I’m in Wales for the week, hoping to pin down an idea. What am I looking for? Not sure. What’s my idea? I don’t know yet. Where am I going? The Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, Anglesey, the Pembrokeshire coast. What am I doing here? Looking at the light. Recording the weather. Walking. Thinking. Talking. Hoping to find something. Hoping to pin down an idea.
The week will begin in the Brecon Beacons, somewhere high up. There’ll be flat skies, a cold front (very cold hands; the tiniest suggestion of anxiety-cooled cold feet) and an unseasonal depression threatening to move in. Everything will be grey. The prospect of a bright idea on Monday: very poor. By Tuesday evening, fair chances of inspiration, becoming moderate to good, especially around the coast, towards the end of the week.
Somewhere in the Brecon Beacons, on the road between Fan Nedd and Fan Llia.
What is here?
The wind. Cold, strong, loud. The sky, grey: layer upon layer of grey; patches of blue breaking through. The sound of water in the soil. No sun. Birdsong: a lark; something that might be a stonechat; the scream of a red kite. The calling of sheep. And the noise of that cold strong wind.
Over the ridge of the hills, the sky appears to be heading north: a migration of clouds. The sun comes out. Hot. A cold wind. It starts to rain.
Betws y Coed. Looking out of the window of a B&B. Today has been:
4. Momentary brightness
5. A lake the colour of rusty milk
7. This view I can see now: the sky clear, a low sun, dazzling, these hills.
Is there an idea yet? No, nothing yet. Everything still grey.
Tuesday goes something like this:
So...the story so far. Monday: Cardiff then up into the Brecon Beacons. Tuesday: a meeting with a weatherman in Prestatyn, then a planned walk up Snowdon postponed by the heavy hard cold constant rain (I don't mind the rain but I was more interested in the view from the summit than in the climb itself: no view in that rain). Consoled by the weatherman telling me it will be good for climbing on Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning: more rain. No Snowdon this week. Wednesday afternoon: Anglesey. The headland that marks the most notherly place in Wales: a lighthouse, a fog horn, cargo ships marking the horizon. Drive over to Holy Island to visit South Stack lighthouse, "open daily for tours". Get to the lighthouse. Tours canceled today because of the wind. At least it isn't raining. A remarkable light on the sea, silvergreen. Probably more beautiful for being the first colour to emerge from all that grey. Then it starts to rain. All ideas at the moment are about the weather. I had planned to go to these places to look, to look at the views, to look at the sky, to look at the light. Instead I've been wrapped up in the wet, grey, cold, windy weather. This is another sort of inspiration, of a damper, slower, stiller kind. Heading south tomorrow, to St David's, and more lighthouses. Perhaps there will be sun. I'll be dressed for rain.
The sun came out. Walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This strange community of walkers, all separate, all more or less begrudgingly saying "hello" (we all actually wish we were alone here). Lighthouses. The western tip of Wales.
This week has been:
700 miles driven
Many inches of rain
Wind so strong as to cause an evacuation
The silvery surface of the sea
The north and the west
Being cruised by the owner of a farmhouse B&B
Frustration, persistence, looking, trying to keep dry
And a constant search for an elusive, hidden light.
Friday, 10.15am. Heading back to Cardiff. The end of the week. It's sunny in St David's so I decide to head back via Black Mountain, to see if I can catch some of that famous Brecon light. On the way, the most torrential rain there's been all week. Almost a total lack of visibility on the road; wipers full speed; vertical lines of drumming grey. I give up, head for the motorway and the city. The sun comes out.