We have retreated into ourselves


It is raining, autumn is in full techni colour, and winter looms. The white sky merges with mist over the sea. Bardsey, the holy isle of the bones of a thousand saints, disappears from view completely leading us to speculate it has magical qualities or that a secretive organisation, ‘them’, dedicated to the preservation of the bones deciding what measures are best needed has reeled it away for cleaning. Sometimes it appears to float like a spaceship, or be twice as large as it is, or as today, abscond entirely. We joke and speculate what it can be this time.

And so another day passes. The forced togetherness affirms and destroys the relationship we thought we had. New rules are set, new habits formed over the long months it has so far been.

We hear of others’ weekends spent visiting, mingling together, or away, or following interesting new pursuits such as book binding, potting, yoga, I wonder if it is us who has fallen through the net, who doesn’t realise that Covid is so over and it is possible to live as ever we lived in the wider world.

Offers of visits, attempts of socially distanced gatherings, even of under six and outdoors are rebuffed. I’m surprised we are not consigned to Facebook friends with lonely birthday messages accruing annually on the page with infrequent photo updates bathed in the colours of the flag of the country where the latest tragedy or assassination attempt took place to show that perhaps we still exist for real.

Maybe, when this latest garden project is satisfyingly finished and planted, when the latest clutch of recipes has been shopped for, cooked and consumed, the next box of wine sent for and shoulder-shruggingly quioffed with a what can you do nonchalance, we will venture out.

The chance of reprieve is lost as once again we slide with relief into lockdown. It is not just us who is avoiding everyone. We are not so antisocial after all.

And then comes another reprieve: the first dose of vaccine.

Walking with History


In the  burst of sunshine before autumn and winter we have opted for outdoors and walking. Hard not to walk with history here; the hills are steeped in it. Hill forts ring the coast like a necklace; craggy outcrops with flat tops, fortified walls, sometimes with the remains of hut circles.  Local names convey confusion as to exact dates or perhaps confirm that these forts have been in existence for a very long time: ancient, iron age, Roman;  perhaps having been all three.

We walked through the nature reserve converted for and by the community. Once a tip, once a salt marsh used by the monks from Cymer Abbey to graze their sheep, the name  of the road, Mynach Road, the only lasting legacy. A willow arch marks the entrance to an outdoor classroom used by the local school and a wooden pirate’s ship sets the tone for the children’s play area.  Bees hum in the wild flowers and wild clematis rampages through blackberries. Along the prom,  waves hit the breakwater, turn back on themselves and could teach a thing or two about physics as they explode with spume and ‘get’ us. White arms of a competent swimmer windmill  through the treacherous looking waves and leave the feeling that we have imagined him  till we see the rest of him, muscled and glistening,  cross the prom behind us at a run back to his car.  A section of shaly beach brings us to the railway bridge at Llanaber and up through the church yard of St Mary’s,  also known as  St Bodfan,  St Bodfan and St Mary the Virgin and just St Mary.

Bodfan was a monk on Bardsey, and founded the first church at Llanaber, probably wooden originally, lost without trace and replaced by the 13th Century church that remains.

Inside are the Llanaber Stones, two Early Christian stones found locally fording a stream and believed to be from the churchyard . Reportedly Romano British from the 5th or 6th century  the inscription is  a mixture of Latin and Welsh. Both dedicated to St Bodfan; one is inscribed Calexti Monedo Rigi,   a mythical king of Mona or Anglesey; the other inscribed  Aeterna and Aeternus,  brother and sister perhaps,  names common in Roman Britain, they say.

There is no note to explain a gravestone that lies just outside the church whose inscription looks Runic


Churches   also ring the coast line in plain view of Bardsey, the island of a thousand saints, whence the saints came to found or give names to the churches. Perhaps, once cast off from the  safety of the shore, candles in the church windows guided  through the buffeting sea, or. as today, when the sea, except for the breakwater,  is so flat calm it is eery, kept spirits alternately up or at bay.

As we leave the little chapel the sea mist gathers as the temperature plummets for evening reminding us that this sunshine is just a reprieve.