Once is the journey from boyhood to the threshold of manhood of poet Andrew McNeillie. From an aeroplane crossing north Wales the middle-aged writer looks down on the countryside of his childhood and recalls an almost fabulous world now lost to him. Ordinary daily life and education in Llandudno shortly after the war are set against an extraordinary life lived close to nature in some of the wilder parts of Snowdonia. Continually crossing the border between town and country, a fly-fisherman by the age of ten, McNeillie relives his life in nature during a period of increasing urbanisation.
Once is a beautifully written eulogy for a retreating countryside now valued more for its leisure potential than as a repository of nature and source of human fullfilment. The narrative is underlain by a way of thinking informed by the natural world and by nature poetry, and is an evocative and memorable book about the nature of experience of memory and writing.