Saturday, March 07, 2009

Snow on Halkyn Mountain

Last night, somewhere between Mold and Flint (which are the names of towns in north Wales and not metaphors - although they might as well be) I crawled along at slower than a walking pace, testing my clutch control (and also it turns out this morning, my runner's knee), watching the lights of the cars in front of me brighten and fade, and the clock count away minutes in the dark. There is a point when anxiety falls away, a realisation that happens next you are going to be so ridiculously late and you might as well let your mind wander. And I remembered, more than ten years ago now, crawling forward as slowly in exactly the same spot, snow on the road, mobile phone the size of a small book in my hand, ringing on ahead to the school where I taught and asking if it was worth continuing and being told yes.

Six hours later I was still in the same spot. Around me cars had been abandoned and the occupants had taken to making snowmen and pelting each other with snow balls, but I sat where I was. Around twelve-thirty I had eaten my packed lunch but I was thirsty, and dusk was falling. I'd rung Hodmandod Senior and asked him to pick up the boys from the child minder and I was wondering how cold it would get at night. But then, ahead of me, the traffic started moving. I turned on the engine again and crept slowly up the slope, guided by the police, the wheels not engaging, and my legs trembling as I attempted to apply the gas, the clutch, the brake.

At the top of Halkyn mountain they'd opened up the crash barriers which allowed us to turn back, but last night we just crawled on, mile after mile, eventually reaching the point where roadworks had caused two lanes to merge. That was all it was. All that crawling because of this.

I arrived at the book launch in Rhyl precisely five minutes before the end, but I was glad I hadn't decided to turn back - I enjoyed seeing people I knew but hadn't seen for a long time: Penny from that same school in the snow, Dewi another writer, Chris from the Academi and another Penny my editor. To console myself for my journey I bought three books : THE GREAT MASTER OF ECSTACY by Glenda Beagan (whose launch it was) which is a novella and collection of short stories; MY FIRST COLOURING BOOK by Lloyd Jones (who I met last year) and BLUE SKY JULY by Nia Wyn which I have been meaning to read for some time.

ECSTACY starts with a reference to shamanism so I am immediately interested, and COLOURING BOOK is 'themed on all the colours of the rainbow' which sounds an excellent precept too. Since I still haven't read Lloyd Jones's first book 'Mr Vogel' I think I might well indulge myself in a Lloyd Jones fest very soon.

BLUE SKY JULY was book of the month on radio 5, book of the week on radio 4, runner-up in the Wales book of the year and has recently been published in the United States where it has been picking up more accolades. It is an extraordinary poetic memoir about a mother whose child has severe physical disabilities and her fight to do the best she can for him. It is a short book and makes compelling reading so I swallowed it whole last night when I got back. It's one of those books that fills you with admiration for the author - not only because of the way it is written but because of her attitude to her child and the world. Despite the tragedy it is uplifting and reminded me very much of what David Cameron said about life with his own child, and also of what my brother says about his son. In some ways, it seems, these children can make you love them more.

'He's a great boy, Mikey.' My brother sometimes says about Michael who is severely autistic. My brother is not as eloquent as Nia Wyn, but the sentiment is the same. Like Nia my brother, his ex-wife and all the people at his school keep trying. They know there'll be no miracles but the important thing to do is to appreciate the small signs of progress. It is an important message for life I think, and the message in Nia Wyn's book. We have to keep going - up the snowy hill, past the seemingly interminable roadworks - making the most of the feeble taps and signs that some of what we do will some day make sense.


Blogger Unknown said...

That sounds like you made a very dedicated journey indeed and were amply rewarded by your trojan efforts. Fair play, Clare!

Sat Mar 07, 04:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I hope you got a good meal and a comfy chair at the end of all that...

I have some good Welsh news which I will tell you later.

Yawn. Right now I must go infuse myself with tea, or I won't last.

Sun Mar 08, 01:15:00 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

Mold & Flint sound like locations in Mervyn Peake's Gormeghast novels.

Sounds like a hairy drive.

Sun Mar 08, 08:42:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Glad you made it Clare - a good haul of book is always worth the wait. Will look forward to hearing more about these titles.

I read another great quote from Cameron regarding his son - where he said something along the lines of how usually the British public has to trust the NHS in the politians hands, but in this case he felt equipped to look after it, because he had put his son in the hands of the NHS.

Sun Mar 08, 11:06:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yup, it was certainly worth it, Barbara - I even enjoyed letting my mind wonder - it's relaxing once you realise you can do nothing.

Yes, Marly, certainly did! Is your book coming out imminently? I hope so.

Yes, Anne - I expect they do - also think it would be a good setting for Jeff VanderMeer's work should he ever want a change from Ambergris.

Good quote from Cameron, Jem. I read about what he did for his son, an although I suppose he could only do these things because he is so wealthy, I found it touching too. I also liked the fact he was so honest about how much he did - and how much other people did.

Sun Mar 08, 12:54:00 pm  
Blogger dhamel said...

I love it when you describe things like that drive in the snow. I really feel transported into your world for a time.

Sun Mar 08, 11:40:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Oh thank you, Debra! You've made my day.

Mon Mar 09, 11:06:00 am  

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