Saturday, 25 November 2017

Worms Head: devils in the skies

I'd left myself walking back to Fiona in Swansea, after subverting (purists might say sabotaging) two exhibitions at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery. Before the Art Police found me, I made good my escape from the city, and, with their sirens fading into the distance behind me, sped westwards onto The Gower peninsula. Destination: Rhossili, and then a walk to Worms Head.

I'd visited those places several times before. Indeed, I first saw them in August 1986, on the way back from a bed-and-breakfast holiday with W--- and Adrienne at St Dogmaels, near Cardigan. This was the last holiday on which the now-teenage Adrienne came with us: in years to come she would holiday with her school friends Sue and Emma, eventually journeying to places like Greece, Jamaica, Los Angeles, and of course New Zealand. A true globe-trotter!

Meanwhile, W--- became reluctant to take any holidays at all, not wishing to lose income nor the workplace indispensability she enjoyed - she was a high-level PA, working through an agency, but of course still only 'temping' when all was said and done, and she felt she dare not be absent on leave. I wasn't going to push the situation. So we ate well, and had a local social life of a kind, but never had another holiday worth the name.

It was a dull time of my life, the late 1980s - so different from the M--- era (late 1994 to mid 2008), when we travelled extensively. And both eras were vastly different to how things are now, when I do it all independently. Neither W--- nor M--- would have let me mess about in art galleries. Neither let me do anything they considered foolish or attention-seeking. They wanted me to be serious, dignified, capable, predictable; supportive of their plans - mine didn't matter; and to tolerate their weaknesses, pay the bills, and not embarrass them. It was a role. I had my place. But I couldn't be myself. I felt taken for granted, undervalued, made to live within strict limits that my parents also insisted upon. Why did I go along with it? Never again, not for anyone. I'm out of the birdcage, and never going back in. Never, never.

Rhossili was a place that M--- and I had also visited, twice on the same holiday in 2009. By that time, things had become fractious between us. There was an undercurrent of unhappiness that we both strove to put a lid on, but the crack that would become a chasm was already there, and we were steadily moving apart.

I returned on a sunny day in 2011, on my own by then, to smooth over the memories of earlier visits, but only with partial success - although I did better than was the case at Newtown Quay on the Isle of Wight recently (see A lump in my throat at Newtown Quay on 8th November last). I still think going back to places to exorcise them of sad or disturbing memories and associations is a good psychological technique, if you want to 'recover' them for future visits. But, unfortunately, a single revisit may not be enough!

Here's a map of Rhossili:


And here are some views of that vast beach, and the high downland behind it, from 2009.


We climbed those downs. There were people hang-gliding there. With my Nikon D700 camera, and the heavy 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens, I was able to get some nice pictures against the sun.


That's Worms Head in the background, as it looks when high tide is approaching. It does look like a sea-monster on the surface of the water, doesn't it? The name 'Worm' means 'serpent' or 'dragon' in Old Norse. Very apt.

In 2009, we'd walked out to the tip of Worms Head at low water, earlier in the day. It had looked very different. Here's a map, and some shots taken then.


That's M---, as usual walking on ahead. She didn't want to walk with me. In front of us was a rock bridge, and then at the end a difficult scramble onto the tip. I lost track of her at some point, after a vague undertaking had been made to meet up back at the car (not Fiona then - it was my old Honda CR-V). I pressed on, wanting to get to the furthest part of the headland. I got this far:


But, scared of heights and weighed down by my ponderous photo equipment, I baulked at attempting the final climb to where those daring people were. After that, I made my way back, feeling a bit heavy-hearted. It's awful to know that a relationship is dying, and that the togetherness is ebbing away. It was nobody's fault that meeting-up again wasn't so easy. M--- wasn't where I thought she'd be, and apparently I wasn't where she thought I'd be. It strained the situation just a little bit more. (This wasn't quite yet the era of most people carrying always-on phones. I'm sure I had mine with me, but she wasn't carrying hers, and I couldn't simply ring her, and ask her where she was) Thank goodness the mood was somewhat repaired an exhilarating walk up to the top of the downs overlooking the beach, with those late-afternoon views of the hang-gliders.

Fast-forward to 2011. It was another fine day, and scenically nothing had changed. I didn't revisit Worms Head but simply pic-nicked in the back of Fiona, off deli-bought goodies, admired the view, and had a closer look at the beach. I wasn't ready for a full exorcism. But despite the sadness of 2009, I didn't feel the place needed the full treatment. Feelings sometimes do go away. Sunshine helps so much. It was enough to sit under Fiona's raised rear hatch, my legs stretched out, and enjoy my al fresco lunch.


Now it was a breezy afternoon in October 2017. The sun wasn't brilliant, nor hot. It was a cool day, and the sun had turned hazy, with the sky steadily clouding over. But I was determined, if only for the exercise, to go at least to the cliff edge overlooking Worms Head. 


It looks bright enough, but it got duller. I had hoped for a goodish sunset, but knew I was going to be disappointed. Still, there would be a view of sorts, and perhaps the sky would get interesting. It did. The setting sun lit up the clouds in the sky rather well. 


That didn't stop me taking a shot of Worms Head with the sky strangely coloured. 


You may hate it. I like it. 

By the time I reached the coast-watch lookout station, the wind was more insistent. Although frozen in mid-spin, that wind-gauge was whizzing around fit to take off: 


As with the lurid Worms Head shot above, I imagined a version of this coloured differently. Thus:


Showing this to my friend and neighbour Jackie recently, she said she could see a masked face in the upper right of this picture, a being with outstretched wings. I can see it too. When you change the colours and tones in a photo of clouds, you often do see odd things that weren't noticeable at the time.

But sometimes you do see, as you take the photograph. In the next shot, taken at Bewl Water on the Sussex-Kent border in 2005, it wasn't hard to make out a devil in the sky. I simply had to play with the Curves tool afterwards on my laptop, and make him obvious.


Back at Worms Head in 2017, I saw a vision of hell-fire in the sky. My fate, if the bloodhounds of the Swansea Art Police had picked up my trail! 


But - being skillful with maps - I saw a way around Swansea, via Dunvant and Gowerton and thence to the M4 motorway. 'They shall not catch me,' I cried, as I sped eastwards on my way back to Pandy. And they didn't. 

I remain at large.


1 comment:

  1. Rhossili was a 'must' for the coming year - and is now a double-must, thanks to your photos. It's just within day trip range from my home (2¼ hours) so I'll pick a day when the sun is set to shine and sally forth.

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