“I like to think if I’d stuck with cricket I could have been a Welsh Ian Botham.” (Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers)

Well, it’s strange times indeed that we are living through my bookish friends. May you all, and your families and friends, stay safe and well.

My blogging was already decidedly scarce although I kept making (wasted) efforts to get it back on track. Now with all that is happening my workload is through the roof (those tips on how to fill your hours during home working/isolation etc are completely wasted on me) and what hours I do have to spare I’m finding it hard to read in due to all the anxious feelings.

I have started doing yoga every morning though, which I’ve been claiming I’m about to do for at least the last eleventy million years, so its not all bad 😀 (and for anyone else feeling anxious, it seriously helps. If nothing else swearing at the perfect vision of the instructor as you sweatily try to wrap your ankles round your head is a great stress reliever.)

Anyway, I read a wonderful novella a while ago in preparation for the Wales Readathon 2020 aka Dewithon hosted by the lovely Paula at Book Jotter. Originally I was going to pair it with How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn but sadly that classic remains unread on my shelves due to the aforementioned brain chatter. Instead, here is just one book but it’s totally deserving of a post all to itself.

Cove by Cynan Jones (2016) is only 95 pages long and shows how intense such a tight form can be. The writing is lyrical, precise, beautiful. Every word carries its full weight.

A man is adrift at sea, having been struck by lightning. He is disoriented and in pain.

“His mouth is crusted with salt. He does not know where he is. There is a pyroclast of fine dried ash across his skin.

When he comes to, the strongest thing he feels is the tingling in his hands. It feels as if they are distant things, strange ringing bells. Finds out anew he cannot move his arms. He does not remember getting back into the kayak. Does not understand. The ground is moving. Is sure that if he moves he will abolish himself. Holds on to himself like a thought coming out of sleep.”

Gradually, a sense of where he is and what he needs to do to survive emerges:

“Saw on his skin, a grey dust above the point his arm had lain in the water, felt the knowledge of it flutter, float inside him. A sense of himself, a fly trapped the wrong side of the glass.”

We stay with the man as he assesses what resources he has; what state he is in physically; and as his memories gradually return, hazy and confused, Eventually he has a sense of a particular reason that he must return home, but will he make it?

“When he saw the address label on the bag he saw his name. It was like looking into an empty cup. Then he heard a voice say it. The knowledge it gave down was as delicate as an image sitting on the surface of the water, disrupting as he moved to reach it.

He let it go, instinctively.”

Cove is a stunning novella that occupies a space between prose and poetry. Its economy and lyricism make it poetic, its clear plot pulls you through the story. 

I’ve not done Cove justice at all as my brain is kaput, so all I can do is urge you to read it for yourselves 😊

To end, if you’d like to embrace some Welsh culture but are also finding reading a struggle, I can recommend an excellent Welsh language tv thriller, Hidden (it’s bilingual on BBC4). Both series (I’ve just finished watching the second) are pared back and tense. You always know who did it; the interest is in the quiet, steady way the police piece it together and the psychological portraits of all involved. They are also a really, really tough watch, so now might not be the best time, but for future times when we’re feeling more robust…