The grapes of moth and the anatomy of a landscape

Dear Monty,

In my mouldy 'greenhouse' the grapes fall and ferment. The smell of yeasts is delicious. Moths fly about and the wasps get drunk on the must.

We have just returned from Hay-on-Wye, the half way meeting point to see our daughter and granddaughter. Sophie Elizabeth was glad to see her grumpy grandpa.
I love warm autumn days. Hay has a middle class charm  though I am working class to my boots, so I'm not sure why I feel so comfortable there. We had a lovely lunch at and then mootled around the bookshops. I picked up a book on impressionism for 50p.

Still light at 6pm I sit and reflect upon the day in my own backyard. Marigolds flower with the black eyed Susan forming a larger clump this year.

This garden beneath the coal tip is trying hard to return to woodland. I find sycamore, birch, alder, willow, oak, hazel, ash and buckthorn trying to gain a foothold in this tiny garden. If left to its own devices the whole hillside would regenerate and drown out the houses and gardens. One farmer has allowed this to happen higher up on the slopes above us, helped by additional plantings of native oak, the understory kept clear by pigs.

On Tuesday, I sat at the head of the valley looking back upon this hill sitting like an island rising out of the sunlit mist. This landscape shaped and altered by ice and industry now green again. It has a beauty of its own, largely undervalued.
Trying to understand the anatomy of landscape is what drives me to draw and paint it. To see and feel its curves and colours, to guide the eye and heart on a walk through it, this is what I try to achieve through painting, carving and scratching into plaster.

I made some preliminary sketches and notes and I am very lucky to have been shown an ideal viewpoint by Eleanor Flaherty, local mountain guide, artist and filmmaker.

So as a thank you I wrote this :

Your bones sat upon the turf
Blue eyes pierced the horizon
Drank in the watery sun
And spread out the hills like a blanket

The serpentine wall curved through the contours
This view from Penwyllt resonates with history
Many peoples pasts layered like the exposed rock
Some buried beneath our feet
Some visible in the quarry houses
Some spoken of from living memory.

Ancient seas are lifted above our heads
We see lime kilns, sink holes and peat bogs
And lower down towards the u-shaped valley
Under my own hill just visible
Coal and my cloistered garden.



  1. You must know how this resonates with me, Paul. You do such good stuff. Xx

    1. Anne, thank you so much for this comment, I never know how good or bad this rambling is. I experienced the same resonance when reading your book. You should write another. X


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