A Hundred Years To Arras

By Jason Cobley

From a Somerset farm to the trenches of France: one man's coming of age through land, love and blood

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Jubilee Birthday Blues

Happy Jubilee Week, if you're into that sort of thing...

The crowdfunding campaign on Unbound started on 7th June 2019, auspiciously my 51st birthday. It came to an end about a year later. The book eventually came out in August 2021, so we're coming up to ten months since publication, and three years since it all started. Thanks again for all of that. 

I've had quite a crisis of confidence recently, though, and I haven't been able to get down to writing the next book. I won't bore you with why, but I can't write unless I feel like I'm doing something significant (even if it turns out not to be!). Anyway, this half term I'm taking another run at the first draft of the next book. Working title is 'This House Aches' but it could end up as anything, from 'November in the Valley' to 'The Pit' or 'The November Strike'. I have no idea how on-the-nose I'll need to be, and it's quite fluid.

Here's an extract, a little paragraph from an early chapter gvining a bit of background...

The new Bute Seam at Ely Pit, Penygraig, was sunk in June 1910. This proud Welsh land was owned by a Scotsman, John Crichton-Stuart. As the second Marquess of Bute, he had money to spend, exploiting the South Wales Valleys. He saw the potential of Cardiff as a port, and of the industrial future that could be secured by investing in mining and exporting the mineral wealth of the valleys. On his death in 1848, he had passed it all on to his son, who enjoyed the profits of Welsh labour from a distance, at one point becoming one of the richest men in the world, all gained from digging up the black mineral guts of Wales. The Marquess had purchased the farm Cwmsaerbrem from William Davies and quickly put his stamp on it by renaming the area Treherbert after the Herbert branch of his family. As the Bute Merthyr colliery, it was the first steam coal colliery in the Rhondda valley. Lives and families were invested in its success. Deaths in the pit throughout its existence punctuated their lives, so when the sinking of the new seam was announced, the miners felt entitled to ask for more money from the new owners. The resulting deadlock in negotiations sparked a series of events that tumbled down the mountain to the Vale of Glamorgan, the land sprawling to the yellow-grey coast cliffs of limestone and sandstone, the ocean crashing against the shale. Rock from the coast built the houses of the miners who dragged more rock from the earth for rich men to build their houses of granite and brick.

So, taking another run at it, with some musical accompaniment to keep me going... Let's see how much I can get done by the time 7th June 2022 comes around, when I'll be 54...

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