“My studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years.” – Mark Twain, ‘A Tramp Abroad –That Awful German Language’
Just a few months ago I went to mid Wales and stayed in a caravan in Borth, near Aberystwyth. Naturally I wrote about the experience. In one post I talked about some things I find amusing about the Welsh Language. I find things amusing about most languages, even English. Just a bit of fun, nothing remotely malicious. Rather like Mark Twain I like to think.
I received a lot of negative response. The really gross stuff with the dreadfully bad language and the most appalling racist personal abuse I deleted but some of the less offensive comments I allowed to stay attached to the post just to demonstrate how some half-wit ignorant people have no sense of humour.
Salvidor Dali once said, “Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.” and I rather feel like that about being English!
One responder accused me of being a “cultureless, uncouth, knuckle-dragging racist” and warned me never to visit Wales again because I would not be even half-welcome in the hillsides. I saw the funny side in that comment because in spitting out his obnoxious bile he must surely have been looking in a mirror when he wrote it. As his blood boiled and his brain fried I am certain that the irony was lost on him!
I ignored him and risking assault with a deadly dictionary set off in October for another caravan holiday this time in the south, to Porthcawl and the holiday village at Trecco Bay.
Undeterred, I will return to the issue of the Welsh language again later…
It was a long difficult two hundred and seventy mile journey from Lincolnshire to Porthcawl but as soon as I arrived I knew that I was going to like it there.
South Wales isn’t new to me of course, I studied history at Cardiff University between 1972 to 1975, worked a summer season at Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Barry Island and I have visited several times since but on this occasion I was travelling with my good friend who hails from the Rhondda Valley and he had promised to show me some things that I might not otherwise have expected to see. A privileged insider’s view as it were and I was looking forward to that!
The Parkdean holiday site was neat and tidy and the caravan was equipped as though it were my home, central heating, cooker, fridge/freezer etc. It is a big site, once, it is claimed, the largest in the United Kingdom which was once host to hundreds of holidaymaker families from the South Wales valleys. To assist with orientation it is divided into sectors, all named after trees. Finding the caravan was rather like being lost in a forest. We were in the Cedars district.
This reminded me of a weekend trip to Haugesund in Norway a few years ago. I stayed at the Hotel Amanda which is home to the annual Norwegian film festival and the whole place had a movie theme with every room named after a famous film.
I would have liked to have been allocated the Gladiator suite but we were given Shane, named after the famous 1953 Alan Ladd western (one of my favourites by the way), which although not as exciting as Ben Hur or Spartacus was a whole lot better than the Rosemary’s Baby room on the opposite side of the corridor because I could have guaranteed nightmares if we had been sleeping there. Actually, I might have refused to attempt sleep in there at all!
It had been a long day, my pal had recommended a rather curious route which I should have challenged but was foolish enough to agree to which took us along the Fosse Way, an ancient Roman Road, almost two thousand years old and complete with all original hazards, then through the crowded and always overrated Cotswolds, a tedious crawl through Cheltenham and Gloucester with a hundred or so red lights to negotiate and then a drive through the frankly uninspiring Forest of Dean.
I am not saying the Forest of Dean is uninspiring in general you understand, just this bit of it where the road carves through. Before going on I want to clear that up because I don’t want the good folk of Gloucestershire getting upset with me. I am likely to have enough trouble in Wales!
I am not usually that enthusiastic about motorways but boy was I glad to reach the M4 for the final thirty miles and vowed there and then to take the motorway option back home at the end of the week. Glaciers form quicker than a journey along the Fosse Way!
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention – on the way (about two hours previously) I had taken a short detour through the town of Rugby in Warwickshire which is where I had grown up as a young boy and a teenager but I failed to generate much interest in that, not even a short walk to see a statue of the poet Rupert Brooke or to visit the Gilbert Rugby Ball Museum.
As a consequence of dashing through Rugby and then failing to find anywhere suitable for a lunch stop on the Fosse Way (since the Romans left nobody uses the Fosse Way any more so there are no pubs or service stations, not even for a Caesar Salad) we arrived in Trecco Bay a little earlier than I had imagined we would.
An odd thing was that it wasn’t raining.
If you have ever been to Wales then you probably won’t believe that so I will say it again, in fact I will shout it out loud – it wasn’t raining! It always rains when I go to Wales but this evening there was blue sky and the prospect of a good sunset so after allocating rooms and settling in I made my way to the beach and waited for a Welsh Dragon to breathe fire and turn the sky red and after only a short while I was not disappointed.