Monday, February 7, 2011


I've been writing about the places to which I find myself returning.  Here's an adapted extract; perhaps one day I'll see you there.
On the low sloping cliff to the north of Porthgain is a white tower. It is made from field stone, about the size of a small lime kiln, mortared with mud and covered in a flaking wash. The tower is one of two that indicate safe passage to the harbour. A few years ago its starboard sister was struck by lightning – the locals rebuilt it. For in a heavy sea and squalling wind the fishermen need these towers still.
I walked there recently, alone on a December morning. I’d forgotten a scarf, my ears were sore in the wind. As I climbed the mud sticky path a flock of curlew rose from the sand by the slip. They flew to the crumbling walls of the stone hoppers that loom over the quay. The hoppers, a relic of Porthgain’s industrial past, once stored the graded stones that were loaded onto sloops bound for Liverpool and Newport.
Looking north, I felt the curve of the ocean folding over my shoulder. The light at Strumble was flashing and I could make out Pwll Deri hostel beneath Garn Fawr, the big cairn. That morning the sea was flat, a gunmetal grey darkening to a pewter horizon, lobster pots bobbed in the marbled swell. I have stood there, in other Decembers, as the waves swallow the cliffs and clots of spume settled as if it were snow on the dun grass.
In the lee of the stack I thought of the times I have come here; the years of looking, of painting the view, counting boats; that first time, with Jane. And I remembered too, our boys running round it; how we said it was the magic tower; five times for luck, five more to earn a wish. They used to hold their coats like kites above their heads, screaming and leaning into the breeze.
As I made to leave I had a sudden urge to measure the tower’s circumference; holding my arms at full stretch I sidled round, hugging the pock marked stones. Its girth is four and half spans and I have the whitewash on my fleece to prove it. 

Two gulls were circling above; they were black-backs, dismissive of the kestrel that hovered in the faint ridge lift; its tail held flat for balance; down and into the wind.


  1. Redolent of Ted Hughes at his best... and that's praise indeed.

  2. Well, I don't know about it being redolent of Ted Hughes, can't get on with him myself, but I do know good writing when I read it, and enjoy it, so thank you.

  3. I enjoyed that very much, powerful understated language that gives an accurate picture...and I particularly liked the description of your boys...the coats held out like kites.
    Thank you.

    Oh and the new layout looks good too!

  4. the sea has such a presence in this, it feels as though the enormity of it is mirroring the enormity of the inner experience you have in these places.

    Coats like kites - I did this with my brother at Corrin's tower on Peel Hill recently, another windswept, sea-thwarted place where a lone turret offers reassurance.

  5. Hi Mark,

    Hope you make it to Northumberland this year! Love the post and the big picture. Fantastic. Two children have just arrived from school screaming and shouting so must dash! Maybe we'll all see you? Hope so.........

  6. Beautiful writing.
    Porthgain is a place I love too.

  7. I live far from the sea, and miss it. Your piece took me right there. There's a tactile quality to your writing that grabs the moment. Thank you ~Fiona

  8. Great post and lovely narrative. Pleased to discovered you and happy to follow.

    Tony Jones

  9. Very interesting description.

  10. I've never been there...... but I can visualise it all and feel the cold. Great writing.

    So weird, my word verification is TEDIST... spooky