Sunday, February 05, 2017
Two articles have been written, two interviews given and a very successful launch of my new book enjoyed, but all I really want to do now is have clear time to get on with the next. Finally the French translation of Spirit of Place is done and at the printer, well in time for the February 19th launch, but getting it done has been a very rough ride.
Both my lap-tops are malfunctioning, the elder through exhaustion and the baby, initally my pride and joy, for no reason capable of analysis. It has been nothing but trouble from the set-up and I tend to do no more than leave it alone in its smart new case and make notes on scruffy bits of paper. Things can only get better. This week I am teaching a course about the Tro Breiz to lovely people in a lovely place and having a session with my lovely personal trainer, and maybe an island trip, so nothing to complain about at all... I am also incredibly pleased by and grateful for all the really wonderful comments on the new book. The theme has clearly struck many a personal echo.
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
My new book is out (in English) next week, with a launch at The Bookshop, Huelgoat, on the 14th and 15th January, 2.30-4pm. The French translation will have its first airing at the Salon du Livre, Le Cloitre St Thegonnec in February.
This book looks at the character and personality of certain ‘little landscapes’ in western Brittany, considering what sets them apart from their surroundings. Some, like the extraordinary megalithic cairn at Barnenez are well-known, others like the Chaos de Mardoul are well off the beaten track. Emotional links with place are also explored, as well as general themes of relating to the environment and the possibility of seeing into nature beyond accepted notions of beauty and cultural filters. Topics include the nature of ruins, sacred geography and the sense of belonging to the land. ‘Place writing’ and personal connection combine to express some fundamentals of intimacy with landscape.
Eleven doorways, eleven passages and eleven burial chambers: a terrace of dead neighbours, a defunct community echoing the values and social continuity of its creators. It is also an abiding memorial, although those responsible could scarcely have anticipated the endurance of their project. The cairn of Barnenez changed the colour of the landscape.
Sunday, January 01, 2017
Friday, December 30, 2016
Being outside. Those words have defined my life for good and ill. They reflect my preference for place over people and the resulting separateness. As a child it was a physical longing, more than that, a necessity to be out of doors, away from the cage that family life often formed. The sense of liberation and free choice is intimately connected for me with open space, with air and sky. I have come to see my definition and sense of identity in a connection with landscape. Place before people, expansion before confinement. I don’t function well within physical limits.
Looking back, my life is speckled with moments of profound identification with my environment, and the course of my own career and development has been an irresistible, if wavy, line drawing me along the pathway of freedom and belonging. The journey began in Gloucestershire, found meaning in leaving that manicured terrain far behind, was inspired by the Brecon Beacons, and matured in the south Wales of my parental roots. It floundered in the relentless urbanity of London and revived in the relenting rurality of Somerset. There I began to understand the nature of spiritual pilgrimage and the value of landscape in life. My wayfaring has been equally fired by the Tatra mountains of southern Poland and the misty sweep of Exmoor,before being finally fixed in the granite of Brittany, where the moment of arrival was an awakening.
Here's to being outside in 2017...
Monday, December 12, 2016
Walking is our most natural pace. The moderate speed allows us to gain the greatest appreciation of what we pass. Early man needed to assess signs and sounds of danger and to spy out sources of food and water, all of which required a level of examination of the terrain he passed through that can only be achieved by pacing or striding. Jogging and running, cycling and horseback riding separate us from the detail of landscape by speed or height. By those methods we notice less: screeds of bluebells but not the first violets; a beautiful old stone wall but not the little heads of stoats peeping out of the cracks; a fish jumping from the river but not the tracks of otters on the bank. The detail needs time and deliberate searching by eye, and it’s the detail that raises the level of experience and a sense of connection with the other inhabitants of the earth as well as nature’s manifests.
The same is true of walking in an urban environment. We need our senses to be alert but also our movement to be slow enough to separate a blur of buildings or a flash of green space. Driving through a town in a car or riding a bike requires attention to be focused on the travel itself for safety. Stopping and starting may provide moments of observation but these are hardly leisured and the flow of traffic usually dictates the pace of passage. It’s possible to admire a street of medieval half-timbered houses, to get a sense of historic atmosphere through glimpses of architecture, but you have to walk to access the minutiae of decorative art. You also have to walk to appreciate fully the development of settlement patterns, the relationship between older and newer elements, the changing demands of society in an urban environment.
The complexity of landscape we have created can only be appreciated through the simplest of movements.
Saturday, November 05, 2016
|Parish Close at St-Thegonnec|
The AGM was run by our President, Michel Priziac, a tireless worker for the interests of writers and a prolific author himself, place-names and the historical associations of places being two of his specialities. He has done a great deal to promote the association and encourage writers to make the best of their talents in recent years. Other members of the committee also give their time freely to perform the many administrative and organizational tasks required to keep a large association not only ticking over, but constantly exploring new avenues of interest to members.
After lunch and more feedback on the year's events, prizes, awards, future plans, etc. we drove the short distance to St Thegonnec for a guided tour of the famous Parish Close. I bring many groups and individuals here myself, so it was rather enjoyable to visit without responsiblity and to benefit from Anne Guillou's exceptional local knowledge.
I could not stay for drinks with the mayor, kindly offered to the Association by the commune - or rather the new commune, as St Thegonnec has just amalgamated with Loc-Eguiner-St-Thegonnec. I came away once again with an invigorating sense of the extraordinary vitality of associations in Brittany and the passionate commitment to heritage and tradition so prevalent here, as well as the pleasure of meeting up once more with fellow-writer-friends.
|Anne Guillou's guided tour|