Recently I've been making paintings in series, like the following small oils (mostly 16x12 inches) on the theme of washed-up timbers.  First you find a Passage to the Sea: 


There you may see strange objects:


                                          Tree Agony

The next came from a trip to Bardsey, that mythical island of 20,000 saints at the tip of Llŷn in north Wales.  Sink a spade in Bardsey and you crunch bones, they say.  For centuries the island was a shrine, Wales's Santiago de Compostela: three trips there counted as one to the Holy Land on the salvation map.  Useless fact: Aberystwyth's pier points directly at the whale-back hump of an island 40 miles out across Cardigan Bay.  Weird?  Yes, but Ynys Enlli (island in the stream or current) is special, with its seals, puffins, guillemots and sanctuaries.  I need to go back, twice.  Here's two more it prompted.  (The Foot is photo-montage; painted, no one would take it for real.)

                                                 Rocking Horse




Bardsey Ahoy!

                                              Seal and Foot

Larger oils follow on The Basin, a sculpted bowl at the top of Rhondda.

                                               Rocks 1

                                              Rocks 2

  And from the valley floor                               

 The Rocks, the Con Club and Harry the Blind


     Harry the Blind 

     The signpost outside our shop had a big

     Y on it showing the road split further up

     at Pen Pych, and every now and then

     a double-decker would smack Blaenrhondda

     right behind Blaencwm like a wet Echo.

     One fine day some bright spark on the Council

     had the post moved two feet in from the kerb

     without telling Harry the Blind who played

     piano Wednesday nights to cider-wallers

     in the Stuart.  Harry came down Bute Street

     shops whistling a favourite tune he didn't

     (Smack!!) play that Wednesday or again ever.



               It must have happened in the night

               when nesting birds lay heavy with sleep.  

               They woke like me, and shook their wings,

               startled by the river's crystal light:

               the rocks, mountain, sky and ferns 

               all there, lustred on a satin sleeve.

               Something  told me, this moment was mine

               to keep:.  Time will come to ache my bones,

               tremors of subsidence shudder my soul,

               I'll sail away, in my turn,

               fly to the mountain like a bird,

               this air, these waters, my mother lode.



Two portraits now of blokes who fought adversity in their own way: Gwilym took Richard Burton down a peg when he called for a pint at the Castle Hotel, Treherbert; and Gordon showed good grace on being dropped from the Black Lion Llanbadarn's pool team.

                     Gwilym Trefleming Thomas

                     Lines in Memory of Gwilym Trefleming Thomas

     At first light, on Bute Square,

     a hooter and the tramp of boots:

     comrades in arms, without guns.


     That first shift, off the farm:

     air down Lady Margaret, up Bute shaft,

     kept the dust off your lungs.

     Hundred per cent, you gave and got;

     hundred per cent, scarce a day lost.

     Dram for dram in a three-foot run,

     fills an ocean.

     Semaphore eyes see in the dark;

     your forehead, pockmarked with calamities;

     that nose, catacombs of erosion.

     Black boots, white scarf,

     laced and buttoned for all eventualities.

     You were gone, Gwilym,

     when the canary choked.

     Above St Mary's, the language is ripe.

     At the hairpin, they gob on scratchings of grass,



     You walk home,

     the moon on Cwm Saerbren;

     stump of kindling under one arm;

     magnolia, on the breeze, from your garden.   

Gordon 'Elvis' Ward

Tin bath by the fire; scrubber ready, no hymn.

Go down the pub, Gwilym.

Trevor will fetch you up.

Big moon on Tydraw:

your face in fire-glow.

On the hearth, flames in a pint glass.

You come and go,

between pipe-smoke and pipe-smoke:

lungfuls squeezed out slow

as a pit-pony's fart.

... Say what you like,

Dai Morris was always in the game...

But that man Hain...

You clear your throat, the grate sizzles;

smack your lips and the room smiles back.

Talk fades.

You stare, unseeing, at wallpaper stains.

What comes, Gwilym, breathless, in the shadow?

Senghenydd, Cambrian, Aberfan...

a boy in a barrow?

Fifty years down the line

you wonder was it all worthwhile.

Somewhere, underground,

a drip of water resounds. 



Ron Berry  (1920-1998) from Blaencwm, quit mining after an injury underground and took up writing.  Two of his novels were reprinted in the recent Library of Wales (Parthian) series, namely: Flame and Slag and, possibly his best, So Long Hector Bebb, about a brain-scrambled boxer.  Rigorous in his craft, warm in company, Ron caught the fag-end aura of his patch bang on. 

One night in March 2017 six fires were lit simultaneously on different Rhondda hillsides, leaving the fire-fighting services powerless to stop flames reaching down towards the houses.  No-good boyos with smart-phones, or plain frustration?                                           



                 Rhondda Burning

             Boys are out late tonight                                                         

     on Penrhys, Pandy and Bute mountain,         

              every twmp and knoll alight:                      

          Rhondda burning, burning, burning...                 


           Squirrels once went tree to tree                                              

           from Blaencwm to Pontypridd.                                               

             Now there's not a single leaf                             

                falls on Bwlch or Pen Pych:                                 

          Rhondda burning, burning, burning...              

               When the last collier died                                 

             a hooter sounded in the mine.                        

            Tonight a widow wonders why            

              dawn breaks on four sides.                   

          Rhondda burning, burning, burning... 

                  Did testosterone

              torch the world tonight

                 or were these fires

                  fuelled by spite?

        Rhondda burning, burning, burning...

             See the fires rage all night

      on Penrhys, Pandy and Bute mountain,

             every cwm and twmp alight,

       Rhondda burning, burning, burning...