Caught by the River

Over The Border #3

Jude Rogers | 27th February 2017

Photo: Daniel Fordham

Words: Jude Rogers

Spring is coming. You can even see it now at five in the evening, which has suddenly become five in the afternoon, until so recently the beginning of an hour of navy-blue, soupy darkness. Today a storm has been smashing her way around the Monnow valley, racing leaden clouds across the sky. About an hour ago, she sat down though, sighed deeply, put up her feet – and it’s still light. The sky is a very pale china-blue, the grass is deep and lush and green, and the sheep on the hills, still woolly and shaggy after a wild, muddy winter, are still visible clumps of cream around tall naked trees. A rainbow made an arc across the farmland next door only half-an-hour ago. I could see both ends in the ground, held upright by golden hay.

Two days ago, under the tree in our garden, my husband noticed the shoots for the first time. Pale green, thin, straight and stubborn: we have daffodils. We didn’t plant them. We didn’t plant anything. For the first time, the garden is revealing to us how she is when the days get lighter and longer, and how she was before we came, and how things could be every spring from now on, bright and yellow and brazen, and Welsh. I am the Welsh half of this household. I like these daffodils very much.

At the bridge at the border nearby sits another Welsh emblem, one that I notice much more often now that the light is stretching itself out. He is red and stands on two feet, his claws and roar ready to welcome outsiders in. I’ve always loved the Welsh dragon – I’ve been trained to, just as I love the deep, yearning keen of the male voice choir, the thwack of an odd-shaped ball against a rugby boot, and the slow, black wit of Dylan Thomas, all things full of fire and love, romance and rage. And there is rage in this country, even on the borders: there always has been. It’s locked into the landscape. These mountains and crags shake their fists at the world. And as they do, they do so happily. That’s just who we bloody are.

Spring also feels like this to me this year. Spring is life thundering again, erupting against what has gone. It is the land stretching itself fiercely towards the sun, in the short moments when the sun appears, to urge life to move on. It does so more this year, perhaps, because of a tough winter for my family, now only a drive away further into Wales, following the decline and death of a dear family friend, the kind of man you expected would live forever. His funeral was yesterday. The day was one of rough February rain, a heralding of today’s angry storm, the male voice choir he used to sing with singing without him for the first time in over half a century, their voices raging, romantic, alight, alive, the pure hearts of Calon Lan singing every day and every night, their bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feeding us now and ever more.

After it all, I drove home, through the weather, over the mountains, through the valleys, to where I now belong, much closer to who I was as a child than I have been for many years. Some things have changed, some things haven’t changed. The people who have been such a huge part of my life, people who no longer see spring force its way into the world, make me more determined to feel alive than I ever have before. And I do, looking out of our window into the light, reaching out to the sun, straight and stubborn, ready to roar.


See previous Over The Border posts here.

Jude Rogers on Caught by the River / on Twitter