I had corresponded with four universities during the autumn 2014 to find a home to study Rhiannon. One disqualified itself after initially looking good. Another was friendly and seemed to understand my project, but could only offer a fairly rigid scheme of study. The other two never answered my emails.
The fifth, Swansea, didn’t look like it did medieval studies. Most of what I saw on the site was 1500 or later. But I sent an enquiry just in case. Then, as I was looking at the prospect of a very long tiring commute, and a less than ideal structure, Liz McAvoy wrote from Swansea Dec. 9th 2014 to say Christine James would be very interested to discuss my project. I emailed her but Christine was much too busy to see me immediately but we arranged to meet Jan 10 2015.
I looked her up of course and was stunned to discover this was the Archdruid of Wales. As a long term guest resident of Wales I knew just enough to know how august this made her, but nothing of what I could expect. Shiver.
A momentous meeting, and I knew it. It was like being a teenager again, a teenager of 64? Interesting. John helped me get up and get ready. I dressed with great care, and needed every second of John’s warm reassurance as we drove the motorway. Acid panic. John carefully deposited me at Christine’s office with my laptop. Her welcoming smile was gentle but I could not know then that this was perfectly sincere, and reflected a person of gentleness. Also I had already learned that academics are deceptive, especially how women can be so sweet surfaced.
How to describe two magnificent, formidable women, yet both shy, and with issues of uncertainty to cover about the work to do, meeting for the first time? The air was solid around us. The rest of the world did not exist. I was utterly terrified, as if I had been transported to the top of the highest mountain, all alone, to meet my destiny.
John walked past the door at intervals, doing his wolf guardian. He said the two voices quickly went into a happy rise and fall so he went off satisfied all was well. I babbled away no doubt sounding quite silly but it must have shown Christine a little something. She is as I was to learn astute at seeing it further than most.
I walked away in a boneless dream. I had found my mentor, and for the first time ever since I was young, someone I could deeply admire.