from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday, 10 October 2013


So if you look carefully, you won't see an otter. Nor a beaver. That's because even as I lifted my camera to take this scene in beautiful Brittany, I completely missed the fact that what I had assumed was a branch, motionless, a yard or two from my feet, was in fact a furry thing, relaxed and laidback. Just after I took the photo, TM said 'That's a beaver!' – and so astonished was I to see said furry thing paddle lazily away from us and into a little backwater that I didn't even manage to raise the camera to my eyes. 'It can't be,' I said; 'it must be an otter – do you get beavers in France?' – even as I registered my own confusion at what did indeed look chunkier and thicker-set than an otter. Well, so maybe it was a beaver.

What I love about this place is that it's like a larger wilder Dartmoor: less populated, enchanted, foresty, a little bit further south, and granite: forged in fire, conductive of electricity – piezo-electric in its quartziness, radioactive in its fissures, enduring. That matters – I'm a granite person, coming from the far West of Cornwall as my family has forever, living myself on or near granite Dartmoor for the last 30 years. And the culture in Brittany is my own culture; the Brythonic language one I can sort-of pick my way through, at least in terms of place-names (Cornish, Welsh and Breton are all Brythonic Celtic tongues and very similar; quite different from the Scots and Irish Gaelic/Goedelic languages, though we do have words in common with Goedelic). And I love that this bit, above, where we're based in the campervan, is called the Gorge du Chaos.

What TM likes is the beech woods:

Luckily, beechwoods (and oak- and chestnut-) and granite coincide here.

And having the van is a dream. Mostly.

Friday night/Saturday morning were a little stressy: I got home late on Friday with my next-day all-day workshop not completely prepped, and bits of house (the visible bits) to clean for the group.

Something made me decide to see if the van would start. I'd never had a problem with it, but – well, call it an instinct. I put the key in the ignition and – nothing. Not even a small dashboard light. New battery two weeks ago. Nothing left on in the van. Battery charger given away to my daughter a few years ago, once I'd been lucky enough as to acquire a reliable car. Nothing I could do that late at night.

But we were due to catch the night ferry to Brittany an hour or two after the workshop had finished the next day. We're a distance from a garage, and anyway my garage only has skeleton staff on a Saturday morning.

All that meant that a box on the doorstep, which turned out to be my author copies of my new book, out early, and a cause for celebration, I passed by in a haze of anxiety.

Anyway, problem solved: my wonderful Co-op bank account comes with built-in car breakdown cover (as well as for European travel), and at 7.30 the next morning the RAC man got the van going, though since we didn't know why the battery'd gone flat I didn't feel confident that it would start on the ferry, off the ferry, in the woods or anywhere else. But it did; and we parked up here in the woods, and then, later, back near Aber Wrac'h, 'Witches' River' or 'Witches' Waters', in Finisterre, on the beautiful peninsula of Les Dunes de Ste Marguerite, we were able to sleep to the sound of the sea on three sides.

And I was able to exorcise some poignant memories of a different life: a story in which I was about to be married for a second time, to someone I was very much in love with, and the house we found here, almost in dream, almost magically, in Brittany, and the yellow periwinkles my nine-year-old daughter and her friend collected here on this beach for a necklace for me, and how suddenly all that came to an end. But all that's a long, and different, story.

And I haven't been back in 25 years; and I'm so glad I now have. And see how some beauty doesn't ever fade with time...

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