Well, not so much lazy, more was-out-in-the-broiling-French-sun-watching-the-peloton while listening to Kraftwerk #tourdefrancetourdefrance today, and am knackered and sunburnt.
So here is a wee photo of Bridge Street, Llangollen, that I took on a particularly Welshy night in 2012; I can still smell the coalfires just looking at it. And here’s a link to a lovely piece from 2017 on Wales Arts Review about how the excellent Crime Cymru was born. Read that and then visit them to find just how many excellent Welsh crime writers are currently prowling about. And buy their books.
I knew that the vile Stephen Miller, architect of the current #babiesincages crisis, reminded me of someone.
I’m currently working on The Age of the Acorn, and I’ve been able to find so many wonderful vintage oak and acorn images to work with, all public domain. I love the interwebs for all the “paper” you can “find”; you don’t have to go to flea markets or pick bits up off the road now. Though it’s still lovely to find treasures in those places, too. Come to think of it these bits and bobs are themselves metaphorical acorns.
Of all the Welsh crime writers I’ve explored lately, Menna Gallie is the one I most wish I had met. She was provocative, committed to social justice for all, a great raconteur. and used wit to deliver savagely honest points.
Born in 1919 into a Welsh-speaking home in the mining village of Ystradgynlais, Powys, Menna Humphreys was surrounded by strong and active Labour supporters, which formed her approach to society for most of her life. She read English at University College, Swansea, where she met her husband Walter Gallie, a philosophy lecturer. Although no one in her family was directly affected by a mining strike in the 1920s, she witnessed the resulting hardships suffered by her classmates. This experience informed her first novel, Strike for a Kingdom, which is a hybrid: disguised as a straightforward detective story, it is deeply political, and critical of the authority wielded by those wearing the armour of public institutions. It gives a truly atmospheric insight into a Welsh mining community, with a lovely central character in coal picker-poet D. J. Williams, and was a runner-up for the Gold Dagger prize.
Menna Gallie was not, strictly speaking, a crime writer, and her subsequent novels treated other subjects and genres. But they were never less than penetrating, even when difficult to pin down. She also became a popular public speaker: about Wales, gender issues, politics, and literature, her humour and store of anecdotes softening the blows landed by her fervent views. After she died in Newport of a stroke in 1990, Menna’s work was forgotten for a time. But Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, has republished four of her titles, so she is finding a new audience for her very Welsh, very clever, sometimes poetic voice.
In May 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. And Christine Bracken of Gorteen, Ireland, a Catholic nun known as Sister Jacinta, disappeared from the Stella Maris Convent in Swansea. She was 38 years old at the time, and close to her family. She left the convent to shop for stockings for her mother. Her handbag was found the next day near Swansea’s West Pier. All of her other possessions, including a ticket for sea passage back to Ireland, remained at the convent. If you have any information relating to this 40-year-old case, please contact South Wales Police.
So much for Welsh Wednesday this week: I’m house and dogsitting in rural SW France at the moment, where internet is patchy at the best of times, and have data only, no wifi. Last night we had impressive storms which knocked that about. There wasn’t even much rain with them so I’m still having to water the garden. Never mind, it’s Things I Love Thursday now and Welsh crime fiction is that, too.
A CWA Gold Dagger Winner, and I’m willing to bet a packet of Bonne Maman biscuits that you’ve never heard of her. Barbara Margaret Gill was born in Holyhead, Anglesey, in 1921. The daughter of an Irish sea captain and his Welsh wife, with her father’s encouragement she began writing Famous Five-type mystery stories at the age of eight. She left school at just fifteen, was married at twenty-one, and was divorced and a single parent of a son named Roger soon afterwards. Because she needed to be flexible for the child, Barbara trained and worked first as a chiropodist, then as a Somerset nursery school teacher.
Barbara began her writing career while still a teacher, at first for literary magazines then, as ‘Margaret Blake’, producing romantic suspense novels. She gradually got more crime-y, and had her greatest successes in the 1980s writing as B. M. Gill. Nursery Crimes is a deliciously cheesy title, no? I’m particularly fond of her Seminar for Murder as her protagonist makes errors and owns up to them; still a fairly rare choice for crime writers. My own DS Seren Parry is a bit of a fuck-up at times and I enjoy the humanity and arc this gives her.
Barbara Gill just sort of ... vanished, as far as I can tell. Shame as her books got better and better. Rather like book covers since the 1980s.
It is supposed to be Missing Persons Monday here at the Crow’s Nest, but one of the five images I made for the trending #UnwantedIvanka meme this morning went viral and I’ve had a busy and unserious day. I confess that I was cackling out loud for much of the time I spent making this, especially after I stumbled across the socks while looking for a maple leaf. I promise to buckle down next week because missing persons is a serious subject which deserves our full attention. In the meantime, I’ll continue to delight in people all over the world laughing at this, while I get to make the point that being a daughter, whether of Der Gropenfuhrer or even of someone without malignant NPD and “friends” in all the wrong places, is a “qualification” for diddly-squat. Can you imagine if Sasha Obama had pulled this shit? Harrumph.
5km Promenade Gourmande Gaillacoise, an annual event for charity in the Tarn region of France. Excellent company, good food and wine, 35 degrees, passed out for two hours when I got home. How lovely to walk through what you’re drinking.