Thursday, August 18, 2016


Tom Bullough grew up on a hill farm in Wales, where he still lives. He has worked as a sawmiller, a music promotor in Zimbabwe, a tractor driver, and a contributor to various titles in the Rough Guides series. At present he is a Visiting Fellow at the University of South Wales.

Bullough applied the Page 69 Test to Addlands, his fourth novel, and the first to be published in the United States, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Christ, you’re a dirty bugger, Griffin,” Oliver muttered as the two boys filed back down the aisle.

“Oh? Why’s that, then?”

“I seen what you drew.”

“Oh! Noah.” Griffin laughed, peering up at him sideways. He had ceased to grow some two years earlier, but remained as wiry and restless as ever. “Now, let’s face it, boy. He were on that boat for thirteen month. What the hell else were he going to get up to?”

They passed beneath the rickety gallery and wove among the people massing on the steps, spreading into the green-grey graveyard. The day was chill and threatening rain. The smoke of the men was pale against the muckery clouds. As the women gathered round Vera, Ruth and Siân, murmuring memories and commiserations, the two boys leant on the wall by the war memorial—their eyes on a nearby gaggle of girls, their hands in their pockets, since they were not allowed to smoke themselves.

“His boy binna here,” said Griffin. “Vivien, like.”

“He come to the funeral,” said Oliver.

“He shanna come back. You mark my words. What’s he gonna want with bloody Cwmpiban? Got himself the good life in Hereford, in’t he? Nice job. Nice car. Missus. Kids ... Christ, if I had a Ford Zephyr you wouldna see me for dust neither!”

“So. You getting soft on old Ruth, then, are you?”

“I’ll be soft on the beasts first.” Griffin grimaced.
Addlands begins in early January 1941 and ends in late December 2011 – it follows the years and the seasons together – so, on page 69, it is March 1957 and Oliver, who is born in the first chapter, is 16 years old: tall, golden-skinned, still channelling his urge to punch people through legitimate boxing, as yet merely eyeing up the girls.

Looking at it now I suppose that this passage belongs to a golden time for Oliver – or one he might come to look back on that way. It's a time when it seems that his life could go in any direction. Addlands is set in the Edw Valley in Radnorshire, a particularly obscure part of Wales (itself not unobscure, I know). As time goes on the English spoken by the characters becomes standardised by travel and incomers and radio and television, but in 1957 Oliver and Griffin are still using 'binna' for 'isn't', while the narrative still contains words like 'muckery', meaning 'damp and close'. This tight rural community abides, as does this Primitive Methodist Chapel and its various power structures, but the seeds of change are everywhere to be seen: in the 'ricketiness' of the chapel gallery, in the brazen disrespect of Griffin's illustrations, in Vivien's choice of a life in town. Even the clouds are heavy, threatening – although in Wales, to be honest, this is the usual state of affairs.
Visit Tom Bullough's website.

Writers Read: Tom Bullough.

My Book, The Movie: Addlands.

--Marshal Zeringue