Welsh sketches. From Aberystwyth with love

Aberystwyth is a coastal university town in Ceredigion county of West Wales. If you decide to go there, please do not forget to bring a bit of cultural curiosity and a sense of humour with you. Be ready to meet nice locals there: witches, ghosts, deities, fiends, druids and courageous detectives investigating mysterious crimes. Louie Knight is one of them. He is the best private detective in the town and the main character of the Aberystwyth noir novels by British writer Malcolm Pryce.

In the fifth book of the series, Louie deals with the long-time disappearance of Ninochka, a daughter of Uncle Vanya, a Soviet museum worker from Ukrainian Hughesovka where Ninochka was possessed by the spirit of a dead Welsh girl named Gethsemane Walters. Uncle Vanya, or the man who introduced himself in that way, came to Aberystwyth to ask Louis and his business partner Calamity for help in search of Ninochka. As a fee, uncle Vanya suggested a very valuable sock worn by Yuri Gagarin during his first flight into space.

‘What a story!’ you may say. And you will be right. The Aberystwyth noir novels nicely convey the atmosphere of the town. They can be a good start for learning about its weather, places and legends.

Once you are in the town, go to the Pier from where a beautiful view of the promenade and the Constitution Hill is revealed. The sounds of the blowing wind and crashing waves may combine with the songs of starlings and cries of seagulls there. In evenings if the weather is clear, wonderful sunsets can be seen from the seafront.

In late November, when I happened to be in Aberystwyth, the weather was mild and changeable. Sometimes it was sunny, sometimes rainy, sometimes cloudy, sometimes windy, but always welcoming.

Rain or shine, people walk along the Prom edged by colourful buildings of the student dorms, hotels, pubs, cafés and small workshops. Once you get to the northern end of the Prom, kick the bar. ‘Kick the Bar’ is a local ritual of kicking the railings performed by students to attract love. However, nowadays not only students but also town dwellers of different ages kick the bar as tradition says.

From the northern end of the Prom, you can easily get to the top of the Constitution Hill either by following a winding path surrounded by small shrubs or by using the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway. Students enjoy going up Consti, as they call the Hill lovingly, and observing picturesque sunsets in evenings and looking at stars shining at nights from the top. One sunny morning after the rain, I was enjoying coffee with the fresh air and the gorgeous view of the bay in the Consti café on the top of the hill. Time stopped and it was nice just to live the moment.

Continue reading “Welsh sketches. From Aberystwyth with love”

An imaginative journey in the pandemic world

I wrote this poem during the third lockdown in the UK. It reflects my experience of staying in one place and not crossing borders between countries for more than a year. The poem has no rhymes but who cares about rhymes nowadays. 
 
An imaginative journey in the pandemic world

I am on my way to St. Michael’s Mount
The train is moving from the North to the South of England
I see green fields and fast-flowing hill streams
But then I cross the English Channel 
(or la Manche as they call it in France)
And I am thinking about people who cross it 
Day by day risking their lives
And where am I going?
To St. Michael’s Mount 
(or le Mont-Saint-Michel as they call it in France)
That welcomes pilgrims with the rise and fall of tides.

Alexandrina Vanke
18th March 2021