Friday, 17 April 2015


The calendar on my study wall is by Caroline Davey.  Each month has a painting of a quiet location in North Wales and a seasonal flower.  April shows the derelict water wheel at Melin Ty Fair and Bluebells, Bwtsias y Gog.  I was intrigued by this.  I know bluebells in Welsh as Clochau'r Gog, which translates as Cuckoo's Bells. Bwtsias y Gog is the delightful Cuckoo's Boots.  I imagine a Beatrix Potter illustration with the blue petals curling jauntily over the cuckoo's legs like the tops of jester's shoes.  I'm not sure how the claws fit in.

Unfortunately cuckoo numbers in Britain have halved in the last two decades.  I haven't heard the cuckoo in this part of North Cumbria for several years.

R S Thomas wrote a poem called "Abercuawg" in which he asked "where is Abercuawg, that / place where the cuckoo's sing?"  It is very difficult to find the place where the cuckoo sings - he is heard rather than seen.  Abercuawg, the place where the cuckoo sings, is an idealised, mythical place, which we seek but do not find.  "Abercuawg/ is not here now, but there."  It is an image of the seeking but not finding in life that is so embedded in the thought and poetry of R S Thomas.

On Monday I am off to North Wales for 2 weeks.  The first week I will stay at the National Writers' Centre for Wales at Llanystumdwy for a poetry masterclass with Gillian Clarke and Maura Dooley.  The second week I will be staying at Rhiw within walking distance of R S Thomas's old home, Sarn Cottage.  I hope I will hear the cuckoo and see his boots.

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