Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book of the Week

Real Powys, that's a good one, for a county dreamt up in the 1970s by bureaucrats with a passing but imprecise knowledge of medieval history. Anyway it's part of a series from Seren Books that includes Real Llanelli, Real Merthyr and the like, so we can excuse the faintly oxymoronic title.

The paperback consists of 39 offbeat pieces based around towns and districts in the county, some 200 pages in all. As well as the expected, Richard Booth and Adelina Patti, we also get more rootsy stuff, Harry Tuffin's, or a day at Penybont races for example. Mind you I could have done without the author's exploits with a hairy 'lumberjack' in the Abergwesyn pass.

Mistakes? Well you don't have to ford the Ithon to get from Cilmeri to Llanynys but Parker certainly knows his subject. There's an I-spy game for Gogs to while away the happy hours on the A470 - 3 points if you see a car scrape it's hubcaps on the metalled kerbing going on to Builth Bridge.

Who should read this book? Certainly the author's soap-dodging, dream-weaving, down-shifting, white-flighting, Guardian-reading, gastro-pubbing incomers. Also locals who like to read other viewpoints on the familiar, Llandrindod's fresh air for instance is "Patchouli, with faint opiate top notes." Yes we've all caught a whiff of those. At £9.99 it might also make a useful Christmas present for whichever public servant was responsible for an information board recording "the legend of Prince Llewelyn."

Verdict. It's not Paul Theroux but it'll do.


Anonymous said...
"explores ruined Abbey Cwmhir" - 5 minutes.
as to the questions : possibly, no, not many .
read these instead

Anonymous said...

An abridged version: Powys is a big, quirky, diverse bureaucratic invention that is home to several writers unknown outside the literati.

old radnor said...

Nice review ... I'd forgotten about those walks through the countryside with the literati

Anonymous said...

Does modern Powys resemble the boundaries of the kingdom of Powys......we know parts of powys are now in england sadly.

Surely we shouldnt put too much rose tinted nostalgia into counties like radnorshire and denbighshire created under the brutal edward 1

old radnor said...

No, modern day Powys doesn't resemble the boundaries of the kingdom of Powys. Radnorshire and Breconshire were never part of Powys.

What now constitutes Radnorshire - together with Buallt, now in Breconshire, and Ceri, now in Montgomeryshire - made up the old kingdom of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren.

No Radnorshire wasn't created by Edward the First. It was created by the Acts of Union in 1543 - made up of the Lordships of Maelienydd, Efael, Gwerhrynion, Radnor etc.

We should remember that only a part of Wales was conquered and shired in 1282. Many Lordships retained a good degree of independence from the English crown, for example what remained of the kingdom of Powys continued to be held by its native rulers and their descendants until the 1540s. The territories that went up to make up Radnorhire also continued in this semi-independent state until the 16C.

Radnorshire after it was shired continued to be ruled by a gentry largely descended from its ancient princes - although they were increasingly anglicised - until the advent of the old county council which disappeared in 1973. I would say that it is now, as part of Powys, largely ruled by unelected officials pursuing policies laid down elsewhere.

I'd agree that some old name such as Ferlys or Cynllibiwg would be a better name for this particular part of East Central Wales, but that would only be intelligible to antequarians. Radnorshire will do.

I doubt if you will find much rose tinted nostalgia on the blog, we'll leave that to Llandindod's Victorian Festival.