Communion Of Dreams

Three weeks in Wales, Part 10: Welsh Rover.


Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9.

Took this the next morning at breakfast in the Black Lion pub, just had to share it:

While we’d had exceptionally nice weather through most of our trip, the next day we woke to more low-hanging clouds, light rain, and mist. In other words, characteristically Welsh weather.

We next had an Air B&B up outside of Caernarfon. Charming place. Lots of character. Bit too much for my tastes, actually. Would have been fine if I were a grad student again, but I’ve now come to like more luxury when on vacation. Like a bed which isn’t a foot off the floor. A bathroom which isn’t down the hall, up some stairs, then down another hall. And a door which *doesn’t* lock from outside the room.  It made me … uncomfortable. At least the host was pleasant, though in a way which a murder mystery writer might describe. Yes, I have an over-active imagination, but still. We stayed the one night, but high-tailed it to a conventional holiday hotel elsewhere in the area the next day.

But before we went there, we took a trip south to pay homage to Number 6. Yup, we went to Portmeirion:

Even The Village needs maintenance work now and again.

Rover! Here boy!”


OK, this is hard to make out. But there in the middle of the image is a modern security camera. Given how Portmeirion was used as the setting for The Prisoner, with it’s all-encompassing monitoring, I just thought it a bit ironic to actually see this.


After a nice afternoon in Portmeirion we went up to Caernarfon and strolled around a bit. I was surprised at just how much the city shuts down at the end of the business day — they really roll up the sidewalks.

But there was still one pub going strong, at least: The Anglesey Arms.

Where we saw this. I thought the paint job would appeal to a number of my friends.

The next morning we decided to go out onto the Llŷn Peninsula, first going to Criccieth Castle.   Here’s the description of Criccieth from St Cybi’s Well — see if you think it fits with the image from Castle Wales below.

Darnell went across to the exit into the castle grounds proper. The path turned left, then right into a copse of trees. When he emerged from these, the massive gatehouse seemed to loom directly overhead. The path cut up the hill at an angle on the north side, climbing steeply, then switched back before coming around to the front of the gatehouse. There was little doubt that when the castle was in operation, taking this path would mean that any attackers would be under constant fire from arrows, bolts, and heavy stones coming from the walls and the outer gatehouse. Trying to go straight up the hillside would have been even worse, because while it was a shorter path, it was much more precarious footing, and still under direct fire from the outer gatehouse tower and curtain wall.

And of course, if you made it past the outer gatehouse, then you had to contend with the huge inner gatehouse, a massive structure of twin D-shaped towers sporting a delightful array of arrow loops and murder holes.

Do go and check out the castle itself: it’s damned impressive, even in its ruined state. And the lump of hill it sits on is a stunning site, with fantastic views of the town and country around:

From Criccieth, we did some exploring on the peninsula, then thought to go find a small church we had heard about from friends years before. This is St Beuno’s at Pistyll, on the north shore, and its so small that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry:

St Beuno’s is a 12th century structure, though it has seen some updates and repairs over time. Still, it’s largely intact, and feels like it both inside and out:

Note the rushes on the floor.


If you look carefully, you can see the holes in the rafters for where thatch was held in place. The slate roof is only about 100 years old.

I love these two pans of moss & stone in the window ledges, an old tradition related to Easter:

Moss pan in the window, 12th century stone font for holy water in the foreground.


The narrow window is called a “Leper’s squint”, where those who were not permitted inside the church could witness mass.

And around:


Jim Downey

Final countdown.

We’re in the final countdown of the Kickstarter. Like those old space launches I grew up with, counting down from “T-minus 10” and never being quite sure what would happen.  I’m old enough to remember more than one launchpad failure.

Ten days.

And we’re only at 50% on pledges to the goal.

* * * * * * *

I’ve had several “close calls” in my life, moments when with the slightest difference in luck I probably would have died. This is probably the most dramatic. It’s certainly the most graphic. But there have been others which were  just as close. A bullet which passed some two inches away from my right temple. A fall on a dark night into an unsecured excavation where I missed being impaled on rebar by about a foot. Other occasions, some more my fault than others.

I sometimes joke with my friends that the only explanation is that I’m a cat, and still have a couple of lives to go.

* * * * * * *

Saw an item in today’s paper:

Bank takes ownership of Taylor House

It was one of the first properties designated a local historic landmark. It set an example for high-quality historic restoration. It was a home. It was a bed-and-breakfast.

Now, it’s owned by the bank.

U.S. Bank now owns the house Robert and Deborah Tucker spent years and more than $1 million renovating. The bank foreclosed on the three-story home that contained The Taylor House Inn bed-and-breakfast at 716 W. Broadway on Sept. 17.

I know these folks. Not well, but the jewelry business they had prior to taking on this B&B was just down the street from my art gallery. Small business owners in Columbia’s downtown got to know one another, sharing similar interests and concerns.

I was surprised to hear that the B&B had gone into foreclosure, though I knew that they had declared bankruptcy late last year.

This is a fact of life, particularly with a small business. You can pour your heart & soul into something, only to see it fail. Same thing happened with my art gallery.

But only those who are willing to risk failure have any chance for success.

* * * * * * *

“Dark have been my dreams of late,” he said, “but I feel as one new-awakened. I would now that you had come before, Gandalf. For I fear that already you have come too late, only to see the last days of my house. Not long now shall stand the high hall which Brego son of Eorl built. Fire shall devour the high seat. What is to be done?”

That’s from JRR Tolkien’s The Two Towers, and is the character of King Théoden speaking after coming out of being beguiled by Gríma (Wormtongue). Here’s the adaptation of the scene in the 2002 movie of the same name, with the actual line spoken at about 3:15:

* * * * * * *

Ten days.

And we’re only at 50% on pledges to the goal. Unless we hit the goal, no one is out anything, and the Kickstarter “fails.”

There’s nothing wrong with failure. Like I said, only those who are willing to risk failure have any chance for success. You have to push yourself, challenge yourself. No writer or artist who is worth a damn always plays it safe. Same for any entrepreneur.

Failure hurts. It should. But it isn’t lethal, at least not in the areas I’m talking about. I’ve had close calls. That’s different. In this case, failure means only a delay in being able to complete and publish the next book on my own.

Ten days. We’ll see what happens. Help out if you can.

Jim Downey