Tag Archives: Hay-on-Wye

The Fire and the Rain

These were words that came to me after listening on repeat to Fire and Rain by James Taylor.

Part-inspiration and part ‘re-imagining’ of the melody and words  of the original song. They reflect my thoughts last year when I moved back to the countryside, after a catastrophic house fire I survived in Brighto; this is the point where I decided to move to the wonders of Hay-on-Wye here in Wales.


Just a few months ago, I knew I would be gone.
Brighton, the plans they made put an end to you,
I drove away from the city and wrote down some words,
I just don’t know who to send them all to.

Oh, I’ve seen the fire and I’ve seen the rain…
I now see sunny days that feel they will never end.
I’ve felt lonely times… but I always had a friend
And I always knew that I’d see the fields again.

You embrace me, sweet spirit of Hay,
You just helped me make a stand,
You’ve helped me see it through another day.
My heart runs free, as you hold my hand
And I won’t have it any other way.

So dear sweet Hay I always knew that I’d see you again.

Been walking my mind to an easy time, my body warmed by the sun.
If when the cold wind blows it’ll sweep my spirit up and along.
Well, there’s hours of time and years of happiness to come,
Sweet dreams, beautiful friends and heaven all around.

Oh, I’ve seen the fire and I’ve seen the rain…
I now see sunny days that feel they will never end.
I’ve felt lonely times… but I always had a friend
And I always knew that I’d see the fields again.

Now Brighton, oh I might see you one more time again.
There’s just a few things to do this time around, now.
Thought I’d see you, thought I might walk by the sea in the rain.
There are struggles there I need to set free, I just don’t know how.

You embrace me, sweet spirit of Hay,
You just helped me make a stand.
You’ve helped me see it through another day.
My heart runs free as you hold my hand
And I won’t have it any other way.

Hay, you are now where my heart lives and reigns once again.


The Only Way is Hay

“I climbed a hill with the limp smell of dew in the air, to where two ash trees stood silent; their arms reaching out in the weak light.

Dawn slowly unfurled from her bed, tightly gripping the day as a baby its mother’s finger; both needing each as much as the other.

The damp clung to my ankles, urging me to stay, as I too became enraptured with this awakening; for I realised I love this place as it loves me.

Then down, to where I had come, following my dark tracks in the silvery grass, fresh air on my face; back to myself, my heart and my home.”


 The messages had been there for a long time.

But much like the voicemails on my mobile phone, I just didn’t bother listening to them. However, the universe is persistent – what must be, will eventually be – and it would ring again and again…

Or burn my house down – as my rented home in Brighton did last year – and then provide an even worse landlord in a new home. It was time to return the universe’s call and listen to what it had to say.

As gangster flicks cliché, “We can do this the hard way, or we can do it the easy way.”

So just before my 46th birthday in May this year I decided it was time to make my life easier, better, healthier, more complete: to move from Brighton, to renew friendships and my old love of the country.

The decision was made quickly. The only way was Hay.

My friends in the city saw this as an incredible move.  They said it must be a rash and un-thought out decision, made only because of my regular and much publicised battle with Brighton Council and £14,000-worth of illegally issued parking tickets over the years.

They said I’d made it in haste. It was only for the summer, they laughed. I was not serious, they nodded to each other. Some even joked of an intervention. Who would they now drink gin with and then stay up all night talking the world in to a better place, if I was gone?

In some ways they were right.

It was not thought out, I only had a loose plan that I hoped would work.  It was an incredible decision.

And entirely based a feeling, an itch. Actually, more than that, a steady persistent push in the small of my back matched with a deep pull from my heart, so strong that some mornings it hurt.

The decision was made quickly and I acted likewise. So within a month I was set.

However, I was not running away from anything (I won my cases with the Council, in case you are wondering).

I was running towards something…

Towards a place of happy memories and to find a part of myself I had left behind in Herefordshire when I was nine; when it never rained; when there was time for everything and yet nothing very much happened at all.

Like the old photographs of happy childhood times at the bottom of a drawer, it was a place once-loved but forgotten amongst less dusty, newer memories of my modern rush.

It was where my brother and I swam wild in rivers and made dams in those too shallow to. I would trek out camping to what seemed miles away on my shorter, younger legs.

It was between Ross and Hereford, on long walks down endless lanes and hedgerows, that my mother taught me to see the world around me and also the importance of noticing the world at my feet.

Gently and with her artist’s eye she led me to see where the vole had made a home; to notice the first viola smirking in the grassy bank; to learn the names of the plants; and the creatures that lived amongst them and fed upon them.

These childhood lessons have served me well in my haphazard career in computer games, aviation and publishing: my knack for observing the whole but being able to pick out details of a problem have on occasion paid handsomely.

But the time has come to put those skills to wider use again: to notice the world at my feet as an adult whilst remembering the blessings of my boyhood; to look again in wonderment at it all.

I want to remember the names of the plants I see. I now stop, feel the pleasure of a leaf in one’s fingers. I delight in bees living in my roof and bats in the cellar below.

I now wake at dawn and walk in dewy fields just to see the sun rise at the top of the hill, only at the top remembering I am still in my pyjamas.

Often I just stand and listen, so still and so peacefully that I sometimes imagine hearing butterfly wings in the summer sun.

To have forgotten so much and be gone so long and yet feel so at home so quickly has warped my sense of time. Perhaps the child in me is running free again? My days and this summer seem to linger on and deliciously so.

Quantum physicists postulate that if you could observe our universe from the outside, it would appear static, timeless.  That time can only be sensed or measured within the reality we are in.

So perhaps here too – with the river, the plants and the creatures great and small, that we share our lives with – time has its own way of ticking by.

Is this is a strange survival mechanism of our planet?  With a slower pace there is a chance for a greater connection with what is around us, so perhaps we will have a greater care, too, for all that we share the land with.

It was a freak accident that burned my Brighton house down – the early summer sun refracting through a window in the attic – and thus by trials and blessings brought me to Hay.

It seems a long road travelled. Far longer than the 220 miles from Brighton my satnav states matter-of-factly.

But it is no accident that I am here.  It is good to be home again.