Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now Then, About My Welsh Walkabout

I spent a glorious part of my UK time hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail in southern Wales. It is the island's only national park on the coast, which I found surprising. Still, what else could beat this 190-mile trail, overlooking the St. George's and Bristol Channels, to the Celtic Sea, to the Atlantic Ocean?

Sometimes the trail wandered through coastal woods so set in an unknown time, illuminated by another world's light, that Welsh mythology seemed entirely possible.

Most times though, the trail hovered at the edge of the cliffs looking out onto the water.

Whenever there was a set of footholds or stairs leading down a cliff to a beach, the trail signs obligingly pointed it out for an arduous but worthwhile detour. What was so truly amazing about views and visits down to various beaches was the difference between high and low tides. At most beaches I know, the difference was simply several yards more or less of sand.
Not here.

This set of stairs, unusually formal for its setting, simply disappeared at a certain point during the tide. I so longed to sit there like Tiger Lily and let the sea rise to my throat.

This spectacular formation, accessible only at low tide, looked like where the world began, with a dark drill-bit heart and waves of golden rock undulating in a perfect display of centrifugal force, the most fluid, transitional movement caught in the hardest, most ancient substance.

More to come (and with apologies for the layout) . . .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Please Let Me Shout: My Photo on The New Yorker's Book Bench Blog!

The New Yorker's The Book Bench has had a great feature this summer, with contributed photographs from around the world focusing on the summertime pleasure of books and reading. My Welsh bookshop photograph, which all of you trendsetting people saw first on my blog, is the August 13th entry there.

And while we're on the subject of the manifold talents of the Rummage clan, Intrepid Theorist, one of the Chocolates, is the focus of an article in Science Magazine.

I will let you quietly guess in your head which is the greater honor. (Hey . . .)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Summer Vacation Book Report

Vacation time travel is best if you end up behind where you started.

My time in England and Wales began smack in the 21st century with a presentation on semantics and content architecture at University College London. It ended smack in the 18th century with an antiquarian edition of The History of Sir Charles Grandison from Charing Cross Road. Most definitely the right direction!

Vision of the Future (Hint: It's broken.)
Blackwell's bookshop in London has the famous Espresso "books on demand" machine. The first image shows the "Books on Demand" center with its samples on display. The second is a close-up of the machine itself. You might not be able to see the sign saying that it's broken.

Vision of the Past
This little bookshop in Wales had sedimentary layers of books, just like the rock formations there did. It was the hidden treasure in a town with several antiseptic bookstores. This shop had odd hours, delightfully treacherous aisles snaking between stacks and layers of books, and a knowledgeable and charming owner who smelled gently of liquor early in the morning. The one other customer in the store turned around and sent huge piles of books tumbling from several directions. I bought my book of Welsh fables here.

What I Read on My Summer Vacation
I read my first No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel on my Kindle while on my Welsh walkabout. I was predisposed to like it because a friend recommended the series and because the possessive is always used correctly. This was probably an overwrought vacation reaction, but it reminded me a little of Trollope in its style, at once masterly and deceptively simple.

I also looked for a book that I would never see in the United States. My find this time was Madresfield, a historical biography of the house that inspired Evelyn Waugh to write Brideshead Revisited and that was subject to the lawsuit that inspired Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Bleak House (a very very favorite novel). I never imagined those two authors in the same sentence, let alone the same house!

Alas, now I am reading my bills for my trip.