Views of Mid Wales

Picture Stories

There are just a handful of houses in the picturesque hamlet of Talywern, plus a chapel and a telephone box; down the road is the even smaller hamlet of Melinbyrhedyn. A few miles away is the market town of Machynlleth; to the north is the ruined Castell y Bere; and to the west is Aberdyfi.




Being in Worthing


The beach smells of rotting seaweed and dead fish. Flies buzz. A crow picks over the pebbles, looking for rubbish to eat. The amusement arcade is noisy and it smells of adolescent boys and dirty coins and candy floss. Just like funfairs. They make me feel sick. And I don’t like being drunk in the afternoon. Go back to the B&B for a nap. Later, look for a pub with a beer garden. The pier’s all lit up, and there are pretty coloured bulbs strung between the streetlights all along the prom. Jack Jones is on at the Pier Pavilion. Crossing the road is easy.

Extracts from The Worthing Sentinel

1851 Margaret Brown, 15, was convicted of begging and sent to the house of correction for fourteen days. Worthing magistrates said the town was infested with vagrants, and it was their job to assist the police in ridding Worthing of them.

1945 The Mayor of Worthing, JA Mason, said of the south coast railway: ‘We have five stations and we are ashamed of every one of them. The first impression people get of a town is the station, and I could imagine a great many of them going back on the next train.’

1946 Mrs Effie Methold, honorary secretary of Worthing Council for Social Service, said: ‘We have been besieged with elderly people who have lived on small incomes in boarding houses or small hotels and have been asked to get out to make way for the holiday visitors with more money.’

1953 When Worthing Corporation officials travelled to London to discuss with the Government what could be done about the town’s terrible seaweed problem, they took with them a paper bag full of dead flies which had hatched in the dreaded weed.

1977 Worthing Borough Council agreed to purchase a framed photograph of the Queen to mark her Silver Jubilee – but only if it didn’t cost more than £60.

First published in DayFour magazine (2003 and 2004)

Books About Town


I did the City Trail last Saturday with my literary friend Lucinda. We met at St Paul’s tube station and set off to find the first bench on the trail, which was Bridget Jones’s Diary in Paternoster Square. We were pretty underwhelmed by the bench and couldn’t work out why Ms Jones should be in this particular spot, but it was good to see Temple Bar back in a place of prominence, all sparkling white stone.

Lucinda, in charge of the map, lead the way to the next bench, painted with Jacqueline Wilson characters. It was in front of St Paul’s cathedral – a building that never fails to astonish me, especially now it looks so clean and fresh. Lucinda and I both remember when all the old buildings in London were filthy. 

Next, we found the bench for Charles Dickens in a small hedged area on the corner of Cheapside. There were some young men sitting on it, so Lucinda turfed them off. ‘It’s a piece of art,’ she said, ‘not for sitting on!’  At first sight, the bench was decorated with what looked to us like terrible daubs. But after reading the info panel, we discovered the painting had been done by school kids, so we did a complete U-turn and decided it was lovely.

We walked towards the river, found the meerkat and the panda, and then went back to St Paul’s, to the gardens by the churchyard, and saw the benches for Peter Pan, Mary Poppins and Fever Pitch. Lucinda did her ‘it’s a piece of art not for sitting on’ again to a couple on Peter Pan – the bloke didn’t quite believe her so I backed her up by quoting part of the label where it said ‘do not climb on the artwork’. That got rid of him.

Our tour took us to the Guildhall, Postman’s Park, Cornhill and Fenchurch Street, and the big finale was at the Tower of London. We found the Katie’s London bench, decorated with a lion, and then discovered some more lions – wire sculptures made as part of a show about the Tower menagerie. We then fought our way through the zillions of tourists to view Paul Cummins’ ceramic poppies in the moat, and enjoyed the sight while the bells of All Hallows by the Tower rang out for a wedding.

It was about 4 o’clock and my feet were aching, so we decided to head home. We made our weary way to Tower Hill tube station but it was closed (annoying but not surprising). We had to go all the way back to Bank.

Crazy, Erotic & Fun


I went to the Chelsea College of Art Postgraduate Show last week and even though it was September, it felt very much like a summer evening: it was warm enough to hang around in the outside spaces, and there was a lovely party atmosphere. In the middle of the parade ground, Anna Nelson-Daniel’s display of white ceramic roses apparently growing out of a square of turf struck me at first as a pretty piece. But its meaning was revealed as I read the label nearby: One Hundred and Two is an installation created to honour 102 non-Serb children from Prijedor, who were killed in the 1992-95 conflict. Commemorating the dead with flowers has a long tradition, of course, and it’s good to see it has a place in contemporary art – I recently saw the installation of ceramic poppies by Paul Cummins at the Tower of London. Laying a wreath on Remembrance Day or flowers at a funeral says something beyond words.

With so much work to see inside the college, I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, my painter friend Julie was there and we made a beeline for two of her friends who were in the show. I say beeline but it was more like wandering through a labyrinth, as the college is a baffling warren of corridors, studios and fire doors. We were looking for the studio of Rebecca Molloy, on the ground floor, but only found it after going upstairs. Becca’s work has a wildness about it, like something on the loose with no boundaries to restrict it. No picture frame to contain the content – it just grows like a rampant fungus over the walls and spills out onto the floor.  She calls it Expanded Painting. The main installation, called Hue Hefner, is a joyful mess, with sculptural forms and surfaces splashed with paint. It looked to me like a home decoration project gone wrong – maybe it was handed over to a bunch of 6-year-olds who just had a wonderful time making a glorious mess. But those paint bags are disturbing. 

In another part of the building, we stepped into the crazy, exhibitionist world of Joshua Raffell. It was a hilarious and chaotic space, full of rag-doll constructions and rude messages stencilled on the walls. I asked him what the hell was going on here, and Josh said it was all about Clusterfucked Aesthetics. I’d never heard of that, so I Googled it and the Urban Dictionary says ‘clusterfucked’ was originally a military term for an operation in which multiple things have gone wrong, and it’s related to SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) and FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair). In NATO-speak, it’s more politely referred to as Charlie Foxtrot. The whole thing was a piece of inspired lunacy and I had added some marvellous new words to my vocabulary.

Julie’s other MA friend in the show, Xiamiao Wu, is a textile designer with eco-friendly credentials. Her work is all restraint, control, muted tones and exquisite craftsmanship. Her raw material is rubbish, a particular kind of rubbish. Something most of us use hundreds of and chuck away, day after day, without a second thought. Used teabags. Mia collects them (the college canteen has an endless supply), takes the tea leaves out and turns what remains into hand-made paper, which is then cut into strips and woven into organic-shaped baskets. I think Mia should be in the government, heading up a department for transforming waste products into artwork through traditional craft.

Back to the crazy stuff. A massive multi-media drawing by Tezz Kamoen could be described as awesome (in the true sense of that much-misused word). It’s a seething mass of confusing shapes, colours and lines in pencil, pastel, ink and crayon, like a school jotter doodle that got badly out of control. It verges on madness with its discord, chaos and a feeling of being all over the place. It started to frighten me so I walked away.


Alberto Torres Hernandez is a superb painter, and his fab pictures of naked men follow in the art historical tradition of fab pictures of naked men. But his men aren’t heroic or magnificent, they’re just blokes at home, sitting on a chair or coming down the stairs. They have beautiful bodies and seem to be quite at ease without their clothes, and that makes them very attractive.