Island Life, Word Birds & Process
Every year on Christmas Eve, I enact a small ritual. I read, out loud, to myself, A Child’s Christmas In Wales by the poet Dylan Thomas. It’s a short book & takes me about fifteen minutes. My copy is old – I found it in a secondhand bookshop years ago. It bears a dedication: ‘Fondest Christmas Wishes, Ann‘ & the date, 1968. Every year I wonder who ‘Ann’ was, who gave her the book & how it ended up being given away again.
In the same way I would never use the word ‘fan’ about my esteem for Virginia Woolf, I resist it with regard to Thomas too. Both are without equal in my view. I’m an admirer of both writers & try not to sound ridiculously pretentious by using words like ‘veneration’ & ‘homage’…
Yesterday, for the first time, I went to Laugharne & visited The Boathouse where Dylan Thomas lived for the last few years of his life. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long. One of those things (like visiting Monks House where Mrs Woolf lived) I’ve always meant to do & somehow never got around to. Now I have & it was worth the wait. I went with my daughter, who is as much an admirer of Mr Thomas as I am of Mrs Woolf. (I can feel a ‘famous dead people’s dinner party’ coming on.)
Thomas’s renowned writing shed is en route to The Boathouse. You can’t go inside & quite right too. It’s been preserved (& renovated) & nicely evokes a sense of what it must have looked like when Dylan Thomas worked there. You can peer (we did!) through the tiny window & take pictures.
On a blisteringly hot day, I stepped inside the parlour at The Boathouse & the sense of place was immediate & quietly mesmerising. It was cool & peaceful. There were no echoes of voices: joyful or fiery; no hint of the explosive relationship Thomas had with Caitlin, his wife. Time, it seems, has softened the edges of the house. Which I like. The private lives of my & heroes & sheroes are best accessed through biographies. This close to home they are none of my business. I was content to be there & feel privileged.
Rest in peace Mr Thomas… Gently or otherwise…