On Tuesday, May 4, 1999, I spent most of the day in Tremadoc and environs. My journal doesn’t record that it was the twenty-ninth anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University in 1970—Joyce and I were both graduate students at KSU at the time (because I was teaching middle school English full-time, I was taking night courses only), living in Kent, and it was a traumatic experience for both of us. Military personnel guarding the entrances to the campus. Armored vehicles rolling on the streets of Kent. Helicopters with searchlights circling the community all night.
But that May day in 1999 I was focused more on the Bysshe Shelley story—and how so much began to unravel when he was in Tremadoc. Yet another of his impulsive ambitions ended in failure—and, as I’ve written, his life nearly ended in gunfire on a late February night in 1813 in their home, Tan-yr-allt. Below are some edited excerpts from my journal:
I just got to do something that PBS never got to do: walk across the Great Embankment (and back). A loud garbage truck woke me up at 5:30, and I could tell I was not going back to sleep, so—as quietly as I could—I got up, bathed (no shower), and headed out in the early gray morning to walk “The Cob,” as they call it here. When I reached the little Flestininog Rail station, there were sheep out on the platforms eating scraps and garbage left by the restaurant-eaters from the night before. A few scattered when they saw me, but a couple stayed on to eat—& paid the price of being recorded on film. On my walk across, I met one man coming the other way; on the return, the same (different man); both times “Morning” was exchanged. As I was coming back, I noticed a white house similar in shape to Tan-yr-allt above Porthmadog—had I photographed the wrong house yesterday, over in Tremadog? I figured out the simple sequence of streets that took me there: It’s a nursing home, and it’s for sale. But, closer up, it didn’t look quite right, so I headed back down to the little newsstand (where, earlier, I’d bought a Times) and found a local survey map which showed Tan-yr-allt to be the house I thought it was yesterday. So I walked around a little more in search of an open coffee shop, had no luck, & so came back to the hotel, where, alone, I’m sitting in the little lobby, waiting for the “breakfast” part of the “bed and breakfast”—I’m just not sure when that is.
9:30 On the train platform (BritRail) at Porthmadog ready for the 10:06 out of here—supposedly gets me to London about 4:20—we’ll see! After the spare breakfast (granola cereal, OJ, coffee, toast/marmalade) (okay, I could’ve had eggs & sausage, but didn’t), I went back out to the Cob & shot some photos in better light. Stephen (the taxi driver) picked me up & took me back to Tremadog, where the light was nice. Tan-yr-allt is now a little private school, & parents were arriving w/ little kids (5? 6? 7?), so we had to weave our way around—but I got closer this time, taking photos only, however, of one side. Then a stop in Tremadog, where I mailed some postcards & shot a couple of bldgs. in more favorable light. Stephen helped me pronounce 3 Welsh words of relevance:
Tan-yr-allt = tahn-uhr-ACHT (with a slurping, tongue sound on the final syllable)
Porthmadog = porth-MA-dogg (short a—as if fat)
Tremadoc = trey-MA-dogg
He then dropped me at the station & I gave him £10 (a £4 tip)—good thing I’d popped another £50 out of an ATM earlier this a.m. The waiting benches here are all in bright sunlight, so I’m standing in the shade as I try to write.
|home of T. H. Lawrence (of Arabia), Tremadog|
|Tan-yr-allt (back in the day!)|
|Tan-yr-allt (from distance)|
|sheep at Porthmadog station|
|Owens Hotel, Porthmadog|