weekly photo challenge: half-light

Clouds over the Senouire valley

sunlight shafts over the Haute-Allier

This weeks photo challenge is “Half-Light” and in this landscape the sunlight was flickering in and out of the cloud cover.

This reminded me of the track “Halflife” by Grasscut from the album “Everyone Was A Bird”. A band who take much of their inspiration for their music from the landscape.

From the liner notes by Robert Macfarlane

‘Halflife’ is the most haunted of all the tracks here. The ‘he’ of the lyric is the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who like Sassoon joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who was killed at Passchendaele on the last day of July 1917, and who had been born and brought up near the village of Trawsfynydd – which in 1959 became the site of a twin-reactor Magnox nuclear power station. Anyone who has been to Trawsfynydd will know the huge cognitive dissonance of the area: out on the island in the lake stands the decaying concrete castle, with its lethal treasure still inside, while above and behind it rear the Rhinog mountains, wild and catastrophic.

‘Halflife’ imagines Wynn as a post-nuclear apparition trapped in an 8mm film-loop by the shores of the lake: ‘a loop he makes / through silver birches flickering / by concrete towers he disappears / disappears’. It’s a track that works its way under the mind’s skin. It flickers itself, moving in and out of clarity. The language of decommissioning and unknown futures haunt it, and fragments of the past fly through it – like the ‘shells by the roadside’ which recall the nosecap shell that struck Wynn in the stomach as he crossed the Pilckem Ridge advancing on the Iron Cross stronghold. ‘I saw him fall’, remembered a fellow Fusilier, ‘I saw him fall on his knees and grab two fistfuls of dirt. He was dying, of course.’

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