Festival in the Shire 2010
Three go Wild in Wales
The Pafiliwn Bont – Festival Pavillion
It’s a long way to Wales from where we live. Almost as far as Mordor to the Shire but with motorway service stations. Marbretherese and Jonick picked me up from home and, because I was exhibiting at the Festival, I had a mountain of paintings and prints and assorted exhibition sundry filling my hallway alongside the usual suitcase and Other Essential Holiday Stuff - sun cream, umbrella, too many shoes, extra holiday pants (why????) and the kitchen sink. Jonick was momentarily struck dumb by the sight of it all. Probably because he realised getting it in the car would be like stuffing an Oliphaunt into a Hobbit Hole. But somehow we managed to get all of it (and me) into the backseat of the car without putting Marbretherese on the roof (my plan B).
Several long hours later during which I tortured Marbrertherese and Jonick for hours with my free I-Spy book ‘On a Car Journey’ (15 points for a Highland Cow! 10 points for a statue of Queen Victoria! 50 points if we’re pursued by a police vehicle!), we arrived at Pontrhydfendigaid, a village not far from Aberystwyth but very much in the Shire. My delight at arriving in what was a really
beautiful area of Wales was only shadowed by the lack of Highland Cattle. I mean, if Marbretherese can’t spot one, who can?
We found our holiday bungalow (no I-Spy points for holiday bungalow
) and dumped our stuff, then headed over to nearby Pafiliwn Bont, the pavilion where the Festival was going to take place, loaded with all my exhibiting bumf. Everything was all over the place and still being assembled for next morning’s opening and – from the amount to do – the volunteers deserve 10 Gold Stars for getting it all done in time, because in the morning it looked just great. We found out where the Exhibition area was and all the other paintings apart from mine were already up. Seeing them all made me feel like stuffing mine back in the bubble wrap and taking them home again because the exhibition was wonderful. Lots from Ruth Lacon (a lovely new mermaid painting caught my eye), Rodney Matthews (a wonderful Old Man Willow!!!), Paul Raymond Gregory, some Roger Garlands' (who, alas, couldn’t make the Festival), Stephen Walsh and a few others. It looked as though Orcs had been ripping trees apart in there, as there were bits of branch and twigginess all over the place but it turned out that they were going to be used in an artistic Middle-earthy way to protect visitors from tripping over wires and floor lights. Phew. Though I think Treebeard would have had a heart attack or two!
My paintings in the last space, with assorted twigs
After leaving all my stuff to be hung in the dismembered forest, we headed back for a meal and so to bed. I was especially lucky because I had a Skating Bed which rolled about on the wooden floor every time I turned over. Whenever I put the light on I was somewhere else in the room, sometimes near the wall, sometimes near the door, sometimes sideways. Once I swear it did a triple lutz (I was probably dreaming that one). About 4am I rolled out of the bed altogether. I’ve haven’t had such an exciting night since I fell out of a bunk crossing the North Sea and thought I was being strangled by my duvet. Day 1 of the Festival
We were up bright (well, Marbretherese and Jonick anyway) and early and I left Marbretherese and Jonick to a more leisurely pace while I headed off for the first talk of the Festival, which the two of them had already heard at last year's Oxonmoot while I was off doing something else. This was Colin Duriez, who was going to speak on JRR Tolkien and the Inklings in Wartime
. This is where I have to make a confession. My notes made during all the talks are awful
. I found I could listen better when I didn’t write and – looking back over what I did
write, I can’t read my own handwriting which looks like it was done by a blind spider after a few too many. I think this, more than anything, is a testimony to how good the Conference talks were because I didn’t want to miss listening to anything!
Duriez had a lot of interesting things to say about the Inklings, the dynamics of the group and the support they gave to each other. I hadn’t really appreciated that the Inklings existed as a literary club from 1933-49 (meeting mainly in Lewis’s rooms) but lasted much longer as an informal ‘talking’ club in the Bird and Baby (Eagle and Child) and other favoured pubs. Duriez said that ‘Christianity and the tendency to write’ were the core reasons for the group and that they probably started calling themselves the ‘Inklings’ in 1933. Both Lewis and Tolkien were, of course, ‘clubbable’ with a tendency to form groups. Duriez thought that the years during WW11 were the most important for the club, which is when Charles Williams joined. The battle of good and evil became a very important theme for the writers in the group, handled in different ways by each of them as they wrestled with the idea of power, the rise of the machine and the nature of evil. Lewis wrote The Problem of Pain
and for Tolkien the Ring took on increasing power and influence in his developing Lord of the Rings
. Another growing theme in the group was the idea of Purgatory which Lewis explored in The Great Divorce
and Tolkien in Leaf by Niggle
. The Inklings presents a challenge to anyone studying it as there are very few accounts of the meetings, but Duriez talked about one recorded meeting where Tolkien read from either The Shadow of the Past
or The Council of Elrond
, Lewis from The Problem of Pain
and Williams (I think) from a Nativity based story. Much of Lewis’s writing showed the influence of Tolkien’s and William’s thoughts on these issues. Duriez described how the Inkings would meet in different combinations depending on who was free and that where one or two are gathered together “there it was” (i.e. the Inklings). A very interesting talk and one that left me realising that I don't know enough about the Inkings. I feel another book order coming on.
After Duriez’s talk we had Tom Shippey’s first talk of the weekend, which is where Marbretherese and Jonick appeared. All the conference talks were in the ‘Library’ a room filled with beautiful old book cases filled with old volumes, and amazing stained glass window and a magnificent carved table good enough for Gondor (as someone pointed out to me).
I’ll save Shippey for my next instalment as I want, at least, to get something posted today for you all. But, I mean Shippey
…. wow! Perhaps the nearest thing you can get to Tolkien