Writing place is not without difficulty; especially that particular place on earth we call home, the milltir sgwar. I am not alone in finding this a challenge. Many writers I admire wrestle with this too, among them Edna O’Brien, Sarah Hall, Tristan Hughes and Thomas Morris.
The difficulty might be that you can sometimes take your own place too much for granted, think you know it so well (perhaps too well?) when in fact you fail to see what is right under your nose. Often it can be useful to be away from home to see your own patch from a different perspective, anew, with fresh eyes.
This was the case recently for me on a trip to the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry Bay. As part of a wonderful few days there my husband and I took an impromptu ferry from the bustling fishing port of Castletownbee to Bere Island. Only a ten minute trip but a million miles away, this beautiful rugged island typifies the Wild Atlantic Way.
It was a strange experience and though I was very much in the moment, I also had hiraeth for my own part of the Atlantic and my own coastline here in Gower, south Wales. Being away from it somehow brought it nearer.
As we clambered our way to the extremity of the windswept island towards the Ardnakinna Lighthouse, it was another lighthouse, nearer to home, that flashed into my mind. With it came the seeds of a new story about a married couple walking along a Welsh beach towards the derelict lighthouse that stands just around a limestone headland from where I live.
It explores the idea of transience in the shifting space covered twice daily by the fast tides here in Gower. I’ve got a fair first draft at present, but am happy with the idea which proves that sometimes you have to get away for a while to put in focus what you sometimes can’t see close up.