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But once you got away from the greenness and the smoothness immediately surrounding the farm, the land changed colour and appearance, became shaggier and wilder and browner.

And there was gorse everywhere. This was what they called the mountain. It certainly got steeper but not in the jagged way you'd expect. It was suddenly thoroughly pitted and uneven, full of hollows and hummocks, tufted with reeds and tussocky grasses or straggly with bits of bracken and briars. Not that he knew these names then.

It was quiet and still on the day he went up to the tops with Bryn for the first time, but generally it must have been windy up there because all these funny little trees leaned over all one way and sheep wandered in and out of these little clumps of trees that were like wild gardens.

These were hawthorns and rowans and there were the occasional silver birches, too, the ones he liked best of all, but on that first day they were just magical growing things. He'd not learned any labels to put on them.

It was hot and it was shimmery and he was looking up to the highest part of the mountain when he saw a group of men on the horizon. It was T-shirt weather, definitely, but these men were wearing jerkins and caps and peculiar looking trousers. Most of them seemed to be carrying things over their shoulders, and they'd appeared out of nowhere, talking about something, in a very bothered about it sort of way, arguing maybe. Then one of them seemed to burst out laughing, tilting back his head, and then they were all laughing, starting to move together down the slope towards them.

Kieran felt there was something a bit worrying about them, though he couldn't tell you what it was. What are all those men doing there? he asked his uncle.

Bryn seemed awkward and somehow embarrassed, and Kieran noticed he didn't look in the men's direction at all.

I can't see any men, Bryn said, and he was moving very fast now, the boy struggling to keep up with him.

The short story collection The Great Master of Ecstasy by Glenda Beagan is published by Seren, price pounds 7.99, available from > CONTINUES ON MONDAY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 29, 2011
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