been a complete failure. The pupils of the eyes stared moribundly at me, and the mouth gave an unnatural, grotesque grin. Bits of straw had been made to look like grass, and there was tall fern for background, as if the poor creature were alive and well in its natural habitat. The red pelt, no doubt treated with chemicals, stood up like shining wires on its back, and the brush had been arranged like a piece of crimson linen around its hind paws. The idea had doubtless been to freeze the creature's vitality inside the glass case, but the finished article was entirely unconvincing. Where once there had been the muscular warmth of life there was now only the coldness of death, instead of the cunning hunter's energy and strength only the stillness of death, fixed for ever.
The real fox I saw on the slopes of Mynydd y Crugau is an image that belongs to one particular Christmas long ago in the days of my youth, but that dead fox under glass is to this day a new and terrifying symbol in my mind. The country Welshness of my old home isn't likely to flash across my path ever again, although the Welsh language is still sweet on the lips of children there, so far, at least. But the thought of the old rural culture's being stuffed and arranged under glass, to satisfy the curious eyes of generations to come, has been a nightmare in my consciousness ever since I saw that dead fox. It has become one of the most alarming symbols in my mind. I'd give the world to see the creature, by some wondrous magic, spring to life, break the glass into smithereens with all its force, and leap out of the parlour window and head for the mountain.
Barn (275, Rhagfyr, 1985)
John Roberts Williams
For me it's been a week of seeing the mountains of my years being rolled back like a carpet, a warning that history isn't just something that happens between one Saturday and the next but some sort of strange pattern made up of various bits and pieces that are welded together to create what's called life.