Pieces of my world

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Beginning to see the light

Ok. A week ago, we went to Haworth. My record was seven trains in one day. Scratch that: today was EIGHT trains in one day (eight!!) Oddly enough, an entire day spent on trains was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had in a long time.

Wales is beautiful in ways I’d never imagined. The sweep of the silver coast under an iron grey sky. The myriad sea washing over a pebbled shore, foaming around wooden breakers which protrude from the water like the stumps of a child’s first lower teeth. The patchwork quilt of landscape, from the rolling hills, dotted with sheep, to the barren mountainside, at the crests flowered with purple bloom. Our tiny train traversed the U shaped valleys, cosseted between sheer ravine, down which the pure water trickles then gallops over ridged rock in small, but beautiful waterfalls. We skirted the dried up river bed, scalloped from the force of the water. In the distance, Conway Castle loomed, a stone beacon in a landscape awash with raw beauty. The sky overhead was Payne’s Grey, but as we inched further in, it relented to show peeps of cornflower blue, the fierce beat of the sun illuminating a landscape wild and abundant in foliage. If I had to coin a phrase to describe the glint of the sun on the fronds of grass, on the dense thicket, I would choose ‘Sheer Emerald’ or 'Dream in Green'. The billowing steam train to Portmadog propelled us past hillsides piled high with slate from the mines. We saw that the sheer mountainside, so barren to a distant viewer, actually harbours a whole plethora of plant life. As we inched higher and higher, we swept beside the ancient trees which graced the hillside. We were eyelevel with the very tops which danced in the breeze. So this, I thought, is a bird’s perspective. Below us, the river’s silver-grey ribbon coiled and meandered along the valley floor, hemmed with toy town houses and tiny tarmac strips of road, along which cars crawled with the demeanor of beetles.

Wales has a primitive beauty. Wales is inspiring. I am inspired. Who needs to go abroad when amazing landscapes are but a short train’s journey away?

My life over the last two years of college has been so full, what with doing 5 A levels and all of them weighty subjects, my music studies at the JRNCM and being part of the Hallé Youth Choir. Even last summer, I was constantly on the go: we visited Italy; we went to Scotland for a week; visited South France (Cannes; Nice; Villefrance) & Ajaccio, Corsica; there was the HYC Summer Residential Course at Stonyhurst and performing at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms (Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius). All this has been great- I've had unmissable experiences. But. It hasn't come without sacrifices- you can't have everything, right? That's what I realised today- I've missed it. I've missed spending time with my family. Last year, we didn't go out anywhere- how could I when I was studying/practicing music 7 days a week? So these outings now are doubly special. I'm seeing more of Britain, whilst bonding with my mum and brother. I'd forgotten what it is to relax: for two years I haven't stopped (except possibly for Christmas Day), due to self pressure and my (loathed) perfectionism. I hope that *if* I go to university, I can marry the two more: work intensely, but find time to relax and explore my own identity too. I feel in a way that during the course of these two years I haven't had time to sit back and reflect: I've been too occupied in keeping up with the mad carousel of my life. It was a lot to juggle and I've come close to snapping at times (particularly this year, which has been hard in numerous ways). I've got to try and seek better ways of dealing with it all *if* I pursue my studies further.

“Light is the language of photography, the soul of the world. There is no light without shadow, just as there is no happiness without pain.” [Isabel Allende- Portrait in Sepia]

I am currently reading two books: ‘Portrait in Sepia’ (which is utterly, fabulously MARVELOUS- if you haven’t read it, you are DEPRIVED. Go out and buy it RIGHT NOW), and ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce.

I confess: ‘Ulysses’ is lost on me. I have toiled through the grand total of seventy pages, by which time I would expect to have ‘eased into’ the author’s style. Apart from a few observant quotations which I like, I’m having difficulty keeping my mind on the page. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of ‘Stream of Consciousness’- I had to read ‘To the Lighthouse’ twice before I began to appreciate its beauty. I don’t even know who the main characters in ‘Ulysses’ are and that, after seventy odd pages, is frankly not condonable. How it can be ‘one of the supreme masterpieces’ is, at the minute, lost on me. I am bewildered by Joyce’s ‘leap frog’ approach, his descent into made up gibberish and lack of conventional punctuation.
Am I missing something?

Anyway, to go about things in typical topsy-turvy fashion, the title of this journal is significant in many ways:
1) Photography. The frames above are my first ever attempts at landscape photography, borrowing my brother's camera. I didn't think they turned out too bad, especially as they were taken from a moving train- motion is, to be frank, a bugger, not only for focussing, but getting the right shot, as foliage, pylons and other obstructions hinder the 'perfect shot'.

2) Reading the quote (above) in ‘Portrait in Sepia’ I was struck by a flash of inspiration and I just had to share it somewhere. Coincidentally it deals with light (I guess fate is just handing me a theme today…)
3) The title is one of my favourite tracks from ‘The Velvet Underground’.
4) Today has been enlightening in a number of ways, most importantly that it was the first time in a decade I’ve been to Wales. Not only this, but I realised that people and friends will let you down, but family is the most important thing in the world. My family is the most important thing in my world.


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