Iain Sinclair patterns a lifespan of anecdotes and memories into a wordscape tapestry of the Gower, wefted tighter by the overarching threaded image of the Ceri Richardson’s Black Apple, painted by an artist who also lived on that strange bleached razorshell peninsula where Sinclair himself grew up.
I’d never heard of Ceri Richardson before I read this book.
I look at their work and I’m reminded of Graham Sutherland – they tightly bind an edgy undercurrent of darkness in some of the paintings, some kernel of destruction. Both born in the same year, living in Wales at some time of their lives. Same twisted mix of nature and chaotic lathing. This Sutherland painting could be the Midlands. And he was my own dark master of the first hint of psychogeographical leanings, gazing horribly rapt in the collaborative building of the new Coventry cathedral at its cross of nails.
And back I’m sent to Sinclair, and his own anti-glint of mad and dark.
Black Apples of the Gower is a gentler work than Sinclair’s London-tomes. Washed more by the light and sea of his childhood haunt near Horton. A serious of gentle ambles through space and time to re-explore his older Selves, and to hold them and the place up for viewing through other lenses – the eponymous Black Apples, Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins, right back to the Red Lady of Paviland. Either the place or the author could carry it into other heart – my lifelong love-affair with the Gower gave the book appeal for me. Over my 40 odd years I’ve explored all round the twisted intrigues of its coast from sandy Caswell where I started to the bitter bright saltmarsh of Llandmadoc. This is where I fornow finish the Gower, stood in the darkening inrush of November dusk and sea on some visceral sheet of rock that felt like the eternal lung of the world.
Halfway up the bank, which memory has made much higher and steeper than it proved when I revisited it recently, something strange and unnerving happened, It was laready a frosty night, but I suddenly felt an icy waft as cold as if it had come from the Ice Age itself. My breath condensed even more voluminously on the air as the sudden rush of deep cold cascaded over thebank and through the trees, stirring the leaves. I waited as it passed; and then I noticed something in the quality of the silence – a prescence, vasy and hollow, over the bank. I grabbed hold of a sapling and climbed to the crest, where I found myself staring down a more or less vertical drop into the biggest, blackest abyss that I had ever seen.
Underlands – Ted Nield
Underlands (Ted Nield) is a darker book. Dark as the obsidian ocean basins; as the deep chasms of earth’s bones; as man’s aqcuisition of this skeleton he treads underfoot. But still a finely compelling read. Loosely defined, it’s a book on the geology of a few spots well-beloved of the author. Picking into it, strike that – it’s psychogeology. The sense of solidity of our skeletal stone is a person in itself – an implacable witch of space and time. And the author’s ideas of environmental concern woven through the stone-words do show man’s scarring of this carapace, but also our small futility. There is bitter black, here in the chapter on the Aberfan disaster; there is leavening light here too, of deeptimelost oolitic oceans – each unsettles, each differently. A good book for lovers of stones and travel writing.