Alongside a massive pile of marking, two new books to add to the Cavern of Untouched Print that is my office (and flat): Tricia Sullivan's teen shopping-and-survival dystopian romp Maul, and Bernard O'Donoghue's Selected Poems, a lovely elegant Faber and Faber presentation.
I bought the O'Donoghue on the strength of Claire Connolly's paper, '"What a Revolution Was Here": Llandudno and Banal Nationalism' at the AWWE conference I was at last weekend - she read and analysed O'Donoghue's 'The Rainmaker', and I was hooked. Here's the first stanza:
In the café at Crewe, you can still feel
The old excitement of trains: a stranger's
Eye-contact, held guiltily too long.
But as the Bangor train-time approaches,
Gradually the glamorous melt away
For Lime Street, Euston or Piccadilly.
You take your seat alone, half-reading the paper.
I know Crewe station all too well, and there's no romanticism knocking around the dusty corners any more. On the contrary, it's the Bangor train where the romance occurs: speeding across the Cheshire plain, Beeston Castle a rude and sudden imposition on the flatness, then on to the first glimpses of the Dee and the Wirral, an abandoned cruise ship rusting on the mud flats, then the sea proper, and the mountains.
Faded holiday resorts flit past (or worse, stay in your sight for hours), signs and conversations start appearing in Welsh, the locations of all the novels and histories I've read start to manifest themselves: Emyr Humphreys' North-East, Conwy, Llandudno, Eryri. At the end of some of those journeys, my old university town, Bangor - symbolising mischief and learning and adulthood.
Sometimes though, it's not the end of the line and the journey becomes one of my ancestral trails - through bleakly historic Ynys Môn, into benighted Holyhead and embarking for Ireland the proper way: a pint of porter, a book and the slow return to a place both home and away.