shed of one's own
Fifty years ago, Dylan Thomas collapsed and died
in New York, far from the humble shed on the Welsh coast where he
wrote some of his finest work.
West had her grand tower at Sissinghurst. Ian Fleming had his glamorous
island retreat in Jamaica. Dylan Thomas, on the other hand, worked
in a shed at the bottom of his garden on the coast of South Wales.
Now, to mark
the 50th anniversary of the poet's sudden but not altogether unexpected
demise, the unprepossessing wooden building in which he composed
Under Milk Wood has been restored to all its former, albeit modest
The shed, near
the home the poet shared with his wife Caitlin and their children,
had fallen into disrepair until a renovation project replaced the
rotten timbers, restored the façade to its original shade
of green, and reinstalled Thomas's furniture.
shed affords visitors the same superb views over the mouth of the
River Taf that once inspired Thomas himself. It also provides invaluable
insights into how the troubled Welsh writer lived and worked before
his premature death from acute alcohol poisoning in 1953.
Born in the Welsh city of Swansea in 1914, to parents with
a Welsh-speaking country background who had adopted the English
language and culture, Dylan Marlais Thomas embraced his Welsh pedigree
anew. Educated at the local grammar school where his father taught
English, he determined to become a writer from an early age, absorbing
the rhythms of his parents' native language into the poetry he began
composing while still at school. Ignoring his father's pleas to
further his education at university, Dylan Thomas joined the South
Wales Evening Post as a reporter, writing reviews of local plays
and concerts that were sometimes so scathing they had to be edited
to keep them from offending their subjects. When he was not working,
he was refining the rich, descriptive and musical poetic style for
which he would become famous.
Such was the
romantic sensuality of his writing that he enjoyed almost instant
success, publishing his first book Eighteen Poems, in 1934 when
he was just 20.
Two years later,
his follow-up, Twenty-five Poems established his reputation as a
poet and allowed him to move to London where he worked as an actor
and writer for the BBC, and as an essayist, poet, and lecturer.
If the English capital gave Thomas his first taste of success,
it also introduced him to the woman who would become the love of
his life. London-born, but of Irish descent, Caitlin MacNamara was
a slim, blonde, blue-eyed beauty of 23 when she met the poet in
up in a bohemian family in which art was valued above money, she
understood Thomas's dedication to his work and felt protective of
the small, plump, dishevelled man with his air of vulnerability.
As for Thomas,
he was attracted to Caitlin's free spirit and her disdain for convention,
declaring that the trained dancer was the most beautiful woman he
had ever met. "At the beginning it was a very cosy, cuddly
relationship," Caitlin once said. "I wasn't bowled over
or infatuated... What compensated was his gift, because from the
start I had complete faith in him being a poet."
married in 1937 and the following year moved to Laugharne in Wales.
While Thomas wrote in his nearby shed - producing such works as
Deaths and Entrances, and his play Under Milk Wood - Caitlin cared
for their growing family of three children.
Unfortunately, the couple also shared a fondness for alcohol.
Thomas would drink from midmorning until lunchtime, when he would
retire to his shed to work on poetry for four or five hours.
In the evening,
he and Caitlin would walk to the pub, where they stayed until closing
time, staggering back with their friends for more high spirits that
inevitably turned sour.
"My father was a happy drunk," remembers his daughter
Aeron, who was just 10 when the poet died. "He was never nasty.
In contrast my mother translated her euphoria into physical movement,
then she would subside into abuse, triggering fights that left everyone
else crushed and demoralized."
arguments were often violent and Caitlin threw crockery and beat
her husband with a hairbrush. He responded by yelling and screaming,
"out of all proportion to the pain inflicted" to satisfy
Caitlin's desire for a reaction.
Perhaps Caitlin felt diminished by her husband's success. Long
speaking tours in Europe and the United States certainly kept Thomas
away from home and his family, and, despite declaring his undying
love for Caitlin, he proved unable to remain faithful. They would
drink and fight, separate and reunite.
In 1950, Thomas
wrote adoring letters to his wife from almost every stop on his
American tour. By then his drinking was out of control and he was
being unfaithful yet again, this time with a New York journalist
whom he continued to see when she visited Europe later that year.
furious when she learned of his latest betrayal, more so when he
denied it - even after she had found letters written by the woman.
into more gruelling lecture tours to America, where his readers
appeared to enjoy his reputation for excess as much as they did
a shy man, he found false courage in the bottle. He would vow to
remain sober, then, stricken with nerves and the sense that he was
little more than a performing clown; he would numb himself with
best be described as suffering from a character neurosis, with increasing
depression, dangerous alcoholic acting out, tormenting worry, progressive
creative inhibition, inducing a sense of neurotic helplessness,"
observed Dr B W Murphy.
In 1953, on
yet another American tour - his third in four years - he had become
remorseful and depressed. Estranged once again from his wife, he
sought comfort in the arms of yet another woman while declaring
that all his mistresses were substitutes for Caitlin.
29, after a public reading at the City College of New York, he embarked
on a binge that saw him drinking heavily for the next four days.
By November 4, he was in such pain that he asked a doctor to give
him some morphine so he could be "put out" and sleep.
By one o'clock
the next morning - perhaps because of a reaction with pep pills
- Dylan Thomas had slipped into a coma and was rushed to hospital.
that good night
His mistress Liz Reitell kept vigil at his bedside until Caitlin
arrived on November 8. At 12.40pm the next day, the man who once
implored his dying father, "Do not go gentle into that good
night... rage, rage against the dying of the light," slipped
away quietly. He was just 39.
her husband's body back to Wales and buried him in the churchyard
at their beloved Laugharne. His grave lies just a short walk from
the shed in which he wrote the poetry he once described as "the
record of my individual struggle from darkness toward some measure
Eva is no more
Sir Paul McCartney has criticised the
use of cluster bombs by the US in Iraq recently.
Beatle made these comments to the BBC last Monday as he referred
to cluster bombs as "cowardly weapons" which had no place
in modern military warfare.
He called himself a pacifist since he did not want anyone to fight
Meanwhile, he was behind the Hope album released on April 21 featuring
several artistes contributing songs that would raise funds for Iraqi
children through the War Child charity.
and songs on the album are: Sir Paul McCartney - Calico Skies, Avril
Lavigne - Knocking On Heaven's Door, David Bowie - Everyone Say
Hi, Travis - The Beautiful Occupation, George Michael - The Grave,
Ronan Keating - In The Ghetto, Lee Ryan - Stand Up As People, Beverly
Knight - Love's In Need Of Love Today, Moby - Nearer, New Order
- Vietnam, Spiritualised - Hold On, The Charlatans - We Got To Have
Peace, Bert Orton - O-O-H Child, Tom McRae - Border Song, Billy
Bragg - The Wolf Covers Its Tracks, Basement Jaxx/Yellowman - Love
Is The Answer and Yusuf Islam - Peace Train.
who made the song The Locomotion, a huge global hit has died.
The 58-year-old died on April 9 following a battle with cervical
cancer. She passed away at Lenoir Memorial Hospital in North Carolina,
She was born Eva Narcissus Boyd on June 29, 1945. Little Eva came
to babysit Louise, the daughter of the famous song writing duo -
Carole King and Gerry Gaffin. Little Eva was discovered by the couple
which led to The Locomotion being a No. 1 hit in the US in 1962.
revived The Locomotion in 1987 and that too became a universal hit.
Little Eva is survived by two daughters, a son, 15 grandchildren
and nine great grandchildren.
big '80s soul star has suffered a stroke. Reports from New York
said Vandross who suffered the stroke on April 16 is now recovering
in a New York hospital. Vandross was 52 years on Sunday April 20.
Luther is due
to release a new album in June according to J Records. Meanwhile,
family and friends of Vandross are hopeful the singer will make
a full recovery.
For an amazing third
5 featuring Oliver Cheatham is at the No. 1 position of the UK singles
chart with the song Make Luv.
various reports circulating in the music press that Make Luv will
be pushed out of the No. 1 position by Madonna's new single American
Life. But then, unexpectedly there was a late surge in sales over
the Easter holiday enabling Make Luv to occupy the No. 1 UK singles
spot for a fourth consecutive week.
this year, Girls Aloud's Sound of the Underground and Tatu's All
The Things She Said also spent four consecutive weeks at the top
of the singles chart.
Madonna's new sin-
Life debuted on the chart at No. 2 this week. It's the title track
from her forthcoming album.
There was a
lot of negative reporting about the song because many in the media
felt it was the beginning of the end for Madonna since she also
raps in the song.
Contrary to those expectations, sales were reported to be good with
mid week sales indicating a No. 1 hit for Madonna. In the end, it
was not to be, with the track settling for the No. 2 spot.
release - the title track of the Bond movie Die Another Day peaked
at No. 3 last December. Her last No. 1 song in the UK was Music
in September 2000.
American Life is the 55th hit in the UK for Madonna. She now stands
behind Diana Ross who has to-date 56 hits in the UK.
spawned the second hit for singer Robbie Williams. The new track
from the album entered the chart at No. 4 this week. The mid tempo
ballad Come Undone like the previous release Feel peaked at No.
Blur fans are
the group is
back sounding better than ever with their new single Out Of Time.
The track checked into the chart at No. 5. Damon Albarn was last
in the chart with the animated act Gorillaz, but now figures out
in reality with Blur. The band has been around for 13 years.
D-side is the
boy band to
surface on the chart. The group made their debut at No. 9 with Speechless,
a fun track. D-Side won an award last year following appearances
at schools around the UK.
If some people
ten off Lionel Richie, they are mistaken. Even at the No. 19 spot
he has managed to notch an entry on a duet called To Love A Woman
with Enrique Iglesias.
On this ballad,
Richie has combined rock, Latin and country guitars to appeal to
a new generation. He is extending what was achieved through his
last album, Renaissance back in 2000. Lionel's last hit was Angel,
which peaked at No. 18 in October 2000.