Gogarth took to the stage - cliffs and humans and animals - all larger than life. A place of arias, disguises, pomp, extravagance and showy dramatics. The Hollywood of Wales! Diva territory! Poems from a glorious long weekend in May by Sarah-Jane Dobner...
Head West, always. As the Joad family in Grapes of Wrath or Otis in Dock of the Bay. Adventurers, pioneers and runaways. The dreamers and desperate. Years ago, hitch-hiking the deserts, flagged a ride with New Jersey kids jumping bail. Headed to California. Drive West. Leaving Llanberis, light rain closing in on the windscreen, peppering the glass. Not forecast. But there it is. Nature of the mountains. Keep driving. Roundabouts. A bridge, squat and self-promoting. Irksome to the island, one would think. Centuries of the Menai Straits thwarting casual visitors and conquerors. Drive over. Look at the state of the tide. You've checked online. But seeing it, the mud or gleaming water, confirms the iPhone's information. Drive on. Through the town. Beyond all conurbations. Beyond fields and into heathland. Sea beyond the passenger seat. Sea ahead. Only sea, and the end of the track where the road runs out. The Western edge of Wales. Crumpled cliffs, high cliffs, red cliffs, yellow cliffs, mud cliffs, crystal cliffs, lichen cliffs, loose cliffs, clean cliffs. It's all there. You can reinvent yourself, out West. Be whoever you like. Be who you are. Start again, each time, and hope for better results.
Birdwatchers already. South Stack. Dawn. Ribbed, black, knitted hats. Binoculars. The sky an opaque silver screen. Herring gull stands on the closest outcrop to the car park. Can see the lighthouse. Van on level ground by the big metal bin and a telescope selling views for 20p, with scratched glass and poor resolution. My friend sleeping still, earplugs and facemask. A big truck pulls up next to us. Peggy Lee's You Give Me Fever blasting out of the speakers. Refuse-person. Changes the liner. An early morning romantic on Gorgarth.
Queen of Cymru, Snowden commands
Utterly. There is no discussion
The opacity of her rule has always struck me
Even from Anglesea can see her crown
Of cloud. Other foothills and peaks
Preen and parade in the sunshine
Not her. The monarch. Doesn't mix
With commoners. Hangs out with the crowd
From Mount Olympus, I guess. Takes the usual quota
Of fatalities and sacrifices, like the old days
Doesn't mess with modern civilisation despite
The petite railway track ascending her flanks
Could stop it with a shrug. But maybe it's flattering
Ticklish. An adornment like a bangle or a necklace
Thus fêted, she assesses her domain
And, occasionally, pins the sky with a pointy gaze
Gogarth Main Cliff is serious
The descent path itself is horrific
Plus an un-roped sea-level traverse
Multi-pitch skills, big-face route-finding
Top out on steep slopes of
Slick mud and detached pinnacles
Competent teams come here. Not so
The sea, where yachts ever seem
To be flapping their sails and
Dragging tenders, forgetting to reef
And floundering in the rip. Jet skis
Blast around doing doughnuts and
Playing hip-hop as if this were
Brooklyn. Only the ferries
Behave. Following their appointed course
There and back, all day
The eponymous route
After years of waiting and saving up
A play in five acts
On the edge of my seat from the off
Daunted by the glamour of the theatre
Three sides of a square
Devious. A masked ball. Going right to go left
To a big sloping ledge in the gods
Necessary for the plot
Almost an interval
Romp up the star-studded flake-ramp. A crowd-pleaser!
Belay box with the
Best views in town
The twist! Bold traverse and steep cracks
A stab in the heart. But cathartic
Just about managed to follow it
A metaphor for the entire area
Profoundly satisfying, as tragedies are
It was a gala extravaganza
Head and shoulders out of the water
Appraised me directly
Then double checked
Left eye, right eye, made certain
I was paying attention
An exit. Displaying his whole stomach
What a performance!
I've not seen seals in
Pembroke or Cornwall flaunt themselves
So gaily. Ta-da! Lights! Action!
Then he popped up to assess
The reception. I applauded, of course
And he went. What a show-off!
That most vivid of chameleons, Gogarth
Blink and it's shifted, switched tunes
Never known a rock so keen to fit in
In greenery, disguising its bulk
As heather and grasses and bracken. Or
Main Cliff, close up, white-grey flakes
Folded and rippled like choppy water
Crystals sparkling. The sea a mirror. Plus
Multi-colour options. To match the sun?
Russets and maroon at Red Wall and Rhoscolyn
Yellows and golds of Mousetrap Zawn
Why so changeable, so many hats?
What can I trust? For instance, is that spike
A Thank God hold or death block?
Holy or Trap? Racking up again
Fewer wires - more hexes and slings?
Struggling to pin down the chameleon
An event. Like the cinema. Without tickets. A specific time each evening, noted on Met Office. People gather. Two middle-aged women with cameras stand very still by the collapsed wall. A family with children tumble out of the vehicle and rush down the slope. Late arrivals chew up the gravel. Park rapidly. A Drive-In. Sofa-seats. Form a back row. Taking in the panorama. On the headlands surrounding us, figures are standing, silhouetted. The Super Bowl! See the red ball fall! Nothing can stop it. We all know how the story ends, yet we still want to watch it. The dazzling finale. The speeches. Heads rolling at the guillotine. Car crash TV. At the height of its glory the radiant, bloodied, bombastic sun sets and the landscape turns, immediately, grey. The people seem confused as to why they are there. Stony coastal tracks. In the darkness. Within minutes, everyone has departed. Tidily. Taking their popcorn packets and tripods.
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