of the hill, nestles the old farmstead of Tycwm. Up the valley sits Lloftybardd and further still, in the distance, the little chapel of Pantycelin where many of my ancestors are buried. From up here on this mountain, the shiny, black gravestones in the modern part of the graveyard resemble rows of black-clothed mourners at a funeral.

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I sit on a crag of rock looking down on this vista that my ancestors had looked down on before me, though there was no forestry then to blacken the hills and pollute the waters. From the buzzard’s-view on my perch, I see the mansion of Llwynmadoc in the direction from which I’ve come. The sun breaks through the clouds and a rainbow appears behind Llwynmadoc, over the beautiful hill of Garnwen, flooded with colour and sunlight.

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The dark clouds, which have been threatening over the horizon for the past half hour, choose to burst as they arrive over my head. I sit on my perch, eating my lunch, while being battered by rain and buffeted by the wind.

I don’t know how much further I have to walk, so set off briskly. In the distance ahead, the edges of the great forestry loom, and in front of me the track forks indecisively. The clouds pass away leaving a brilliant blue sky in their wake. A flock of twittering, chattering birds come flying from behind me, passing me by with a whoosh, and dipping and darting along the path ahead. The birds follow the left hand fork in the track and pause to perch on a little gate in the fence. Then off they go again. I follow their lead and head towards the forest.

On the other side of the gate, the track winds through pale, rough grass, rosebay-willow-herbs and purple heather before entering the deep, dark forest. The track through the forest is straight and wide and stretches far ahead. Overhead, there is a long strip of blue sky between the avenues of plantation but no light shines on the path; only here and there a small pool of sunlight breaks through the thick canopy, illuminating small areas of undergrowth of long-undisturbed moss. The air is drenched with the aromas of pine needles, fungi and mould; the only sounds are the screeching and creaking of branches rubbing together in the wind. The atmosphere is chilling and eerie.

I scan the plantation on my left for signs of a ruin. This is where Caegwyn seems to be marked on the map. The dank avenue appears to go on forever before finally opening onto a sun-drenched crossroads at its summit. I venture for a little way down a couple of these tracks although fearing that my search is futile. I decide if there is anything left of Caegwyn at all, it must be back in the direction I’ve come.

So I head back down the forestry track, scanning the forest floor again for signs of a ruin, feeling very tired and dispirited by now. I had come in search of Morgan’s land and the place where my great-grandmother grew up. As I reach the end of the plantation, I feel I have somehow failed them.

Then, as I step out of the forestry and into the sunlight, I feel overwhelmed by a strange and strong sensation; I am being not so much pulled but led, and I am compelled to follow, downwards away from the track. Over rows of concealed tree stumps I stumble, my ankles snarled by brambles which threaten to trip me up and send me flying with every step. I am going further and further from the track home and feeling exhausted. I stop and wonder where on earth I am going and why. This is ridiculous, I think to myself, I’m not going any further, I have to head home.

It is then that I see it.

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The ruins of Caegwyn have appeared, as if from nowhere before me, smothered and strangled under mounds of black-berried brambles. My breath catches in my throat and I gasp, my scalp tingling. Later, returning home and looking back towards the site of the well-concealed ruin, I am convinced I would never have found it if I had not been ‘led’ towards it by some unseen, spiritual force.

There is little left of the old Caegwyn to see, but from what remains of its outer walls, reduced to some four to six feet in height, one can see that it was once a traditional, Welsh stone long-house. At first sight, it seems precariously perched on the edge of the gorge beyond it, but in fact there is a distance of some tens of yards between what was once its front door and the edge of the ravine it lies parallel to.

It must once have been the most remote and romantic of settings, before the forestry came. The gorge carries the mountain stream down to the lake of Cefn-gardis below. When I lived in the village of Beulah, and my daughter was a little girl, I used to bring her and her friends up to this lake for picnics. I used to sit there by the tranquil lake, looking up at the hills beyond, and it astonishes me now to think I had no idea that my great-great grandmother and many of her relations had lived up there. This lake existed in their time, having been built by Henry Thomas of Llwynmadoc, sometime before his death in 1863. It is said that he employed the striking miners of South Wales to build it.

The aspect looking south from Caegwyn is breathtaking.

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The lake shimmers below, and beyond the lake one can see the old village of Beulah and its chapel framed between the slopes of the hills. Beyond Beulah chapel lies Garth bank and the long stretch of the Eppynt mountain. I stood and gazed at the view for a long while, thinking how privileged I was to have been led to find this place where my great grandmother grew up with her uncle Morgan; how lucky I was to have begun this journey in search of my grandmother, Annie, and her family; but sad too that such a place was now in ruins and beyond salvation. For this is a short-lived opportunity to go there, because although the forestry in which Caegwyn was buried has been cleared, it has been replanted. Soon, Caegwyn will be buried again, and even if I were not long gone by then, there will be little, if anything, left to see by the time the trees are harvested again.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of the Megan Jones trilogy of novels, historical suspense set in early 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow      The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

A reunion, a shortage of cash, and a coastline of dizzying heights.

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Aberdaron is the nearest place to Mynydd Mawr and I stop here for provisions before going further. I soon discover there is no bank or ‘hole-in-the-wall’. A Spar is the only shop selling food and the choice is limited. I kick myself for not going into Abersoch before coming here as I don’t have much cash on me; the campsites around here are on farmer’s fields and I’m unlikely to be able to pay with a card.

Luckily, the shop is taking card payments so I ask for cash-back. How much, the lady at the till asks? I make a tentative bid for fifty.

“Ooh, fifty?” she says, sucking the air between her teeth, “I don’t know…”

Looks are exchanged between her and the person behind the post office grill at the back of the shop while I hold my breath. There is a nod of assent and she says ‘yes, it will be alright’. Phew!

I go in search of Mynydd Mawr which is about three miles away along twisting, narrow lanes. I am in time to reunite the lovely, Scottish lady with her walking stick before they head off home.

On our first morning I awake to the sight of a flock of crows flying overhead, though they make a noise like no crows I have heard before. I discover they are choughs; the red-beaked, red-legged variety of crow that lives in this part of the world.

The landscape here is not far from the chin of the Llyn and yet it is so different. Here, there are no beaches; mountains drop steeply down into the ocean from dizzying heights.

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From the topmost part of Mynydd Mawr, the views extend away up the northern edge of the Llyn.  Up here there is an old coast-guard’s hut where a map on the wall shows the shocking number of shipwrecks which have occurred around the LLyn over the past few hundred years. It is said that a local family still possess a barrel of whisky which was washed up from a shipwreck in 1908.

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Near the top of the cliffs, there is a massive standing stone, pointing out towards Bardsey Island to show the ancient pilgrims which way to cross the treacherous waters….

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The nearest sandy cove seems to be Whistling Sands, a few miles up the coast, famous for the sand which makes whistling, squeaking noises beneath your feet.

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I’ve heard about them many times, which is probably why my experience of them fell short of my expectations. For me, it was the cove at the end of the sands which was most rewarding. The massive slabs of rock here were shot through with a myriad of patterns in rich blues, greens, purples and golds. They are stunningly beautiful. Someone tells me there is a jasper mine not far from here, the stone from which went into the Liver building…

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I had planned to stay at Mynydd Mawr for a couple of nights but ended up staying three. I was reluctant to leave it behind but found there was something about that landscape which made me feel lonesome for company; a loneliness exacerbated by an absence of wi-fi and mobile phone signal. Some places are better shared with other people, I guess.

So it was, on the fateful Sunday morning which was to bring the freak accident and an end to my travels, I headed off in search of a place called Porth Iago. I wanted to go and see this place for two reasons; I had been told it was a stunningly beautiful cove, and Iago was the Welsh name of the anti-hero in my novel, Leap the Wild Water, who ruined poor Megan. How could I resist going in search of a place of the same name? (Iago, by the way, is the Welsh version of James.)

Needless to say, I never saw a signpost for Porth Iago and had gone some way up the coast line before I realised I had gone much too far and pulled into the car-park for Penllech beach to consult my map-book. The rest, as they say, is now history.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy, historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

I suffer an intermittent fault with my bullshit detector.

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It was a funny old week. My travels around the Llyn Peninsula began near Black Rock sands and the most extortionately priced campsite I’ve yet encountered. Twenty-five pounds per night is the charge for the dubious pleasure of being able to park your outfit on a potholed field backing onto the dunes. For your money you get a pitch with electric and use of the toilet and shower block which are converted porta-cabins.

Black Rock sands is a vast stretch of flat, sandy beach which also serves as a car-park for anyone wanting to spend the day there. From your car you can watch and listen to the senses-assaulting scream of the water-scooters (what are they called?) motoring up and down the bay the whole day long. We head inland for a walk along the pretty country lanes, instead.

On Saturday night, whichever council employee is responsible for locking the barriers at 8pm forgets to do so. The result is a bunch of lads arrive in their cars for high-speed races up and down the beach (which has a 10mph limit), keeping everyone awake. Those not racing their cars light bonfires dangerously close to the dunes, ignoring the risk of setting the bone-dry marran grass alight.

On Sunday morning, I decide one night on this site is too much, in every sense, and take a walk through the dunes down to the beach before we leave. Those who kept us awake half the night have left the smouldering remains of bonfires, barbecues, and strewn litter in their wake; carrier bags, food wrappers, beer cans, etc. are blowing about the sands. This beach is very popular and I can’t think why, for the life of me.

I make an early start and head for the ‘chin’ of the Llyn Peninsula, beyond the trendy town of Abersoch, and soon we are pootling along country lanes which branch off in all directions, hemmed with wild-flower strewn stone walls.

I come across a sign for a campsite that is two empty fields mown to putting green standard.

“You’ve arrived at the right time,” the owner says, “we were chock-a-block at the weekend.”

Sadly, there is only one electric hook-up, which is attached to the owner’s house. I dither about whether to park here, where there would be no views or privacy at all, or to forego the electric. I dither because, as yet, I haven’t been able to get the fridge to work off the gas, despite repeated attempts according to the instructions of the chap that sold the camper to me.

“I’ll take a look at the fridge, if you want,” says the owner, “see if we can get it working.”

I’m thinking I’ve landed on my feet and park the van at the far side of the field where I can see the views. Then me and the dogs go for a walk along the lanes.

Back at the campsite, the owner comes over, saying he will take a look at my fridge – later. He talks and talks about everything and nothing before finally returning to his house.

I go to the toilet and shower block. Here, I discover, too late, there is no loo roll in the toilet cubicle. On exiting, I see a notice on the wall; loo rolls 80 pence each, available from the house. Now, wouldn’t it have been nice to know I needed to bring my own loo roll or purchase one from the house, before I’d used the loo?

Some other notices catch my eye, one of which says that campers will get no refund if they are asked to leave, or if they choose to leave earlier than the amount of days they are booked in for.  Later, I go to use the shower and find it is a coin-operated shower which will only devour a minimum of 5 x 10 pence pieces at a time. I get dressed again, go over to the van in the vain hope I may have some in my purse. I have only four, so trudge over to the house but there is nobody about so I don’t get my shower until the owner comes back.

Over the next few hours, I lose count of the number of times the owner strolls over, hands jammed into his pockets and shoulders hunched up to just below his ears, until it gets to the point where my heart sinks at the sight of him.

“Alright? Not bothering you, am I?” he asks before continuing his chatter, this time to tell me how all the people around here are nutters. He tells me how he came from up Lancashire way to buy this place and the trouble he had from the council when he wanted to put a campsite here. He tells me he is a qualified such-and-such and all his customers are millionaires because everyone around here is a millionaire; it’s the millionaire belt of Wales. Again, he leaves, promising again to take a look at my fridge – later. It’s probably just a bit of dust on the pilot-light, he says, or the pipe may be blocked; easily fixed. Meanwhile, my icebox is melting.

Half an hour later, back he comes for another chat which again begins with the same question. “Not bothering you, am I?”

By now, he is really beginning to bother me but I am far too polite to say so and I’m hoping that, on this occasion, he has come to do what he’s been promising to do since I got here, i.e. fix the darned fridge.

He asks me what I’m doing. I tell him I was writing. He peers around me, where I am standing inside my doorway, and he sees my laptop. He wants to know how I’m charging it. I tell him I use the invertor, or whatever it’s called.

“You can’t do that! You’ll drain your engine battery if you do that!”

I tell him it isn’t running off the engine battery; it runs off the leisure batteries which are charged by the solar panels on the roof. He exhales a breath.

“Well, I’m telling you now, you’ll knacker those batteries if you go doing that. Have you any idea how much it costs to replace them?”

I’m not one for being rude to people, so I don’t tell him it isn’t actually any of his business. Instead, I politely tell him I need to crack on with what I was doing.

“I was going to have a look at that fridge for you, wasn’t I?” he says.

I answer in the affirmative.

“I’ll just take that grill off the vent and have a look inside.”

At last! I am so longing to get that fridge to work! He takes off the grill and says he will need a screw driver.

“Don’t suppose you’d have thought to pack something like that, would you, eh?”

“Well, actually…” I say, and nip inside and come back with my multi-headed ratchet screwdriver (no less) and present it to him with a smile.

He gives it a scathing glance and asks haven’t I got something a bit smaller than that. I point out the multitude of screw-heads he has to choose from, one for every size of screw.

He heaves a sigh and unscrews a metal plate.

“Look at this! This is wired all wrong, this is. No wonder it isn’t working. These wires shouldn’t be where they are,” he says, wiggling the wires about. I reckon someone has been tampering with this. No wonder it isn’t working.”

There is an intermittent fault with my bullshit detector but when it is working I tend to trust what it tells me and right now it was detecting a very suspicious smell. I nip inside to get the manual in which I recall seeing diagrams of the wirings. As I come back down the van steps, he has his hands jammed back into his jeans pockets.

“Can’t help you, I’m afraid,” he says, with a jerk of his head in the direction of the vent grill. “Those wires have been tampered with. Didn’t you check if the fridge was working before you bought it? You women! You haven’t got a clue, have you?”

More of a clue than you could ever imagine, matey.

I’m no longer surprised that I am the only one here. I don’t respond to his comment but show him the diagram in the manual which proves that the fridge is, in fact, wired up as it should be. (Incidentally, since my accident, I’ve had an engineer to come out and look at the fridge. The problem was the gas valve which had ceased up – apparently can happen if not used for a length of time.)

He shrugs and fixes me with a cold stare. “It’s not working though, is it? All your stuffs going to go off! It’s only a few extra quid a night if you want to plug into the hook-up at the end of my house.

I say thanks but no thanks, I’ve got a cool box; I’ve put what I can in there for now.  I’m thinking; across this field has become a lot too close to this nutter and I’m going to get out of here as soon as possible.

“I’m off into town, now, to get a few things,” I call out as he saunters away.

I drive away and don’t look back. I recall the notice in the toilet block about not getting a refund if you decide to leave early. How many people before me have stopped here and soon wanted to leave? I can only guess. I’m beginning to fear I have become a magnet for interfering gits and/or lunatics. ( This fear becomes a reality on the journey home following my accident!)

I find another site a mile or so away and love, love, love this part of the beautiful Llyn. The dogs and me take off down the flower- bejewelled lanes and go along a footpath which takes us down to Porth Ceiriad.

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I am so pleased I chose to come to this part of the Llyn for it exceeds all my expectations. What a landscape of contrasts this is; cosy, sleepy, little lanes lead to open headland where the trees grow sideways; away from the blast of the prevailing winter winds.

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We walk from one end of the beach of Porth Neigwl to the other, marvelling at the myriad of colourful pebbles along the beach. I find a small shard of blue and white china amongst the pebbles; another treasure to add to the trove.

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Porth Neigwl’s other name is Hell’s Mouth, and if you look at its position on the map, you can see that Hell’s Mouth is between the ‘chin’ of the Llyn (where I’m camped) and the ‘nose’ at Mynydd Mawr. Hell’s Mouth is a massive open jaw between the two.

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On my last day in this region of the Llyn, I meet a couple along the lane who have lost their way along the Llyn coastal path. I point them in the direction where they will pick up the coastal path again. That evening, I pop into Abersoch to get something to eat. I’m in the local shop and who should I see at the counter but the couple I saw on the lane. They are asking the girl behind the counter how best to get to back to Hell’s Mouth. I tell them I’m going in that direction and can give them a lift if they’d like.

I am then apologising for the mess; I’d have had a bit of a tidy if I’d known I was having guests! On the way, they tell me they are camped on a site at Mynydd Mawr (the tip of the ‘nose’ of the Llyn), and describe how beautiful it is there. I’d been planning to go in that direction next and think perhaps I will go there.

After dropping them off, I discover the lady has left her walking stick in my camper. There is no ‘perhaps’ about going to Mynydd Mawr, now; and so it was that this chance encounter led me on the next leg of my journey. The next morning, I headed for the area that is known as the ‘Land’s End’ of North Wales; to reunite a lovely lady with her walking stick and discover the most awesome part of the Welsh coastline I have yet encountered……

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy, historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

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You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

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