The Grapes of Wrath

Ten Thousand Manic Words

Write about what you know, and start at the beginning, are always the rules of engagement cited for emergent writers battling against the dull curse of the flat white page.

I was born in Nottingham in 1957, and now live in Pontypridd, at the heart of the vast coalfields that stretch across the hills and valleys of Southern Wales. The right Wales, not at all New, but old as those hills. This is one beginning of my story, but the real start, a true new beginning, belongs in a south Wales of one hundred and fifty years ago.

Hundredths mattered then, measured out people’s lives, and named their tiny pieces of the wide world. My family came from a poor patch called the Hundredth of Newcastle, in the Parish of Pyle and Kenfig. Although there was coal and iron ore, there were no Geordies or Toons. The Church was a rural ruler of people’s lives, from cradle to grave, and beyond. For back in those for off days of yore history, the Church was almost more powerful than the State, such as it was.

Hundredths and a few thousands. The population of the ancient county of Glamorganshire was tiny back in the 1590s. These were rich, rolling farming lands, the breadbasket of a young Welsh nation, still under the English heel and yolked to the land.

Here and now in 2016, as a bitter summer turns into an autumn of rot and stagnation, in the angry eyes of the people of Britain, there is a sense of failure.

In the eyes of Hungary, Estonia and the poorer states, there is frustration and a growing wrath. People are getting angry.

Deep in the heart of people’s souls, Steinbeck’s grapes of wrath are returning to haunt us.

Here in Britannica and across the Atlantic, those grapes are filling, grown heavy with bile. From Napa’s vineyards to the green Valleys of Wales, hearts are growing heavy for the vintage.

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