Ceri Shaw



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Category: New Titles

Geoff Charles: Wales & The Borders

By Ceri Shaw, 2019-11-13

wales_and_the_borders.jpg A new book chronicling the life and work of celebrated Welsh photojournalist Geoff Charles (1909-2002), who captured a unique record of twentieth-century life in Wales and the Borders with his extraordinary photography. It includes 120 photographs and a biography written by a journalist colleague who knew him well. These stunning black-and-white images include the Gresford mining disaster of 1934, the effect of the Second World War on rural Montgomeryshire and the controversial flooding of the Tryweryn valley to provide water for Liverpool. They record profound social changes in rural and industrial communities, epitomising the words of famous French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

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dafyddapgwilym.png To his friends in the 14 th century Dafydd ap Gwilym was paun cerdd, eos Dyfed, and penceirddwalch ‘the peacock of poetry’, ‘the nightingale of Dyfed’, and ‘the hawk of chief poets’. More than 650 years later he is still considered by many to be the finest Welsh poet ever. He is a delightful, at times hilarious, poet who explores the emotional complexities of love, especially unrequited love, with a self-mocking style that teaches us more than he seems, at first, to be saying. To say he loved nature is an understatement. He loved the world in all kinds of weather, which he also loved to complain about. He loved birds and trees and rivers. He loved the golden-haired Morfudd, perhaps for years even after she was married. He loved black- haired Dyddgu even though she seems to have been above his station in life. He loved to flirt with noble women and barmaids alike. And he continues to articulate for us the ubiquitous joys, doubts, and pains of love that most of us secretly harbor within ourselves.

This book includes the Welsh texts of 35 poems, accompanied by facing translations into English, an introduction in both Welsh and English, with explanatory notes, an afterword about Dafydd, and a brief introduction to Welsh metrics. The book is sumptuously illustrated by Anthony Griffiths with 70 evocative photographs of places that Dafydd himself knew and loved.

from the Preface by Dafydd Johnston, Director of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies:

“As one who has spent his academic career working on the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym, it is a rare pleasure for me to come across an entirely new way of looking at the subject, but I must say that this book has indeed made me see the poems with fresh eyes.... This collection provides a splendid introduction to the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym.”

Copies are available in bookstores in Wales and from the publisher, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, at

https://carreg-gwalch.cymru/ .

In the US, signed copies are available from the author at


Also by Bollard and Griffiths

The Mabinogi: Legend and Landscape of Wales (Gomer Press, 2006)

Companion Tales to The Mabinogi (Gomer Press, 2007)

Tales of Arthur (Gomer Press, 2010)

Englynion y Beddau / The Stanzas of the Graves (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2015)

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unnamed (1).jpg The author of an unusual new handy pocket-sized phrasebook is hoping to use humour to inspire people to learn a few basic bits of Japanese in readiness for the Rugby World Cup, which will be held in Japan in September 2019. Unlike many traditional phrasebooks, Teach your Dog Japanese Rugby World Cup 2019 Travel Edition  (Y Lolfa) shows that learning useful expressions doesn’t have to be boring or daunting, and makes picking up a few basics accessible to everyone. 

Every phrase is shown in both  romaji  (Japanese  words spelt out using our alphabet) and English, accompanied by appealing 1950s-style retro illustrations as well as help with the Japanese pronunciation. There are over 70 expressions to practise, from rugby-themed phrases such as  Sukoa-wa nan-ten desu-ka?  (‘What’s the score?’) to general tourist-themed phrases such as  Eigo-no menyū arimasu-ka?  (‘Do you have an English menu?’). It’s an excellent and really fun introduction to learning Japanese for all ages, and will help visitors to Japan with talking about the World Cup as well as with typical tourist activities such as finding your way around and travelling by train. 

Nigel Botherway, well-known rugby writer for the Sunday Times called it “a brilliant Japanese phrase book for rugby fans - and dog lovers!” 

The book is part of a series designed to help you learn a language while engaging with your favourite pet, and was inspired by illustrator Anne Cakebread’s bestseller  Teach Your Dog Welsh  (Y Lolfa, 2018). 

“The popularity of the series has been amazing! I was thrilled when  Teach Your Dog Welsh  was reprinted for the first time – but I’m amazed that it’s been reprinted three more times since! Hopefully this book will encourage rugby fans to learn a little bit of basic Japanese!” said Anne Cakebread. 

The inspiration for the original book came to Anne after she re-homed Frieda, a rescue whippet. Anne came to realise that Frieda didn’t understand English and would only respond to Welsh commands. Slowly, whilst dealing with Frieda, Anne realised that she was overcoming her nerves about speaking Welsh aloud by talking to the dog, and her Welsh was improving as a result – this gave her the idea of creating a book to help other would-be language learners whilst also using her skills as an illustrator. 

Summoning up the confidence to use a language you’re learning can be intimidating at first. A number of books are available to help with vocabulary and pronunciation, but the light-hearted context and the beautiful illustrations mean that this book is a bit out of the ordinary. It will especially appeal to people who haven’t had much success with languages in the past. 

Carolyn Hodges, Head of English Publishing at Y Lolfa, who developed market-leading language-teaching materials for Oxford University Press for many years, said: “One of the key factors in motivating someone to start learning and using a new language is to make it enjoyable.” 

Anne Cakebread is a freelance illustrator whose work was used in  Rugby World  for over 15 years. She grew up and went to school in Cardiff and now lives with her partner, two whippets and lurcher in St Dogmaels, Wales, where they run the Oriel Milgi boutique B&B. Anne also runs Canfas, an art gallery in nearby Cardigan. 

Teach your Dog Japanese Rugby World Cup 2019 Travel Edition  by   Anne Cakebread (£5.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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unnamed.jpg This week sees the publication of In Passing: A Welshman’s bizarre adventures from Merthyr to Mecca  by distinguished Welsh academic, Professor Randall Baker.  

The unusual collection of offbeat anecdotes are a collection of just some of the strange incidents which have happened to him over a period of 65 years, and over several continents:

“ I am lucky to have done an awful lot of travelling, including with the Spanish Foreign Legion in the colony of Spanish Sahara, being surprised by several nasty earthquakes, and being in East Germany as they built the wall, but my stories are in the shadow of the world affairs rather than dealing with them directly,” says Randall Baker.  

The incidents recorded in  In Passing  are all true stories from his own life, starting from when he was a pupil at Abermorlais Junior School in Merthyr. Over the years, he started to realize that the number of odd events that happened to him was unusual. Speaking of the realization, Randall said:

“Throughout my life, when I discussed something that had just happened to me, inevitably I was greeted by cries of “Oh, come  on ” and the like. Eventually, my wife started to preface them with “Here comes another of Randall’s stories” . The hard thing for me was that I was just recounting something that had really just  happened . Eventually I realised that life is not like this for everyone and so for posterity, I decided to put all the most interesting or amusing events together, starting with post-war Wales and moving on to New Zealand, Fiji, Mecca, and other places far from Merthyr. As a scientist I do require rugged standards of proof, but what do you do when the incident happened to you and you have absolutely no way of explaining it!”  

He credits his childhood in Merthyr as ‘a good training ground’, enabling him to go out and face some of the wilder corners of the world.  

“Merthyr’s history in the iron and steel industry and the buying of ore and selling metal brought Merthyr into the world – in a way that’s hard to imagine today. Merthyr manufactured cannons for Nelson, and built almost every railroad in South America. It’s hard to imagine this world leadership as you stroll around Merthyr these days, but it’s not like any other place in Wales,” says the author of his hometown.  

Crimebusting soothsayers, a homicidal optometrist, men who fall off trains or into open graves, a ridiculously over-attentive waitress, an abandoned stripper and a fellow traveller whose huge suitcase is packed solely with alcohol are just a few of the colourful characters populating this engaging book, The stories get more and more inexplicable, though all are true! He comes across coffee with strange properties, gets caught in the crossfire in the OK Corral of English tearooms, locates lost property through the power of suggestion, meets royalty and rebels, and POSSIBLY steps back in time into 1944 New Zealand. Holding all of this together is an infectious sense of Welsh humour, especially in handling the unexpected!

Randall Baker is a distinguished Welsh academic who has studied and taught in universities all around the world. He co-founded the School of Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, and has acted as an advisor to UNESCO, the Fijian Government, the Prince of Mecca, the Sultan of Brunei, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, The British Foreign Ministry and Crown Agents, UNEP, and the US State Department. He has published extensively on both academic and non-academic subjects. He now spends half the year in Bulgaria and the other half in Newbridge-on-Wye in Wales.  

In Passing: A Welshman’s bizarre adventures from Merthyr to Mecca w ill be launched at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth at 1pm on Thursday 19 th  of September. Seats can be reserved at  www.library.wales  or turn up on the day. Dr Brinley Jones will host the session.  

In Passing: A Welshman’s bizarre adventure from Merthyr to Mecca  by Randall Baker (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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in the vale.jpg A new novel by Welsh author Sam Adams was inspired by a family Bible. The novel called  In the Vale , published by Y Lolfa, is a family saga that takes the reader from London to the Vale of Glamorgan and outwards into the social ferment and bloody turmoil of the Napoleonic era. It was inspired by the Williams family, who lived in the Vale of Glamorgan. George Williams, Rector of Llantrithyd was the Bible’s original owner, and used it to record the births and deaths of his and his wife Sarah’s children. Sam Adams received the Bible, which has been passed down from father to son since his great-great-great grandfather’s time, from a cousin.  

Author Sam Adams said:

“To be in possession of only half a story is frustrating – you want to know the whole thing!

George was an impoverished curate when he married, and was gifted the rectory, the land and income that went with it as a result of the marriage, which (very oddly) was announced in the  Gentleman's Magazine  in London. There the bride’s address was listed as 'Ash Hall, Ystradowen', the home of Richard Aubrey, youngest son of Sir Thomas Aubrey of Llantrithyd Place.

How did this union come about? Why isn't the name of their first child, George, recorded in the Family Bible? These were among the earliest puzzles that tormented me.”  

This led to much research in libraries and on-line searches for any information linked with George Williams and his family. Successes included the discovery in a library at Saint Fagans of a diary kept by John Perkins, a gentleman farmer of Llantrithyd – and a friend of the Reverend George Williams.  

“The story of the Williams family was unfolding during one of the most turbulent periods in European history – the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The strife and suffering caused by conflict affected everyone, at home and overseas: military action, disease, a bad economy. These were the realties of the time. While in a familial context, George and Sarah’s first son, also named George, died in infancy due to being vaccinated against smallpox,” says Sam Adams.

“I have tried to recapture, through choice of vocabulary and cadence of expression in dialogue, narrative and description, the tone of the period, while seeking to fill imaginatively the many gaps in a story of real people against a background of bloody turmoil.”  

Sam Adams has been involved in Welsh writing in English since the late 1960s. He is a former editor of  Poetry Wales  and former chairman of the English-language section of Yr Academi Gymreig. His scholarly writing includes editions of the  Collected Poems  and  Collected Short Stories  of Roland Mathias, and three monographs in the Writers of Wales series, the latest on  Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard , who is also the subject of several articles published in the  Journal of Welsh Writing in English . He has contributed poems and well over a hundred ‘Letters from Wales’ to the Carcanet Press magazine  PN Review . His work from Y Lolfa includes, in addition to  Prichard’s Nose , a collection of poetry and  Where the Stream Ran Red , a delightful and moving history of his family and of Gilfach Goch, the mining valley where he was born and brought up.   

In the Vale  by Sam Adams (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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nobonesjones.jpg This week sees the publication of a book of delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes from the hugely successful catering company No Bones Jones.  No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook  shines a spotlight on the authentic, wholesome vegetarian and vegan food that the company supplies to festivalgoers across the UK.  

No Bones Jones started after Hugh Jones returned from a long period driving an overland tourist bus around India, Nepal and Turkey in the 1980s.  

“When he left, he knew little about food or catering, and cared even less. When he came back, he was a man transformed! He seemed to have gone food-mad and enthused at length about the exotic salads, magical spices and fabulous flavours he had discovered in far-flung lands. He seemed to have set his heart on crafting here at home these same delicious, mainly veggie dishes of vibrant colour and fragrance,” says Mark Jones, friend, translator and co-author of the book.  

In the meantime, Hugh’s former girlfriend from his school days had started a vegetarian and wholefood café in their home town. With Jill’s cooking experience and Hugh’s new-found love of exotic vegetarian food, together they developed what is now No Bones Jones, a catering company that feeds thousands of happy customers at a host of festivals over the summer months every year – from Glastonbury to the National Eisteddfod of Wales to numerous folk festivals.  

“Our aim was to provide a mixed, nutritious vegetarian meal. This was something most unusual in those early days, but it was what we ourselves wanted to eat. We started with two dishes: lentil stew and chickpea curry with brown rice and salad. In 1995 this was considered  off piste , but we knew we were on the right track and we’ve never looked back,” says Hugh, who is nowadays a frequent guest on BBC Radio Wales, where he cooks live on air for a following of regular listeners.  

No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook  is more than a recipe book as it also discusses the company’s ethos and ideas. The work tirelessly to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible, which has won them the coveted Green Trader Gold Award at Glastonbury (awarded by Greenpeace, the Soil Association, the Fairtrade Foundation and the Nationwide Caterers Association to one out of 400 on-site food traders). Their vehicles run on bio diesel, their lighting is solar-powered, and packaging is kept to a minimum by staples in 20kg sacks, spices by the kilo and all vegetables in returnable crates.  

Hugh Jones cites two people as being the main influencers of the company’s approach. The first was his mother:

“Like all mothers of that era, she knew how to prepare a nutritious meal from very little and how to make do and mend. It's nothing new to recycle, reuse and repair. People back then had grown up during the war with very little, so their whole ‘3Rs’ approach was not so much a virtue as a necessity, and at the time was simply called good housekeeping.”

The second was a young Nepalese woman who cooked her dal-bhat (Nepalese lentil and rice dish) on a dried cow dung-fuelled stove in a little shack on the side of the Rajpath, the road leading to Kathmandu, for 3 rupees.

“Barefoot she was with her two young children, but nevertheless successfully eking out a humble living. In her hut I was dining in the original ‘lean start-up’, the antithesis of a modern restaurant and for me far more exciting,” says Hugh.  

The book recounts the fascinating and often highly amusing anecdotes behind the discovery and development of their recipes. It also tells the story of a man who got out of his rut and chose a path less trodden. Throughout the book, Hugh’s enthusiasm for distant locations, and his passion for not impacting the planet and for vegetarian food is infectious. Hugh states “you don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat veggie food! You’re not a pigeon, so don’t pigeonhole yourself.”  

Hugh and Jill Jones live in Montgomery in Powys, where they were well known in the local community.

Hugh’s lifelong friend Mark Jones is a freelance writer and translator based in Avignon in France.  

No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook  by Hugh and Jill Jones with Mark Jones (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Rydyn ni angen eich lluniau a’ch straeon! 

Mae Gwasg Y Lolfa’n paratoi cyfrol ddwyieithog i drafod a dathlu’r ffenomenon ddiweddaraf o furluniau Cofiwch Dryweryn, i’w chyhoeddi yn Hydref 2019. 

Bydd y gyfrol yn cynnwys detholiad o’r murluniau newydd sydd wedi eu creu o gwmpas Cymru mewn ymateb i’r trosedd casineb yn erbyn y murlun eiconig gwreiddiol. 

Meddai golygydd y gyfrol Mari Emlyn: “Cyfyngir y dewis o luniau i furluniau yn bennaf. Ni fydd yn bosib cynnwys pob murlun a llun yn y gyfrol, ond rydym yn chwilio am y rhai mwya trawiadol a diddorol! Bwriedir cynnwys dyfyniadau gan rai o’r bobl allweddol fu’n creu’r murluniau newydd a rhoi sylw i’r twf diweddar yn yr ymwybyddiaeth Gymreig ac annibyniaeth.” 

A fyddech gystal â chysylltu efo golygydd y gyfrol Mari Emlyn  mari.emlyn@btinternet.com    i rannu eich lluniau a’ch straeon? Dyddiad cau derbyn deunydd yw Mehefin 24, 2019 


We need your photographs and stories! 

Y Lolfa is preparing a bilingual book discussing and celebrating the recent phenomenon of the Cofiwch Dryweryn murals to be published in Autumn 2019. 

The book will contain a selection of murals and images that have been created all over Wales in response to the hate crime against the original iconic mural. 

The editor Mari Emlyn said: “The choice of photographs will be mostly limited to murals. And although it will not be possible to include every image in the book, we’re looking for the most impressive and interesting ones! Quotations by some of the people who have been instrumental in creating the new murals will be included in the book, as well as coverage to the recent serge in Welsh identity and the independence movement.” 

Please contact Mari Emlyn  mari.emlyn@btinternet.com  to share your photographs and stories. Closing date for submitting material is June 24, 2019

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image001.jpg This week sees the publication of Mostly Welsh , a collection of poems by Chris Armstrong. The collection blends the historic with mythological and personal themes and deals with love, loss and his relationship with Wales and Ceredigion. 

The process of writing the collection began over 15 years ago: 

“After losing my wife, nearly all of the poems I wrote were focussed on her and losing her – things I wished I had expressed while she was still alive, or at least said better, said more or more often. Poetry – both reading and writing – developed into some sort of catharsis or release for me. It wasn’t present at the time she died, as coping with the remains of family life and work took all my energy and time. Now it’s an ever-present pleasure, and I don’t think a single day goes past without some thought of my wife,” said Chris Armstrong. 

Chris Armstrong has lived in Wales for most of his life, and moved to the Tregaron area, mid Wales in 1972. The landscape surrounding him has always inspired him, as he feels a strong link to the countryside around him. 

“Wales and the local countryside has been a great influence, as is the sea. The sea is probably the next most important theme [after love and loss] as I have always lived near or on it. It often finds its way into the poems of love as some sort of allegory or symbolisation,” said the author. 

The collection has received praise from Ffrangcon Lewis:

“At their best, these poems have a directness, honesty and crispness of diction which enables the poet to communicate the most raw of experiences with a degree of sureness, restraint and power.” 

Mostly Welsh is a collection of poetic forms rooted in the Anglo-Welsh tradition that explores the poet’s life and mind after a loss, and follows his life journey. 

“In essence, this collection is a man’s life experience finding expression through verse.” 

Chris Armstrong was born in Sussex and has lived in Wales since he was 10 years old. He spent more than a decade in the merchant navy before working on a Ceredigion farm and then taking a degree which led to ten years working as a research officer before he set up his own consultancy, research and training company in the information and libraries sector.  

Mostly Welsh by Chris Armstrong (£6.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.


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The crisis of plastic in our oceans has been exposed on television in recent months. Now a Welsh author is introducing the importance of marine life and its conservation to children in a new wonderfully illustrated book. 

The book is called The Grimpots , about a family of fun-loving umbrella octopuses and has a strong ecological message is published by Y Lolfa. Author Gilly John is fascinated by the natural world and its lesser-known inhabitants, and takes a keen interest in conservation. 

“Encouraging children to be curious about the world around them can only be positive for them and the planet. Primarily I want my book to entertain children but raising awareness about the diversity in our oceans is important to me,” says Gilly John, adding: 

“Marine conservation has had a boost in recent years, with the extent to which plastic is impacting our oceans being well documented as in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series. Children need to learn that the sea is full of living creatures and that we all have a responsibility to keep our seas clean.” 

Twenty rhymed verses tell the story of Gus’ adventures in Barnacle Bay where he escapes from a shady shark intent on making him a snack and then helps a big blue whale named Dave. Umbrella octopuses are unusual in that they don’t have ink sacs like other octopuses and so have to use other defensive methods to escape predators. 

The book is full of Janet Samuel’s beautiful illustrations which bring to life the underwater world images of cuttlefish, krill, sea snails and eels to name but a few of the creatures illustrated. 

Gilly John was born in Gwent but now lives in Caerphilly. She trained as a children’s nurse before turning to write children’s poetry. 

Janet Samuel enjoys working with colour and texture and bringing characters to life and has illustrated a number of children’s books. 

The Grimpots by Gilly John (£4.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.  

Gilly John will be attending the Spread the Word Festival(organised by The Stephens and George Charitable Trust) in Merthyr Tydfil on 11 April with a storytelling and book signing.

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Packed with lively double-page illustrations, a new book starring a small dragon has been hailed as the Welsh  Where’s Wally?  However,  Find the Dragon!  has an obvious Welsh slant, with every double page showing an iconic Welsh location, including Mount Snowdon, Caerphilly Castle and Portmeirion. Other scenes include the Red Wall at a Wales football match, a Gower beach and a farm full of disobedient sheep. 

As well as searching for the little dragon, the pictures can also be used to search for many other bizarre objects and characters listed at the back of the book. The book is guaranteed to provide hours of discussions and fun for all the family! 

Find the Dragon!  is by the well-known cartoonist and illustrator Huw Aaron. Huw is based in Cardiff and he’s illustrated a number of children’s books and comic strips as well as being a regular contributor to  Private Eye The Oldie  and  The Spectator

Speaking about his new book, Huw Aaron said:

“Between finding the little dragon, evil dragon-hunting baddies, funny characters and bizarre items hidden within the scenes, there are over 250 individual things to search for, so plenty to keep any child amused during a long car journey or rainy (screen-free!) afternoo. I love designing busy scenes and hiding funny details in the pictures, so it was a lot of fun creating this book... and a lot of work too! Good luck with the dragon-spotting!” 

Find the Dragon!  features Boc the dragon, a face familiar to many Welsh children as one of the characters of the popular Welsh-language children’s comic  Mellten , which began in 2016.  

Huw Aaron will be at the Cardiff Children’s Lit Fest on 7 th  of April at Cardiff City Hall at 3pm with a session entitled  Drawing Myths and Monsters  and will be talking and doodling his new book  Find the Dragon!  Cost of session is £5. For more information, please see  www.cardiffkidslitfest.com .  

Find the Dragon!  by Huw Aaron (£4.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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