Recently back from a series of gigs in North Wales promoting good health, good reading and good libraries. In fact quite remarkable libraries, particularly the newly refurbished one in Llandudno. When was the last time you saw shiny white curved shelves in a library, tilted so browsers don’t need to stoop low to read spines? Over £400,000 and a load of consultation with Opening the Book went into doing up the place (and it’s worth checking some photos on-line). Even in my brief visit, it was evident the library was forcefully re-establishing its position as an indispensable community resource.
Between delivering a cartooning workshop, a talk about ‘Depresso’ and one about wilderness from the travel writing side of me, I got to meet a ‘bibliotherapist’, and well you might ask, “What in hell’s name… ?” After listening to her expound on the intricacies and subtleties of her ‘profession’ for the length of a full AngloWelsh breakfast I can only surmise that bibliotherapists a) get a kick from the smugness of having read more books than the lesser being sat in front of them and b) need to get a job as a librarian, because they do what they do, recommend books.
Also got a chance to swing by Hedd Wyn’s family farmhouse in the hills round Trawsfynydd. Hedd is the Welsh war poet who wasn’t a War Poet but whose story has been graphically brought to life by my mucker on the WW1 anthology, Jonathan Clode, and his artist, Catherine Pape. Hedd was killed at Passchendaele and postumously awarded The Black Chair at that year’s Eistenddfod. Saw the chair (remarkable piece of craftsmanship… by a Belgium refugee) but didn’t realise he had previously won four other bardic chairs. You couldn’t swing a cat in the parlour for black chairs! And got to meet his descendant, legend in his own lifetime, Gerard Evans MBE. Gerard isn’t a great lover of the English, but forced himself to accept the Empire medal for services to keeping the name of Hedd alive. Refusing invites to Buck Palace and even Cardiff, he had it bestowed on him at the door of the farmhouse. The man has style, and a roving hand, according to the librarian who accompanied me.