Sunday, August 04, 2013

Welsh Connections with Kate Walker

I've just come back from a wonderful week in Wales. I go there every year - well, twice every year t
o be exact.

In February I head for Fishguard  on the Pembrokeshire coast, where I teach the Advanced Romance Writing course at the Fishguard Writers' and Artists'  Weekend.  Then In the summer I head for Caerleon in Dwent, South Wales, where the wonderful Writers' Holiday is held.  Caerleon  is the site of an ancient Roman legionary fortress  and this small town is often linked with the story of King Arthur.

Geoffrey of Monmouth  makes Arthur's capital Caerleon and even Sir Thoma Malory has Arthur re-crowned there. The still-visible Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon has been associated with Arthur's Round Table  element of the tales; and has been suggested as a possible source for the legend.
"For it was located in a delightful spot in Glamorgan, on the River Usk, not far from the Severn Sea. Abounding in wealth more than other cities, it was suited for such a ceremony. For the noble river I have named flows along it on one side, upon which the kings and princes who would be coming from overseas could be carried by ship. But on the other side, protected by meadow and woods, it was remarkable for royal palaces, so that it imitated Rome in the golden roofs of its buildings... Famous for so many pleasant features, Caerleon was made ready for the announced feast." (Historia Regum Britanniae History of the Kings of Britain)
But for me and my DH, Caerleon has been the site of a wonderful week every July (we've been going there for almost 15 years) where we meet with old friends, make new ones, teach courses on writing and talk  -  and talk - and talk. Now we're home, we almost silent- all talked out!

Wales has always been an important part of our lives. My connection with it started early and has always held a very special place in my heart – and, really, it doesn’t seem to matter which part of the lovely country I visit. When I was a child, my family and I used to travel to the Isle of Anglesey in summer and stay in a tiny place called Treaddur Bay. Apparently this wasn't the first place I ever stayed in Wales. Before Anglesey, we used to stay in Nefyn, also in North West Wales, but I was only in my pram then so I don't remember too much about it!.

But I do remember Treaddur Bay. My aunt used to come over from Ireland - the Irish ferry docked at Holyhead, just down the road, and we would all get together for a family holiday. It was a perfect place for my sort of holiday – a wide, sandy beach, sand dunes to play adventure games in, the sea for swimming – if you were brave and immune to the cold. And there were outings to places like the South Stack Lighthouse where –once you’d got over the terrifying swaying bridge high over the sea – you could see puffins and other birds and occasionally dolphins or porpoises out in the waves.

When I was choosing a university to study at, some kind man told my mother that if he had a daughter who wanted to be a librarian – which I did at the time – he would make sure she went to University College of Wales Aberystwyth where they had just started to very first Bachelor of Librarianship degree. I went to ‘Aber’ for an interview and fell in love - twice. First with the place. I would work my hardest, I vowed, if only I would get a chance to study there in the wonderful ‘Old College’ building by the sea. There was another wide, curving beach – two of them actually, more dolphins in the sea, (They would occasionally come and swim with you if you were brave enough to venture into the freezing waves) and an old ruined castle looking out over the waves.

And that second time I fell in love? Well, I had to wait two and a half years for that but it was in Aberystwyth, one cold and very wet October night that I met my husband. Someone I already knew from the drama group brought a gang of friends round for a cup of coffee and one of them was the man who became my husband and is known worldwide as the Babe Magnet. So our relationship is very much tied up with connections to and memories of Wales.

Connections that were renewed when we started working with Caerleon Writing Holidays based in Newport near Cardiff. The Babe Magnet had written a How To book on Writing and Publishing Poetry and he was asked to run a course on poetry at Caerleon. Could I come along too, we asked. When they discovered that I wrote for Harlequin Mills & Boon, they asked me to give a ‘main’ talk on the subject. So back we went to Wales – and I fell in love all over again. With Caerleon village, with Writers’ Holidays as an event - and with Anne and Gerry Hobbs. The warm-hearted, generous, welcoming people who run the event for writers, with writers, with no financial support whatsoever.

Caerleon gets you addicted. Once you’ve been there, you want to go back – again and again. The Magnet and I have given lectures, taught courses, (Writing Romance, Writing Poetry, Write Yourself a New Life ) and sometimes we’ve just paid our money and joined in the event because we can’t bear to stay away. One year we really couldn’t make it – the RWA Conference in San Francisco clashed with the week that Caerleon was running. We were devastated when we found out and we missed our time in the, University of Wales' College Caerleon. Every year since we've  been back again – and I run a five part course on the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance .

Caerleon itself is lovely with the ancient Roman Fortress and it's supposed links with King Arthur. Some even think that it might have been the site of Camelot.In 830AD Nennius wrote Historia Brittonum. It included a list of Arthur's battles one of which he located at 'The City Of The Legion' - this could well be Caerleon. Caerleon is known to have had a large civilian population living immediately outside the fortress walls so it certainly would have been considered as being a city. But there's another attraction not too far away that always draws us - for the Babe Magnet a visit to this part of Wales wouldn't be complete without a trip to Hay-On-Wye.

Hay-on-Wye has become world famous for its secondhand and antiquarian bookshops. Founded by Mr Richard Booth in 1961, it has become the world's largest Secondhand and antiquarian book centre. At present there are thirty major bookshops in the town some specialising whilst others carry general stock. The larger bookshops are open 363 days a year and during the summer, stay open until late evening. Every year we visit, I arrive with lists of books to look for from friends and family - and I usually leave with - er - one or two for myself. The Magnet has been known to fill the boot of the car!

Sadly, this time has been the last week that Writers'  Holiday will be held at Caerleon. Next year this event too is moving to Fishguard,  a little further up the coast from Caerleon, where the ferries run to Rosslare in Ireland and where Dylan Thomas' famous tale 'Under Milk Wood' was filmed starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole.  From our first visit to Fishguard over 3 years ago, we fell in love with another part of Wales, its people, the scenery – and of course the sea. It’s a long journey to get there – around 300 miles – but we don’t care. We’re looking forward to being there.

After all, we have so many wonderful memories tied up with that country. If we hadn’t both decided to study at in Wales all those years ago we might never have met and our stories would have taken very different paths.

It doesn’t bear thinking of. So we have a lot to thank Wales for – and its no wonder we’re both looking forward to going back again – and again . . .

Kate’s latest hero is Alexei Sarova, that black sheep prince who has to face up to a new and unexpected destiny with his heroine Honoria Escalona (Ria) as the woman he wants as his queen.

A kingdom's safety...
Betrayed by those she loves, Honoria Escalona must now face the only man capable of bringing stability to the Mediterranean kingdom of Mecjoria. A cold, hard man who once called her his friend... Alexei Sarova-the true King of Mecjoria.
In exchange for her happiness

 But Alexei's tortuous past has changed him into someone she hardly knows. He blames Ria's family
A Throne For the Taking is published in the Royal and Ruthless miniseries in both Harlequin Presents and Mills & Boon Modern in June.

Other up to date news and details of all Kate’s books can be found on her web site and in her blog.



Connie said...

How lucky you are to visit this fabulous place twice a year. When my husband and I lived in Paris, he had a meeting in Bristol. We only had time to drive a short distance into Wales and wished we could have really explored it. Thanks so much for sharing the great pictures.

Di said...

My grandparents had good friends who were Welsh - they spent all holidays with us. I've always wanted to spend time in Wales - closest I've come in was a tour I was on took the ferry from Ireland to Holy head, but then we got on a train straight to Scotland - lovely view out the window of the train was all I got of Wales.

Lisa W said...

I enjoyed reading about the places you've visited and the memories that are connected to them. My cousin is currently living in Cardiff and just married a Welsh man last fall. I hope to visit her (before she moves back to Canada) and visit some of these amazing places I keep hearing about. She's already offered to be a tour guide to everyone in our family.

Mary Preston said...

My parents have been to Wales. They said it was very beautiful.