Saturday, 17 March 2012



Cil-lonydd, the farm next door on Marland Mountain, started doing pony treks. And they opened a bar. And they got a bit country and western, and called themselves the Double D, after the initials of the owners, Dennis and Dee. The local countryside ranger, a regular patron, added to the flavour by roaring around Mynydd Maen in an old Willys Jeep, while wearing aviator sunglasses and a Stetson at a jaunty angle.

Come the Queen's Jubilee in 1977, stepmother, who made a point of being proud to be English among the foreign Welsh of Gwent, expressed her national pride by running up a wobbly Union Jack on her sewing machine, and father draped it across the chimney for her, so that it was visible at least from the barn at the top of the track. 

I had not long since started reading the New Statesman in the school library, and had been surprised to discover that there were other interpretations of history and politics than the establishment one. It was a bit of a scales-from-the-eyes moment. I wanted to be a revolutionary, but settled for the moment with a Stuff The Jubilee badge and an air of teenage disaffection. I was a late starter.

The Double D announced a great Jubilee Rodeo. It was epic. Two hundred cowboys came down from Coventry in coaches, and camped out at Cil-lonydd. There was country and western music, and gunfights in the audience.

"I was first"
"No, I was first!"
"Would you please not fire your guns in the bar!"

Up on the big field were all sorts of events, including bucking broncos. I put my name down for that, because it sounded fun. Then I saw the ponies. They were wild ponies, rounded up off the mountains and stopping off en route to France where they were going to be eaten. One by one, they were herded into a high wooden press where the riders would scramble on to their backs before the gate was opened and out they charged into the ring. 

As I watched, a pony, wild with fear or anger, jumped and scrambled out over the top of the press. It seemed very large, very powerful, very toothy, very wrong.

I went to help father and his friend David Williams, who were running the  clay pigeon shoot. I sat in the steel shelter forward of the shooting line, working the trap that flings the clay pigeons up into the air. Pull lever back, rest clay pigeon on the arm, press the trigger when the shooter calls "Pull!" Watch the clay pigeon burst with the shot, or skim away in the direction of the slag heap behind the beech trees. In time, the Tannoy in the main field called a familiar name. "Would Drew Marland come to the arena..." 

"No, I bloody won't", I thought, and put another clay in the trap.

The next day, I was passing over the common, and saw a coach departing in the direction of Coventry, bouncing down the track, a sea of Stetsons bobbing in time to the bumps.