Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Week 5 - Fall, Chimney pots, and the Undead

Fall Leaves on Campus
 Greetings as I finish Week 5 of my time in Wales.  How can I have been here over a month?
Who lives in the computer?
 My grandson, Rio, has looked
behind the computer screen as
well as upstairs for his Nana.  I finally took a picture of him talking to me on Skype, reversed the iphone, and told him he was in my computer... now I think he's really confused!  Ah, technology.

Each week has been full "sorting out" as they say here.  It's amazing how much we take for granted in the states.  We supersize everything, drive with abandon, and live lives so fast paced that when we sit on the side of the bed, we have to look out the window searching for daylight to remember if we're putting on our socks or taking them off.  Although I'm now sleeping through the night, I've found that I'm growing to like this slower pace, this enjoyment of time, looking forward to taking a bus to go shopping.  My muscles are becoming attuned to the hills and I become a bit antsy to take a walk on the slow days I have set aside for writing.
View from the National Library of Wales
The NLW (see above) was mentioned during my sorting interview (kind of like the Sorting Hat) and I admit to being unimpressed as I really didn't know what a copyright library was.  A Copyright Library (for it must really be capitalized) has the right to a copy of everything copyrighted in the UK!  When I found that they had an original manuscript of Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, I politely asked if I could see it.  "One would need a very good reason to see it?"  "What if I said please?"  I really hoped my smile and being the only one in the group who knew who Chaucer was would win the curator over.  "Not even with a 'pretty please'." He smiled.  "One needs a very good reason to see it."  We all laughed, me a little sadly; but I haven't given up.  I just need to find the right reason!  Suggestions?

After my visit to the castle ruins a few weeks ago, I was led to further research on the 'body' and the Eisteddfod Festival.  For an isolated university town, there is a wonderful jewel of a museum - The Ceredigion Free Museum.  If one is lucky, Jez will be on duty.  If you have time to listen, introduce yourself and ask him a question about local history. His salt and pepper stubble doesn't cover the
craggy laugh lines that seam his face as he regales you with stories of poachers, midwives, narrow escapes, the generally held opinion of the disposition of the skeleton housed for all to see in his glass crypt on the second floor, a Welshman's thrift that makes Scrooge MacDuck look like a spendthrift only to turn around and give away thousands of pounds to a complete stranger because he saw a need and met it.  And also an admonition (to the best of my memory) to be careful in repeating stories as Wales is a small country and you never know who in your audience is related to someone in your story.

Eisteddfod harps
Little concrete evidence is known about the skeleton.  He was about 28, in good health, good teeth, as mentioned in last week's blog.  I'd love to interview him.  What was his life like in the 1600's?  How did he met his death?  Nevertheless, it was odd to stand there, Jez's words running through my head that the skeleton should be buried - he was a man after all.  I found that the previous curator may know more as to what the scientists may have revealed.  No plaque commemorates this unknown man, just a chart identifying the bones that were found.  And then there is the mystery of the bones that are not there, which Jez just mentioned casually before continuing his storytelling.

The harps and crowns in the case at the end were from previous Eisteddfod Festivals and are beautiful, inlaid wood, geometric patterns.  I'm hoping to see one while here in Wales.  It will be held in Denbighshire in August of 2013.  The first woman to win the competition was Mererid Hopwood in 2001.  For more info:

So back through the town I go, exploring each Saturday,  wondering what I will find that is new, old, what can possibly be recycled in my novel.  I've heard others say that Aber is dull and that there is nothing to do.  Just walking down the street brings me immense pleasure and sparks my imagination.

Of course, I haven't checked out the pubs... yet!  Though I've heard tales that Aberystwyth is in the running for the most pubs per capita in Wales if not the UK (Aber has over 50!)

The chimney pots are fascinating.  Each a little different.  I wonder at Dickens and his references to chimney sweeps.  Many were children for only the slightly built were small enough to enter the dark confined spaces and scrape out the clogging soot.  I enjoyed Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke's song, Chim Chim Cheree, but when faced with the reality of who and what, I am shocked at how little life was valued then and how "other" was defined and, unfortunately, still is throughout the world.

So a week of discovery and yet a new batch of questions.  Until next we meet in print, here is a glorious Aber sunset taken from the bus window on my ride home.

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