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LAST weekend, the wife

and I decided to go to a trip to Ponterwyd. It was just a spur of the moment

decision to take advantage of the rather pleasant weather and idle up country, possibly popping in to see the wife’s sister, Pam, and her latest husband (number three, maybe four) on the way. So, it was that having stocked up on paste sandwiches and with flask to hand, we headed off in some watery morning sunshine and wound our way up country with no great haste. Having packed enough food

to feed a small army, or at least to tide us over until the Four Horsemen had ridden by should the Last Trump sound, we idled along. I had forgotten just how few

settlements ages there were strung out along the A44. But what I had really forgotten was just how glorious the countryside was in autumn. It’s as though the Almighty has

decided that chlorophyll is sinful and that Wales’ virtue should be tested by having a surfeit of it. The horizon was intermittently dotted with slowly turning wind turbines on exposed ridges. The blades didn’t seem to be working very hard in the sharp breeze and I wondered whether they were collectively generating enough power to boil a single kettle in Capel Bangor. It’s funny that, I suppose.

You see these wonders of modern technology that are saving the planet and all you can think is – are they actually working? Well, right after you think: ‘bloody hell, they’re hideous’.

I remember back in the

early 1970s there were lots of programmes on TV extolling the virtues of ecologically friendly power. Many were the times I watched Raymond Baxter on Tomorrow’s World, explaining how we were all – more or less – doomed. It being the 1970s, there was the nagging suspicion that the apocalypse might have happened and nobody had noticed. Many people were interviewed

on the telly and some of them had interesting names like Moonchild Small Banana (formerly, the Hon Crispin Crichton-Browne OE). I bet that when they were dreaming of wind power, they had in mind small settlements of yurts tucked away in rolling green countryside (much like that we were driving through) where people worshipped the Moon Goddess and where the power of wind was transmitted into dimly flickering light by an edifice somewhat like Windy Miller’s windmill in Camberwick Green. I wondered what they would

have thought of the brutalist forms stomping across the ridgeline of distant escarpments like so many Martian war machines from The War of the Worlds. Concrete pillars disfigured the view and blades slowly sliced the air into so many watts of energy per revolution. It reminded me that the

appearance of a wart on the Mona Lisa would be far more shocking than that of a wound on a soldier. It occurred to me that if these

things were really necessary to save the world, I wondered what would be left of it worth saving if there were many more of them.

Draenog and the rise of the undead IT’S NOT that Draenog does

not have anything better to do with his time, readers. I mean, I ask you! It’s Wednesday night in the

old sett, Draenog was sitting comfortably in his wing-backed chair with his feet up on a handy rabbit while sipping a particularly nice glass of Olde Toadwart IPA, when the phone rang. As the phone was brought to Draenog on a tray by his weasel-servant, Winston, he prepared to let fly a volley of invective at the person who had dared interrupt Draenog’s enjoyment of The Great British Bake Off. Well, readers, what about Benjamina’s mousse dilemma? Picking up the phone and taking

a deep breath, Draenog was instantly rendered mute by the fevered and desperate voice at the other end of the line. “It’s happened again,” Draenog’s

interlocutor gasped urgently. Draenog’s blood ran cold. “It’s all gone wrong,” the voice continued. “She’s come back!” Draenog swallowed and tried

to remain calm: “There is nothing to worry about,” he said with confidence he did not feel. “We have defeated the evil once before.” “But it’s far worse, this time

she’s…” The phone cut off suddenly and there was silence. Draenog felt a chill run up and

down his back, although it could have been fleas, and got Winston to fetch his overcoat, hat, and lamp. He looked out of the window into the autumnal night and saw nothing but bats flitting between the hedgerows and hazels. It was a clear night, illuminated by little pin pricks of

starlight and a bright moon. Draenog looked deep into

the shadows of the trees and saw nothing. Pulling on his gear and lighting

his lamp, Draenog ventured out into the woods. The night seemed suddenly a darker and colder place than usual. Draenog sauntered in and out of the pools of darkness around fallen tree trunks and made his way to the woodland community centre. Knocking thrice on the portal, an obliging stoat opened the door and took Draenog’s hat and coat. The hubbub of the crowd died

down as Draenog crossed the room. He nodded at the forest folk he recognised and acknowledged those whose relatives had passed through his digestive tract. A worried dormouse tugged at

Draenog’s fur. “Where will it all end, Draenog?” Draenog, looked down: “How it always ends, my friend: badly.” A nearby fox winked at Draenog

and drew his paw across his throat. Draenog glowered at the impudent vermin and took a seat in the front row.

The crowd came to a hushed

silence as a rabbit took the podium at the front of the room. “Predators and prey,” it began, “we are here to consider a threat to our very way of life.” He gestured to the large screen

behind him and a steel-eyed face framed with blonde hair appeared on the screen, its features caught in the moment frozen in a feral snarl. “Mr Draenog,” squeaked the

rabbit, “you are older than any of us. Has the evil one, in fact, returned?” The image unfroze and began

 


to utter a series of shrill squawks in front of an audience of moon-faced middle-aged men and brass-haired women. Occasionally, the audience would respond to a particularly shrill honking tone with applause that neared hysterical. Draenog listened to the words

being spoken with a shudder. Draenog was indeed the oldest of the forest’s denizens and he had heard words like this before. But something was different this time, he reached for his spectacles and things came into a sharper focus. As the speech on the screen

reached its conclusion, Draenog was semi-lost in reverie. Had it all come down to this? Draenog pondered. He looked about the room,

fallow deer, rabbits, dormice, house mice, rats, the odd cat, a brace of pheasants hanging around at the back looking for trouble. Draenog shook his head sadly. There was a pregnant silence

and Draenog realised all eyes were looking at him. “Mr Draenog,” said the rabbit at

the podium, “would you share your observations with us?” Draenog rose from his seat and made his way to the podium. “Predators and prey,” Draenog

began, “I can tell you that, despite appearances, this is not the evil one returned to torment the hard- working majority of woodland folk.” There was wild applause.

Draenog felt gloomy and waved for silence. After a few minutes and after a bang of a nearby weasel on the podium, Draenog brought the crowd to order.

      

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