Chapter 13

The following morning, after breakfast, I happened to ask Mrs. Llywarch for the newspaper.

“Well, wait a moment,” she said. “It’s now nearly ten o’clock. Alfan had The Messenger this morning before going out, but it’s time for the Cardiff Herald now if you’d like it.”

“Why, does a newspaper man come to the door on the hour, every hour?” I asked.

“Oh no, it’s simpler than that.”

Mrs. Llywarch walked over to the wall near the window, turned a knob and put a coin into a little slot. I’d noticed already that there was a screen there, a bit like a cinema screen but not as big, and I’d assumed it was some sort of television set. But I hadn’t seen it working until now. Mrs. Llywarch put three or four sheets of paper on the surface of the screen.

“You’ll see now how we get our newspapers,” she said.

The screen started to murmur softly, and one by one the sheets of paper fell onto a sort of tray in front of it. Mr. Llywarch picked them up, and placed them in my hand. I stared at them in amazement. In my hands were three of four sheets of newspaper, with text and pictures – everything that ought to be in a newspaper, except that the sheets were only printed on one side.

“A newspaper through the radio?” I said.

“Exactly. That’s how our papers reach us nowadays. The publishers transmit their pages to all the sets in the country – Alfan can explain to you how, I don’t understand it. You saw me put a ha’penny in the slot, and every so often the collection man comes from the publisher and collects the money. We pay for our television programmes the same way. And I can get a big colourful Welsh-language women’s magazine at two o’clock, just by putting half a crown in another slot.”

“Very convenient, indeed. And here’s the Cardiff Herald. You said that Dr. Llywarch had had another paper this morning?”

“Yes, he did. They transmit The Messenger in Welsh every morning between seven o’clock and eight. The same paper in English comes from eight till nine. The Cardiff Herald comes in Welsh from nine till ten and in English from ten till eleven. Then they start again with a fresh edition of The Messenger, in Welsh.”

“What’s the circulation of a paper like the Herald?”

“I can’t be sure of the figures. Of course, there’s a Gwynedd Herald, a Powys Herald and a Dyfed Herald as well – the same paper, with local variations – and they go out of other stations. I’d guess that the four papers between them – just the Welsh editions – would run to about two hundred thousand.”

“Would they, indeed?”

“That would be very reasonable. Of course, the circulation of The Messenger is bound to be bigger again; it’s a more popular paper. ‘The Rag,’ Alfan calls it, even though he gets it every morning before going out. But there we are, I’ll leave you to read the paper. Shout if you’d like a cup of coffee.”

I laid myself out on the easy chair, and ran my eyes over the newspaper sheets. Through the open windows I could hear the May birds singing. It’s true that they were just sparrows, but for me this morning they could have been the Birds of Rhiannon[1]. The scents of fresh verdancy likewise filled the breeze. I was in a happy home. And I was – I must confess – in a good mood.

Suddenly, my eyes fell upon a bold headline on one of the pages. SHOTS LATE AT NIGHT NEAR LLYN Y FAN. Under the headline there was a picture. A picture of a youth wearing military-looking clothes. The picture was in colour, and I realised what I was looking at. The youth was wearing a purple shirt.

“The U.B.L, if I remember rightly,” I said to myself. I read on.

      Last night, close to Llyn y Fan, when two young farmers were on their way home from a noson lawen, they heard shots from the direction of the lake. They knew that the Purple Shirts were exercising there on Colonel Savage’s land. After rushing towards the sound, they found a man lying down, wounded in his left arm. They quickly called for a doctor and for the police, and the man was rushed to hospital.

      The wounded man was the Deputy Sheriff of Brycheiniog, a man who has spoken out against the Purple Shirts on more than one occasion. His car was found nearby, and the police suspect that some of the Shirts hijacked his car and dragged him out of it before shooting him in the arm as a warning to stop his criticism of them.

      The police believe that Gwilym Quennell, a sergeant in the Purple Shirts, was responsible for the attack, and Quennell has been detained for a few days for questioning.

For a moment, this pleasant morning was spoiled for me. It was a shame that a rabble like the Purple Shirts were spoiling what was otherwise such a pleasant Wales. I remembered, with some distaste, the man who had come to me at the football match on Saturday afternoon, and again in the refectory the same evening. But before I became too depressed, I saw another headline in the paper: LLYWARCH GIRL’S LATEST TRIUMPH.

Of course, it was referring to Mair. Mair in the drama that I’d seen on Saturday night. It wasn’t only me, then, who had been enchanted by her. This critic – Troilus, whoever he was – had come under her spell too. For a moment I felt sick for want of her company. She was somewhere in the city, rehearsing in the theatre perhaps, or having her hair permed, or… or drinking coffee with some young actor or enthusiastic producer. I realised that I was jealous. No. No indeed, Powell my boy, that won’t do you any good.

[1] Three mystical birds belonging to Rhiannon, Princess of Dyfed, in the Mabinogion.

%d bloggers like this: