Cynan Jones was born near Aberaeron, Wales in 1975. His novels include Bird, Blood, Snow – a retelling of the Welsh Peredur myth – and The Dig. His latest novel, Cove, is published by Granta Books this winter. He shares five things he’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
1. Two Seagulls
A pair of seagulls. I say a pair. They might just be good friends.
When I walk to the office on the university campus where I’m RLF Fellow this year, I pass a grass bank, and they are nearly always there. No other gulls, just them. They drum their feet, as if running on the spot, to bring up the worms. There’s a sort of self-containment to them as a unit; the sort that comes with doing something together but alone – like rockpooling. A kind of comfortable apart togetherness.
If I had written this a month ago, I would have said rowan berries. But they’ve been stripped, by now. The leaves stayed late this year, but fell suddenly; yet the red flush of hawthorn berries is stunning and heavy, and enough to take your eyes off the road when the sun catches the hedgerows. It’s spectacular this autumn.
Fenugreek is an annual plant with leaves similar to clover, and its flowers generate twenty or so yellow brownish seeds. These seeds are stirred into this Laubin cheese, made in the Midi-Pyrénées, to give it an extraordinary taste, somewhere subtly (to my mind) between aniseed and walnuts. It works beautifully on its own, but it’s answered a great problem. I make my own burgers, and own baps, and own relish. But until finding this cheese, I could never quite replace the melty, floppy cheese you get in take-out burgers. This works brilliantly.
I’m savouring Hawkfall at the moment, after reading a lot of writing that wasn’t particularly strong. These Orcadian stories are perfectly balanced and off-kilter, mythic, direct, human and confusing. It’s writing from instinct and connection to a place that moves beyond expected form to deliver sentences that now and then stop you in your tracks. Nothing showy. Just utterly, quietly right and totally individual.
It was Beaujolais Nouveau day recently. Always the third Thursday of November. It’s another example of marketing backfiring, blasting what’s actually a great style of wine into infamy. But ‘new’ Beaujolais is one thing. Beaujolais Cru is another. Régnié is one of ten Cru (which includes Fleurie, for example) and one of the heavier styles, though that’s not to say it’s ‘heavy’ . It’s fresh and clean and works perfectly with turkey. Or wild duck. You should treat yourself.
Photograph © Fingerz