That sinking feeling

For my birthday in early June my partner treated us to a mini-break in Talacharn (note: I reject the laughable anglo travesty ‘Laugharne’). We stayed in Browns Hotel itself, famed as the favoured drinking haunt of Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), and these days tastefully upgraded according to the ’boutique hotel’ template while still retaining all the evocative Dylan trappings and reminders essential for an ardent fan like me. In the evenings we sat at the very window seat where self-destructive Dylan and his destructive wife Caitlin (1913-1994) boozed away the best years of their lives, squabbling, fighting, gossiping, cackling, loving, hating and pontificating. During the daytimes we fully explored the enticing Carmarthenshire village on the Tâf estuary. In the luminous liquid light, gorgeous sunny weather and tangy salt air we took fairly strenuous walks to Dylan’s boathouse and shed, up the Castle tower and battlements and around the Talacharn nooks and crannies the poet knew so well. This helped me to build up my leg strength and heal my damaged lungs in ways that are quite impossible in poisonous Cardiff, with its repellent, ravaged environment and illegal, murderous air.

The trouble is, wherever you go in Wales there is no escape from our pitiful, tragic status as a brutally exploited and abused British possession. One fine morning, we drove through deep twisting lanes to Llansteffan on the Tywi estuary to the east. But the exquisite countryside was utterly disfigured by two parallel ranks of gigantic electricity pylons strutting contemptuously across the landscape and visible for miles in every direction. This is part of the ‘national grid’, determined by London Tories and their mates in the profiteering privatised electricity companies. Wales has no say in the matter and no right to even be notified let alone consulted since energy is not devolved and control over it resides entirely with those wonderful, principled geniuses in Westminster. Almost every week we get another example of the appalling consequences in Wales of this servitude and powerlessness. For instance, recent announcements by lickspittle pipsqueak Alun Cairns, the Tory Welsh Secretary, include a £14billion new nuclear power station at Wylfa in Ynys Môn and a cluster of “mini atomic reactors” at Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd, at the behest of a US-Japanese consortium, the combined impact of which will make Wales the world’s leading radioactive hotspot, nuclear dustbin and weapons-grade nuclear proliferator (but there will be 50 jobs created – whoopee!). Meanwhile a major ‘green energy’ project such as the Swansea tidal lagoon, which would require less public money and not syphon billions into overseas-owned corporations, gets the Tory veto and the thumb-sized Cairns’ thumbs-down, despite having the backing of the Welsh government, all the political parties in Wales and every independent energy specialist and green energy expert. It’s not that I was in favour of the Swansea scheme – the environmental damage would be immense and humanity needs to cease its insane race towards collective suicide rather than facilitate yet more business-as-usual consumption – but the point here is that decisions pertaining to Welsh territory should be made by Wales not England.

Mind you, because Wales is in the hands of the treacherous ‘Welsh’ (sic) Labour Party, rightwing British nationalists elementally opposed to Welsh autonomy, the same turbo-capitalist policies implemented in London are followed in Cardiff Bay even within the few policy areas where devolution could make a difference. Examples come thick and fast on a daily basis: just look at Natural Resources Wales (NRW), a Welsh government funded and appointed quango, supposedly legally bound to protect the Welsh environment and the well-being of future generations. As the natural world disappears before our eyes and environmental catastrophe befalls the planet, this despicable quango fails Wales over and over again, from plastic seas via dead rivers to acid uplands. The name reveals all: nature is a ‘resource’ to be plundered without any intrinsic value of its own. Now NRW has allowed the dumping of radioactive waste from the scandal-dogged Franco/Chinese Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset on the Cardiff foreshore within a mile of 300,000 people. Two ghastly Labour hacks, Cabinet Secretary for Energy Lesley Griffiths and Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn, refuse to do their jobs on behalf of Wales and refuse to answer this simple question: if the waste is so “harmless” why not just deposit the lovely sediment in Bridgwater Bay instead of going to the expense and bother of transporting it 30 miles across the Severn? The only answer they could plausibly give that makes any sense is along the lines of “because it’s only Wales, a country we hate for deeply repressed reasons we’ve long forgotten and can’t articulate anyway” – so they remain silent, and obey Tory orders.

We arrived at Llansteffan, parked up and settled on the soft sand overlooking the Tywi estuary under the high wooded cliffs topped by spectacular Llansteffan Castle. The tide was well out; the sea a silver sliver in the distance with Ferryside crystal clear on the other side of the estuary. After a while I fancied a paddle to soak my tired feet. Leaving Malcolm under the cliff with our rucksack I took off my shoes and socks and set off towards the water. Past the high-water mark the rather uncomfortable dry sands sprinkled with sharp shells became delectably damp and oozing. Huge jelly-fish the size of car wheels were everywhere, orange and glistening with multiple tentacles and drag marks behind them. Unsure whether they were dead or alive, and unwilling to touch them to find out, I continued towards the sea. It didn’t seem to be getting closer. Like a mirage in the desert it shimmered and wobbled in the bright sun. I kept going, but now there was an increasing downhill gradient, the sand was becoming mud and each footstep was sinking up to my ankle. I stopped and looked back. Malc was a barely visible dot. Nearly there, I thought, still unaware of the serious danger I was blithely wandering into. Then it happened: I stepped forward and sank into the sucking muds up to my knees! I was trapped, and the tide was coming in!

Spoiler: I didn’t drown. I dragged myself out, gingerly found my way back to safety and never had that paddle.

Having written about the Wales Coast Path before (see https://tinyurl.com/y7sr696w and https://tinyurl.com/y888xbvh), and having lived in west Wales in a previous life which now seems like a dream, I was slightly aware that the much-vaunted path was a work in progress and that the UK’s Ministry of Defence had rendered a lot of the Welsh coast in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire out of bounds. But I had not realised until we visited Pendine (Pentywyn), five miles west of Talacharn, just how extensive the MoD land and coast grab was. Essentially, the fabulous Pendine sands, seven miles of superb flat beach and dunes on the shores of Carmarthen Bay that would be a fantastic natural treasure and asset anywhere else in the world, have been a permanent no-go zone ever since they were seized by the MoD for use as a firing range in 1940. The ‘temporary’ war-time arrangement was unilaterally made permanent in 1948, and ever since the Ministry of Offence has used Pendine to test its missiles of mass destruction, prepare for its illegal war-mongering and use Wales as a stage where Britain’s delusions of global military might can be acted out, to the ceaseless background chorus of psychotic armchair generals demanding ever more money while, for instance, blowing £30billion on Trident submarines and recklessly overspending what is already the largest defence budget in Europe on countless incompetent crackpot fiascos. For this Pendine has been surrendered, and you will never hear so much as a whisper of dissent or even questioning of this outrage from the quisling Welsh Labour government.  What’s worse is that the MoD’s theft has gradually enlarged over the years to include the entire mouth of the Tâf estuary, Tywi estuary and Gwendraeth estuary as far as Cefn Sidan sands, with the result that the Wales Coast Path is missing a total of 25 miles of exquisite unspoiled coast in Carmarthenshire and the path has had to be routed inland along pedestrian-hostile, busy roads. So it’s not a coast path at all, then. What a farce – and what wicked lies we are told by the creepy-crawly Brit collaborators of Welsh Labour. Carwyn Jones says he’s going to stand down as First Minister in December. If he hurries he could apply to be leader of the Welsh Tories – nobody would notice the difference and I understand there’s a vacancy.