Hell hath no fury

Rural uplands somewhere in Mid Wales

Jan Newton: Remember No More
Honno Press 2017

Detective Sergeant Julie Kite has upped sticks from Manchester to rural Mid Wales, her transfer determined by her husband Adam accepting a post in a local school, teaching history. Not unexpectedly, she’s already conflicted about the prospect, not least because Adam has strayed down the path of dalliance in the recent past.

And on her first day in her new job she finds she’s landed slap bang in the middle of a murder investigation.

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Steward’s enclosure


Last week I was a steward. No, I wasn’t managing property, household affairs or dining arrangements, nor was I recommending wine or being a flight attendant. I was in fact helping out at a local literary festival, one of a team setting up venues, checking in ticket-holders and selling books.

‘Steward’, by the way, comes from the Old English stigweard, which is a compound of stig, hall or building (it survives as ‘sty’ in Modern English, as in the lowly pigsty) and weard, a ward, guard or keeper. In the 13th century one of the High Stewards of Scotland — those who managed the Scottish king’s finances — took the title as the family name of Stewart. The seventh High Steward became King of Scotland in the 14th century, thus initiating the Royal House of Stewart, and this spelling survived until the period when James Stuart became king of both Scotland and England.

This is all well and interesting, I’m sure, but as usual I’m wandering around the houses. Back to the literary festival, the second one to be held in this Welsh border town.

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The rising of the sun

sun wreath

The rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.

Chorus from traditional carol The Holly and the Ivy, from a broadside of about 1710 and therefore at least a little older than that. The words to the verses confirm that carols aren’t just for midwinter but also for seasons such as Lent and Easter.

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Fair tax town

Image www.walesonline.co.uk
Image http://www.walesonline.co.uk

I avoid going Political on this blog, except with a small ‘p’. If you sense a ‘But’ coming — you’ll be right.

But there’s a sense that the UK is gradually going down the tubes thanks to the directions taken, first, by the Coalition government in 2010, and now by the Conservative Party. ‘We’re all in it together,’ famously trumpeted a certain Prime Minister, except that we’re not. Too many big earners and big corporations don’t pay their fair share of tax as their profits are lodged offshore.

So one small Welsh town, Crickhowell — to which I’ve drawn attention before and which prides itself on its independent shops free of links to chain stores and the like — has taken a stand to expose the unfairness of present government policy that’s hitting the disadvantaged, the poor and the sick, as this short video shows. Do watch and, if possible, share widely.

There’s also a website, Fair Tax Town: http://fairtaxtown.com/

Brought to book

Crickhowell bridge
The longest stone bridge in Wales at Crickhowell

It’s high time I gave you an update on how one small town engages with the world of books. I’ve mentioned Crickhowell in Powys, Wales before as a place where a love of books takes pride of place. Time now to say how it responds to perceived and real threats where books are concerned, but first some positive news!
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CrickLit: neologism


CrickLit. Yes, you read right: ‘CrickLit’, not chick lit.

This is the name for the inaugural Crickhowell Literary Festival which takes place between the 3rd and 11th October 2015. Organised by the owners of the delightful little bookshop Book-ish (“a wonderful place to buy books, toys and gifts”) it’s fantastic to know that a small town of about two thousand folks can host a week-long celebration of all things literary.

Yes, I know that Hay-on-Wye — another Powys town of roughly the same size — already has an extremely successful literary festival which has being going since 1988. But Crickhowell’s initial foray into this field has already, even before it’s begun, had to be expanded from three days to a whole week! What is it about these liminal Welsh Marches towns that seems to favour literary fervour?

The speakers include quite a few well-known names, many with a Welsh connection: Owen Sheers, Emma Chapman, Jasper Fforde and Deborah Moggach. But don’t take my word for it — head over to the website and see the range that’s on offer. But hurry, tickets are apparently going fast …