Ar fod yng Nghymru (or On being in Wales)
Whoever invented the phrase ‘it’s all Greek to me’ clearly had never attempted to read a Welsh road sign. Or perhaps they had and just assumed the Welsh language wasn’t a language at all but a Scrabble game gone mad after, oh, I’d say about 73 shots of tequila.
Case in point, my blog post heading. (Even the English translation beside it looks weird.)
|It doesn't even look like words.|
The power of the Welsh language to render anything in its vicinity unintelligible by sheer association, is not its only party trick. The melodic cadence needed to get one’s mouth around letters that shouldn’t be next to each other, results in an accent that, when listened to for even the shortest of moments, makes you feel as if you are stepping into a warm bath, glass of wine in hand. A metaphorical bath that I happily immersed myself in this past weekend.
When you are fortunate enough to have friends splashed across the United Kingdom, you brave the crush that is Friday evening at Paddington station. You board the 19:15 to Cardiff Central. You attempt to stay awake for the two-hour journey. You fail and drift into a soothing nap courtesy of the jostle of train travel. And you wake refreshed in a smaller, but no less charming part of Britain.
And so where to begin describing my Welsh odyssey?
Shall I begin by with the delicate delights of the Welsh cake? That buttery not-quite-biscuit-not-quite-scone treat that found its way back to London with me?
|Alas, poor things never stood a chance. They were eaten on my first night back in London.|
Or how about St Fagans? A place where you can roam through nature’s beautiful bounty and time travel all at once. A place where you can ‘explore how people in Wales have lived, worked and spent their leisure time’. Or, as the Welsh would say ‘dewch I weld sut mae pobl Cymru wedi byw, gweithio a hamddena drwy’r oesoedd’.
|Ye olde worlde of St Fagans|
Or how about the sneaky peek I got of backstage at the Welsh National Opera (WNO) because I know all the right people?
Or, I know, you’ll want to hear about the man who took my picture because my phone case is just this side of kooky and inspired him to greatness. (All in a day’s work, really.)
And then there were the rolling, patchwork hills of the Brecon countryside as seen from the top of a mountain. A mountain I almost had a heart attack climbing, but which I’d climb again in an instant for that view.
Or how about landing with a thud back in Cardiff on what is St Mary’s Street on a Saturday night. Where vom already lines the streets and people can’t quite stand even though it’s not yet 8.30pm. Where they all sound like they’re speaking Welsh but, in this case, they are actually just drunk.
My Welsh odyssey was about the people. About meeting and chatting to anyone and everyone that happened to walk by, or that I was introduced to. People with genuine smiles on their faces, and genuine questions about how I was and what I thought of their Wales. A question asked with pride, chests puffed out and their hearts on their sleeve. And how could you say anything other than, of course, Wales is grand. I might not be able to make heads or tails of their language, but it’s not hard to see the warmth and happiness shining through.
It’s all Greek to me but, thankfully, I just so happen to speak a little Greek.