What follows is a novel extract from a time slip novel I am writing. I am unsure of its worth and whether i will use it. There are, as usual,bits of me in here but the mother and daughter crossover so thattheir experiences are wholly their own in the novel. Time slips are my favourite type of novels. They satisfy my passion for history and always offer a solution for the protagonist; In as much we look to our personal pasts and our shared social-historical pasts and ask the questionsof who we are and where are we going. My favourite Time Slip Novel is A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley. At 10, I fell in love with the Babingtons much in the same way I fell in love with the fictional John of Gaunt in Katherine by Anya Seton when I was fourteen. Moody Richard in Seton’s novel Green Darkness never quite measures up to these; but Seton left me with a life long passion for medieval history and later, Literature.
Alltwen Chapter 1
It’s raining. I’m wet through to my skin. The deluge is relentless. The track is muddy beneath my feet. I’m walking towards the crossroads towards Capel Salem. The sky is as leaden as my legs as the mud clings to my dress. The chapel is deserted, the windows like blank eyes black against the whitewashed stone walls. I hear a noise, a creak. I’ve heard it before, many times. I recognise it. I know what I will see before I see it. Bare feet, misshapen blue livid scars dripping rain and dried blood. His legs covered in sodden rags. The corpse swings on the rope and I’m grief stricken. I sink to my knees. My cries are lost drowned by rain whipped on the winter breeze. It was not supposed to be like this. It wasn’t meant to happen like this. I call out his name to the skies, can he hear me. I look up. He beckons to me, calls to me I hear his name on the wind. The rain is torrential now as he reaches out to me and calls me. I hear his whisper on my neck, I feel his arm wind around my neck feel his bony fingers thread through my wild hair he turns me to face him. His mouth opens to kiss me……..
My scream ripped through the stone walls of the house. Sweating I reached for the light. “Oh not again, cariad.” My mother smoothed back my hair from my face. “Here. Take a drink. This old flu has got you in its grips. Was it that man, again?” I nodded. The man had been a frequent visitor to my dreams for as long as I could remember. He had become more sinister though, more threatening drawing me though I did not want to go. “All very gothic.” I thought weeks later, when I was much recovered.
I was six when I first saw Alltwen, and my memories now are hazy, but wood smoke and dust predominate with dark wood and the smell of polish and old lady. My mother’s great- great-someone — I know now it was her aunt— greeted us at the door. I was sent to scatter feed for the chickens and to search for eggs in the nesting boxes. Then I was walked up the lanes, a maze of hedges to meet Chestnut, the farm horse. He had been used for pulling an old fashioned trap. Now he was retired in an orchard, with Dai Donkey for company. My great-great-great aunt pulled carrots, sugar and an apple from her apron pockets, laughing as the old animals dribbled over my palm. Dad handed me a great white handkerchief and wiped my hands. “It’s all right,” he said laughing, “It’s only donkey spit. You’ll survive.” He showed me how to suck honey from the honeysuckle stamens and we found wild strawberries growing in the lane. He sang a song about bees and honeysuckle and hand in hand with my parents I walked slowly back to the farmhouse as they swung me between their arms. I saw a rush of green and the sun was hot on my face and the sky swapped places with the grass; blue- on- green -on -blue –on- green- on -tarmac. Ouch.
The old woman cackled. “Everything’s topsy-turvy until it rights itself.” Aunty ‘Harad, brushed the dust from my smocked dress and kissed me on my cheek. “Dere, come on,” she said in Welsh. “Let’s go home and have a proper tea.”
In the kitchen, she gave me a toasting fork with a long, thin, brass, handle and a cloth to keep me from burning. While she dished up fruit cake, Welsh cakes and thin bread and butter, I toasted shop bought crumpets and teacakes. They swam in melted salted butter that was tangy on my tongue. Full and greasy I slept in the back of our Mini 1000 as dad drove home. Alltwen had smelled of grass and cows and horses so different to the town that smelled of diesel petrol and salt. But I soon forgot the sweetness of the honeysuckle and strawberries, the gentleness of the old woman’s touch as she had brushed the dust from my clothes, and almost forgot the caress of her hand as she gifted me with eggs – nut brown and warm, “for your breakfast bach, with some homemade bread.”
When I saw Alltwen the first time, the old woman’s certainty that I would return, unnerved me – Frightened me almost. Ddoi di nol, she said in Welsh. “You will return.” She quoted a proverb or a saying or something: Mae’n well troi’n alltud ambell dro, a mynd o Gymru, fach ymhell, er mwyn cael dod i Gymru’n ol a medru caru Cymru’n well. She kissed me then on the cheek. I was told to say “Da bo ti” – goodbye in Welsh,which literally translate means, “Good be with you.” Then I started dreaming about the man.
It was getting on for three years,since dad had died when I was eleven,and the credit crunch was more than nibbling at our lives. Mum was working longer hours, she had taken on more editing jobs, but it still wasn’t enough like to maintain the house, not to pay the mortgage and stuff. Life was just too expensive. Then the old woman, Mum’s Great Great Aunt Angharad died; and the solicitor’s letter arrived. Mum owned a small holding on the wrong side of the Loughor River!
“Mam we can’t move there we can’t.” Daf’s face was horrified. “It’s Scarlet’s territory.”Daf is a dedicated Osprey fan. “You can still go to matches,” Mum said. “It’s only down the M4.”
“What about school? What about my friends?” He wailed.
“Mam,” I clutched her sleeve, “can’t you just sell the old place? It’s bound to be a wreck, and damp.You could sell it and….” My mother interrupted me
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I knew that I would own Alltwen one day – it’s always been entailed to the girls in the family – I don’t want to be the daughter who sells the small holding. I have to hold on to it. I’m ready for a change you two. It’s not that far from Swansea you can go to school in Carmarthen or Llanelli…”
“You’ll love it,” Mam had said, “I know you will.” But Dafydd and I were unconvinced. I mean I know it had been hard like for my mam but life was hard for us too. We all missed dad but mum hadn’t idea what it was like to lose a parent. None at all. I rarely dreamed about dad. Mam said that if she had a problem she would dream about dad and she’d get an answer. “Rubbish!” I thought. But this time she had the dream answer!
“You’ve thought of everything haven’t you, Mam?” I could hear the bitterness in my own voice.Mam took my hand. I’m sorry. My mind is made up. And besides, one day Alltwen will be yours,Rebeccah Angharad.”
A scrap from the diary of Hannah Thomas written in 1885 found in the attic of Alltwen.
Ar lan y môr mae rhosys cochion
Ar lan y môr mae lilis gwynion
Ar lan y môr mae ‘nghariad inne
Yn cysgu’r nos a chodi’r bore.
Ar lan y môr mae carreg wastad
Lle bum yn siarad gair â’m cariad
O amgylch hon fe dyf y lili
Ac ambell sbrigyn o rosmari.
Ar lan y môr mae cerrig gleision,
Ar lan y môr mae blodau’r meibion,
Ar lan y môr mae pob rhinweddau,
Ar lan y môr mae nghariad inne.
Tros y môr y mae fy ngalon,
Tros y môr y mae f’ochneidion,
Tros y môr mae f’anwylyd
Sy’n fy meddwl i bob munud.
My father sang this song of love and grief for my mother.I sang it once for a boy called Ifan and the lost child that I was. I sang my own daughter to sleep witha song if lost love across the sea. It’s hard now, looking back at the end of my life. My love for Ifan once so sharp, – filled with longing and grief – has dulled, like an ache in my bones – not quite gone – always there. And yet I remember moments as vivid as the first snowdrops or daffodils and the scent of danger in the night hills.
I am no historian, no expert. I was unusual in that Nhad taught me to read and write an English hand. The squires, though born here, did not speak our language, and all legal and commercial business was conducted in that language. Nhad gradually realised that I would inherit the Hafod, and he had no choice but to teach me to read and write the language of landowners – for that is what they were, then. But I rush ahead of myself, my thoughts like unruly children at Sunday school, trying to find trefn – order, trying to put events in order. Order, public order, justice and natural justice cyfiawnder y werin – Justice for ordinary people perhaps at the expense of compassion – trugaredd. Nhad showed none to me, but I retained Alltwen. I made it profitable, and have passed it to my descendants.
My father wanted to call the homestead Rhos Mair – after my mother, Elin Mair. Nhad was not a man given to fairy tales; he preferred The Bible, the word of God – Gair Duw but Martha, Tada’s sister and our housekeeper made a fairy-tale of my birth. I have no recollection of being told the story, but I grew up knowing and believing it nonetheless. She told me how one June night the tylwyth teg came dancing in the moonlight. The night was perfumed with Rhos Mair- Rosemary. The tylwyth teg danced under the moon, singing a song of love and of the sea. They left a child, lily- white wrapped in brethyn – homespun beneath a rosemary bush; but in exchange, the tylwyth teg stole Elin-Mair, my father’s true love, to live in the woods above Cwmbach. The tylwyth teg captured her to sing to their children at night because she had such a sweet voice that she could charm the babies to sleep – huno’r plant bach. I always knew that she had died in childbirth, but I was still comforted by the thought that my mothers voice still sang somewhere.
My father’s version was that Elin Mair had died giving birth to me; and that she had returned to her maker and was in heaven with Arglwydd Iesu – the Lord Jesus. I would not tell him that I preferred Martha’s version. However, I know now that both versions concealed a story of grief. While Martha planted a kitchen garden filled with herbs, Nhad worked ceaselessly on the small holding. His father, my tadcu, would arrive with my father’s brothers, to help plough and harvest. Only four fields but tada had read of crop rotation as a young boy.
Looking back now, it’s almost as if the house spoke to me. I don’t mean that I heard voices or had conversations, or anything like that; more that, over time, this farmhouse gave me a sense of acceptance and belonging, a sense of a place. And that is what I would wish for anyone who is unhappy here. That they would find their place in the world, that Alltwen would help them to find their place in this world. This world is a place of beauty and harshness, though thing have changed and yesterday’s criminals are pardoned. Some even found wealth, so were they good or bad? Nhad said they were bad men for breaking the law; others said that they were heroes. The chapel condemned them as sinners.
Nhad loved me of that there is no doubt, but he made mistakes wasn’t brave enough and left me to be exposed to censure. I remember the day that I was expelled from the congregation, watching the sly glances of the village girls. I was no worse than them; my only sin was that I had been caught out. Plentyn y clawdd… illegitimate, bastard. I heard their whispers, saw the censure in the men’s’ eyes. “Hannah Mair Thomas. It is my duty to inform you, that you are no longer welcome in this house of God; that you are in thought word and deed a sinner and a fallen woman. It would be better that the bas… child you bear be born dead.” At this I lifted my chin. The deacon was too cowardly to speak the words that he really meant to say. He continued, “From now on, you are dead to us, your brothers and sisters in Christ. May God forgive you for the sin you bear, and the shame you bring to the holy community of Calfaria.”
I walked the length of the chapel aisle with my head held high. I would not let Glenys Jones or Anne Price see how their malicious smiles upset me. I did not look either at Huw Mab y Plas – the squire’s son. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he looked at me full of anguish. That he loved me I knew; but even he was not brave enough to save me. As I reached the door I heard my father, the head deacon say, “Our sister is dead to us. Let us go forth in the name of Christ.” The two men who professed to love me would not save me while a third, the man I loved, languished in Carmarthen gaol waiting to hang.
My father did not throw me from his house. He gave me shelter and food, as one would a stray animal. That is how he thought of me I suppose, a sheep that had strayed, but he had effectively closed the gate to love. What else could he do as chief deacon? He softened towards my daughter Rebekah, after she was born. But of course she could not be accepted into the chapel. We lived a half-life of silence, until his death when I inherited the small holding.