Monday, 9 April 2012

Wales felt like home

Volume 2 – a new life begins - chapter 7 – a job does not guarantee a good future – part 5 – Wales felt like home – post 67 – taken from chapter 34 – farewell to Wales - consisting of 10 pages from 64 to 73(420 to 429 ) edited on Saturday, 08 October 2011

With a Welsh mother and maternal grandfather it is not surprising that I was able to settle in Wales without apparent difficulty, I did not feel an alien or out of place; I was never a stranger in a strange land, as many English people find themselves to be in similar circumstances. On further reflection maybe it was the beautiful countryside that I liked so much and it was not the Welsh people that attracted me during the time I lived in Wales. It is places I remember not people, anyway most of the people I spent my time with were not Welsh. A large portion of my time I spent at work and there I was with English people mostly. Over the years my recollections of people I met at Rhyl, those that were strange, and those that made an impression, were not indigenous. Like the odd crew that entertained under the very appropriate name of ‘The Quaintesques’ with the exotic Mickey Renton, and the equally strange owner Billy Manders. ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ had nothing on these two I can assure you. I had many trips into the hills and valleys of Wales which I shall never forget, but I have to say that I never got to know a great many Welsh people.

clip_image002In this picture we are walking in a forestry area by one of the numerous lakes in mid-Wales.

When I had time to spare our pleasure was derived from regular trips to the Potteries, so again I have to say that I was not becoming part of the Welsh community, when we explored the local scene it was usually in our own company. My family and I still shared outings with Len and Ethel Grant, though we were doing our own thing more and more.


clip_image004Jacqueline takes a rest

We had no special tramping gear though we often covered quite a few miles. Len was behind the camera, and in charge of the primus stove and making the tea. Although I was now working in the Production Control Office I still wore my old uniform trousers for these outdoor trips, they were old and baggy, but they were still hard wearing and warm.



Len was well practiced with his camera taking pictures wherever he went, mostly they were for his own pleasure, but occasionally his ability as a camera man came in useful at work when he was able to record work situations for future reference. I am clip_image006sure that he had a large number of photographs, but I have very few of them.

Though Mark is walking in this picture, most of the time he would ride upon my shoulders, a job that fell to me on these outings.

I do have two others taken on the day we walked in the forest as shown above, so I shall include them to give a better impression of the day and the place we visited. This lake was one of those that few people knew or visited, it was off the beaten track and I have forgotten its name and location long ago. It was one of those lovely places that only a few locals know; a place they try and keep to themselves. How could you fail to be attracted to a place with so much natural beauty? The trouble is that so much of this splendour is reserved by the privileged and the wealthy and made inaccessible to the ordinary man in the street.


This distinction of class was one of the reasons I had which helped to sway me in the direction of New Zealand, which I imagined had similar natural attractions, and was not yet spoiled by a privileged few. I say that the obvious attractions of the country of Wales is what made me feel reluctant to leave, and I appear to discount the people, but that is not a totally accurate picture. The Celtic people have sensitivity a depth of emotion that they wear on their sleeve, and if I am honest I felt some rapport with that emotional character. I admire and have tried to live up to my father’s Saxon strengths; his determination, his phlegmatic ability to keep calm when under stress. These are qualities that we all wish to have, but the Welsh let their feelings show, and they have such a depth of feeling, which shines forth like a bright light, in their music, and when they express themselves with words.

clip_image008I contemplate the beauty of this place while Len hovered with his camera.

Some of the finest expressions you will ever see in the English language come from Welsh poets and writers. Who could ever forget hearing the Welsh sing? The most simple of songs are sung with such feeling and expression; I can still hear the locals in a village pub singing together like the most perfect choir ‘Saucepan Bach’ (The little saucepan) which is in a minor key as many songs from Wales are was a favourite. The melody will always be with me, but the words and what the song was about I shall never know because it was sung in Welsh.

In another pub and on another occasion I can recall a local bard reciting a poem for the entertainment of the house. He spoke in Welsh so I did not know what the poem was about, but the feeling and pathos in his voice was so strong and vivid that I could not resist asking a member of the audience what the poem was about. I was told that it was a poem written to commemorate a local legend, which went as follows.

Many years ago there was a man who lived in the forest, who went to chop wood for the winter fire. His wife was away visiting relatives, and he had a baby boy in a cradle to watch over, but he was sure the baby would be safe because he had a faithful dog that could be trusted to stand guard over the child. On returning from his work he found the door of the cottage open and when he entered he saw the cradle over turned and the room in disarray. The dog lay in front of the babies overturned cot with blood all over his chops and his chest, the woodsman concluded that the dog had attacked the child and killed his baby, so taking his axe he struck the dog and killed it. Afterwards he began to tidy up the mess and on picking up the overturned crib found his baby safe and sleeping soundly, next to it lay the body of a large wolf which was dead. The loyal dog had defended the child and saved it from the wolf, and the man suffered from his ghastly mistake for the rest of his life.

The stress in the voice of the bard as he told this story was such that many of those in the audience sat with tears in their eyes, as they pictured the scene so vividly described. This depth of feeling is part of what has kept the Welsh together as a race; at times they came very close to extermination; so many invasions that have driven them into the hills to survive under the worst of conditions. From the Romans to the Saxons and Normans they have been invaded, attacked and harried, but still their spirit sustains them, and their emotional character helps them tell their story.

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