The beer is pink and tastes of strawberries. It’s almost enough to compensate for missing cake — and a trip round one of my favourite castles on a day with clear skies and fine views was definitely enough. It’s Friday, and we went out for the day: twelve sff writers loose in Criccieth, stir-crazy after 5 intense days of crits, and silly with it. In the castle bailey, Victor becomes our Director, arranging various of us in poses appropriate to our mood and setting. Sam leads out from the prow of the Engine tower, held back by a conga-line of writers. I climb a wall and recline, channeling my inner disdainful Tory MP. “Less centrefold, more snob,” says Victor. Out on the beach below assorted dogs chase waves, try to round up recalcitrant humans and look hopefully at the ice cream vendor. Tiffani glances at his board and later is able to recite the whole list of flavours.
It has been a good week, full of unexpected angles and observations. Aside from Sunday, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) presides gracefully over the end of the valley and our crit sessions. His lesser companions form perfect images in the calm surface of the lake. Yesterday, Liz, Jacey, Tina and I went up to Trefriw, to watch the woolen mill in action. The A5 is unexpectedly closed, and we turn up the Llanberis pass. “Murder on the highway,” says Tina, darkly. A great iron sword rises out of the bank of the lake in front of Dolbadarn Castle: I wonder, as ever, what Llywelyn ab Iorwerth would have made of it. It is not, perhaps, the symbol he would have chosen, the blade slicing down through the lands he inherited and the lands to which he also laid claim. Heredity is rarely simple. There is always more than one version of any story.
In the library, we are sleepy and talk about the weather. Powder has been disturbed by strange noises from the roof: Pigeons, we opine. But then again, maybe not. The land around Trigonos is vivid with jackdaws; up along the valley, Lleu Llaw Gyffes waits in eagle shape for Gwydion to find. The lake is restless: perhaps the afanc is stirring.
One of us reveals a super-power: things happen around them.
The wind listens.
I really missed Milford last year, now that we can’t attend more than two in a row, so it was great to be here again, and to know that I’ll be back in 2020. I’ve been the odd one out, almost, this time, as between crit reading and crit giving I found myself disappearing, not into the mists of Mordor behind us but into my room, to write. Trigonos is quiet, and feels so far away from the rest of the world, that I can unravel how to filter a whole new third thread of a story into the two-thread plot I thought I was writing. At home, there’d be interruptions and I’d have got lost about where and when a scene had to go, where who was when, how to get five sets of characters to the same end destination at roughly the same time AND MAKE SURE ALL OF THEM HAVE A GOOD REASON TO BE THERE. Here, even when everyone else was around, I could concentrate, and on the day almost everyone else went out it felt like I was the only person for miles.
Do I act like this every time I visit? No, but the option is there, to walk down to the lake, to sit and stare at Snowdon, to climb the looming mountain of slate we’ve christened Mordor, to go off on serious hikes – or sit and talk about so many new subjects, cos there are such a variety of minds around me.
Next year, maybe I’ll just chill out, or even talk writing.
Milford is an experience unlike any other I have had,
Inspiring, peaceful, beautiful, productive, delicious, and utterly
Life-affirming, particularly in such a time of turmoil and travail.
Fantastic, in so many ways, from the stories written in that mode, to the feedback graciously given.
Otherworldly, wrapped in mist and the wet Welsh mountains.
Ranging through Middle-Earth in microcosm, the landscape singing,
Do I really have to leave already? I don’t want to go.
It’s a damn good thing I have reasons that getting back is going to be good for me because I’m not sure I’m ready for this being my last day yet. Today was our field trip, in which I got to walk up a castle, eat fine fish, sit in a throne (not Iron this time; sorry George!) and make a pilgrimage to the Purple Moose. I am now equipped with my first bottle of the delicious Black Mountain blackcurrant and apple brandy in several years and have some amazing pictures from the week. Not least of these pictures is one pretty much every day of my wanders down to the lake and the happiness this brought me. Most of this is just thinking about today.
I’ve plenty to take away from this week; ideas, inspiration, copious notes and encouragement from the best possible sources. I’m hoping to carry some of the momentum I’m leaving with forward, particularly in some quite uncertain times, but I’ve left here more or less thinking I can do just about anything. That’s a lot down to the company, though I suspect the excellent food has probably also worked wonders…
More of this sort of thing, please, and anyone thinking about this in the future, just do it. I’m really looking forward to the chance of being back for the writing retreat in June, for sure.
Last night of Milford 2019. Spent the day reflecting on the week and the invaluable experience of being critiqued as well as critiquing. I also got some writing done out in the sunshine looking out on the breath-taking scenery. Now spending the evening winding down in the library with my fellow Milfordians. A wonderful week of fellowship, laughter and debate. I feel enriched by my Milford experience.
Here we are, closing another great edition of Milford. Not the first time I’ve attended and not the last, I expect – because it is always awesome to be here. I had the pleasure to see old friends and meet new ones, in seven days full of crits and stimulating discussions. We’re finishing it up in the best possible way, in the library playing ‘Sussed Wonderlands’ and discussing about the most unlikely superpower or what we would like as starship captains…See you all next time!
Well, that’s all folks. We’ve critted and eaten and talked and drunk our way through a fabulous week, but now it’s (almost) over. Once more sleep and then breakfast tomorrow before we all head off in different directions.