Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Coming up: Exclusive extracts from John Redhead's 'Colonists Out'

Do not go gently into that good night: Photo David Dear©

" But there again as all my friends say, “This is Nant Peris.” “The Happy Valley.” Sure, happy! I have always referred to Nant Peris as the village with a cloud on top. Planet Peris has a micro-climate. Due to its position underneath the Snowdonia Massif (Yr Wyddfa), any cloud on the summit would cast its dark shadow down the hill to Nant and sink it to the chilled valley floor. The steep mountain sides imprison the village to dull days and early darkness. Yet only two miles away, Llanberis can be bathed in sunshine, and Bangor, seven miles away, tropical in comparison. Five weeks during winter the sun never rises above the ridge. There is no sun. There is no sunset. My realization that there is no horizon from which to project one’s thoughts seems to close the deal. You are ‘dug in’. People seem to live in their chimneys, and the only sky they know is tuned into a digital box, straight to their brain! Permafrost of the soul! It is hardly surprising then that any communication has to be fought for. Hello, where are you Nant Perishers?

I am sure that the Sun just being out of reach and out of sight has its effect. Also, unable to project to a distant horizon, I am sure boxes in your thoughts, cuts off the world beyond the perimeter and makes one introverted. Left unchecked in the passage of time, disturbed! I joke, but there is something real here - the mountains are dangerous in more ways than one. You have to know when to get out! Most don’t. 

Augustus John wrote - “ The changing skies reflect our temper more accurately than could a splendid but perpetual blue.”   living close by he must have travelled through Nant, and might well have changed his observation to - “The changing skies of Nant Peris reflect the savagery of our species...”

Yr Wyddfa is the highest and busiest mountain in Wales and was first climbed by botanist Thomas Johnson in 1639 although there is mention of ‘a triumphal fair upon this our chief of mountains’, after Edward the First’s conquest of Wales in 1284. The original hotel on the summit was replaced by a restaurant designed by Clough Williams-Ellis of Portmeirion fame and bore a plaque that read – ‘Wanderer, wait a moment; consider God’s wondrous work and your short journey on this earth’.

The man had a penchant for splendor and believed that architectural good manners need not lead to a site’s defilement! After Prince Charles called the summit café, ‘the highest slum in Britain’, it was demolished. Hafod Eryri, a controversial new café and visitor centre was designed and built and opened in 2009. It is creatively embellished with a new, slightly more secular couplet by Welsh national poet Gwyn Thomas –  ‘The summit of Snowdon: you are here, nearer to heaven’.

The philanthropist and mountaineer, Edmund Hillary trained here for his ‘even nearer to heaven’ ascent of Everest and the first E8 and E9 climbs in Britain were recorded here on the ominous Black Cliff of Clogwyn Dur Arddu.

I had some friends from Ireland stay for a few nights. They arrived in Nant on a bleak dark evening, so had no idea of God’s wondrous work, proximity to Heaven or the geological ‘lay of the land’. The next morning they looked out of the skylight in the bedroom and much to their entertainment could only see mountain. Steep sided mountain! They looked to the top of the skylight - no sky, just more mountain! Jokes were made about the house having fallen over in the night, like in some Winnie The Poo story! They laughed all the way back to the Emerald Isle. ‘Lift up my eyes to the hills’ means the iris is buckling-in under the force of its near weight! '

Who shot JR?... In this case Keith Robertson.John Redhead on some outrageous Cloggy thing.K Robertson©

This Friday,the first of two extracts from John Redhead's forthcoming new book...... Colonists Out.
A work that will no doubt prove controversial as the author deals with the darker elements that run through communities where distinct cultures and values clash. In part one, the author describes his experiences within a community where the dead hand of pious Non Conformism stirs a potent brew of mistrust and resentment of outsiders. The following week finds the Redhead family in slightly warmer climes. Now living in the Languedoc region of Southern France,the author describes a culture which pulsates with atavistic customs and values. Culturally a million miles from cold,dour North Wales....or is it ?

Thanks to Keith Robertson and David Dear for the photographs