* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Sunday, December 30, 2012


The first time we landed in Holyhead I was quite confused.  The signs were in 2 languages.  I initially assumed that since we were on the Irish ferry system that they carried over writing the signs in both English and Irish.  After a few minutes, I finally noticed all the double f's, y's and double l's and realized I was looking at Welsh.  We traveled the Welsh countryside via train to get to London most recently and to and from Scotland previously.

I don't know why but I would say Wales is what I picture whenever I am given cause to visualize the English countryside.  The seashore towns are quaintly picturesque in a manner Disney can only hope to emulate.  Huddles of houses ring harbors that have been home to fisherman since before remembering. Quintessential sheep graze in every grassy nook with stone farmhouses that seriously do look like they could have just emerged from the earth wholemeal.  Finally, the train makes it way through small villages and town clusters of brick and stone houses that simply must date from at least the Victorian period.  It's all surrounded by the sort of rolling hills you see on biscuit tins.  When you look sideways, through sleepy eyes, at the misty mountain tips and the marshy down below, it becomes clear why this was a land of sleeping dragons, fairies, and Arthur's court.  Lest you think all this is the glitter and sparkles of modern imagining, you would do well to revisit the old tales.

My earliest, conscious exposure to the wealth of fantasy that pulls on the rich wellspring of myths and legends of the British Isles was The Dark is Rising.  Don't give the movie a thought and read the series in the order they were published rather than based on series chronology.  I enjoy pretty much any retelling of the Child Ballads.  My very favorite of all time is Tam Lin by Pamela Dean with Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones being a close second.  Musically, The Knight and the Shepard's Daughter as sung by Halali is based on Child 110 and hauntingly well done.  I can't find a full version but you can hear the clip here and it's worth the 99 cents.  A theme of all these is the idea that a woman in love is a powerful force; while men have the stronger hand, women were blessed with strong hearts.  The battle between light and dark; true and fairy; love and loss is fierce and comes with consequences.  The people of the Isles knew that a fierce heart is your greatest weapon and a woman in love is your greatest ally.

English spoken by a Welshman has a rolling quality.  It's like the relentless rolling of ocean waves.  There seem to be no full stops, breaths, or consonants; just an ebb and flow of sounds; a river of syllables.  It becomes clear why Wales is a land of poets.  This youtube video is worth a watch if you are curious about how spoken Welsh sounds.

FYI- The idea of women being a force in of themselves comes up in a variety of other cultures.  The Spanish tale of Princess Florecita and the Iron Shoes is an excellent example.


  1. Becky you write so beautifully...I will be thinking about the "a woman in love is your greatest ally " all day. GOD BLESS