Anglesey-101114

This picture of sea holly (Eryngium maritimum) was taken on the dunes at Traeth Cymyran right by the perimeter fence of RAF Valley which was in the news the following day for reasons of no concern to this blog’s vegetable republic. The tuber roots of sea holly were once eaten (they’re now protected) regarded as an aphrodisiac and  mentioned by Falstaff  in Shakespeare’s romcom, The Merry Wives of Windsor. ‘Nuff said. To be fair my republican sympathies probably wouldn’t survive being stuck on an ice sheet up Snowdon or being swept out into Cymran Bay as the tide rips round Holy Island/Ynys Gybi  sending unwary grockles (and mardy bloggers) into the Irish Sea.

Finished Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes’ novel of the Vietnam War. It is as good as the jacket-puff suggests. Worth a thirty-year wait. At least the material had the ring of truth to me – though I’m not sure how I would know. It does sometimes read like the literary spin off of a successful movie or TV franchise – but that’s not a criticism. The story cuts so deep that you are not quite sure whether you saw it, read it or dreamt it. Heroism exists. It’s just not always helpful. One of the characters – Hawk – has a bluegrass tune invade his mind just as he is about to go into action – Matterhorn by The Country Gentlemen. We listened to The Complete Vanguard Recordings to and from Anglesey: a classic.

Also finished my birthday present, Europe’s Lost World The rediscovery of Doggerland (V Gaffney, S Fitch and D Smith). If you’ve dabbled in recovering lost rivers, forgotten wars or anachronistic musical genres – and who hasn’t? – you will almost certainly want to dip your toe in this. Forget the Fleet and the Tyburn, Bagshot gravels or banjo enclosures. There’s a whole darn country out below the North Sea: rivers and valleys, estuaries, salt marshes, lakes, plains and hill ranges. There is also increasing evidence – like the “harpoon” dredged up by a fishing trawler off the Norfolk coast – of the enigmatic people who lived there before rising sea levels first turned the area into an archipelago and then submerged it altogether. This is a gathering together of the current evidence, much of which is built on interpretation of seismic surveys of the sea bed produced by oil and gas companies and others. I would say it is well worth the 8000 year wait but you might think it’s a lot of buck for very little bang, particularly if you aren’t keen on geological maps, and you’re suspicious (like the authors) of drawing broad generalizations from one site – which isn’t even under the North Sea; at least, not yet.

But the Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu, might recognise the significance of the mesolithic human and animal footprints preserved in the silt of the Severn estuary. They aren’t the end of the story, just the start of a very long journey indeed. Bring it on.

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