CREATIVE Cynan Jones

NWR Issue r12


A few years ago I took a kayak out from the beach off Aberarth. It was flat calm when I set out. So calm someone was fly-fishing from another kayak just at the mouth of the river. I'd had one of those days, and just wanted to get out onto the water and relax a while. Get some scope.

I paddled North, taking a line towards Aberystwyth. It was absolutely mirror still.

Ten minutes in, about a mile away from anywhere I could safely put to shore, I saw a dark line hammering in from the horizon. The squall hit moments later.

The suddenness was unreal. The sea tensed, like a muscle. Then bucked like a horse kicking. It was all I could do to stay in the boat.

I leant back, trying to keep the boat level. Then I turned the kayak at the beach. All I could think was keep the nose up, keep the nose up.

The shoreline was rock. Remains of old fish traps laced the beach – huge arcs of stones that once trapped fish in the receding tide. As I careened in, the kayak bounced on the skull of a big stone under the water. Then I hit the beach. The speed was extraordinary. Somehow, I stayed in the boat.

I leapt out and dragged the kayak away from the breakers. There was the thump of waves from the cliffs, but it was bizarrely calm and sunny on the beach. Surreal. The sea thrashing and hardly a breeze on shore.

I was pretty sure the squall would blow itself out. But then again, it might not. I was miles from anywhere and had no phone signal. There were two choices. Walk the kayak back; or go back into the water.

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This incident was the inspiration of Cynan Jones’ forthcoming novel, Cove, which will be published by Granta on 3 November and is excerpted in New Welsh Reader 112, Autumn 2016. A longer extract appears in the New Yorker from 10 October (online) and on news-stands in the US on 17 October under the title 'The Edge of the Shoal'. His previous book, The Dig (Granta, 2014), won the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize 2015 and a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award 2014. It was shortlisted and longlisted for other prizes, in the UK and abroad, and a chapter was shortlisted for the 2013 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. His earlier novels, The Long Dry and Everything I Found on the Beach were originally published by Parthian in 2006 and 2011 respectively, before Granta brought out new editions in 2014. He also wrote Bird, Blood, Snow (2012), one in Seren’s New Stories from the Mabinogion series. Cynan lives on the west Wales coast, near Aberaeron. He will be talking about and reading from his new novel, in association with New Welsh Review, at First Thursday, 3 November, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.


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