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#Dewithon – sharing the contents of my Welsh bookshelves!

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If, like me, you follow Paula’s lovely blog, BookJotter, you’ll be well aware that she’s hosting the Dewithon – a March-long Wales Readathon, celebrating Welsh culture and writing. Now, I’m Scottish by birth, but have spent dozens of holidays in Wales and I love the people and the landscape and the art. I always fail miserably to get involved with the Dewithon, and I suspect that might be the case again this year; however, I *do* have a good number of Welsh books on my shelves, and so I thought it might be nice to share them here!

Of course, the first thing to do was to try to get them all together, which was no mean feat and caused Mr. Kaggsy and I a bit of strain. But here they are as best I could display them all together. Frankly, I didn’t realise I had so many Welsh books…

As you can see, there’s quite a variety of reading there, so I here’s a little more detail about some of them. First up, I have a rather nice collection of R.S. Thomas books and here they are:

In case you’re wondering, the two illustrated children’s books and the card with the birds on are all by Mildred ‘Elsi’ Eldridge, RST’s wife. I wrote about his poems to her here, and they’re so powerful. One of my favourite poets, and here’s a close up of the spines of the books.

Next up is the other poetic Thomas from Wales – Dylan!

Yes, as you can see I *do* have two copies of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” – I just love it, and the Edward Ardizzone illustrations are perfect. However, what’s bugging me at the moment is that I know I have a chunky Wordsworth edition of Dylan’s poems somewhere in the house, but I can’t lay hands on it. It wasn’t with the Welsh books and it’s not with the poetry books, so who knows where it might be lurking….

Another old favourite on the Welsh shelves is from someone who isn’t actually Welsh – George Borrow. These are the books of his I own:

Borrow (1803 – 1881) actually hails from the part of the world I currently live in, but had quite a wild life, and went on many tours abroad and in the UK. “Wild Wales” resulted from a visit to the country in question, and I read it decades ago. And yes, there are two copies because they have different covers and illustrations and one is a special edition…

Here are the spines, and the two other fragile old books are “Lavengro” and “The Romany Rye” – which have nothing to do with Wales, but live alongside my “Wild Wales” editions!

Next up, a much more modern author – playwright and poet Patrick Jones:

Jones is a fascinating writer and these are some of my editions of his work – there are others lurking in the house, and I suspect they may be in a box somewhere with my Manic Street Preachers collection. The reason for that is that Jones is the brother of the band’s bassist, Nicky Wire. Jones is a powerful poet and his spoken word albums are favourites too – must dig them out again soon…

As the Welsh are of course such a poetic race, let’s take a look at some Welsh poetry books I have:

As you can see, there are quite a few. Most of these are gifts from Mr. Kaggsy over the years (and I think “Odd Corners…” has got into the wrong pile…); but the Idris Davies is a volume I picked up on one of our North Wales holidays. I loved visiting the area, and it was wonderful to be able to pick up obscure titles you couldn’t get in England during those pre-internet days. Happy memories…

As you can see, I own two books by Saunders Lewis, who was a most intriguing figure. A political activist, poet, dramatist, historian and literary critic, he was one of the founders of Plaid Cymru, and there was a plaque to him on a wall in Pwhelli, a town we often used to visit. Yes, one of these books is in Welsh – I had a vague idea of trying to learn the language once, but that was as successful as my attempts at Russian… As for “Monica”, I’ve heard this was quite a groundbreaking work, so I really ought to get on to reading it.

The rest of my Welsh books are fairly random, so let’s just taken them as they come!

These are again lovely books about Wales which mainly came from Mr. K, the Book Enabler. Old and new, all fascinating, and all from pre-blog times! I really should stop buying new books and just read and enjoy the ones I already own!

Another pot-pourri – more gifts from Mr. K. The short stories collection looks rather appealing at the moment.

And finally some *really* random bits and pieces! “Miners Against Fascism” came about because of the Manics influence I seem to recall. The Llyn Peninsula was the area we used to visit, hence the booklet. And Turner is always a joy, as are his images of Wales.

So there you have it – all the books from or about Wales that I can lay hands on at the moment. I suspect there are more in the house – for example, I’m sure there are some Viragos – but frankly gathering all this lot together has worn me out. As I mentioned above, I’m probably not going to get to reading anything Welsh this month – but if I start planning now, with these as prompts, I might manage to take part in 2022! 😀

(As an aside, this is the first post I have put together using the damn block editor, as for some reason classic editor seems to have disappeared overnight and blocks have been forced upon me. I hate them, and just hope that this post comes out looking ok….)

Christmas on the Ramblings!

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Tomorrow you’ll all no doubt be merrily opening parcels and spending time with friends or family or pets or on your own if that’s what you like! We’ll be having a family day here, and I hope to grab some time to spend with one of my favourite festive stories – “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas.

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I have a beautiful little edition of this tale, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, and the drawings perfectly complement the text – I highly recommend it to anyone with a love of words, pictures and Christmas. There is a wonderful recording of Thomas reading the story which you can have a look at here:

Also, one of my favourite musicians, the Welshman John Cale, wrote a magnificent song of the same title which was on “Vintage Violence”, his first proper solo album. Here’s a later rendering of it:

I hope whatever you’re doing over the festive season, it brings you joy; Happy Christmas from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings!

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

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In memory of Lou Reed – the words seem apt somehow…

Do not go gentle into that good night
  by Dylan Thomas   

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And even more apt as performed by his long-term colleague and sparring partner, John Cale:

Dylan Thomas and John Cale

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Today is the birthday of the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. He’s almost better known nowadays for his rollicking life rather than his verse, but his poetry is quite lovely, and “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” is essential yuletide reading – try and track down the version with beautiful Edward Ardizzone drawings.

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One of my favourite musicians, the immensely talented genius that is John Cale, made a sequence of songs based on Thomas’ poems called “The Falklands Suite” which was released on an album called “Words for the Dying” back in 1989. It’s an amazingly powerful and moving piece, much of which was recorded in Russia owing I think to producer Brian Eno’s connections.

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Here is my favourite track, “Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed” performed by Cale and an orchestra in 1988:

ETA: And here is a recording of Dylan himself reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.

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