Ireland, Wales and Scotland are featured in many of my books, and are special places for me – as is the whole of the British Isles, and perhaps you will notice this is reflected in my work. For Jack, in Black Irish you will read that he’d felt going to Ireland was like returning home. I too have felt those things, which made it easier to write about it. Every time I leave the British Isles it is a strange wrench to leave and I am uneasy until I return. It’s a place that my mind remembers and their blood runs through my veins – so why shouldn’t I feel this, and it calls forth a life of it’s own which grows from tiny seeds planted by my forebears.
I remember my first time in Ireland walking once along a quiet stretch of road from my friend’s house to the next village to have a hair cut. The hedgerows were narrow, but I pretended not to notice the infrequent cars passing (very closely) by me, instead preferred to imagine myself on a trek like they did so many years ago when reliant upon their own means of transport. After a goodly while I began to come upon a cluster of houses, and smelled a strangely familiar smell. It shocked me at first, to realise what a profound effect that a single smell would have on me. I knew it was the smell of a turf fire – despite that I had never smelled it before…that wonderfully acrid, homey smell of peat burning in the grate of a cosy home. The rolling hills, houses dotted about the paddocks, low stonewalled farms, horses, sheep, cattle about the place only served to enhance my increasing memories of a place I’d only ever been in my mind.
I believe we’re born with an ancestral imprint that is handed down to us in the form of tiny memories – sparked by a scene, smell, sound, taste or touch and given by God. Fleeting shadows cross my path or flirt the periphery of my vision, spark the imagination, and provide a warmth that has nothing to do with the sun. Some of us live our childhood desperate to grow up, and craving the fastness of life – yet spend a large portion of our adulthood wanting to return to a time and place less complicated, where we are soothed by strangely familiar smells and sights and leave us longing to bake bread and wander the hills.
This is all very unrealistic of course, for the past was a time of hardship and grief, yet those ancestors were stalwart, brave and innovative. Are we so given? Do we teach our children they must sometimes go without, or start at the bottom in order to rise up Or do we instead feed their minds and bodies rubbish and technology without them having to use much skill at all. If we had to start again, would we all survive? Do our rights now supercede our intelligence? If we give our children nothing much at all, let us at least teach them the value of things in the past, and hope that true understanding dawns on them as they grow, so that they too may, in seeking the knowledge and comfort of home, hearth and family in a less complicated world pass this on to their children and theirs.
The first time I visited Scotland a couple of years ago was memorable for me, and driving down the coast from Aberdeen towards Edinburgh was both breathtaking and poignant, and I look forward to seeing much more of it in the future. I can’t wait to further explore these places and the people who are part of me.
Wales too has it’s share of vastly historical elements and the past is still so tangible with the rugged, thought-provoking hills, living Welsh language, castles and cosy (coal) fires. I walk here in my home amongst these rugged mountains, rolling hills and gurgling streams which run crystal clear water across down from the mountains over dark, moss covered stones. The vast gorges, valleys, steep hills dotted with brave and healthy black-faced sheep impress me and the magic of the many tall, thin waterfalls seen from the roadside as you drive through Brecon west toward the coast biding the unpredictable Irish Sea is breathtaking.
It is my hope that you can ‘live’ for a while in my imagination – that place where dreams are made, and where stories dwell and history lives in my books and musings. That whispers of the fey, or faeries, lore and magic seems entirely possible, so gives you pause if you enter a cave and smell the ancient, dank earth, look across the countryside from the battlements of a castle after climbing the winding, stone staircase, as you sit quietly by a running stream in a wooded area watching fey lights dance about your head, or sit quietly in a field with the sheep watching the mist roll over the hills and feel the chill seep under your skin.