Wednesday, July 22, 2009
All We Want Is You
Mrs Boyo was griddling the laver bread on the flagstones of our Ferryside cottage, so I ambled up the cliff to rustle our dinner.
As I came within range of the Llansteffan semaphore tower the mobile trilled deep in my smock.
"Ah Boyo, you deign to join us." I recognised the toxic, patrician drawl of Alun Ffred Jones, Minister of Heritage, Slate Maintenance and Demographic Realignment of All Wales.
"Good evening, Minister. How can I be of assistance?" Ffred commands, you follow.
"Rodders [First Minister of All Wales and Man Mountain Rhodri Morgan] is back from communing with his brain at that caravan in Mwnt and is convinced that Wales needs more English visitors.
"This runs against every Welsh instinct, so I naturally turn to you. I know you relish such delicious dilemmas."
I heard the chink of absinthe spoon on bevilled glass.
"The First Collier of The Nation believes that capitalism's latest crisis presents Wales with an opportunity to extend cultural hegemony over The Flatlands.
"The German and Dutch tourists we attract to our hollow hills are well-educated, affluent and altruistic. In short, fodder for our twin cannonade of rural decrepitude and twilit moodiness.
"The English, on the other hand, either eschew areas where we Welsh live, or else they actually settle here - not what we want at all. And the latter tend to be larcenous Liverpudlians, Midlanders with an aversion to our Commonwealth cousins, or barber-dodgers with an uninformed liking for all aspects of Celtic culture except that pertaining to Wales.
"Our Shepherd-in-Chief wants owlish English liberals to spend their pounds sterling in our seaweed emporia, wool mills and slate carveries, now that they can't afford to visit Cuba ('before the Americans ruin it'), Tuscany or picturesque satrapies in the Gulf.
"And so we want you to list some of the enticements Wales might extend to these pursed bourgeois."
"Why me, sir?" I stammered.
"You are not only one of Wales's leading web bloggers, but also have reliable access to electric power and real paper. You live among English media types, you know their flaccid ways. And, of course, Esmwyth and Enfys - the Annwn Sisters - are still looking for you. Their memories are as long as their teeth."
His laugh echoed off the witching peaks, then all was silence - save for the shuffle of his henna'ed fingers through lamb fleece.
"You'll get your list. Sir." I switched off the phone, tucked a goat under my arm, and headed home.
Coming up with good reasons for Guardian readers to visit Wales has been long and hard, but not in a good way, as these wan worthies are averse to contact sports, the white working classes, signs of ethnicity that you can't eat or wear, and late-evening beatings administered by anyone other than masked rentboys in Baker St dungeons.
The effort has taken up most of the last two weeks. Any other suggestions would be most welcome, as the Chwiorydd Annwn recently got their HGV and artillery licences back.
Why Visit Wales? Because Where Else Would You Find:
1. Big Black Birds. Woken each morning by wood pigeons sounding the brown note on your bedroom windowsill? Does their field-grey disturb the Feng Shui of your patio? Do they shit on your dreamcatchers?
Then join us in Wales. Our glorious biodiversity extends to massive, filthy-beaked crows, jackdaws and ravens. Yes, real ravens. Have you seen a raven close up? Imagine a flying Doberman that hates everything. Now imagine what happened to the one and only wood pigeon that idly drifted across the Severn.
2. Real Women. The collective noun for English ladies is either a "disapproval" or a "police cell", depending on their social class. Welsh women are measured by the pot, because they are so full of sauce.
Welsh women are like the Mounties. They love boots, can ride anything, and always get their man.
Homosexuals! Tired of following fashion and not being able to join the Army? Unconvinced by Evangelicals, psychiatrists and people who say they can straighten you out by hanging weights off your pods?
Then try the Cinders Challenge. Spend one evening down Cinderella's night club in The Mumbles and the only way you'll leave still gay is if you go lesbian.
3. Historic Cakes. A visit to the high street of any small Welsh town (there are no large ones) will prove that the 1950s bakery is alive and well. Forget about leeks, the custard slice is the national symbol of Wales. In place of the rotating kebab signs of the England, the Welsh urban night is alight with nine-foot neon eclairs.
The Wales Cake Board (Bwrdd Teisen Cymru) guarantees to cure your teenage daughters of whatever eating disorder they are modelling this month. For a small fee it will also find them a mutton-chopped Young Farmer with a Lampeter smallholding and his own Land Rover (collie and floor optional).
4. Friendly Gravity. Constant rainfall has left the soil of Wales a moist soufflé, unlike the dusty baked flan that is England. One benefit is that we have evolved much lighter gravity, or else our yeomen would sink in the loam as they hoe.
This means, ladies, that you can not only have your cake and eat it, but also wash it down with a pint of Babycham and still cut an elegant rug down the South Wales Police Benefit Ball at the Top Rank Club, Swansea.
5. Not Giving a Fuck. Take the Super Furry Animals song and apply it to an entire nation. Don't be fooled by the grievance-mongers in the newspaper letters pages or on your electric-powered television sets, for they are often bards of the Cwyniad.
Yes, complaining is a respected art form in Wales, and as such is no more representative of the general public than Cockneys are of England.
The Welsh are gregarious, informal and anarchic. Get on any local train and fill your ears. The 0705 from Amersham it ain't.
The main reason for this was our Medieval princes' wise decision to scorn sophisticated Feudalism, and leap straight from subsistence farming to Norman occupation. As a result we are all peasants, cwtching together in the rain.
As for our few noblemen, we packed them off to England: Henry VIII, Mary Tudor, Michael Heseltine. No please, don't thank us.
5. Two National Anthems. You all know Hen Wlad fy Nhadau, except for Reluctant Viceroy John Redwood.
What is less well-known is that it ought to be played at waltz tempo, as it was written for Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn's cotillion, and is only the anthem of Transmontane Wales.
The anthem of the Valleys and Vale of Glamorgan is the synthesizer break from "We Live So Fast" by Heaven 17, with a male-voice choir intoning the word "Wales" in unison and very slowly, rather like that Mongolian mouth music.
The break starts at 02'09" on this clip. Provide the chant yourselves, and become part of Welsh culture:
6. Best Celts There Are. We Welsh are easily the best Celts out there, and we define our superiority through modest negatives.
We lack the Catholicism and civil wars of the Irish, the querelous ambition of the Scotchmen and the cider affliction of the Bretons. And unlike the Manx we are not all sexual perverts. The Cornish we regard as our dippy rural cousins, which is really saying something.
7. Dragon's Tongue. Need I say more?