Category Archives: Cymru

Colonial attitudes live on

I read this blog post – The Curious Case of An English Historian – yesterday and it really reflected the way I feel about the Welsh language.

I love the Welsh language. I love its history, its expressiveness, its connection to the country, the culture and the people, and yes, I even love its mutations! Time and time again I learn a new word or phrase and delight in its aptness and logic. It’s just so right to speak Welsh here.

So why do so many English speakers have a problem with Welsh? I’m lucky to know many people from outside Wales that share my love of the language and either speak it already or are learning it, but there are so many that seem to think they are somehow entitled to run it into the ground. They wouldn’t do the same about French in France or German in Germany, so why?

And why – for that matter – are there Welsh speakers that feel that if there is a single person within a 100 metre radius that just possibly might not understand Welsh, they’d had better speak English just in case? It’s NOT RUDE to speak your own language in your own country!

If you are dealing with customers, and one comes along that doesn’t speak Welsh, fine – speak to them in English, or French, or Polish, or whatever language that you might have in common. The idea of customer service is to respect the customer and give them the best service you can, isn’t it? And if they speak Welsh, then Welsh it is! Too bad if the customer standing behind them in the line doesn’t understand. What business is it of theirs anyway?

I’ve had Welsh speakers tell me that they couldn’t speak Welsh to me in the workplace because there were English speakers there – not visitors to Wales, but people who were born and bred in Wales, or had lived here for many years. My attitude to that is simple. If they are living in Wales and they have chosen not to learn Welsh, then they have chosen to exclude themselves from an important part of Welsh society. If they’re happy with that, fine. I would be the last person to force someone else to learn a language, but they must understand the consequences of their choice.

THEY have chosen to exclude themselves. THEY have chosen to remain outside the wonderful cultural experiences that open themselves to people that can speak the language. And having made that choice, they can’t insist that other people change their way of speaking just for them!

Thoughts on Brexit

Europe

Although I consider myself originally a Kiwi, I spent many, many years in Australia. I lived in major cities like Sydney and Perth, and I lived in small, remote mining communities like Weipa. What I observed everywhere was that there appeared to be at least three parallel societies within the country as a whole.

There was a vibrant, multicultural, mostly born overseas, group of people that rejoiced in their diversity and genuinely enjoyed being together, celebrating each other’s festivals and feeling part of a wider international community. It was a delight to sit around a dinner table and discover that almost everyone there had been born in a different country, adding their own unique cultural background to the mix. Our ‘pot luck’ meals were fantastic! That was MY Australia.

Then there was a group that wanted to turn the clock back – to return to the White Australia policy of the past, to harden their hearts and deny compassion to desperate people fleeing unconscionable violence in their homelands, a group that were suspicious of anyone slightly different, that wanted to obliterate any cultural differences and insist on uniformity based on their own views. They were vociferous in their intolerance, and this was the group that the politicians sought to woo whenever it came to elections, pandering to racist tendencies and narrow minded attitudes. These people did not represent my Australia and sickened me.

The third parallel society was that of the indigenous people who struggle to have a voice and are mostly pushed into the shadows. They have an incredibly long and proud history, and I sincerely hope they will one day also have a future they can be proud of, though sadly I can’t see it happening any time soon.

Geographically, Australia lies off the shores of Asia. When Australians want to go on holiday, they buy a plane ticket and off they go – to Bali, to Malaysia, to Thailand – and all they have to worry about is what clothes to pack and how much dutyfree they can bring back.

When citizens of those Asian countries want to visit Australia though, it’s not so simple. My brother has a Thai partner who has to jump through hoops if she wants to visit him in Australia – a trip to the Embassy, showing all her bank account and business details, paying a significant sum for a visa, all under the scrutiny of a suspicious Immigration official who doubts everything she says. What gives Australians the right to travel freely to their neighbouring countries, while citizens of those countries are denied reciprocal rights?

So where am I going with this?

Well, one of the reasons I moved to Wales was that it was part of Europe. I saw it as a place that was proud of its own history, culture and language but was also proud to take its place amongst a group of neighbouring nations that were intent on moving closer together and building mutual respect and consideration.

To me the European Union represents the relationship that Australia should be having with its neighbours. Yes, it’s not perfect and there are obvious areas of bureaucracy that need to be streamlined and sorted out, but we should be doing that for the benefit of all, not just for the benefit of the UK.

I cringed every time I read that the UK was asking for special consideration and to be different to everyone else. Why? The whole focus of the Leave campaign seemed to be what do WE get out of it? It was reflecting the attitude prevalent in the second group of Australians mentioned above.

Well, I’m sorry, but I tend to look at it the other way round.

What can we contribute that will lead to an increased benefit for all? How can we add our skills and create a more unified and stable region, while encouraging and supporting diversity like the myriad of minority languages that exist within the member countries? How can we, as a group of diverse nations, be a shining example to the rest of the world showing that differences can be overcome and we can all work together for the better good?

I don’t know what the next few months hold, but I feel a sense of great sadness. Politicians with their own agenda have yet again manipulated large numbers of people by appealing to their basest instincts and feeding them misinformation. Welsh voters have had facts about the real effect on Wales totally obliterated by the hysteria in some of the English press. Our politicans have let us down by not making sure that all Welsh people made a decision based on accurate information, not emotional harping back to some glorious imagined past.

“Give us our country back?” – when, in the last 500 years, did Wales actually belong to the Welsh?

 

 

And it just keeps raining!

It’s taken seven and a half years, but I think I might have reached saturation point when it comes to rain in Wales, if you see what I mean.

rain on pine needles

When I first arrived, back in 2008, it was after years of living in rain-deprived Western Australia, so it didn’t matter how much it rained – I was delighted! It was such a novelty to don my raincoat, unfurl my umbrella, and stride out into the tranquil greyness of what the weather forecast described as “heavy rain”, but to me – used to tropical downpours – it was more like persistent falling mist.

It felt gentle, soothing, and peaceful, and I loved strolling through places like Cardiff’s Bute Park, smelling the dampness of the earth and watching squirrels running for cover.

Lying in bed at night, listening to the rain on the roof, I felt very cosy and secure, a relaxing feeling.

Even when I first came to Llandysul and started going on longer walks in the countryside, replete with waterproof trousers, heavy walking boots, mittens, and a jacket zipped up to my chin, the rain didn’t bother me. It made the ground softer, the greenness of the leaves, mosses and lichens brighter and fresher, and added to the feeling of being at one with the beautiful Welsh countryside.

But I suppose everyone reaches their limit sometime. Could we have just one day sometime soon when it doesn’t rain, please?

Waiting for Infinity

Not Yet - Keep Waiting

On 6 August, Ofcom, the independent authority for the UK communications industry, announced that Wales is ahead of Scotland and Northern Ireland when it comes to superfast fibre broadband rollout.

The report states that 79% of premises can now receive fibre broadband (up to 30 Mbps). As my current download speed is 7.07 Mbps on a good day, that would be wonderful! Though it’s better than the alternative standard BT Broadband I was offered as a consolation.

A look at the top ten countries for internet speed around the world shows South Korea at number one with an average of 22.2 Mbps, so anything approaching 30 Mbps sounds fairly good in comparison (as long as you ignore some UK companies who offer packages of 50Mb, 100Mb and even 152Mb!)

The Superfast Cymru vision calls for “all homes and businesses across Wales [to] have access to fast fibre broadband” and aims to supply this capability to 96% of premises by 2016. A look at the rollout map shows that Llandysul is definitely in the “Superfast Cymru Intervention Area” which is good news, and some areas of the town have been given fibre capability.
Llandysul Exchange Sept 14, 2015

 

But 64% of us are still waiting for our cabinet to be converted with no indication of when that will be. The Superfast Cymru website lets you enter landline and postcode details to keep an eye on progress, but this is what I get when I enter my landline number:Check landline number

 

And when I enter my postcode … above not below as the message says:

Postcode Checker

 

An online chat with an advisor from BT confirmed that not only do I not have fibre capability to my property yet, they can’t tell me when it’s likely, and I really don’t like the sound of 2019 as mentioned in the chat log below:BT Conversation

A total of 45,887 Welsh premises, however, have been identified as being “not in scope” to receive this provision and they will fall under the Superfast Cymru Infill Project to supply them with an alternative means to achieve fast speed internet connection. This project will take three years to complete and Phase One is yet to begin. Is that part of the plan to be completed by 2019?

The Ofcom report also looked at the situation with mobile phone coverage, given that increasing numbers of people are using their smartphone for internet access. This is especially popular where 4G services are available, but Wales has the lowest 4G coverage of any of the devolved nations.

In west Wales, ANY consistent coverage would be welcome. While urban areas boast close to 95% 4G connectivity, it is not uncommon for visitors to the west to find they have NO mobile phone signal – not 4G, not 3G, NOTHING! This is a huge disadvantage for businesses in the area and makes a joke of the Welsh government’s desire to see Wales as a digital nation.

If Wales is to go ahead as a modern country we need to ensure that people can stay living in rural areas, running their businesses online and competing in a digital world. We need to keep people living and working in small towns, provide exciting opportunities for young graduates to return to their communities, and boost the economic situation of rural Wales but we can’t do it with a broadband service that is slow and unreliable and a mobile phone service that’s a joke.

Sioe Amaethyddol Llandysul

Pa liw yn gwneud y sedd tractor gorau?

Pa liw yn gwneud y sedd tractor gorau?

Pan ddihunais i’r bore ‘ma roedd yr awyr yn llwyd gyda glaw mân a thipyn o wynt oer. O na, meddyliais i, dim heddiw, dim dydd y Sioe Amaethyddol Llandysul! Ond diwrnod sych oedd rhagolygon y tywydd, ac ar ôl cwpl o oriau, diwrnod sych gawson ni!

Dw i ddim yn gwybod yn union ym mha flwyddyn dechreuodd y sioe, ond ffeindiais i un hysbyseb ar lein ar gyfer y drydedd sioe ar ddeg a oedd yn digwydd yn 1937, felly mae’n debyg bod rhyw fath o sioe wedi bod yn digwydd ers 1924 o leiaf! Yn y sioe honno doedd dim defaid neu wartheg, neu hyd yn oed ceffylau, ond cŵn ac ieir! Mae sioe heddiw yn dal i gael categorïau ar gyfer cŵn, ond yn anffodus dim ieir. Dw i’n dwlu ar ieir, felly mae hynny bach yn siomedig, ond dw i wrth fy modd i weld yr anifeiliaid eraill.

Ceffyl Gwedd

Ceffyl Gwedd

Wrth gwrs, nid sioe amaethyddol fyddai fe fod heb gystadleuaeth o gynhyrchion a sgiliau pobl leol. Blodau, ffrwythau, crefftau, teisennau, gwin – pob peth gall rhywun gwneud, mae categori arbennig ar gyfer nhw.

Dyw llysiau ddim yn tyfu fel 'na yn fy ngardd i!

Dyw llysiau ddim yn tyfu fel ‘na yn fy ngardd i!

 

Dw i ddim yn gwybod sut mae pobl yn tyfu llysiau fel yn y llun ‘ma, ond dw i’n hapus nad ydw i wedi ceisio cystadlu gyda beth dyfais i yn yr ardd!

Rhywbeth i anelu at ar gyfer flwyddyn nesaf!

 

 

Bisgedi wedi'u addurno

Bisgedi wedi’u haddurno

 

A pheidiwch ag anghofio’r plant!

Mae llawer o gyfleoedd iddyn nhw fod yn greadigol hefyd, fel bisgedi wedi’u haddurno ac anifeiliaid wedi gwneud o lysiau.

 

 

 

Heno, ar ôl y holl gystadleaeth wedi gorffen a phopeth wedi clirio o’r babell fawr, bydd y gerddoriaeth yn dechrau.

Pum mlynedd ar hugain mae Bryn Fôn wedi dod i ganu yn y sioe a bydd e yma eto eleni. Es i’r llynedd ac roedd e’n wych! Fe wnes i ddawnsio fel peth gwyllt, ond eleni croesi bysedd bydda i’n gallu clywed y gerddoriaeth o’r tŷ. Gyda gwesteion yn aros trwy AirBnB bydd rhaid i fi aros gartref, ond dw i’n gwybod bydd pawb yn mwynhau dros ben unwaith eto. Ymlaen i’r chwarter canrif nesaf!

Ffracsiynau yn Gymraeg

FfracsiynauDw i wedi sôn yn barod am y ffaith fy mod yn gweithio trwy llyfr “Welsh Rules” er mwyn fy atgoffa am bethau bach nad ydw i’n defnyddio’n aml iawn yn Gymraeg. Heddiw des i o hyd ffracsiynau.

Dw i’n gwybod am ‘hanner’ (yn bwysig iawn mewn tafarnau, wrth gwrs) a ‘chwarter’ ond beth am y gweddill?

Yn yr ymarfer roedd rhaid i fi ysgrifennu mewn geiriau ffracsiynau fel 3 7/9 a 8 5/6. Sylweddolais i fod dim clem gyda fi! Felly, amser i ofyn i Gareth King – Modern Welsh, A Comprehensive Grammar.

Ar ôl beth ddwedodd Gareth, yr atebion i’r cwestiynau uchod yw:

  • tri a saith nawfed
  • wyth a phump chweched (neu phum chweched ar ôl pob tebyg)

Ond ar ôl Heini Gruffudd, yr atebion yw

  • tri a saith rhan o naw
  • wyth a phum rhan o chwech

Felly, fy nghwestiwn i yw – ydyn nhw ill dau yn iawn?

Beth mae’r plant yn dysgu yn ysgolion Cymraeg y dyddiau hyn?

 

 

Newcastle Emlyn

Gwiber Newcastle Emlyn

The ‘Gwiber’ of Newcastle Emlyn – a mythical creature with a dragon’s head and wings, a reptilian body, two legs and a tail.

With incessant drizzle arriving in Llandysul the same day as my most recent AirBnB guests they weren’t having much of a chance to explore the area, so when the sky looked a little brighter last Friday I offered to run them down to Newcastle Emlyn to visit the weekly market and have a look around.

The market takes place every Friday morning near the main carpark and attracts people from a wide area. On a good day you can buy all kinds of local produce, including honey, good quality fruit and vegetables (often by the trayload), cakes, breads, plants and crafts.

Unfortunately when we got there the drizzle had turned into proper rain, but there were still a few brave souls running vegetable stalls, and providing bargains to their dripping customers. It was hard to resist a whole box of tomatoes for £2.50 but I didn’t have any plans to make spaghetti sauce any time soon, so I settled for 5 grapefruit for £1 then shepherded my guests towards Y Cwtch Coffi, a newish bilingual café in the main street with comfortable chairs, delicious cakes and a good selection of hot drinks. It was also warm and dry, which was becoming a priority!

The café was very busy, with a hum of voices and a welcoming atmosphere. My guests tucked into lemon poppyseed cake and bara brith and we sat sipping our drinks while gradually the rain eased off again.

When a few rays of sun attempted to break through the clouds we made a dash for the castle. Making our way past the Gwiber peering down on us from the gate, we walked up through the remains of the castle entrance. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like in its heyday. We stood on a grassy mound gazing down on the Teifi and the local rugby fields beyond and tried to picture how it would have been back in the 13th century when it was built, or in 1403 when it was captured by Owain Glyndŵr. To stand on the site of so much history always sends a tingle through me. What would they think if they could see it now, with much of the stonework gone to build local houses?

After taking the footpath along the Teifi and around the bottom of the castle, we headed back into the main street, stopping to call in at a display by the local history society, then an art exhibition in Cawdor Hall, the Grade II listed building built in 1892 as a Market Hall for the people of Newcastle Emlyn by Lord Cawdor.

Ceredigion Art Trail

The exhibition was part of the Ceredigion Art Trail which is opening up artwork all over the county from now until the end of August. The various locations are scattered all over Ceredigion. With 71 different venues representing every type of art you can imagine, there is something there for everyone.

Glenn Ibbitson, from Smoking Brush Fine Art, was one of two artists exhibiting in Cawdor Hall and he was happy to chat about his work.

Cawdor Hall

Looking towards Cawdor Hall

The drizzle had started up again by then but it was fairly light, so we finished with a walk down to the bridge across to Adpar (the part of the town officially in Ceredigion, as opposed to Newcastle Emlyn proper which is actually in Carmarthenshire), then back to the carpark, hastening our steps as the drizzle changed back into rain, and our brief break in the weather was over.

And then the Eisteddfod – Part 1

meifod-sul020

After Lille came Meifod!

I could write about the wonderful National Eisteddfod in Welsh, but Welsh speakers are already very well aware of what happens at the biggest Welsh cultural festival of the year, so in order to share this unique experience with more of you, English it is!

Is that Welsh or Esperanto?

After leaving Lille I headed to Cardiff to pick up my car along with a passenger, a fellow Welsh learner and aspiring polyglot. Ifan started learning Esperanto after attending the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in April, and decided he couldn’t miss the Universal Congress in Lille. We met up again afterwards in London, chatted in Esperanto for the first part of the train journey from Paddington, then attempted to force our brains back into Welsh. It was very difficult at first, with hesitations and “What’s the Welsh for {Esperanto word}?” but it had to be done. Luckily by the time we arrived in Cardiff and had lunch with Welsh-speaking friends, reluctant brain cells had realised resistance was futile and we were back in full Welsh mode.

The tent experience

Camping

 

This year I decided that the real Eisteddfod experience had to include staying in a tent.

OK, it wasn’t the one in this picture!

 

 

It was a rather large tent with three separate sleeping ‘pods’ and two living areas, but a tent nevertheless! You have three main choices when you stay in a tent at the Eisteddfod

  • Maes B, which has a huge stage and very loud music until the wee, small hours
  • Maes Carafanau, which caters mainly for caravans but has a section at one end for tents
  • or this year you could stay in another location nearby organised by Cymdeithas yr Iaith which also has loud music until the wee small hours.

Yes, I plumped for Maes Carafanau. However, as it wasn’t too great a distance from Maes B, I still got to enjoy the music but at a rather reduced decibel level.

Are you thinking that sounds like rather a large tent for one person? You would be right!

Leia came to share with me, bringing with her some very useful things, such as a little gas stove, various cooking implements, cutlery, and a supply of ‘easy cooking’ food. Yes, Leia was a great choice of a tent companion as she had obviously done it all before! I had remembered to bring a mug and some tea. A great contribution! Leia was cooking burgers and sausages when I arrived so I was very impressed, and appreciative. (It was also rather handy that she got there the day before me and the tent was already erected when I showed up! Thanks, Leia and Catrin!)

The novice camper

Unfortunately, my lack of camping experience became blatantly obvious on the first night. I was FREEZING. I had a blow up mattress, a lightweight sleeping bag and a duvet, but the mattress just didn’t get warm. It was like lying on a block of ice all night. Gradually I put on more and more clothing until I was wrapped in several layers but I still couldn’t get warm.

Somewhere around 2 am I decided that I couldn’t possibly spend the whole week like that so I had no choice but to drive home to Llandysul the next day and load up the car with warmer blankets and clothing. And that’s what I did. I was volunteering at the Eisteddfod the next morning, but as soon as I was finished I set out for home. Two hours later I was there and after a good sleep in my own bed, loaded up the car and set off back to Meifod the next day.

Now the Eisteddfod could begin for real!