It’s happened: I’ve at last arrived. It happened on Tuesday actually, (today is Thursday), after signing documents and the exchange of keys number ___ South Marine Terrace was officially ours and I have managed to accomplish one of the dreams of my life: living opposite the sea.
I always knew that Wales was a beautiful country, and Cardigan bay in particular. It was the force which drew me here, in truth, more than the reputation of the university itself. I came for the place, for quality of life reasons, and to be close to a breathtaking nature that has never been part of my own urban ‘inheritance’.
Now, as I listen to the dulled roar of the ocean surging rhythmically up the pebble beach with the regularity of heartbeat, I cannot help but feel I made the right choice. Even in the dark the muffled yet loud assertion of the waves, allows the sea to state itself. I feel closer to words themselves and the truth that they hold, I don’t know why.
This evening, at nine thirty, I came closer to feeling euphoria of place than any other moment this week. We live in the most beautiful part of Aberystwyth (in my opinion): it is the edge of town which creeps along the sea front south towards Pen-Dinas. Once passed the pier, the Old College signals this change of mood, into a darker, more Gothic Aberystwyth which is expressed by the picturesque gothic ruins of the Old Castle, the sublime and romantic statuary of the Aberystwyth cenotaph, the grandiose turrets, gambrels and belvedere roofs of the Old College, and finally before the mouth of the river estuary which hooks into the marina, a brief line of pastel-coloured houses, of which mine is one.
Though it has almost been one of the strongest imperatives of my life since becoming independent to live in places and in such a way that I was proud of, I feel that here, I must surely reside in one of the most powerful, energising and picturesque environments of my life. Though it doesn’t sound it, to write so makes me feel humbled and again reinforces the importance of being brave in the choices you make and following your heart’s way.
Sarah introduced me, oddly enough, as she is not a member of the university to Aber Singers, a university choir that congresses in the largest hall of the Old College on Thursday evenings. The conductor of the choir – David Russell Hulme – is a kindly paternalistic figure, who looks down at us from the stage over his crescent-shaped spectacles with a well meaning grin and a foppish swoop of hair over his brow. His absolute mastery over the material is the engine behind his success. He is able to bring alive Hayden’s Nelson’s Mass and Faure’s Requiem in ways that suggest to me that they have been his good friends to him all his life. Occasionally while giggling at the squeaky sopranos and uppity tenors, he will illuminate and entertain us with musical anecdotes that are also instructions. “Its not ex-audi’ but ‘eggs-audi’ like eggs Benedict at the audo factory,” he will say with a grin. Or though these are marked as crotchets they are quavers, they are marked so on the orchestra notation, but he forgot to do so with with the choral score. He imagined we would figure it out I suppose. It is the total comprehension of his subject and ongoing conversation with it, that allows us to not only enter the piece but its culture; its meaning and its value.
Our two-hour evening rehearsal was over; the fifty-strong members of the choir stacked their chairs and left to find their cars. Then I had a solitary, short walk back to my flat round the back of St Michael’s church where the strains of Aber Opera soloists, wafted poetically through the murmurous air. I walked up through the grounds of the old castle, passed bushes of hydrangeas and a now-derelict playground. As I passed I looked up at the eroded walls of the castle ruins, which felt distinctly medieval with archery shafts, pitting the ruined wall. I followed the ground’s slope down to the sea front. Now that the opera singers had faded from out of my range of hearing, the sea took over. The smashing of its encroach and retreat upon the battered beach, the hauling and heaving of frothy combers which were so forcefully projected that they almost touched the stone-walled promenade, made little cerebral recesses in my imagination.
It’s in moments such as these, ones that burn as brilliantly as fireworks or beach fires, that we experience life as one lucid and transparent beauty. We enter into its mystery, but also into its simplicity.
29th October 2015, Aberystwyth