Mirror Magazine


A shed of one's own
By Leyla Swan
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.

Vita Sackville 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 glory.

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.

Today, the 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.

Humble beginnings
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.

Free spirit
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 1937.

Having grown 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."

The couple 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.

Something in common
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."

The couple's 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.

A love-hate relationship
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.

Caitlin was furious when she learned of his latest betrayal, more so when he denied it - even after she had found letters written by the woman.

Thomas escaped into more gruelling lecture tours to America, where his readers appeared to enjoy his reputation for excess as much as they did his writing.

Essentially 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 alcohol.

"He can 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.

On October 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.

Gentle into 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.

Caitlin accompanied 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 of light."
Asia Features

Little Eva is no more

Sir Paul McCartney has criticised the
use of cluster bombs by the US in Iraq recently.

The former 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 anyone.
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.

The artistes 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.

Little Eva, the singer
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, USA.
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.

Kylie Minogue 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.

Luther Vandross the
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

week, Room 5 featuring Oliver Cheatham is at the No. 1 position of the UK singles chart with the song Make Luv.

There were 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.

Previously 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-

gle American 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.

Madonna's last 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.

Escapology has
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. 4.

Blur fans are happy

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 latest Irish

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 had writ-
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.

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