Shortly after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1972, Reg and George moved to deepest rural Wales from Bournemouth. They had a couple of homes before settling into a house that would become a B&B and be their home until 2011. In total, they were together over six decades, the first two of which their relationship was deemed to be illegal by the state. In 2006 they formally became a couple with a short civil partnership ceremony in the town of Machynlleth. They had two witnesses to this momentous occasion, Peredur and Mike Parker.
Mike Parker was another exile from England having first gone to Wales to write a Rough Guide and realised that he actually quite liked the place. Discovering his sexuality, Parker had had a large number of flings and very short term relationships in his younger days but arriving in Wales calmed him and it was there that he first met Peredur. Finding excuses to go and see him in the shop he was working they both realised that they were attracted to each other and both fell in love.
Reg, George, Preds and Mike were to become close friends, hence why the younger guys ended up as witnesses and came to love the house that the older guys owned. They started to save up with the intention of purchasing it after they had passed away; but in a remarkable turn of events, Reg and George left the property to them in the will. For the first time, they had some proper financial security and Preds was living in the home that he always dreamed of. They didn’t change much, to begin with, but added a swimming pond for bracing dips
After moving in they begun to sort through their home and discovered a rich history of Reg and George’s younger lives through their diaries, letter and personal effects. This is not just the story of the older and younger guys and their lives. Rather it is a layered and multi-faceted memoir of Carter’s time growing up, Preds’ life in a small Welsh town and the way that the community supports each other. The book is split into the four parts and he writes about the seasons, the four elements of earth, wire, fire and water and about each of them. Central to all of this though is Rhiw Goch, or the Red Hill, and how it changes every single day with the seasons, the way that kites hang in the air and the thrill of snow cutting them off sometimes, though the thrill of being isolated wears off after a brief period of time. I had read Carter’s previous books on maps and this was recommended to me. I thought this was a really enjoyable book about a new life in Wales coupled with a touch of history, landscape, social history and the natural world of Wales that captivates him every time he steps outside the door. It is a book full of deep love for the man and the land he now inhabits.
Paul Cheney 4/3
On the Red Hill by Mike Parker
William Heinemann 9781785151934 hbk Jun 2019