Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table



The picture is a watercolour pencil version of the remains of a burial mound called Sweyne’s How, which is located somewhere in the middle of Rhossili Down on the Gower Peninsula in Wales. Sweyne was the warlord after whom the town of Swansea was named.  There’s not a lot left but a few big rocks but boy, did it take us some wandering to find it. Ordnance survey maps can be very unhelpful.

I really enjoy visting prehsitoric sites around Britain but always find dear old Stonehenge rather a hard place to cope with. There are a few barrows a short walk away which are very neglected. You can see the Henge from them; this was where I began the following poem. It came second in a national competition.  I hope you enjoy both the picture and the poem as they illustrate a similar point. I maybe ought to add that I have Welsh ancestry; my great grandmother’s cottage is in the National Welsh  folk museum just outside of Cardiff. I went to see it some years ago and it was a very odd experience. I also have Irish ancestry.  I had an ancestress whose profession was down as “manglewoman” on the census of 18 something. I don’t do the whole genealogy thing but who my people were as a general thing fascinates me.


The dead lie quiet and watchful here, I think,
Beneath the waving wildflowers
And tall grasses bleached blonde
By intermittent summer sun.
A lady lies here, or a kind man maybe;
War-like in weapons only
But quiet in heart and mind.
The other dead, dust alone remaining,
Resent the relentless tread
Of dull and careless feet
That wear the crown of the barrow bald
And lay bare the chalky soil
In an uncertain stony path.
The great stones, a glance away,
Command the attention of the dull throng
Caught up in automatic wonder
Walking the stony circus round and round
While here, unheeded, the real ancestors lie.

by Viv


February 4, 2009 - Posted by | Cafe L'Arte, Cafe Literati, death, family, illustrations, life, literature, painting, personal, poetry, Viv's Art, Viv's Poetry, women, writing | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Nicely evokes those Ancient places, Viv. I’ve been around and about Stonehenge many times and was oddly underwhelmed. The standing stones at Callanish resonated with me far more. Situated on the west side of the Isle of Lewis, Miki and I visited them two summers ago. As if being Iconic gaelic gneiss monoliths wasn’t enough, they’ve also found fame as the stars of the cover of Ultravox’s “Lament” album.

    Comment by kevmoore | February 4, 2009

  2. I loved my visit to Stonehenge! But I can understand your lament.

    Comment by shelleymhouse | February 4, 2009

  3. I think one can build these things up in one’s mind, and when you finally see it, it can be disappointing. Plus it’s been all roped-off and you can’t go near it now. (or at least you couldn’t) I had the same effect with the little mermaid statue in Copenhagen…it was know…too little!
    You can move amongst the stones at Callanish and touch them, I think that’s important.

    Comment by kevmoore | February 5, 2009

  4. “chalky soil”

    i just like that phrase.

    Comment by sittingpugs | February 5, 2009

  5. Nice, this may help with Stonehenge:

    Comment by sarsen56 | February 5, 2009

  6. I’ve been a number of times over the years; first time, I went with my dad while we were holidaying in Dorset. I was 15/16 I think, but anyway, it was the year the Rubiks’ Cube came out because Dad got one in Salisbury. We took a day trip on a coach in the pouring rain and we were almost the only people there. The rain magnified the sounds and the atmosphere and I was deeply impressed, though Dad was disappointed we couldn’t get in among the stones. I’ve been back a few times since, but in all honesty prefer Avebury. It’s on a huger scale than Stonehenge and you can walk and touch the stones, and one summer we walked the whole sacred landscape in the shimmering heat. We found an ancient tree covered barrow that had been used as a more recent memorial for a young lad killed in a RTA, his friends had set up a kind of shrine. It was this that gave me some of the key ideas for Fish Out of Water.
    On another, more bizarre note, Stonehenge was almost the scene of shame for me when I got the loo door jammed and couldn’t get out. The ladies loos there that year were so tiny it was impossible for any lady larger than a size 14 to turn round in them! I managed but there were a fair few women who took one look and said, They gotta be kidding and went away. I suspect they used the disabled loos! I have never in my whole life seen cubicles so small; I have seen bigger coffins!

    Comment by viv66 | February 5, 2009

  7. Pugs: there is a great song by XTC, natives of Wiltshire, jusy down the road from Stonehenge called “Chalkhills and Children, which is a homage to that particular area of Britain. The “chalky soil” has given rise to ancient artwork on the hillsides such as the White horse at Uffingham,

    – which became the band’s logo. They are a band brimful of quintessential Englishness. It’s on the Oranges and Lemons album, should you wish to check it out.

    Comment by kevmoore | February 5, 2009

  8. Thanks for the intertextual heads up, Kevmoore.

    Comment by sittingpugs | February 5, 2009

  9. The Painter and the Poet is one of my books I wrote and this reminded me of it; the idea of the painting and the poem you posted. Love it.

    Means my book will be a best seller (God only knows.)

    Thanks Viv!

    Comment by Michael Pokocky | February 8, 2009

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