Wednesday 16 November 2016

Caught by the Mimihs

Arrived in Wales for my next voluntary visit in (and bring on the start of pronounciation challenges) Machynleth, the ancient capital of Wales.

Maude arrived in style this time. Having been driving over two days from Norfolk to Wales,  I had reached Shrewsbury and needed a top up of diesel. So, we pulled into the next garage, stopped next to the pump and I applied the handbrake as usual... and it came up much further than usual... with a loud snap!

Lucky for me, the forecourt was level and unusually for me I sat quite calmly and thought "ok, now what?" Walking into the garage produced advice for the local Halfords but by the time I got there, riding the clutch and with burning smell from the rear brakes having not totally disengaged, I pulled up close and phoned the breakdown people.

"Can you actually start the vehicle?" A calm measured voice asked me as I stood next to Maude in the dark in a business park.

"Yes" I said.

"Well technically it's not a breakdown".

My calmness began evaporating fast. After asserting my reluctance to journey without said handbreak, explaining that if someone hit me I would be unable to stop myself hitting another vehicle in front, and not being able to ride the clutch all the way to Wales, they eventually picked me up... Maude rode on the back of a truck for the rest of the trip and I had a great conversation with the rescue chap. We talked about everything and set the world aright and then got placed on a garage forecourt in Machynlleth... in time to be picked up by Jonni, and Stellar the Jack Russell... driving up the hill to their traditional Welsh house and my first look at the Gypsy caravan in which I would be spending my first few nights.

My beautiful bedroom for the next few nights

My morning view

Pippa had painted this caravan after being taught by a retired gypsy painter and such a lovely job. Pippa's skill was trulyevident. The wood burner inside was aptly named a "hobbit" and that night I felt really toasty.

Work at Pippa's and Jonni's was varied, and quite physically demanding. The location of their house and workshops was in an area of Wales that although stunning and beautiful, can be a bit unforgiving.

Sunset in Wales

Wood chopping, path digging, pipe burying, paving stone laying, vegetable garden digging, dog walking and dry stone wall excavation would see me kept busy for the next two weeks.

Going all Andy Goldsworthy with my wood chopping arrangement

Demanding, but mindful task of extracting an old dry stone wall

New paving

Preparing the land

I was joined in the second week by Noah and Lucy and Lucy was to introduce me to Mihmihs. Aboriginal Australian mythical creatures.

These strange, mythical beings were said to be around before humans, and taught them all sorts of things, including how to draw. They had very delicate bodies however, and very long necks which would break really easily, so they only ventured out on the stillest of days without a hint of wind.

Imagining the Mimihs

All was going quite well until into the second week I came a cropper with the slate of Wales. I would like to say that I was endeavouring to battle against the local mountain top, Cadair Idris, and hurt myself whilst rescuing someone...but no. I had Stellar, the Jack Russell, in Maude's cab, and whislt avoiding her and paying more attention to Stellar, than what I was doing, as I stepped out of Maude, I turned my ankle on the uneven ground. A very simple thing to do, but the effects were quite dramatic. Foot and ankle then promptly blew up to twice the size, and bruising would sweep across the whole of the foot, and it would take almost 2 weeks to settle down properly.

Walking (or hobbling) wounded

 To counter the slightly negative event, that night, whilst journaling, I would render Stellar into an entry, together with the outdoor bath (with fire underneath to heat it) that I would encounter whislt volunteering weed clearing help at Pippa and Jonni's neighbour down the road. This style of journaling was inspired by Donna, an artist I met previously at Breathing Space, Hickling, Norfolk.

Capturing Stellar

With all my tasks complete, I would have time in Wales and during the journey up North to explore two old childhood books. Books I still like to revisit.

Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence, and the fourth novel in this Arthurian legend based series, The Grey King, is set in the very area surrounding Machynleth...and I would have a chance to visit the mountain, Cadair Idris, the Bearded Lake - Tal-y-Lyn, and Bird's Rock , Craig yr Aderyn (the only inland nesting area of the Cormorant). I was able to immerse myself within the atmosphere of the tales, and imagine the author's visits to this area. No wonder it could inspire such wonderful tales of a child's quest against the forces of the dark wrapped around the age old love story of Arthur, Lancelot  and Guinevere, and the modern day coming of the Pendragon.

Still waters on Tal-y-lyn at the foot of Cadair Idris

Bird Rock, Dysynni Valley

Travelling back over the border into Cheshire, would then see me visiting the other mythically based children's book, the Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. This is set on Alderley Edge, near Macclesfield, and is the first book of a trilogy, again based on old English myths, this time around the guardian of the underworld, an old wizard, keeping safe the sleeping knights and their steeds, needed against the battle at the end of the world.

The Wizard is both Alderley Edge itself, and a pub on the Edge. Talking to a Cheshire man, who grew up in the local town of Alderley, it would m that there was a possible re-birth of the myth. The story is based on the a farmer who meets a Wizard on the Edge. The farmer is taking his horse to the local market. The Wizard, who has lost one of the steeds of the sleeping knights needs the farmer's horse. The farmer refuses the Wizard's price, thinking to get better at the market. The Wizard sees to it that the farmer will get no offers at the market, and on his return journey, the farmer again meets the Wizard. The Wizard tells the farmer to enter a cave and to take as much treasure as he likes in return for the horse, and this time the farmer accepts.

On talking about the Edge, the man I met told of the belief that there is a man (a scientist) that is living in a cave on Alderely Edge, and how this cave hasn't been found. Given the storyline of Alan Garner's third book in the trilogy, Boneland, I was forced to wonder whether myth formation was on its endless journey of recreation. I didn't mention the plot of the book to the man...keeping his serious belief in place.

I loved this mythically rich stage of my journey, wizards, kings, quests, mimihs and magic abounds!


  1. What a great gypsy room you had. I'm starting to be slightly jealous here!! More seriously it is wonderful to follow your ventures and I hope that your ankle has totally recovered if not your brain! Lots of love and laughter mon ami. Anita xx

    1. Thank you Anita! Getting ready to widen the journey further as I have arranged a trip to New Zealand for the winter months! Hope you are well! Love David xx