I was born on the 22nd May, 1989, at Builth Wells Cottage Hospital, Powys, Wales. My mother was born on the 17th April, 1959, at Builth Wells Cottage Hospital, Powys, Wales. Her mother, my grandmother, was born on the 23rd April, I don’t know the year, in Rhayader, Powys, Wales. I’m Welsh. I may not sound it, but I am, and I’m damn proud of that.
Now, Wales has contributed a decent amount to the world, including but not limited to Road Dahl, Marina from Marina & The Diamonds and the word “Penguin” (It means “White Head,” yeah? I know penguins’ heads are predominantly black, but presumably it was a thick Welshman who coined the name). However, these are the things that every other nationality should be jealous for not being able to lay claim to.
There’s a DRAGON on our flag
Whilst other countries have lame crosses and stripes embarrassingly representing their fair shores, we have a dragon motherfuckers. Check that. A great big DRAGON. How many other countries have a dragon on their flag? I’ll tell you: Two. Bhutan and Malta, two absolute lads of geography. Next time you’re ragging on Wales, remember what country can shoot actual fire from their mouths yeah?
This word will send pangs of delight through all Welsh people reading this, and confusion through all non-Welsh people. Let me explain, a “cwtch,” (rhymes with “butch”) is a Welsh word for a cuddle. Except it’s better than a cuddle. It tows the line between romantic and comforting, between conciliatory and congratulatory. Also, just say the word out loud, it’s practically onomatopoeic it sounds so bloody lovely – like you’ve had to walk home through the pouring rain and hammering wind in your clothes from the night before, your legs burning and your face freezing when you finally open the door, only to be greeted by a cup of tea and a fried breakfast. THAT’s a cwtch. The single greatest thing in the world, and it’s Welsh.
On St David’s Day and I had a crack at making Welsh Cakes for the office, knowing my colleagues to be hungry folk who will eat anything if its free and in a pile in the kitchen. They weren’t my best, and even my best don’t hold a candle to the ones my Gran used to make (Why are Grans so good at baking?), but they weren’t half bad. Like squashed scones, filled with raisins and mixed spice and fried on a grill, they’re a top treat. Better than whatever your country has.
Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
I’m bringing out the big guns now. The Welsh national anthem is the best national anthem by a country mile. It’s a rousing, soaring, dramatic song that’s guaranteed to have rugby matches erupt like big taffy Volcanoes. While God Save The Queen plods along like an arthritic old crone who can’t be faffed to replace her colostomy bag, Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau smashes down the doors of the pub at midnight, hears the last orders bell, stares the barman directly in the eye and whispers closely: “We’ll be havin’ none of that, sunshine,” then buys a massive round.
Accents, Idioms, Buts...
Last but not least, it’s the lilt. Alas, I don’t have a Welsh accent, not a particularly strong one anyway. It’s a constant source of annoyance for me, but whatever, we make do don’t we? Some people don’t have legs. I feel my problems are about on par with theirs. Anyway, there’s something deliriously comforting about the Welsh accents of elderly gents, calming and sonorous, like there’s nothing wrong with the world – even better because, as we all know, there’s LOADS wrong with the world. Then there’s the turns of phrase which seem peculiar to the green, green grass of home: answering any question with “is it?”; “but” or “butty” meaning mate; nicknaming everyone by attaching their first name to the profession they do – in my town we had Dai the School and Dai the Forge...we also had Dickie Mint and Wacker Burns*,and a bloke called Nipper, but I don’t know what they did. I think Nipper worked at the Quarry but I can’t be certain. He had a big beard though. My Dad knew him. I’ll ask next time I’m back (I won’t).
National Pride is a very odd, at worst incredibly dangerous thing to feel. It’s based on the dumb luck of which part of the world you happened to pop out in, and yet, it’s as palpable and concrete a feeling as I can muster. There are bits of Wales that make me cringe and wretch, but then there are things like those above that fire off triggers in my brain that remind me of growing up, of staying out late playing football in the park, of swimming in washpools in the summer with my parents and siblings, of climbing to the top of Garth Hill and tracing the river Wye as it snaked its way through our town, and out to sea.
*Since writing this article I’ve learnt that Wacker Burns has passed. He worked in a pub for a long time and was paid in beer. Pint for him tonight lads.