Under the Tump: Sketches of Real Life on the Welsh Borders by Oliver Balch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Strangely enough, the only reason I know about Hay-on-Wye is because of the books. This Welsh town has over 20 bookshops and is the host to a huge literary festival at the end of May. When the writer Oliver Bach decided to move to the village of Clyro, just outside Hay; he wanted more than to immerse himself in a world of books, put down roots and make it a maybe make it a place he could call home
Compared to London and Buenos Aires where he had lived before it was utterly different, and he wasn’t to settle into village life with his family. He is ably assisted by the Victorian diarist, Francis Kilvert, a curate who wrote about the village in the 1870’s. Bach wanted to see how much had changed since then, as well as find out just what had stayed the same. Like all newcomers, he is treated coolly at first, but ever so slowly, people warm to him. The village is full of characters, he meets local councillors, activists, hippies and a family that have dropped of grid. Hay even has its own King, self-appointed of course. Being a rural community, agriculture is a major part of the economy and he spends time with the local young farmers groups, finding out just what keeps them entertained and helping out at a function.
It is a nicely written book and he is honest in his opinions of the qualities and flaws of country living. Initially he feel like an immigrant, but the longer he spends there he finds that he is not the only incomer; there are others that even a few generations on feel like they are still new. I particularly liked the history of the area that he discovers, uncovering details about where he now lives and the houses and landscape around. As interesting as it was to read though, there did not feel like there was a huge amount of depth to the book. Just need to arrange a trip to Hay now…
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