December 27th, 2012
I struggled with what little I remembered about Penmynydd, trying to recall what my mother had told me, feeling apprehensive and wondering why I felt this strange compulsion to see the old family home once again before leaving the island.
‘Aye, he was a bit of a lad for the women,’ Llywelyn interrupted my thoughts, bringing me sharply back to earth in Newborough.
‘Dafydd ap Gwilym,’ he replied, a smile spreading generously across his face. ”Oh, yes, he loved them – and he immortalised them in his verse. His Dyddgu will never die: she lives for ever in his poetry.’
‘I thought Morfudd was his great love? At least she was in the poems I’ve read.’
‘I think Dafydd ap Gwilym fell in love at the flutter of an eyelash,’ he winked and nodded conspiratorially, as though sharing a secret from bardic legend. ‘And they do say he was a lover without equal. The girls of Llanbadarn weren’t safe from him for a moment.’ Read the rest of this entry »
November 25th, 2012
Our decisions made, I had been persuaded to abandon my Franciscan disguise for as long as I remained in the relative safety of the farm. Huw went down to the kitchen so that he could tell his wife who I really was, what had been discussed and what we had decided to do. She blushed excitely when I followed Llywelyn into her kichen, dressed in the everyday clothes I had brought with me, an old-fashioned long tunic and jerkin.
‘Will you be staying tonight … er, … Owain?’ she asked, hesitating over my name, having spent the last few weeks addressing me as ‘Father’.
‘Yes, just for the one night,’ I said. ‘Llywelyn and I have decided to travel together and we’ll make for the ferry to the mainland tomorrow. We plan to be on our way soon after dawn.’ Read the rest of this entry »
November 18th, 2012
Huw ap Meurig would have taken the stairs two at a time had his knees permitted it, but twenty years of hard toil on the farm had taken their toll. So he was several steps behind us when we reached the loft, anxious to know what all the racket had been about. He told us he had been working in the lower meadow when he heard Llywelyn’s great shout and had come running as fast as his legs would carry him, leaving his sons to get on with the scything. The three of us crowded into the little room where, until not ten minutes ago, Llywelyn thought he had shared his pallet with an itinerant Franciscan monk. Read the rest of this entry »
November 11th, 2012
I wasn’t at all sure where to begin but honesty seemed to be the best strategy.
‘I’m not a monk’ I said quietly.
‘Huh,’ Llywelyn grunted. ‘No, of course you’re not. I didn’t think you were. Not for one minute. Never think of joining a troupe of performing players, will you? You’re nothing of an actor.’ All was quiet for a moment but for the sound of a chaffinch trilling loudly on a single note somewhere down towards the lower meadow. ‘And I’ll tell you something else,’ he added, ‘Huw ap Meurig wasn’t taken in either. He told me so last night.’
‘Really? Then why has he never said anything?’
‘Protecting his daughters’ reputations, like as not,’ Llywelyn said, grinning. ‘As long as they thought you were in holy orders, they wouldn’t make a play for you. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to! At least, that’s what Huw said.’
I smiled. In truth, I couldn’t help but smile for Llywelyn had an infectious grin from ear to ear. Then suddenly, he was serious again. ‘But I’ll tell you what’s irritating me beyond measure,’ he said. ‘I think I know you. You have a look about you and, if I haven’t met you before, then as sure as you’re standing there half-dressed, I know someone who looks very like you. But I’m damned if I know who.’ Read the rest of this entry »
November 4th, 2012
I can’t pretend that I enjoy sharing my ablutions with another man – not that I have much experience of sharing them with a woman! But I must wash my face and neck each day and, for that purpose, Huw ap Meurig’s wife would always set out a bowlful of warm water and a towel for my use, which she would leave in the yard below the loft where I have been sleeping. The towel was always clean for Huw’s wife takes a great pride in the whiteness of her linen and is forever draping wet towels and sheets to dry over the bushes behind the kichen garden. Well, on dry days of course. I was never expected to share the water or the towel with Huw or either of his sons. Read the rest of this entry »
November 1st, 2012
I have neglected my Journal unforgivably of late but for the best of reasons and I must set them down.
After my visit to Aberffraw in July, I arrived back at the farm late that night, weary after the walk. I had tarried too long, leaning my back against a rock on the headland, gazing out across the Menai towards the tall peaks of Eryri on the far horizon, lulled in my daydream by the constant, age-old song of the sea. In my mind’s eye, it was not difficult to imagine the daily life of the ‘Llys’ of long ago, the great court of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last of the Princes of Gwynedd. I must have fallen asleep because the sun was slipping away to the west when I awoke. I realised that I must move quickly if I was not to spend an uncomfortable night under a hedge on the road back to Malltraeth. Read the rest of this entry »
September 14th, 2012
Aberffraw! The very name conjures up the sights and sounds of the court of the Welsh Princes. Here Llywelyn ab Iorwerth presided over great gatherings. Here Llywelyn ap Gruffydd would mete out justice or dispense largesse. I can almost see the rich tapestries, colours, textures. I fancy I hear the tones and rhythms of the harp, the crwth and the tabor, the sounds of mirth, warmth and good fellowship. There is nothing now but the smell of the salt sea on the breeze where once there was the scent of meadowsweet strewn on floors, the tantalising smells of roasting meats, goose and suckling pig. That must have been how it was when the great Welsh Princes kept court here many years before I was born, in the time before the English came. Read the rest of this entry »
September 6th, 2012
I still tarry on the island, remaining here as the guest of my farmer friend, Huw ap Meurig, though it continues to be something of an effort not to pay court to any one of his lovely daughters! But I have managed to resist that temptation, which is just as well – I cannot imagine what would happen if a Black Friar tried to slip and arm around Gwenno’s waist or snatch a kiss from Rhiannon! Read the rest of this entry »
August 29th, 2012
I have tarried in Llanddwyn. I found good lodging near Malltraeth with a farmer, his goodwife, three lovely daughters and two strapping sons, young men with strong backs who will be a great blessing to their father as he grows older and can do less work on the land. In truth, I confess I could have pleasured any one of the girls but I had no wish to confide in them. They took me for a pilgrim and made me welcome and that was enough. So, having prayed my fill to the patron saint of Welsh lovers, I must move on. Read the rest of this entry »
July 26th, 2012
She bade me welcome, my lovely island. Croeso! she whispered to me on the breeze and I was the only one who heard her. Croeso! Her word of welcome was in the sound of the keel hissing on the shingle at Aber Menai as the boat was pulled up out of the water. Read the rest of this entry »