There are places in Wales I don't go:
Reservoirs that are the subconscious
Of a people, troubled far down
With gravestones, chapels, villages even....
-- R.S. Thomas (1913-2000), 'Reservoirs'
The sound of a mobile phone going off cut through the busy hum of the restaurant, a shrill little double-ring that seemed specifically designed to make shoulders tense and set teeth on edge.
Will pressed his lips together, hoping that its owner would hurry up and answer it -- but his irritation quickly gave way to surprise when his lunchtime companion whirled round and began to fumble in the pockets of the overcoat draped over the back of his chair.
'Ach, stupid thing...thought I'd set it to silent.' A moment later, the offending device was out in the open and answered in mid-ring. 'Yes, what is it? Ah...ydw, Bran Davies sy'n siarad.... '
Bran's abrupt shift into Welsh made it clear that this phone call wasn't something that could wait. So Will leaned back in his chair, picked up his coffee cup, and averted his eyes. It felt the polite thing to do.
Truthfully, it also kept him from outright staring. The sight of Bran Davies talking into a mobile phone was more than a little disconcerting. Mobile phones, Will had always assumed, were up there with pagers and MP3 players and other noise-making personal electronic devices, all symbols of the obtrusiveness of modern culture that his friend was always so quick to condemn. But London was a long way from Cardiff, and a politician had his responsibilities, and they'd both finished eating and were waiting for the bill so it wasn't as if it was that much of an intrusion.
Only it was.
When Bran's most recent e-mail had mentioned an upcoming 'summons' to Westminster for some kind of dinner meeting with the Plaid Cymru MPs, Will decided that it was a more than opportune moment to visit the British Museum and check on the status of a restoration project for which he'd helped to arrange funding. So when he replied to Bran's message, he included a suggestion that they meet at a little Italian restaurant near Green Park, somewhere out of the way of the usual lunchtime crowds.
Only if you have time, of course, he'd added before clicking 'Send'.
Bran's response came a few minutes later. It was short and to the point:
If you promise not to mention farm subsidies at ANY point during the meal, I have all the time in the world.
Will had laughed, and cheerfully pencilled the date into his calendar.
He wasn't feeling quite so cheerful now. True, the food had been excellent, and farm subsidies never had a chance to enter the conversation. If he were entirely honest, he would have to admit that he'd carefully kept the conversation well away from politics whenever possible. But now that lunch was finished and they were about to go their separate ways, it looked like politics had managed to intrude on them all the same --
-- and Will winced a little, inwardly, as he realised that he was on the point of descending into a full-blown sulk.
When the waitress came over to their table with the card-reader, he was thankful for the distraction.
Bran was still speaking rapid-fire Welsh to whoever was on the other end of the phone, so Will double-checked the bill and handed it and his card to the waitress. They went through the familiar ritual of punching numbers into the machine -- not for the first time, Will was struck by the oddly ceremonial process involved in passing the card-reader back and forth -- until the transaction was complete and he had both his card and the receipt in hand.
'Thank you, sir,' the waitress said. Her gaze flickered over to Bran, deep in his phone conversation, and when she looked back at Will there was a touch of sympathy in her smile. 'Have a nice afternoon.'
Normally, Will would have wished her the same, but instead he barely grunted a reply. That sympathetic smile had struck a nerve, irritating him beyond all reasonable thought. It's not like that, he wanted to snap at her. It's not like that at all. And for that matter --
Before he could work himself up into a complete lather, he suddenly realised that the one-sided conversation across from him had stopped. He looked over at Bran, prepared to ask if his friend was ready to leave, but the question stopped in his throat when he saw the look on Bran's face.
Every muscle around Bran's mouth and eyes had gone tense, and his jaw was clenched so tightly that it seemed as if all the lines of his face were on the point of snapping. One hand still held the phone to his ear, but the fingers of his other hand were crushing his napkin in a white-knuckled grip. His golden eyes were alight with a strange, feverish intensity, bright as burning autumn leaves.
Instantly, instinctively, every part of Will's mind was on high alert. He sat silent and unmoving, waiting for --
-- the command --
-- the tension to break.
Finally, Bran spoke. It was only a few words, given in short, staccato bursts, but the quiet force behind them made Will's heart pound in his ears. He found himself automatically translating the Welsh in his mind.
'I can,' Bran was saying, brisk and decisive. 'Of course. When? Right, right. I'll be there.'
And then he pressed the button on the phone, ending the call.
The conversation ended so unexpectedly that Will actually jumped, startled almost out of his seat. To cover the flinch, he made a grab for his coffee cup, though the remaining half-inch of coffee within it was almost certainly stone cold and undrinkable.
'Is...is everything all right?' he asked, hoping that his voice didn't sound as shaken as he felt.
Bran blinked, meeting Will's uncertain gaze -- and then blinked rapidly a few more times, shrugging off whatever had held him in thrall only a moment before. All of the lines of tension eased, and within a matter of seconds he was as calm and self-possessed as he had been before his phone rang.
'All right?' he repeated. His mouth quirked at the question, as if he found Will's concern amusing. 'Oh, yes. Only a slight change of plans for this evening, for me.'
'I see,' Will said, looking very hard at Bran.
'Fortunately for them, I am the flexible sort.' Bran plucked his crumpled napkin off the table and started to fold it, every movement neat and precise. 'Now, I know you promised to pay for the meal, but are you sure you don't want anything for it? I owe you at least two dinners by this point.'
Exasperated, Will gave up on subtlety. 'Look, are you going to tell me what's happened, or do I have to start guessing? Or are you going to be horrible and say that I'll just have to read about it in the papers tomorrow like everyone else?'
'Horrible? No.' The amused smile was still playing around the corners of Bran's mouth. 'But you're clever enough to find out what it is on your own, boyo. You don't need me or the papers to tell you.' He glanced down at his watch, and pushed his chair away from the table. 'I, on the other hand, need to annoy a few people at Gwydyr House before it gets any later in the day. Are you going back to York tonight?'
'In an hour or so, probably.' It was a chore to keep his voice level, with half of his mind screaming in protest. 'Back-to-back departmental meetings all day tomorrow, and a drinks-do in the evening. The usual start-of-term social circuit.'
'Hit the ground running, that's always the way of things,' Bran said, with an understanding nod. 'Well, if you happen to get home by five or so tonight, let's just say that you might want to turn on the radio.'
'And that's all the hint you're giving me?' Will frowned. 'Come on, be fair.'
Bran's smile widened, just a little. It was his diplomatic smile now, smooth and pleasant and designed to placate, but the glint in his eyes had lost none of its feverish brightness.
'You'll see.' He managed to make the two words sound both reassuring and ominous. 'You'll see.'
On the train north, Will found that he couldn't concentrate enough to read either the paperback he'd brought with him or the newspaper he'd picked up at the station. Somewhere outside Peterborough, he realised that he'd read the opening paragraph of the same article five times, and finally gave up and stuffed the newspaper and the book back into the pockets of his old overcoat. He leaned back in his seat, watching towns and fields and houses flicker past.
His thoughts were flickering just as quickly. He was still on edge from earlier, and a second cup of coffee from a train station kiosk had not been able to dispel the sour taste that the rush of adrenalin had left in the back of his mouth. What had Bran meant by a 'slight change of plans'? What had that phone call been about, and what kind of news could have made Bran react so strongly? And, for that matter, why on earth had Bran's reaction had such an effect on him?
(Oh, he knew the answer to that last question only too well, but knowing a thing and actually admitting its effect are two very different matters.)
The blur of passing scenery began to blend with the steady pace of the train. Deep in his thoughts, he could almost tune out the never-ending rattle-thump-rattle-thump of the wheels; the monotonous background noise faded out of hearing after a while, leaving only a rhythm that was strangely soothing....
The duplicating machine was right outside his door, and with every page it churned out the back of the paper tray thumped against his office wall.
Then again, 'office' was an overly generous description. 'Spare cupboard' was far more accurate, a spare cupboard that smelt of damp and stale cigarettes and mimeograph ink. The clunky Bakelite phone with its fraying cloth-covered cord was probably older than he was, and holding the phone receiver in place was no simple task when both of his hands were otherwise occupied.
'"Devolution Davies"?' He frowned, staring at the slightly smeary print on the tabloid newspaper in his hands. 'Is that what they're calling you now?'
'Only the English-language papers,' Bran said. 'It's Datgnoli Davies in the Welsh ones. I can't quite decide which one I like better -- they both have a certain ring to them.'
He scowled, shrugging his shoulder in an attempt to wedge the telephone more firmly between his shoulder and ear. 'Bran....'
'It...doesn't bother you?' He gave up and dropped the newspaper on his desk, taking hold of the phone once more. 'That doesn't bother you?'
'And why should it bother me?' Bran said firmly. 'I should say that it was flattering, even if they can't see it that way. The only trouble will be living up to the standards that name represents.'
Silence, for a moment, as he tried to puzzle that out. 'How do you mean?'
'Name recognition, boyo. Bran Davies of Clwyd, prospective Plaid Cymru MP fighting some marginal Labour constituency? That will get me into the waiting room at the Welsh Office, yes. Perhaps even a cup of tepid tea to hold me over until some junior minister is free. But Devolution Davies....'
Even over the telephone, he could hear the crisp certainty in Bran's voice. It took little effort to picture the look on his friend's face -- the slow, careful, brilliant smile that under the right circumstances could make you forget to breathe.
'Devolution Davies,' Bran said again, giving the words all the weight and gravity of an ancient title. 'No mere waiting room will be able to contain him.'
(There was more to it than that, he was sure, and he knew he'd said something in reply -- )
— but then the train gave a sudden lurch, jerking him awake and unceremoniously flinging him back into the present. The rattle-thump had stopped, and so had the train.
Disoriented, Will pawed about in search of his coat, which had slipped off his knees and landed in a crumpled pile at his feet. By the time he had located it and rescued it from the floor, the train's loudspeaker had crackled to life and the train operator was making an announcement. To Will's best guess, there was a minor delay caused by a points failure outside Doncaster, though the poor quality of the speaker system made it equally possible that the train had stopped because Aston Villa were two points down on Manchester. Whatever the reason, it was clear that they wouldn't be moving for a while yet.
Will leaned back in his seat again, and closed his eyes.
He hadn't thought about that conversation in ages. He hadn't thought much about it at the time, either. Politics nearly always came up in their conversations in those days, to the point where Will's fellow doctoral students used to joke about whether the Welsh Nationalists ought to be (or secretly were) subsidising Will's fellowship stipend. The whole thing had been good for a laugh, back then -- it was easy enough to laugh about when everyone had a friend who was deeply involved in some cause or other.
Right now, though, Will couldn't see the joke in it. Devolution Davies certainly wasn't sipping cold tea or waiting for a free five minutes in some junior minister's diary. Not this afternoon, surely. That phone call, whatever it was, had seen to that. Bran didn't often get that look in his eyes, but when he did --
But when he did, Will thought grimly, you acted without thinking. And you would do so again in a heartbeat, because he is Bran Davies and you are Will Stanton, and even after thirty years of friendship you cannot forget that, not for one moment.
He looked down at his lap, at his hands buried in the folds of his coat. Light from the overhead fluorescents glinted off the face of his wristwatch. The hands pointed to twenty minutes to four, but unlike all of the other passengers on the train, Will wasn't concerned about the delay.
Time, at the moment, was quite possibly the only thing on his side.
When the train finally started moving again, one of the seats in the standard class was empty.
Walking along an Old Way, Will found, was like walking a labyrinth. Not the deadly, impossible-to-escape prison of Greek myths, but the intricate maze-like pattern often inlaid in the floors of great medieval churches, with a single path for a worshipper to walk along in silent prayer and meditation. As he walked the ancient road, following its track to the south, he felt his mind grow clearer, calmer, more capable of logical thought.
He strode across open fields and along railway lines, through the marks of civilisation that had grown up over the centuries on either side of the Old Way. Sunset was still a few hours away, but the long shadows of dusk were already beginning to stretch across the crisp autumn afternoon, dimming the colours of the fallen leaves and the few flowers that were determined to hold out until the first hard frost. For Will, caught half in and half out of Time, the sight and sound of people and vehicles all around him was muted and distant.
He kept walking, and the modern world obligingly made way for him.
Gradually, he became aware that something was keeping pace with him. At first he thought he was hearing his own footsteps more clearly, but the sound could not be coming from him -- it had to be someone with a longer stride, a steadier tread. And even though he kept walking, alone on the Old Way, he felt his throat tighten with a sharp, fierce delight as he realised that he wasn't truly alone.
Aloud, he murmured, 'I know you're only an echo, but...I'm glad you're here, Merriman.'
'Even an echo may suffice, if you are in need of it.' The deep, incisive voice was perfectly clear in his ears, as if Merriman Lyon himself was walking beside him. 'And you would not be here if you did not have need of it.'
Will knew that this echo, this shadow of the past, was part of the magic of the Old Ways. They drew power from those who walked them, just as those who knew how to walk them could draw power from them in return. The first and oldest of the Old Ones had helped shape this road from its earliest existence, and now the road was giving him shape, a nearly overwhelming sense of his presence. It was almost too much for Will to cope with all at once -- he felt small and uncertain, and when he opened his mouth it was as if his eleven-year-old self was speaking through him with that small and uncertain voice.
'I don't know what I'm supposed to do.' It came out as half-complaint and half-lament, the strain of keeping up the pretence finally too great for him to hold back. 'I mean, I know what I'm supposed to do, but it's not....' His shoulders hunched. 'I can't even explain it to you, and you're the only one who would have even the faintest idea of what I mean.'
'You are trying too hard to put it into words.' Merriman's voice, however patient, did not conceal the rebuke. 'All the tongues of men, even the Old Speech with all the power it commands, will not give the right shape to your thoughts if you continue to force them into patterns that your heart believes to be wrong.'
Perhaps he was trying too hard. Here on the Old Way, it was easier to see that -- easier to let go of some of the tight control, even if it hurt as much to let go of it as it did to hold onto it.
'I've never seen him look like that before,' he said, shaking his head. 'He wouldn't tell me what it was wrong, but I know it's important -- immensely important. And I want to be there, because...because I ought to be.'
'Because you ought to be,' Merriman repeated, low and reflective. 'And because you feel that you would be failing him somehow, if you were not there.'
'Yes.' Softly, miserably.
Merriman said nothing for a long moment, but the chill autumn breeze that tugged at Will's coat sounded suspiciously like a sigh. 'You have been making the best of a rather impossible situation for many years, Will. I doubt that anyone, least of all myself, would have reason to find fault with you. Quite the contrary, in fact.'
Will managed a weak smile. 'It isn't supposed to be an impossible situation, though, is it?'
'It is always an impossible situation, when you cannot be there to help in the way that you want to help. When something beyond your control prevents you from being there. And it is not surprising that you want to do whatever you can to rectify things, within existing constraints.'
Something in Merriman's words plucked uneasily at Will's memory. I am here...with you and not with you.... 'So I should go to him, then?'
'It would seem that you are already well on your way,' Merriman replied, with a flicker of dry wit. 'In more ways than one.'
Will wrinkled his nose, unable to suppress an eleven-year-old's look of frustration. 'I was hoping that you would have more of an opinion on the matter.'
'You have rather high expectations from an echo, Old One.' There was no need to see Merriman's face; Will could almost hear one bristly eyebrow go up. 'Go well, Will Stanton. I suspect that I will hear from you again, quite soon.'
And with that unsettling farewell, he was gone.
Alone once more, Will picked up his pace, letting himself fall deeper into the Old Way's magic. The path stretched out before him, edged with cold white fire as far as his eyes could see, but all the landmarks of the physical world -- trees and hedgerows, street signs and traffic lights -- shimmered only dimly at the corners of his vision, as if obscured by a heavy mist. Even the M25, that massive orbital motorway with its multiple lanes and endless streams of cars and lorries, seemed blurred and insubstantial compared with the crisp ribbon of light that cut straight across it.
Bran had not mentioned where he would be that evening, but Will didn't need directions. From the moment he stepped off the Old Way, straight into the midst of the early evening rush-hour and the hordes of commuters leaving the City of London, he knew where to go. Up the Thames, west along the Embankment, past the Inns of Court and the grandeur of Somerset House and the Victorian Gothic spires of the Houses of Parliament, into the heart of Westminster.
His feet led him to a small hotel near St James's Park, to a private dining room where the waitstaff were clearing the last of the dinner plates from the tables. Most of the attendees were seated at tables of four or six, drinking coffee and tea and chatting over forkfuls of some kind of cake, but two people were busy at the front of the room, doing something to the wiring of a podium that bristled with microphones. A third person joined them, setting a glass of water on the podium and fiddling with the cables for a moment before hurrying over to adjust a videocamera that was positioned at the centre of the room, pointing directly at the podium.
Bran had called it a dinner meeting with a handful of MPs. To Will's eyes, it looked like a press conference with table service.
He kept well to the back of the room, though he knew that no one would see him even if they were looking directly at him. Standing near the door, just off to one side, he was in a perfect position to observe everything and everyone in the room. He recognised several people straight away, familiar faces from the long years of Bran's involvement in all things political -- including one or two journalists from Welsh newspapers and television. There were many more people he didn't know, though most of them seemed to know each other.
A flash of white in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he turned his head to see Bran crossing the room, tall and confident in the dark blue suit he had been wearing earlier that day. He was met halfway by a middle-aged man and a young woman in grey, and in the round of handshakes that followed the man said a few words to Bran, clearly introducing him to the woman. Bran inclined his head, and said something that made the woman smile and blush a little. She gestured to the podium, and Bran nodded. The middle-aged man moved to one side, and found a seat at a nearby table as the young woman and Bran walked to the front of the room.
Most of the conversations faded as they drew near the podium. The few remaining voices fell silent as the young woman stepped forward, approaching the mass of microphones. After briskly tapping the largest one to ensure that it was on, and a final glance at Bran, she cleared her throat and began to speak.
'Good evening, everyone,' she said. 'I'm afraid that the task of giving the introductions this evening has fallen to me, and most people here know that I often have difficulty finding the right words to say at these things. Fortunately, I have never known of a single instance in which our speaker this evening has ever been short of words, so I will do you all a favour and simply let him speak for himself.' The tone and rhythm of her voice grew more formal as she declared, 'As president of Plaid Cymru Llundain, it is my very great honour to welcome the Assembly Member for Ceredigion and Meirionnydd -- Mr Bran Davies, Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs.'
The applause swelled as she stepped aside, returning to her seat, and Bran took her place at the podium.
'Noswaith dda, foneddigion a boneddigesau. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.' The transition from Welsh to English was fluid and effortless. 'I am quite honoured to have been asked to say a few words at this dinner, and I must extend my gratitude to our Parliamentary Group Leader for his kind invitation this evening and to the chair of our London branch for her time and trouble in making all the arrangements for it. Huw, Marion, diolch yn fawr.'
He led a short but warm round of applause, nodding to both the middle-aged man at his table and the young woman at hers, and then looked round the room, studying his audience.
'You will pardon me, I hope, if my remarks seem a little disjointed this evening,' he said. 'I had a lovely speech prepared for tonight, full of fire and brimstone and all the things I've no doubt you expect from me, but I found it necessary to revise it in light of information I received earlier this afternoon. For those who have not yet heard the news, shortly before 5.00 PM this evening the Liverpool City Council issued a formal apology for the flooding of the Tryweryn Valley in 1965.'
Tryweryn. No wonder Bran had reacted so strongly. Will's stomach churned a little as the pieces fell into place, bits of things he'd read and snippets of conversations he'd heard over the years, all coming together in his mind. An apology...and tomorrow is the anniversary, too...oh Bran....
From his position at the back of the room, he could not pick out individual facial expressions very well, but the low murmur that greeted Bran's statement gave him some idea of how this news was received by the audience. People shifted in their seats, leaning over to mutter things to neighbours on either side. Bran kept silent for a few moments, waiting for the rumble of conversation to fade.
'Most people here, I think, will understand the importance of this apology. For those who do not, I can only summarise a painful chapter in Welsh history by saying that forty years ago, a Welsh-speaking community was forcibly evicted from the property that they and their families had occupied for generations, in order to flood the land and create a reservoir to provide water for an English metropolitan area.' His eyes narrowed. 'In spite of the vehement protests of the community and the members of Parliament who had been duly elected to represent them, the village of Capel Celyn and the surrounding area were wiped off the map of Wales at the stroke of an English bureaucrat's pen.'
His voice had started to rise in volume, but he seemed to check himself, pausing for a beat before he resumed his speech. 'Some people might feel that this apology has been a rather long time in coming. Indeed it has, and anyone who happened to listen to the five o'clock news this evening will have heard my thoughts on the matter -- or at least, such thoughts as the BBC found appropriate to air at an hour when young children might be listening.' Laughter greeted this comment, and Bran's mouth twitched in response. 'I don't have nearly enough chances to spread seditious messages to impressionable young minds, these days. But there is something to be said for those impressionable young minds -- in a roundabout way, they introduce the point I was planning to make this evening.'
He took a sip from the glass of water that had been placed on the podium. 'I grew up in a valley not far from Tryweryn, in a small community not unlike that which was destroyed by the creation of the reservoir. You might expect that I would have heard of Tryweryn from an early age, but our community was hardly what one would call politically active, and my father in particular had no time for politics. I suspect that he regarded voting in the same way that most people regard a visit to the dentist -- necessary, but not pleasant, and done more out of a sense of obligation than one of either interest or approval. He had the chapel on evenings and Sundays, and I've no doubt that he regarded politicians as men living far too close to the world for his liking.' His mouth twisted. 'What that says about my choice of career, I shudder to think, but I only mention this to explain how little I knew about my own land until I took the time to listen more carefully, and think more deeply.
'I was a small boy in the 1960s, when Tryweryn was flooded. So it is hardly any surprise that when I came of age in the early part of the 1980s, Tryweryn and the grievance it represented was a fundamental part of my political education -- perhaps the most fundamental part. And one of my more vivid memories of that time, of my earliest involvement in Welsh politics, occurred when I travelled with a group of university friends to the reservoir to see it for ourselves. I had no idea of the effect that the sight might have on me until I found myself standing on its shores, looking out over the flat stretch of water...and I tell you that I could scarcely think straight for the anger that rose up within me.'
The tension in the air was growing palpable. Several people in the audience, young and old alike, were nodding at Bran's words. Will clasped his hands behind his back, forcing himself to keep still.
'If you have ever experienced that kind of anger,' Bran said slowly, 'you will know that it is next to impossible to put into words. Nothing printable, or even unprintable, will begin to describe it. Confronted with that water, knowing what lay beneath it, I felt as if my head was full of noise -- harsh and jangling and unrelenting, rattling through my head like the clamour of countless bells. And from that day to this, I have never been able to think of Tryweryn without hearing those bells in my mind.'
In spite of the warmth of the room, Will felt a cold shiver race down his spine.
'Clychau Dryweryn, I began to call them.' The twist of Bran's mouth was bitter now. 'The bells of Tryweryn -- like the bells of Aberdyfi, ringing out their haunted music from beneath the waters, the music of another drowned land drowning out my thoughts. And I heard them again today, loud and furious as ever, when I received the phone call telling me that the Liverpool council had issued their long-overdue apology.'
Bran closed his eyes, and let out a breath before opening them again -- and his expression relaxed a little. 'That call came earlier today, when I was having lunch with an old friend. Several of you here have met him, because I have a tendency to drag him along to our functions whenever his work brings him within spitting distance of Wales. He is without doubt the most level-headed person I know -- if I can't explain my reasoning to him, to his satisfaction, then it is a strong indication that I need to go back and think a bit more carefully before I act.
'So I was very glad that he was there when the call came. I must have given him a nice scare, if I looked half as thunderstruck as I felt. But just by being there, not even saying anything, he helped me to keep that anger in check. To quiet the bells in my mind -- not to silence them, but to quiet them to the point where I could think again -- that was what I needed at that moment, more than anything.'
He took another sip of water. Will's own mouth was so dry that not even the entire glass would have been enough.
'I was fortunate this afternoon,' Bran continued, setting the glass down. 'It is a difficult balance to strike, between passion and reason, and in a movement like ours there has always been a very real danger of being carried away by well-intentioned but ultimately misguided passion. Those of us who remember some of the worst excesses of the 1980s -- well, that is an argument of ends and means, and I have always disliked those arguments. There was passion then, no end of passion, and it was not always put to good use. But it allowed us to accomplish so much, even when it seemed as if we were shouting empty slogans at those least willing to hear them. Passion saw us through it then, and will see us through any other dark times that may lie ahead.'
He was really warming to the speech now, the lilt in his voice creating an ebb and flow that carried the mood of his audience along with his words. 'And yet passion can do little without reason to guide it, to offer a quiet word of advice or a firm plan for action that goes beyond the promises we make in our manifestos and pamphlets. Reason has allowed us to show that we can be capable of governing, and acting in the best interests even of those who may not have happened to vote for us -- or to cast a vote at all -- but who deserve to be represented all the same. But reason has its own set of shortcomings. Today, now that we have accomplished things that were only dreamed of when I first looked out over Tryweryn years ago, we run the risk of allowing reason to dominate so thoroughly that in the end it does not differ much from complacency. And complacency is nothing more than a slow, sinking death...a drowning so gradual that we will scarcely realise that the waters have closed over our heads until it is too late.'
His gaze, gleaming gold and compelling, swept the room. 'I hope that the Clychau Dryweryn will not be quite as loud in my ears from now on. But I also hope that I never forget their sound -- the sound of anger, yes, but also the sound of pride, and hope, and defiance, and of a people who will not let their memory be destroyed. And there is no greater reward for me than to have the chance to work along with you, for as long as I am able, to keep that memory alive. Thank you.'
Hours later, the applause was still echoing in Will's head.
It was not the only echo, but it was by far the loudest.
SUBJ: Congratulations (and other things)
FROM: Will Stanton [firstname.lastname@example.org]
TO: Bran Davies [email@example.com]
DATE: 20 October 2005 09:17 GMT
First of all, you should know that your broadcast nearly caused a traffic accident
yesterday! When Kathleen came into work this morning, she told me that she was
listening to the radio on the drive home, and when you came on she reached for
the volume to turn it up and almost drove straight through a red light. But she
said to tell you that it was worth it, and asked me to send her congratulations,
if that was the appropriate word to use.
I don't know if congratulations can go deep enough to express it, but I have to say
that I'm beyond thrilled for you. I know how long you've been working for this, and
how much it means to finally have some kind of response from that lot in Liverpool.
So I hope you'll accept mine, too.
The Assembly's back from recess this week, right? In the interests of checking
schedules and giving us something to plan around, what does your calendar look
like towards the end of the year? I'm slated to spend some time travelling for work,
mostly in Devon and Cornwall, but I have at least ten days to conjure with around that
time. And Mum wanted me to ask if you'd be at all interested in spending a few days at
the old place -- it won't be as much of a zoo this year, since it looks like Paul and
I are the only ones who aren't out of the country or with our in-laws on Christmas proper.
At any rate, let me know if you have any days free and we'll try to work something out.
(On a related note, I can't decide if I should be deeply hurt that you've had a mobile
phone all this time and never once saw fit to give me the number. How long have
you been living in the 21st century without my knowledge?)
SUBJ: Re: Congratulations (and other things)
FROM: Bran Davies [firstname.lastname@example.org]
TO: Will Stanton [email@example.com]
DATE: 20 October 2005 12:21 GMT
Thank you very much -- and please thank Kathleen for me as well, and give her
my apologies for causing the near-miss. I'm all for people taking a greater interest
in politics, but not at the cost of traffic violations!
My schedule is still uncertain, though I know the usual 'mince-pie marathon' will
occupy most of the run-up to Christmas. (Last year it was eleven holiday parties;
this year may make it an even dozen if the most recent round of boundary changes
go through.) But I have one day already blocked off for you, of course, and please
tell your mother that I look forward to seeing her this year. Her hands haven't
been troubling her much lately, have they?
As for my mobile phone, do you really want me to be calling you from the back
seat of a taxi at all hours of the night? That's where I've ended up using that thing
the most, ever since I got it. For my part, I would much rather talk to you when
I'm at home with my feet up and can give you something closer to my undivided
attention. But I suppose you should have it in case of emergencies. Andrew here
says that I can set up the phone so that it will have a different ring for a call
from any of your numbers, work or home or mobile -- is that enough of a comfort for
your wounded pride?
Back to the farm subsidies, unfortunately. I may call at some point on Sunday
evening, if you're around.
SUBJ: Re: Re: Congratulations (and other things)
FROM: Will Stanton [firstname.lastname@example.org]
TO: Bran Davies [email@example.com]
DATE: 20 October 2005 12.45 GMT
My wounded pride thanks you, with immense amounts of dignity.
And Sunday evening's fine -- call whenever you like. I'm not going anywhere.