A Hundred Tiny Threads.

Today, I am delighted to have my fellow author, Judith Barrow, as a guest on my blog. Judith’s new book, A Hundred Tiny Threads, has just been published. It is a prequel to her historical family saga, and I’m sure it will gain her many new fans. So that you can get to know her a little better, I’ve invited her to this interview.

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Welcome, Judith. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place. I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing.  I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run workshops on all genres.

Along with friend and fellow author, Thorne Moore, I also organise a book fair in September. This year we’ve changed venues. Here’s the link that tells all!! Narberth Book Fair. http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/index.html

You are one busy lady! Have you always written?

I have. I’ve had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. But only started to seriously write novels after I’d had breast cancer twenty years ago. I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010 by Honno (honno.co.uk), the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, has just been published in August.  I thought the characters would leave me alone but it’s not to be; eight minor characters have been clamouring to be heard so I wrote some short stories about them in an anthology, Secrets. Now at least two of them want to be in a novel.

pattern of shadows

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Half finished; dozens that I know won’t go anywhere but I keep to use some parts that read okay that I can re-write and use somewhere else. Finished? Six adult novels, two children’s middle grade books and four picture books. Oh, and an anthology of poetry… mainly bad poetry, I think.

That’s a lot of writing experience under your belt! What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Actually, I haven’t had many problems with that and I don’t know why. Except that most of my characters have been in my head for the last ten years and they talk to me. And I talk to them (yes, I do get funny looks in shops and other places) I think it’s just a case of walking in their shoes.

Lancashire Mill Town

Yes, those characters really do take over, don’t they?! What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have huge files of each era I write about on the shelves in my study. It’s important to me to of that time, the world situation, what was in the news. On a more prosaic level, it’s the kinds of houses, furniture, fashions, hairstyles, children’s’ toys and games played, music and films, radio or television programmes depending on the times, even the weather if I have a scene where I’ve also put the dates in a certain chapter. The list is endless and time consuming. But necessary, I think.

There again I have an irritating habit of researching something and coming across facts I didn’t know about and having to find out about those. Before I know it I’ve gone off at a tangent and wasted hours.

I know what you mean. I’ve discovered so many things I’d never have known about because of those tangents! How do you select the names of your characters?

I’ve gone through the generations of my family and worked my way through my husband’s past family. Or I remember someone I once knew and liked the name. In the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, though, I looked up Irish names and chose those I thought fitted to the characters.

I love books with an Irish connection. What was your hardest scene to write?

I wrote a rape scene; it actually was a personal account.

That was courageous of you. The most difficult scenes to write, I think, are those which draw on distressing, personal memories, but writing from the heart produces the best writing.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Both; if I’m on a roll the adrenalin keeps me going.  But if I’m stuck or plodding through a certain scene that I know really doesn’t work and I’m going to have to alter, I’m drained. Then I try to leave that section and work on editing other parts of the book. That usually boosts me again.

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I love your book covers, by the way. They make me nostalgic for that era!

What would be the advice you would give to your younger writing self?

Have confidence, believe in yourself. And leave home when you’re sixteen and see the world.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Good grief, I’ve not thought about that… hmm. Okay, the first image that popped into my head was a long white feather. Wonder why that happened?  Spirit animal? That would actually be a black swan; I love swans, white or black; the idea of them paddling away under the water yet looking serene is an image I like to think could be me (well, I can hope!). But a black swan it is; there’s something quite royally mysterious about them.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Gaining my degree and then my Masters in my forties.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

By choice I would make unusual novelty cakes; I did that for years as a part time job from home but it became economically unviable because people don’t want to pay the price of the hours put in when they can buy ones from the supermarkets at half the price.  Or I’d teach swimming; I qualified years ago when the children were in a swimming club. I taught both children and adults; loved it.

Has there been any author’s work you disliked at first but grew into?

No, I’m afraid not. If I haven’t like an author’s work the first time, I tend to move on. If I like an author’s work I’ll follow then and read anything they write.

Me, too! What is the first book that made you cry?

Black Beauty. I wouldn’t mind but I was, and still am, terrified of horses. And I do know that’s stupid but, when I was six, I was walking with my parents through a field and a horse chased us. Climbing over a stile to escape, my skirt got caught on the top of it and I completely panicked. My mother told me a week later that the horse had chased and bitten someone else. Whether that was true or not, I had nightmares about running and getting stuck for ages afterwards.

I’m not surprised you are terrified of them after an experience like that! What do you think is the best way to market your books?

I wish I knew. However, even though it’s not the most efficient way, my favourite is giving talks and book signings. It was terrifying at first but I soon realised people just want to be entertained. And smiling a lot helps. (I usually pick out the grumpiest looking person and keep smiling at them until they break!!)

Love your style! Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I’m just glad when I get a review; the good ones make my day, the more critical ones I tend to think about, learn from, or discard. If I had a review from the number of people who tell me they’ll write one, they’d be in their hundreds on each of my novels. Or even from the readers who make a point of coming to me at events and tell me how much they enjoyed them. I think the problem is that people think they have to write something flowery or erudite. Just a “liked this book” would suit me fine… and I’d be most grateful.

Yes, I think many readers are genuinely nervous of writing reviews for the reasons you say. It’s a shame because reviews are so valuable to writers. Would you give us the links where we can find you?

Surely, and thanks for hosting me today, Jenny.

It’s been my pleasure, Judith, and I wish you every success.

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You can follow Judith and find her wonderful books via the links below;

Bloghttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6
Twitter: https://twitter.com/barrow_judith
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Judith-Barrow-327003387381656/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/judithbarrow/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3295663.Judith_Barrow
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+JudithBarrowauthor
Linkedin : https://www.linkedin.com/in/judith-anne-barrow-02812b11/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to say goodbye.

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.

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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.

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.

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…..

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.

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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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

I went in search of some souls and found my self again.

One thing I hoped to see less of when I came inland from the coast was static caravans. But, somehow, I’ve ended up on a site that has regimented rows of them along with seasonally pitched touring caravans. So packed is this site that I feel I am the filling in a caravan sandwich. Worst of all, 90% of all these caravans were empty, on my arrival. Now it is Sunday evening, and the few people that were staying here have left and it is like a ghost town. Once upon a time, apparently, this site was lauded in one of those ‘top campsite’ camping guides. Times have changed, the statics have taken over along with seasonal pitches and the place has lost its soul. It’s a shame because the location is stunning; you just can’t see much of it for the caravans all around you, packed together so tight that if I put up my awning (not that I will be doing that again for a while) it would be right up against the caravan alongside me.

The site is run by a woman with military zeal. Every half hour, she marches up and down between the rows, scowling and frowning at each caravan she passes, looking for some breach of caravan site rules. When not on parade, she is in and out of the utility block, checking to see if anyone has done something unspeakable in there in her brief absence.

She stops by my camper van and asks if I’m planning any trips out during my stay. She returns half an hour later to say that her husband says I can’t possibly drive my vehicle to see the waterfalls because the road is too narrow; and as for the mountain road to Bala, well, her husband would never allow her to drive that road alone. Obviously, neither she or her husband know that I’ve cut my camper-van driving teeth on the road to hell. The other thing they don’t know about me is that if I hear anyone tell me I can’t do something, I get all uppity and narky. I guess I’ve been told ‘you can’t do that’ one time too many in my life.

The sun appeared this morning for what must be the first time in over a week, and I woke up in a ‘we SHALL go to the waterfall, SO!’ kind of mood. I started out early, in the hope of beating the crowds. I stayed so long that by the time I left in the afternoon, the car-park had overflowed and there was a steady stream of new arrivals every minute. Needless to say, I gathered a good deal more vegetation on my hub-caps along the 5 miles of narrow lane to the nearest village.

The waterfall at Pistyll Rhaedr is sublime. WP_20140601_10_00_30_Pro

There is a path which goes up beyond the falls and into the Berwyn mountains beyond. This is the land of Arthurian legend and Celtic myth and it transcends any mountain landscape I’ve hitherto been…

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…this little footbridge crossed a tumbling mountain stream where the dogs took a swim in a rocky pool…

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…we sat for a long time gazing at the views down to the valley below the falls and up toward the mountains…

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… hunger took me back down to the falls and the tearooms in the little house there. I ordered a pot of tea and a slice of Bara Brith and was filled with wonder as a little green finch hopped up onto the table and took crumbs from my hand. A nuthatch then darted up and peered at me from the post beside my seat.

I talked for a time with the charismatic custodian of this magical place and he informed me of this site’s significance to the early druids. There is a small and exclusive campsite here, for the spiritually minded only, and a spiritual retreat for those who are feeling lost and adrift and needing to reconnect with themselves.

There is a special atmosphere to this place, something beyond the ordinary, something magical and mystical.

If you want to read a fascinating account of the myths and legends which surround this fabulous and remote part of Wales, follow this link;

http://www.pistyllrhaeadr.co.uk/berwyns.html

Jenny Lloyd is the 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

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Finding magic and legend in a sleepy Welsh village.

WP_20140522_12_21_17_ProMyddfai is little more than a cluster of pastel-coloured cottages encircling a church. Yet, in the 11th and 12th centuries it was a centre for healing, inhabited by the Physicians of Myddfai, renowned across Wales. The remedies of these herbalists were recorded in the Red Book of Hergest; one of the most important medieval manuscripts written in the Welsh language.

 

WP_20140522_12_00_59_ProBeyond the little village, a lane takes you up to the mountain of Myddfai. This is where the physicians gathered the herbs and flowers used in their remedies.  Beyond Myddfai is the Black Mountain range and the mountain lake of Llyn y Fan Fach.

The first physician of Myddfai was named Rhiwallon. He was court physician to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Dinefwr Castle, about 1200AD. Rhiwallon was awarded land at Myddfai and he treated the poor for free. He passed on his knowledge to his descendants who carried on his work for over 500 years. Legend has it that Rhiwallon was the oldest of three sons born to ‘The Lady of the Lake’ who is said to have appeared at Llyn y Fan Fach, pictured above. The tale of The Lady of the Lake is one of those recorded in the Mabinogion.

According to the legend, a farmer once saw a beautiful woman sitting on a rock in Llyn-y-Fan Fach. After three refusals, she agreed to marry him so long as he promised to treat her well. But should he strike her three times without cause, she told him, she would return to the lake. The farmer then took her to live with him in Myddfai .

The lady had mystical powers of prediction and cried at her first son’s christening because she saw he would be harmed by the sun. Mystified by his wife’s tears, the farmer tapped her once to bring her to her senses. Soon after, she cried at a wedding because she saw the bridegroom was going to die soon. Her husband now tapped her for crying at a wedding. When she laughed at the bridegroom’s funeral because his suffering was over, the farmer tapped her again and the lady sped back to the lake. The heartbroken farmer was left to raise their three sons, alone.

The sons inherited their mother’s magical knowledge and powers. The Lady of the Lake reappeared to Rhiwallon upon Myddfai mountain and told him it was his mission to relieve mankind from misery and pain. She gave him a bag of medicinal remedies and instructed him on how to use them. So began the long line of the Physcians of Myddfai.

Incidentally, as we walked along the lane, I spotted two herbs growing in the hedgerow.

WP_20140522_12_19_14_ProOne was Comfrey (left) and the other was Yellow Archangel WP_20140522_12_12_14_Pro__highres

I like to think that these plants, too, may be descended from a long line of those picked by the famed Physicians.

Did you know the remedies have been published? Available here; http://ow.ly/xb1Gp

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

 

Weird and wonderful superstitions.

Even though you may not think of yourself as superstitious, the chances are that you will have told someone you will keep your fingers crossed for them, or you may have used the phrase ‘touch wood’ or ‘knock on wood’.

Most superstitions go so far back in human history it is difficult to be certain of their origins. Touching or knocking on wood is said to originate from the times when people believed that spirits inhabited trees and knocking on the bark of a tree was said to invoke the help of the spirits living there. Crossing your fingers to invoke good luck is thought to originate in early Christianity and the sign of the cross.

Though a few superstitions, like these, are still in common usage, most have fallen by the wayside including some of the more bizarre listed below.

Ass-riddling; A superstitious custom practiced in the north of England upon the eve of St.Mark, when ashes are sifted or riddled on the hearth. It is believed that if any of the family shall die within the following year, the shoe of the fated individual will leave an impression on the ashes.

Divination by apple-pips; To ascertain whether her pretended lovers really loved her or not, the maiden takes an apple-pip, and naming one of her followers, puts the pip into the fire; if it cracks in bursting from the heat, it is a proof of love. If it is consumed without noise, there is no real regard in that person towards her. (Davy’s M.S.)

Divination by flowers;

The campion flower was also called Batchelor’s Buttons after the ancient custom amongst country fellows to carry the flowers of this plant in their pockets, to divine whether they would succeed with their sweethearts. Hence arose the phrase ‘to wear batchelor’s buttons’ meant to be unmarried.

Divination by Bible;

One old superstition was to use a bible and key for the purposes of divination, and is described in the Athenian Oracle, as follows;

A Bible having a key fastened in the middle, and being held between the two forefingers of two persons, will turn round after some words said; as, if one desires to find out a thief, a certain verse taken out of a psalm is to be repeated, and those who are suspected nominated, and if they are guilty, the book and key will turn, else not. At the turn of the twentieth century, this was still practiced in Lancashire by young women who wanted to divine who their future husbands would be.

Blessing-the-fire-out is described thus in Moor’s Suffolk M.S;

“An operation performed generally, I believe always, by a female. She wets her forefinger with spittle, and moves it in a circular slow manner over and round the part that may have been scalded or burnt, at the same time muttering inaudibly a suitable incantation or blessing, in the mysteries of which I am not initiated. This I have often seen done, and have, indeed, not unfrequently experienced the benefits, be they what they may, of the process.”

Blind-days referred to the first three days of March which were formerly considered so unlucky that no farmer would sow seed at this time.

The following was a charm against sciatica, then known as bone-shave;

The patient must lie on his back on the bank of a river or brook of water, with a straight staff by his side, between him and the water, and must have the foregoing words repeated over him.

Bone-shave right,

Bone-shave straight,

As the water runs by the stave,

Good for the bone-shave.

In Wales, a corpse-candle was a not uncommon sight. This dancing light, seen hovering close to someone’s home at night, would portend that a person was about to die there. Corpse-candles get a special mention in Anywhere the Wind Blows.

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

 

 

 

Angels, whores, and wives for sale.

While researching for my novel, Leap the Wild Water, I was shocked by the extent to which women in the 19th century were suppressed in all spheres of their lives, and the appalling double standards they were subject to. Generally, women were seen as either angels or whores, depending on their virginal status at marriage.

Women were generally regarded as the property of men. In 1824, a woman called Lydia Jones was produced for sale with a halter around her waist. In 1815, William Jones, a 79 year old pauper of Llanwrst, sold his wife for 3 farthings having been married for only 3 weeks; as late as 1863, a man in Merthyr Tydfil sold his wife to a fellow workman for the grand sum of £3. Not until 1870 were women allowed to inherit property without it passing immediately to their husbands.

Unmarried mothers, like Megan in Leap the Wild Water, suffered worst of all. They were publicly shamed and such was the trauma of this that many abandoned or killed their babies rather than suffer it. Up to 1834, the parish poor law authority would prosecute men for maintenance of the children of unmarried mothers. Then this law was changed so that the Poor Law Unions would start proceedings on behalf of an unmarried mother, only if she could ‘provide corroborative evidence of paternity’ – a practical impossibility, sex being a very private activity, and given the shame and approbation heaped upon a woman’s head were she to admit to engaging in sex before marriage – she would hardly be likely to do so publicly!  Such was the farcical nature of laws made by men in relation to women. The Poor Law Royal Commission was responsible for this change and it  was brought about to protect ‘ eligible but innocent bachelors and accused men of being coerced into unwanted marriages’.

The Bishop of Exeter warned against such a change in the law as he feared that it would lead to a great increase in numbers of babies being left at the workhouse doors. He said; ‘You will harden the heart of man and increase his selfishness to an intensity of which we have never yet believed him capable’. Similar sentiments were expressed by the Times newspaper and the poet, Coleridge. In 1864, John Brownlow expressed sympathy for these ‘basically decent girls’ who were seduced by promises of marriage, and spoke of how they were humiliated in open courts in front of a gawping male audience. Few were this sympathetic to the plight of these abandoned young women. To the puritanical chaplain in the New Forest, Rev. Herbert Smith, all unmarried mothers were ‘fornicators and adulterers’ and their children deemed ‘offspring of sin and profligacy’.

It was a brave young woman, indeed, who would make any attempt at obtaining justice. An example of the treatment women received in court is that of Agnes Roberts. In court, she said she had attempted suicide by throwing herself in the Llanelli dock, after being abandoned by the father of her unborn child. Thomas Ludford, the defence lawyer asked if she referred to the new dock, adding, ‘it has no water in it yet’. This was met with laughter from the all male audience and her case failed.  There was also the case of John Lewis, who in 1900 was up for three charges of rape against a 14 year old girl in the dock district of Llanelli. Judge Bingham threw the case out of court, claiming it was ‘ a trumpery of a case’ and that the girl in question had suffered ‘nothing more’ than an indecent assault.  He went on to say that such cases were scandalous – because they gave that part of the world a bad reputation!

Given the age of consent at the time, many of these young women so cruelly treated were no more than girls. The age of consent in Western countries during the mid-19th century was between 10 and 13 years old. In Britain, it was raised to the upper limit of 13 years in 1868 following a long campaign by William Thomas Charley, barrister and MP for Salford. He had campaigned for it to be raised to 21. Not until the end of the 19th century was it raised to 16.

Seventy-five percent of births in workhouses were illegitimate – being pregnant and unmarried meant absolute poverty for a woman. Turned out by their families, and shunned by their communities, many were forced to abandon their babies on workhouse or church steps rather than see their babies starve. The insanitary conditions of the workhouses were such that most of these babies died, anyway, of disease. In a society where women were regarded as the evil seductresses of men, it made no difference if a woman’s pregnancy was the result of rape – she was likely to be seen as having brought it on herself, and the man involved viewed as having been provoked.

In recent years, I’ve heard similar arguments brought against women who have been raped while intoxicated by drink. It seems to me that we’ve come a long way; we’re no longer chattels and we are able to be financially independent, but to what extent do sexual double standards still prevail?

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

 

Resources and interesting further reading on the subject of this blog;

Secret Sins by Russell Davies.

Hope and Heartbreak by Russell Davies.

Massacre of the Innocents by Lionel Rose.

I’ve been called some things in my time but never any of these.

As is sadly still the case today, it has always been the way that women who go against society’s norms will find themselves the subject of some derogatory terms. The following lend us a window into the acceptable standards of female behavior in bygone days.

A Bartholomew-baby was a gaudy doll, such as were sold at fairs. It is referred to in Poor Robin, 1740, thus;

‘By the eighth house you may know to an inch, how many moths will eat an alderman’s gown; by it also, and the help of the bill of mortality, a man may know how many people die in London every week; it also tells farmers what manner of wife they should chuse, not one trickt up with ribbands and knots, like a Bartholomew-baby; for such a one will prove a holiday wife, all play and no work.’

A woman who dressed so gaudily may have found herself the subject of bibble-babble (idle gossip) and seems to have been generally frowned upon.  If she were profligate, she would have been called a Baudy-Basket. In Mrs Behu, City Heiress, 1628, the word betawder was used, meaning to dress gaudily; ‘Go, get ye home, and trick and betawder yourself up like a right city lady,’ the woman was told.

If a woman’s hair or head-dress was loose and disordered, or decorated with vulgar finery, she would be called a blouse.

If an adulteress, she’d be referred to as a bed-swerver; a bed-suster, if she was the concubine of a married man; and should her bed-fellow be a dull, heavy fellow, he would be called a bed-presser.

If a woman addicted herself to study or author-ship, she was called a blue-stocking.

A woman vicious by nature was deemed a boggler and if a woman was thought to be a common strumpet, she was named a buttock.

If she lived in the 1500’s she may have worn a bongrace to protect her complexion. This was a border attached to a bonnet or hat. Cotgrave, 1600’s, speaks of it as outmoded apparel; ‘Cornette, a fashion of shadow, or bongrace, used in old time, and at this day by some old women.’

The bon-grace is also mentioned in The Pardoner and the Frere, 1533; ‘Her bongrace, which she ware with her French hode, when she went oute always, for some sonne burnynge.’

If a woman was the wife of a common vagrant, she was a bitch, whereas a bitch-daughter was an alternative word for night-mare.

Being the Bawdy-Basket that I am, methinks I shall dare to go and betawder myself like a buttock for a spending spree in town. I shall surely invite some bibble-babble but hope not to meet any bogglers and bitches along the way lest I should suffer a bitch-daughter during the night!

The above examples were selected and compiled from the Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English compiled by Thomas Wright, M.A., F.S.A. 1904.

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