Coole Park

The wind was up all week, the tail end of a hurricane blown across the Atlantic.
We had blown in ourselves on a whim to drive part of the Wild Atlantic Highway, seduced by the romance of the name and stopped at Yeats’ Tower and then Coole Park, an unexpected find as we made our way back through Galway to the airport.

It was closed of course, the little cottage and the tower restored by Yeats himself for his wife. Was it this river he wandered and worried for Ireland and his daughter?

A Prayer for My Daughter

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory’s wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
A gardener , ruddy faced, rake in hand looked up, surprised, as we passed, not saying anything. The path was thick with wet sycamore leaves themselves covered with large black blight. He waved the rake at them as if by scaring them they would take themselves off. Perhaps it was us he wished to frighten off after all for disturbing the peace of his dank afternoon.
On to Coole Park and time enough before the plane  for the walled garden at least. Bronze leaves settled on the few cars in the car park. A man changed his shoes for some serious walking.

‘How’s it going?’ He asked us.
Well, it was good.

The house itself has gone but the walled garden remains, a peaceful place between grey walls  and the age and beauty of  trees.  I wondered if it was symmetry and the elegance of  straight lines that gave the place its atmosphere but decided that indeed the garden had its own aura.  Possible to imagine Yeats nursed back to health here and inspired by beauty and grace of a patron.  Possible to imagine the bygone era and the  literary greats flown like swans.


Solitude. This is what you need, the tool collector said
Imagine walking in those footsteps, carving initials in Lady Gregory’s autograph tree, never going out in the lanes, like Synge, but spending all the time in the woods or within the walls of the garden, protected from all sides bordered, secluded writing and thinking.

I would be as the leaf collector – happy to wander, rake in hand, not doing much but soaking it all up.


Let’s hear it for mangel-wurzels


It was high time for a walk if only to take a break from the manuscript.

The usual linear walk over the top to the nearest town often reveals something new, no matter how often we walk it, trees ravaged by high winds, mountain springs swollen to torrents.


We stopped to gaze on a high hill pass, Bwlch y Rhiwgyr,  (Drovers’ Pass),  anticipating the view which on a clear day  takes in the Mawddach Estuary and the Lleyn Peninsular  and were seduced by the sight of a flock of  sheep safely grazing a field of  winter fodder – turnips I guess, but mangel-wurzel sounds better. The sheep were too busy to notice us as we ploughed on  through.


A crossway of paths leading to and from a pre-historic trio of standing stones  known as Arthur’s Quoits  had been carefully delineated by the sower of the turnips and stood out green and clear, tapering to a distant point.


What also become clear was a way forward with the novel, a  story and set of characters that have hung about me for long years now, refusing either to go away or become clear.  A character I have named Hennessy, whose face, as broad as a potato  and round as a turnip drifted across the sky in cloud formation was the key.

Pretentious, but true.



Refugee boy



With New levels of ignorance it is more important to encourage saner, more level, more informed minds. What better way than reading widely. The government make no bones about which texts the nation’s children should and shouldn’t read in a dangerous game of hegemony. Soon it will be left to writers and artists to strike back with more films, more books, more songs to remind us all we are one world.
Refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, call them what ever, get a raw deal not only in the UK.

Hats off to Benjamin Zephaniah

This political story for young adults should be required reading for politicians, those who make decisions on our behalf, whether or not we agree with them.  It seems in all the policy making, keeping abreast of current affairs and financial doom, politicians (some/most?) have lost the heart of the matter.

BZ puts them and us straight without over sentiment.

Those who have nothing share their last mouthful. Those who have more, go out of their way to hang on to it at others’ expense.



The Bomb on the Beach


Not the title of a new novel, (although, wait  minute) but a relic of WW2 washed up in heavy seas.  I thought it would be hard to spot  on our vast eight mile expanse of sand, perhaps hidden in the dunes or already claimed back after another day of storms.  Even at a distance it was obvious; out of place, its irregular metal outline at odds with the briny foam  and scattered shells and pebbles.


There are other reminders of the second world war,  graves for bodies washed up, planes crashed into hillsides, enough to make anyone wonder. Staring  at this round bomb, imagining the force of the blast that had blown a hole a meter wide was quite thrilling and that in itself is chilling.

A Taste of Cinnamon



Published by Cinnamon Press. Hazel Manuel and Mary Howell with their novels in Palas Print independent bookshop.

Cinnamon Press,  small, independent and  based in North Wales  is a champion and prolific publisher for new writers.

Being published does not of itself bring status, more  the pleasure of reading aloud to an audience and the quiet knowledge that someone has confidence in your work.


Hazel Manuel outside the book shop in Bangor after the launch of Kanyakumari.


Michael Morpurgo Listen to the Moon


Went to see Michael Morpurgo talk about his latest book,  Listen to the Moon, and glad we did, a master story teller in the flesh as well as printed word.

When he took questions from the packed audience consisting mostly or children, there were a couple of telling moments. Not only was he wonderful with them, humorous, playful, stern – in fact very like a grandfather or even as one imagines Father Christmas – if one imagines such a person – he was very wise.

War is the subject of several  of his books – the first world war in particular – and  he prepared the children for the serious and sad facts of the sinking of the Lusitania and apologised for the awfulness.   The world needs pacifists.  Little is ever said about the sheer misery of war for those who are not fighting. I dare say it is pretty miserable for those who are but their deaths are often couched in glory, counted as the greatest sacrifice – laying down a life for a country. No one is encouraged to think of the struggle of surviving through and after war for all sides because it is too grim.  It is an emotive subject that he treats well for children and adults.

On a lighter note one child asked which of his books he would recommend. Having ascertained an age group he recommended a couple. At the mention of each title a Chinese whisper spread through the audience.  ‘I’ve read that.’  I don’t know if Mr Morpurgo could hear that hallowed whisper, but I think he’d have been jolly pleased if he did.

The book is a good read. Like an expert  Mr Morpugo guides readers through the highs and lows of the story, preparing them for a life time and a lifetime of reading. There is much to recommend the tradition of story telling – and Mr Morpurgo is traditional – especially for children.  Rather like pantomime, knowing when to hiss and when to shout ‘it’s behind you,’   knowing what to expect adds to the enjoyment, especially when expectation is then thwarted and  instead a surprise awaits.

The event was orgainsed by an independent book shop, Simply Books, at Stockport’s lovely art deco Plaza Cinema, restored to former glory. It was a dismally dingy bingo hall for most of the thirty or so years we lived in Stockport. Restored, it has changed the whole aspect of that part of town  and now screens classic films and stages live shows.