To purchase a copy

Title: High Up in the Rolling Hills
Author: Peter Finch

Category: Biography, memoir, manifesto, sustainable living
Format: Trade paperback, hardcover, ebook
Publication Date: April, 2013
Pages: 204
Recommended Price: $17.95 softcover, $27.95 hardcover, $9.95 pdf
Trim: 8.5 x 5.5 inches
Available from: iUniverse; Amazon in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil; Barnes & Noble; Borders; Chapters Indigo in Canada
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Friday, 28 November 2014

A Trip to the Old Country

I returned this week from a trip to the old country. Missing several days of wild snowy, blustery weather here at home, I enjoyed mild and mostly dry conditions in England and north Wales.

Niece Anna ’s wedding with Dan was a traditional church affair, and it was lovely to see Anna wearing my Mum’s flowing white dress from her August, 1946 wedding in Horspath, near Oxford, some sixty eight years ago. 

Mary Mullins, August 12, 1946
Anna Blackaby, November 15, 2014

After the ceremony, Anna, Dan and the entire wedding party walked over the English Bridge and strode proudly up the hill into Shrewsbury town centre and to the reception at Mission Hall. It is always lovely to reconnect with family in person and it happens all too rarely these days. For me, this means two sisters, a brother-in-law, three nieces, one nephew, one great niece, and two great nephews. My sister Jenny and I even worked in a visit to Mum and Dad at their resting place up on Kinver Edge. A mild morning was illuminated by a bright early winter sun as we approached the ridge where their ashes are spread. We communed with their spirits by way of tulsi tea from holy basil I had grown and dried this summer, along with local ham and cheese baps.

Jenny and Peter up on Kinver Edge

 This family occasion was followed by several days in Snowdonia. The train delivered me first to Llandudno, where I got my fix of archetypal Victorian seaside, wandering along the salty promenade, supping on fish and chips, mushy peas with sliced white bread and a pot of tea. Pints up the pub whilst watching England beat Scotland at football, full Welsh breakfast , a bracing walk up on the Great Orme headland… Then it was off on the train again up the scenic ConwyValley to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the wilds of upland Snowdonia. The landscape up here is stark, open, and overwhelmingly grey. An historic slate mining town, mounds of slate are everywhere, piled dense and high. Small-gauge railways that were built to transport the slate down to the coast are now quaint tourist attractions that still run seasonally. My walk took me up above the town to a placid lake and  the tufted grasses and browned ferns of mountain sides dotted with sheep, and ever more slate excavations. The sky was slate grey reflecting the land use. And water was everywhere, tumbling down the valley sides in gurgling cascades and spilling over the saturated soft peaty turf underfoot. After weeks of rain, it was still finding its way slowly into the soil and down the hills. The dampness everywhere created a melancholic mood but nature here is pure, clear, and ever in flux. A Turneresque sky would momentarily appear as  sunrays broke through the clouds and bathed a distant mountainside in diffused light.

Back down in the lowland, the river Conwy sweeps broad and majestic through the green fields. The Bodnant Estate hosted four of us college buddies for a long weekend as we made a very well appointed Welsh farmhouse perched high up overlooking the valley our home for three days and nights. A Blaenau butcher and Bodnant’s  Welsh Farm Shop provisioned us with excellent local, artisanal foods like black Welsh ribeyes, a shoulder of lamb, Severn -Wye smoked salmon, local vegetables. Our wines were more international, of course, with French Chablis, Chilean Carmenère, Australian Shiraz, Argentinian Malbec to the fore. Needless to say, we did not go thirsty or hungry. Conversation was rapt in reminiscence of good times spent during our years studying and carousing in Oxford. As we chat, we bounce around the world, and the world bounces off us. Next year, we look ahead with some trepidation to the landmark 40th anniversary of our meeting at college. Yikes, where does the time go‽ How easy it is to be among friends that one has known so long. How readily the laughter flows. How nice not to be judged or criticized by others, but to be readily accepted for who you are, no questions asked.

In Britain today, people ply their trades and go about their lives as they traditionally have. Yes, the world is changing fast, and everywhere people are distracted, slaves to their devices and technologies that have them all aflutter. They cannot readily unwind, disconnect and smell the coffee, take in a deep draught of pure fresh air, take a good look around. Stimulation is around every corner and I was glad to be in the moment, alive to sense and sound as we walked purposefully across the landscape. Soaking up the scenery and the company, I felt the special love that comes with truly appreciating friends and family.

Andy, Peter, Jeremy, Neil at a Welsh farmhouse