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The Warp

Capel Y Ffyn

‘The starlings are chattering in the trees. They’re like a cocktail party. At intervals they leave the tree and whirl wildly through the air like socialites descending on a new arrival at a party. Wild anecdotes and chirpy compliments circulate among the trees.

‘I sit alone in the refectory of this monastery built by a Victorian divine and now partly in ruins. I’m back in the Black Mountains. A blazing fire in a small fireplace directs an intense heat for a few feet into the cloister towards me, lighting up fitfully its murky distances. Beside me splutters a tilly lamp.

‘In the distant obscurity, a glimmering candle or sometimes a torch through the darkness announces a visitor, then a sound I can’t at first identify signifies my supper being rolled in on a squeaky trolley from the far distant kitchen. A young sculptor comes in and plays records on an old gramophone. There is the “Ride of the Valkyries” sounding as if it was arranged for trombones and concertinas. Outside, the hills are voluptuous in the moonlight with a voluptuousness almost like the human body, as they “couch their beauties supine to the moon”.

‘It’s time to write down my aims in life. Life must be twopence coloured, not penny plain. “Passion is the element in which we live, without it we but vegetate.” “It is necessary to feel that we exist, even though in pain.”

‘There are two possible ideals. One is the city. One is the rustic:

“Hard by, a cottage chimney smokes

From betwixt two aged oaks

Where Corydon and Thirsis met

Are at their savoury dinner set.

‘But beside the life of the farm or cottage, with the nobility of belonging to the land itself, there is also life in the chateau with its roses and its music.

‘The background of country life is a regular one, and a domestic one, the divinity that we find in the simpler actions of the country, of the handling of horses and of other beasts, of the stirring of cream, the planting of trees and the clamour of starlings in the elms.’


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