Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Little Llettygariad

The weak light from a tallow candle, guttering in the draught of a cracked window, spread a tiny puddle of amber across the wet lane as Christmas Parry marched past little Llettygariad, intent on his own warm fireside, this cold November afternoon.

A warm orange glow from the open hearth pooled across the slate slabs as Ann Jones cut slivers of bacon from a cooked pig's head, just a wee one, for her neighbour Ann's runt of the litter had finally been overlain a few weeks into its short life, the competition for a spare teat having weakened it. Waste not, want not, the odds and ends of a suckling pig was not to be sneezed at and it was making a tasty broth.

Outside, the wind was getting up again and the day's heavy rain was thundering past in the river, carving scallops into the rocky platforms beneath the surface, the dull clunk of a passing stone strangely loud above the tear of the water heading seawards. White horses tossed their heads and reared and bucked as they crossed the massive outcrops of subterranean rock, catching their manes in the trailing fingers of the beech twigs. Whirlpools formed in scoops of the riverbank, circling madly before being sucked into the maelstrom of water, punctuated by the winking of bobbing deadwood, dragged from its resting place by the rising flood. The weight of water plucking at the bank sent reverberations which Ann felt as she worked, but it was no worse than it ever had been in spate and only once in living memory had the flood sent her from her home and across the road to her neighbour's cottage, for fear they would be overcome in their beds.

A tendril of ivy beat time on the darkening glass; a mouldered piece of sacking stuffed in a rotted windowframe flapped like a dying moth; there was a sudden flare of light in the hearth as a stick collapsed beneath the cooking pot. A footstep along the lane drew Ann's attention to the window: I caught her eye for a second, sensed her weariness and then the veil of time drew, shroud-like, between us and Llettygariad became the ruin I know from many a journey past: the tumble of the rubble walls sinking into the tangle of nettle and bramble and the glossy leaves of laurel flapping in the wind, roots in the room where once a hand rocked a cradle and prepared a simple meal. and

Will both take you to posts with other mention of Llettygariad in, on my original Codlins and Cream blog.


  1. Oh BB, that surely was my dose of delicious goose-bumps for the day. This piece is written with such an attention for the setting details that I feel the shudder of the water torrents, sense the weary endurance of the man plodding up the lane in the wet and the woman in the weather-buffeted cottage who prepares, as she has so many times, a frugal, tasty supper.
    With such a setting, I wanted the story to continue!
    When I began posting family stories I contacted my Nephew the History Teacher, for his input as I was concerned not to trivialize family happenings. He is also passionate about family research and replied that he enjoys "well written historical narrative." He went on to point out that "well-written ones, out of necessity, fill in the cracks with embellishments."
    I find it both a responsibility and an enjoyable challenge to present accurate facts, but in such a way that others can enjoy the "narrative" of other lives and times.
    You write VERY WELL----breathing life and personality into this peek into the past.

  2. Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I had been for a 4 mile walk down by the river, concentrating on what I could see, hear, sense. Then I came straight indoors and wrote that before it disappeared! The people are real - Christmas Parry is someone who was a "Yeoman" of the parish. Ann Jones of Llettygariad was living their with her two daughters in the 1881 census. Two other Anns, all of them widowed, lived opposite in the two cottages (one now ruinous with a tramp living in a shed there). I often think of them as I walk past, and it was fun bringing this Ann to life for a few moments . . .

  3. I think I lost my comment BB - if you get two I am sorry - what I said in the first one is that this is marvellous - you have surpassed yourself. I have often looked at those old Welsh ruins and wondered what had gone on in them. In the Brecon Beacons where we had friends there were quite a few ruined squatters' houses. And to couple the story with those fantastic flood photos - brilliant stuff.

  4. That's a nice piece of writing BB, I like to write about places I have been and write what I can sense using the 5 senses....and you do the same I think! I only write them in an old scrappy book though and it doen't make it to the blog! We have been up to North Wales this weekend in the wind and rain, but it was still beautiful.

  5. This is memorable for both its history and atmosphere, and of course the incredible amount of reading and research you must have done before writing it all down so vividly. I read the other posts, too, on your other blog, and felt transported.

  6. I had a real shiver running up my spine at the end of your story BB. A real "snatch out of time" as you caught the eye of Ann Jones, who was there by the window so long ago.

  7. BB,I have left you a Walter de la Mare poem on "Beechmast".

  8. Hullo BB,

    What a nice warm empathetic piece. It captured the moment and the thread of place,history and common experience so well in such a short time.

    Its lovely when a place speaks to you like that and lets the ordinary people live again for a moment or two. To hear a sigh in the wind as a half leard tune or a creaky window being pulled tighter against the wind and a footstep on autumn leaves as a crackle from the fire is a gift that few people have and most that do couldn't translate it to the page like you have done here.

    It could so eaily be the start of a first chapter or the final moment of the last.



  9. WSC - Because of my interest in the local history of our parish and county, I have done research in the past as to who lived where and when, and done walks of the census routes in this area. I hate to think that the "ordinary folk" of an area become totally forgotten and like to give them a voice in the present day. So with this, I literally just came home and wrote it.

    WG - only the one post turned up. Glad you enjoyed this. I often pass a ruin in other parts of Wales and wonder who lived there, and what there story was.

    Goosey - sometimes the weather being inclement is what gives you more of a feel for an area and you become more attuned.

    DW - LOVELY poem - thank you. Just right following on from this - especially the worn step. I don't think anyone lived long enough in Llettygariad to wear a step - it was probably only standing a hundred years or so.

    Al - glad you enjoyed it too. Sometimes places speak to me a bit stronger than I'd like them to and there is one up the valley I will never go near again - I used to get a shudder when I drove past it after dark (I'm not the only one to say that either), and when I actually went for a wander round there, the atmosphere was very unpleasant and made me recoil.

  10. Oh I just loved this soooo much. I became totally engrossed and caught up in the tale. Please write more I'd buy a whole book of tales like that :)

  11. Yes, please write more,it was so evocative you have a real talent.

  12. Thank you all. I shall have to see what I can come up with then . . .

  13. BB thats marvelous I just read the later entry first & then this one & i thought you had copied it from a book!
    Beautiful writing!
    x x x