Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Night Coracle to Cairo

I pay the BBC licence fee so that I don't have to waste time listening to opinions on other wirelesses, so when a chap called Leyne assured me that both the argy and the bargy in Tunisia would go no further I was happy to switch back to the Third Programme for some soothing Xenakis.

I was not pleased to wake up two week later to discover the Copts, Ankhs and other denizens of Durrell's feverish novels getting their Hannibal on in the teeming streets of Egypt.

"What's wrong with you? Arabs have the right to elect useless sods instead of just inheriting them, as you pointed out in your last post!" a reader might rile.

Indeed, and I like everyone else totally and utterly support the revolting Egyptians in all ways but the ones that might do them some good. The cause of my chagrin is, as ever, purely personal and national:

"So, you Welshes have screwed up another perfectly decent holiday resort. Thanks a lot, I was looking forward to a spot of shark-punching down Sharm el-Sheikh, now I'll be lucky to get a week in a bucket dangling from a Somerset gibbet."

Yes, the conspiracy theorists who are my colleagues have worked it out. The cause of Mr Mubarak's downfall is once again The Welsh Connection.

When the moderate, non-violent Islamic Jihad gunned down President Anwar Sadat at a military parade in 1981, BBC Wales's flagship news pit-pony "Wales Today" was quick to spot that the new president had a Welsh wife, Suzanne.

Wales was a land of austerity in the early 1980s, and even news was scarce. As a result, smouldering Gail Foley, random sports bloke David Parry-Jones and the other news colossi of "Wales Today" spent much of their time finding Welsh angles to other countries' stories in order to pad out a bulletin otherwise devoted to rugby disasters, werewolves, and firemen shrugging in front of charred holiday cottages.

A particular low point was the Jeremy Thorpe trial. This tale of former Liberal leaders, by-the-hour inversion, velvet collars, Great Danes and, for reasons that escape me, former King Constantine of the Hellenes attempted to grip a nation already being thoroughly gripped by the newly-elected steel claws of Lady Thatcher.

It received lavish daily coverage on the BBC national news, and Welsh viewers had to sit through it all again on "Wales Today" just because the caddish Mr Thorpe's co-defendants were a spit-roast of Welsh businessmen.

The Mubarak succession was a gift to "Wales Today". They yanked a cub reporter off his permament pitch outside a rainy steelworks, gave him a Fodor guide to Luxor and the bus fare to the Mubarak in-laws' council house in Pontypridd.

What reporters are meant to do in such circumstances is ask about Mrs Mubarak's early life, her forgetting the words of "Y Wiwer" at the school eisteddfod, and other things they might know about, not demand instant analysis of the Middle East like some Radio 4 harridan.

The Ponty Mubaraks, like most of the Welsh population, conversed by constantly rearranging the words "Duw", "fuck" and "aye" in overlapping patterns like an early Steve Reich piece, so the ensuing doorstep interview was a masterclass in the clueless leading the scabrous:

[Shiny reporter] "Do you think your relative Mr Mubarak will be a stronger leader than the dead Mr Sadat is?"

[Unshaven man in vest] "Well, he won't let hisself gets killed so easy though but and."

It didn't get any better, as question after leading question produced ever-more baffled responses from a group of people who, come to think of it, were quite possibly not even related to Mrs Mubarak at all. It's not an uncommon name along the Rhondda Riviera.

I like to think Suzanne's ghastly relatives all descended on Cairo in 1981, like secretaries on a cake trolley, in pursuit of cockle concessions and anything they could carry off.

The Egyptians are used to being ruled by other people - Hyskos, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Albanians, the English, Israelis (parts only), and giant Sun-rolling beetles if you go back far enough - so Welsh administration was likely to be relatively benign.

After all, we Welsh have long-cherished fictional links with the Ancient Egyptian people, largely thanks to Prof Sir John Morris-Jones's article "Pre-Aryan Syntax in Insular Celtic" - an ambitious attempt to bypass England via a Welsh-Berber linguistic bridge across the Bay of Biscay, unfortunately based on occult loon Prof Wallis Budge's ouija-board guesswork about Ancient Egyptian grammar.

But enough is enough, or "Kifaya!" as they say in Ponty. Seething increased in recent months when it became clear that Mubarak intended to transfer power to his idiot son Goronwy (known as "Gamal" in Egypt, owing to the absence of typically Welsh sounds and animal shapes in hieroglyphics).

But the final straw in the brick of Nilotic anger was the news that the Mubarak clan had handed over maintenance of the pyramids to some Welsh cowboys.

The prospect of these tombs emerging from the Griffiths Bros, Builders & Decorators tarpaulin either studded with pebbledash and satellite dishes or brownly glossed into a Toblerone theme park (children and Free Wales Army veterans, half-price), was too much for the Coptic back to bear, and so another country collapses into Cambrian-created chaos.

Borges once wrote a story in which Thoth, the baboon lord of the Nile, joins other ancient deities in an attempted coup against The Academy. But he, like his fellow putschists, can no longer speak, only howl like a beast.

We Welsh may not be much more articulate, so I'd give it a couple of weeks before sending a camera crew back to Pontypridd to ask the newly-arrived Mubaraks how they like the view.


Anonymous said...

We tried setting up a "second front" in Gwynedd in the late 1980s to take the heat off our chaps in Ulster. Could we? Could we fuck. Ron Broxted, Int. Officer, 1st East Tyrone Bde, PIRA.

Dewi Harries said...

Oh Gail Foley.....Oh Sian Edwards...

Francis Sedgemore said...

Duw ffwc aye, we truly are a damnable race!

Gorilla Bananas said...

I'm thinking of a film called The Curse of the Welsh Mummy. Does Glenys Kinnock have what it takes to play the title role?

Rod Warner said...

Addled late on vodka, I bow deeply and with admiration (tinged with surreal whimsical envy - but the night is young) to anyone who can link Steve Reich, Zenakis, Jeremy Thorpe and Lawrence Durrell - let alone the rest... Blimey...
Maybe Akkad set up a gnostic study group in the Principality after Suez... The Machynlleth (checked spelling on google as an amnesic Englisher) Quartet remains to be discovered by some enterprising young English student from UCW(Aber). Although Larry probably has not crossed the gunsights of Late Marxist lecturers in many a year...

Francis Sedgemore said...

My dear Mr Warner,

UCW(Aber), or, to give it its full title, the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, no longer exists, having passed away without note in 2007.

The English academics and Welsh Uncle Twms who mismanaged this once noble institution abolished the constituent college of our national, federal university – founded on the charity of working class Welshes – transforming it fully into yet another provincial "uni" providing cheap seats for feckless middle class youngsters from across the border in the English Badlands. It is now known simply as "Aberystwyth University".

The now confederal University of Wales is no more than a garden shed in Bute, inhabited by a grumpy old secretary armed with a rubber stamp and invoice pad.

Francis Sedgemore, PhD (Cymru, Duw Ffwc Aye)

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Now this Welsh encroaching on the ground that by rights belongs to the scheming Z...ists should be dealt with. Check this out:

And the myth about Jooz building the pyramids is, granted, just a myth. No argument, and Welsh contractors are welcome to build more. But the shark is ours!

No Good Boyo said...

Ron, "Six Counties (pron: SAX COYNTAYZ!"), surely? We had enough of agents provocateurs in the Free Welsh, isn't it.

Dewi, I too pined for Gail. I developed a considerable knowledge of Welsh social problems, of which there are legion, by following her endless reports from outside some Battered Pigeon Shelter. Siân? Not since Lembit. He spoiled her for a nation.

Francis, I had no idea Aber had been fuxt. We Welsh should demand our money back.

GB, Glenys "Bloody" Kinnock, or Baroness Lle Chewch as she styles herself nowadays, pretty much opted out of Welshness some time ago to preempt her expulsion - or being Oswestrised as we call it. The film is an idea, though but, and I think we need to start work on the screenplay right away. Coc Oen Productions, my film company, is ap your disposal.

The same goes for the Mach Quartet, Rod. It has legs, and the standard twelve fingers for that part of the world.

Snoop, the only sane answer to this Egyptian nonsense for for Wales and Israel to sort it out in the car park that is Sinai (play fair - we won't use our nukes if you don't use yours). Whoever wins gets to hand it over to the democratic secular blah blah opposition and watch the celebrations by the light of Robert Fisk's head exploding.

Jon in France said...

I think I mentioned once before that the wife of our Prime Minister Mr Fillon is Welsh?

Certainly the New Year break in Egypt undertaken by the Fillons as guests of Hosni and familiy needs to be re-examined in light of this information.

No Good Boyo said...

You have the makings of an investigative journalist by there, Jon. With your local knowledge and my access to the Inter Net, we could become the Woodward and Bernstein of Stargate, as any self-respecting Egyptian scandal ought to be known.

An early route of inquiry is to check whether Egyptian seaweed levels fell dramatically after the Fillons' visit.

Ian Plenderleith said...

Mubarak should seek political asylum in Welshpool. They deserve each other.

Rod Warner said...

For Mr Sedgemoore - thanks for putting me right, guv - haven't been in contact with Aber very much since my daughter moved back across the border. I always intended to buy a varsity scarf - but figured that my age precluded such frippery. In my year I was the second eldest mature (well...) student - but was always made welcome, despite my only too frequent lapses into frivolity. The place was great fun when Doug Houston was still about...

Anonymous said...

NGB Six counties is of course pronounced "Occupied Irish territories";)

No Good Boyo said...

The true name of Welshpool is Y Trallwng, Pop, which translates handily as "The Great Weret Bird that Greets the Rising Aten Disc", so any Egyptian would feel well at home. There's a bungalow with Hosni's name on it. It's called Byngalô Hosni. He can't miss it.

Full marks, Joe. We'll send our finest men over right away, as long as Ireland gives Abersoch FC its football back.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Top Welsh stuff, Boyo - I had no idea about this connection. Incidentally, I stepped into a local Armenian church over here the other day and was amazed to see that the Armenian alphabet is pretty much Welsh - with all the letters except 'w' and 'y' taken out.

No Good Boyo said...

I, as the official representative of the Welsh, have had a long and bizarre relationship with the Armenians, both individuals and the nation, Gadjo. I used to teach their language, and noticed alarming similarities. "Good morning", for example, is "Barry Lewis".

Gadjo Dilo said...

Barry Lewis, eh? I suspect they'd be very slippery blindside-flankers. I wonder if there's an Armenian version of alphabetti spaghetti.

No Good Boyo said...

There's a story that the Georgians liked the Armenian alphabet so much that they pestered its creator, Archbishop Mesrop, to invent one for them. He was having nooble soup (laghman) at the time, and go so annoyed at their niggling that he threw the bowl at the wall. The grateful Georgians started scribbling down the resulting mess and used it to write their dialect of Klingon.

Sean Skipton said...

I think those giant beetles from way back were dung-rolling, not Sun-rolling. But I could be wrong and the myths might say otherwise. So now it's pyramids in Welshpool is it? Duw ffwc aye.

No Good Boyo said...

You're right about the dung, but the silhouettes who ran Egypt in those days thought it was the Sun, Sean. And who but scientists are to say they're wrong?

There's a pyramid in Carmarthenshire somewhere, but Welshpool ought to have its day. My dad always said the grain silos on its outskirts were Emlyn Hooson MP's missile defence system. How the Liberals have changed.

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