Saturday, June 14, 2008


This is a new post.

Well, Duh.

What I mean to say is that I want to try out a new KIND of post, a post written by you. In this post, I will broach a subject that I want to learn about, that Americans are generally pretty ignorant about (that part is pretty easy), and YOU, hopefully, will tell us about the subject. Not full lectures, mind you, but bits and pieces about the subject that you have stored in your mind. Then, I will, incredible writer that I am, work my magic of digesting and sorting this information into a larger (hopefully informative) article about the subject.

The first subject I want to learn more about, since I know practically nothing about it right now, is a large one. As will be the case with all these posts, the subject appears as the title of the post.

I REALLY hope you will use the comments to tell me what you know about the subject. I am not looking for a comprehensive lesson from one person. I can go to Wikipedia or Google if I want that. No. As usual, what I want from you are PERSONAL stories of life there, holidays there, experiences there.

By now you have suspected that it is really YOU who are writing my book, that my book is indeed impossible for an American to write in any event. All I can do - and I have mentioned this a hundred times - is sift through what you tell me and turn your information into a larger story, a story which will help Americans learn who you really are. And so I ask the same question I have asked you many times before:

Tell me about yourselves.

And, today, tell me about your living in, growing up in, working in, visits to, and memories of, a place its earliest settlers called Cymru.

No lists of almanac facts to start with, please. Those you can incorporate into your stories as you tell them. Memories only, for the time being if you please. Who will start?

[Note: So that I don't mislead you with the picture at the top of this post, the subject I want to know about is not the Green Bridge of Wales. K? It is "Wales." Thank you.]


  1. Well, I'm not above priming the pump. As most of you know, my ignorance of a subject seldom stops me from talking about it.


    My friend Claire recently went on a hiking adventure near a peak called the Devil's Kitchen. She got some gorgeous photos.


    I have another friend. Her name is Catherine. She claims to be Welsh. If true, (and here I taunt her) it is entirely possible she has more than one memory of Wales. Heh. Not only that, but I seem to recall she once worked for the tourist bureau. Yikes!


    A., (my, I have THREE friends!) has been a traveler all her life. Unfortunately, she has never been to Wales. :( Perhaps if I call her a traveller instead...


    Rev. Qelqoth, world renowned televangelist and current associate chaplain at the Slap & Tickle Pub, is rumored to actually, RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!, reside in Wales, tending his flock in Newport. He often has periods of lucidity, I've been told. He knows how to write. Although his tales would probably tend toward the Edgar Allen Poe variety, his memories, accurate or no, are welcome here.


    Don't make me go on, people.

  2. I did indeed once work for the Tourist Information Centre in Cardiff.
    One of my memories from that job was of going into our little back room/kitchen at least once a day to curse 'Bloody Americans'!
    Now, before all you Americans take offense, let me give two examples of why I used to curse that (with varying amount of vitriol, I must add).

    1. The large number of Americans who had hired a car and asked me to show them, on a map, the best way to get to Holyhead (a ferry port - destination Ireland - at the very north-west tip of Wales). Although Cardiff to Holyhead is approximately 180 miles, average travel time is 5 to 6 hrs. Many Americans declared that they could do this in 3 hrs, easy, being used to 60mph highways. Well, fair enough. But the main north-south roads in Wales are, although technically A roads, not very wide and very windy, and often get blocked with tractors or sheep. Sorry - Cardiff to Holyhead in 3 hrs just can't be done.

    2. This only happened once, but it made me laugh a lot. We did get a lot of Americans/Canadians/Australians/Kiwis/South Africans etc coming into the office and asking about resources for tracing their families. Fair enough, I'd point them to the records office. One however wanted my opinion on how easy it would be to trace his family, bearing in mind that his ancestor left Wales in the 1700s. I asked his surname. It was Morgan. I showed him the two-inch thick section for 'Morgan' in the Cardiff phonebook (which is smaller than the Evans, Davies, Thomas and Williams sections). He decided not to bother.


    I'm headed home to Wales in about 10 days, so maybe I'll send you some photos or a virtual postcard!

  3. What, might I ask, makes you think I have never been to Wales? You don't know everything about me, indeed you don't.

  4. Do you want north Wales or South Wales? - different worlds you know.

  5. Dear A.-I know you know this, and, further, I know that you know that I know you know this, but the purpose of my comment was to induce you (and Catherine) into making comments about Wales. I suspected you could not resist a taunt. A lie. Whatever.

    It worked with Catherine. It didn't work with you. After Catherine's comment, I know more about Wales than I did before. After yours, not so much. I still have faith you will, completely on your own, choose a direction and tell a story. :) :)

  6. OK, you were almost pleasant, we'll start in North Wales.

    When we were young, as you will appreciate this was a very long time ago, we were living outside Liverpool and wanted a better environment to bring up our two baby boys. One of the houses we looked at was in Ruthin (pronounced rithin) in Denbighshire. It was very remote, beautiful setting but there were a few problems. The house needed a huge amount of renovation.

    We were still considering it when someone told us that the children would go to school and have all their instruction in Welsh. Both of us said "Oh really!" at the same time. [this is tricky with words alone] I said it with a rising, how wonderful, tone, my DH said it with a descending, OMG, tone. There is much more emphasis on the Welsh language in Wales than many people realise. On average 20% of the population speaks it, rising to 60% in some areas.

    Sadly we never did buy that house because we moved on before we could buy anywhere at all in that area.

  7. Thank you A. I knew you could do it. See? Nothing you said is in either Wikipedia or (probably) on Google. I learned that the Welsh language is still very active and not a dead language which has been absorbed by other cultures. I would not have guessed that so many people still speak the language.

    An aside: I have always felt that the letters w and y in our alphabet have gotten short shrift in English literature over the years. I suspect you are of this mind as well. And I (for one) am delighted to know that the Welsh have taken affirmative action to rectify this alphabetical slight.

    Or perhaps not as many of you as I think have worried about this problem.

  8. I'm using the comments to tell you what I know about the subject of this post.....

    ....absolutely nothing.

    And there you have it. :-)

  9. What I know about Wales.. It's a 5 letter word. It starts with a W, ends with an S. :)

  10. I'll get around to it, my mother hails from Glamorgan, in South Wales, Swansea and the Gower peninsula.
    But I'll cheat, and leave a link to a piece I wrote about her father, and the adventures he betook, in order to win her mother's hand.

    An Adventure

    It starts and ends in wales.

  11. Ignoring all other distractions, let me now tell you about my (very limited) experience of south Wales.

    Newport, Gwent, is one of the places in the country where you can renew your passport. We needed separate passports for the family. Until then the children had been on my DH's passport, something no longer possible since 1998. (history lesson as well as Wales). I drove all the way to Newport, over the Severn Bridge, in the hopes that it would be less busy than London because my husband's passport was in almost constant use. He needed it back quickly. They were quite incredibly friendly and helpful in comparison with any dealings I had with the London office.

    We've had a couple of long weekend holidays in the Swansea/Mumbles area. I can very definitely vouch for the narrowness and windy-ness of the roads. You get nowhere fast, and if it's at all busy, you get nowhere at all. It's a wonderful place, packed full of history, and in spite of all the rumours, the natives are friendly.

    None of that tells you anything very much at all, but rest assured you couldn't have googled it :)

  12. Thank you A. See how easy that was? how peaceful I feel right now.

    That's all I ask. Original memories. Descriptions. Reminiscences. No fact books. No mileage charts. No Google or Wikipedia. Links ok (as long as you understand I will be plagiarizing your copyrighted material.) [Thanks, Soubriquet.] Just kidding about that. Not abut the thanks, about the stealing. :)

    No research at all. Just what's in your head. Isn't this FUN?

    And did you know Catherine had a flat tire yesterday? :( Only she misspelled it Tyre. And it didn't happen in Wales. Other than that, it is relevant to this post.)

    Thanks, A.! Of course, as usual, that begs another question. Why can't you apply for a new passport in every post office in the land? Just askin'. Maybe if we made people go to Wales we wouldn't be issuing so many passports to terrorists. Oh, my.

    And tell Sheila Red Mailbox thanks for the comment on the Juneteenth post. Although I thought it was rather hysterical.

    Why do people say my comments are really a chat room? I don't get it.

  13. Soubriquet, that was wonderful. Simply wonderful! And what a fine storyteller you are. You simply MUST get your mother to get the rest of it down, or at least dictate to you (or make an audio tape of you questioning her.) Don't delay!

  14. Catherine, I just realized how much of your time I steal. But you always come through.

    I think what they now do at the center is seriously tell the Americans it takes about 3 hours. The Americans will believe them. And then they can go in back and laugh, imagining where the Americans will ACTUALLY be in 3 hours. What fun! Dumbass Americans, anyway.

    You are the mutt's nuts, Catherine. Or something like that.

  15. Petra, why have your fixed you blog again so that I can't make comments? Are you trying to tell me something? I should have taken the hint when you didn't answer my email Pff. Hmpff. Meh. Mhh.

    Thank you for coming by every day. Don't think I don't notice, or that I am not returning the favor. You should have seen some of the comments I would have made. :)

  16. Chica, baby girl, you know MUCH more about Wales than that.

    For example, you know that they are mammals and the Japanese hunt them down, and that Pinocchio spent time in one's belly. Like Jonah.

    I have a video...


  17. This is not so much a story, more an affirmation of my background. I grew up in landfill just outside of Port Talbot where from a young age, I learned to fend for myself and become the family gatherer. At the age of twelve, I moved with my father to Colwyn Bay where I first discovered puberty. The priest my father took me to slung me to the ground. He stated angrily that I had grown Devil's Hair around my groin and I was of no use to him. Feeling desolate, I wandered the streets of Aberystwyth for many days. One day, a man in a duffel coat found me passed out in an alley way. He said to me, "I can show you how to make your fortune", passing me some LSD. Of course, I threw away my millions by squandering it on myself. But in doing so, the revelations of the universe were revealed to me. Benny Hill convinced me to gather random people off the Internets for his second arrival in 2025. From then on, I carried out my destiny, carrying the boundless knowledge of the universe deep inside my fragile mind.

  18. Yeah, I just made all that up in a few minutes. It's heaps better than, "I live in Newport and it blows chunks."

  19. Okay Q-man. Back in your cage now. This was not one of your lucid moments. We will try again tomorrow. They are getting ready to take up the offering now anyway. You won't want to miss that.

    (Newport doesn't blow chunks, dude. Get out of the alleyways and take a walk in the sunlight.)

    Hey, thanks for tryin' you know? I owe you one.

  20. Chica, you da star of da video gorgeous. You don't have ta bring no stinkin' popcorn. :)

  21. I'm pretty much with Petra and Chica on this one - don't know a thing about the place other than that it exists and I've never been there!


  22. ok smartass: A=you can leave comments on my blog, its just that you have to click on the link that actually says "LEAVE a comment" - not the link that states how many comments have been posted.

    And B = I do NOT come by here everyday.... I am not a computer nerd nor am I addicted to blogging....donotamnotamnot....

    and C= what what the question again??

  23. Okay Petra. Your blog is different today. Thanks.

  24. There is no sunlight in Newport, Max - I know, I used to work there too.

    I'm trying to think of other irrelevant things about Wales.

    Our patron saint is Saint David (the only one of the 4 patron saints of the UK to actually have been born in the country he's patron of) and his day is March 1st (nice and easy to remember).
    Although it's not an official public holiday the way St Pat's is in Ireland, when I was in school many many years ago, we used to get the afternoon off.
    But we wouldn't actually do any work all day, because in the morning, we'd have an Eisteddfod at which we could perform and win prizes. And all (most) of the girls would come in to school dressed in costume (apron, shawl, stovepipe hat amongst other things), and everyone would wear either a daffodil or a leek (artificial or sometimes real - the leeks could get smelly).

  25. Linda, you don't have to know anything about it. I'm just glad you left the mall long enough to stop by for a few seconds. Thanks. :)

    Catherine, I am sitting her with my eyes closed, tv9-9pew alj0000do a ewlk pot4%$d.

    Ok, not so hot. I am sitting her now with my eyes OPEN. I am imagining you in an apron and a stovepipe hat. You have chosen NOT to wear a leek...

  26. Or "here" if you insist on that particular spelling.

  27. Bite me??? That's so 80's! And I should know as the 80's are my strong suit - and yes... I still say bite me, too... that or suck it but coming from a chick, suck it just doesn't have quite the same impact. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, tho, eh "dude"?

  28. Are you all Walesed up? Or do you want to know about hay on Wye?

  29. Does anyone know who this foul-mouthed 80s chick is? It's probably my buddy ettarose using a new name.

    "Petra." "Bite me." Those words kind of go together, don't you think? Like Boy George and Culture Club.

    And I was only trying to be nice to you. But could you just be nice back? Noooooo.

  30. Not you, A. Of course I still want to learn more about Wales. Please. And how novel to speak to an actual adult.

  31. Oh I see, I'm an adult today.

    Hay on Wye is on the border with England, in fact I think it straddles the border. Way back in the 70s someone, whose name escapes me, declared it an independent nation as a publicity stunt. Since then it has grown into being a "book town" with dozens of bookshops and a literary festival every year. I'm fairly sure it was the first in the UK but there are others now, though Hay on Wye remains the best known.

  32. Nobody has mentioned mining in Wales, which was a major employer.

  33. A., Yes you are an adult. At least compared to Petra and little b. Which I'll admit isn't really saying that much.

    Did you know that Hay in Spanish is pronounced "eye"? So (being as where I live and all) I at first read your book town as eye on Wye. Then, of course, THAT made me think you were reintroducing me to cockney rhyming slang, and I kept waiting for the punch line. And, since you never really got to the rhyming punch line, I began making up my own as I continued to read your comment, and that distracted me even further.

    But your mention of bookshops and literary festival jolted me back to reality. For a couple seconds, at least. Then you sort of lost me again as I began to wonder if, being on the Wales border and all, if one could get a passport there.

    So rest assured.

    A mind is a terrible thing...

    Mining in Wales as well, you say? No. Frankly I had not heard of that. Only of the fine Welsh singing and of Tom Jones in particular. Was Tom Jones a miner before he began to sing publicly? He wonders rhetorically.

    What? Gold? Uranium?

    Ummmm. Yes, you are an adult, A. Pretty sure of that.

  34. Re Tom Jones - I believe he might have gone down a mine at some point. But I could be wrong.

    Coal-mining was the main industry in the South Wales valleys for a long long time; it's what they're best known for. Copper-mining was popular further west; there are a few gold mines too. And there's a few mines up on Anglesey too (and a mountain called Paris Mountain, which, I believe, is where the term 'plaster of Paris' originates from, not from Paris in France).

  35. And A.? Being as how you've shared this with me, and therefore (one assumes) freed up some memory in your lovely mind, may I refill it with a bit of Americana trivia? Thanks.

    Did you now that, in the port of Savannah, along the shore line, there are an incredible amount of rocks from your country? Yes, indeed. Medium-to-smallish-sized rocks forming the shoreline. Shoring up the shoreline of the town, as it were. Can you imagine why they would bring the rocks all the way from England? It seems so expensive when you think of it. Especially since there is quite enough rock in Georgia already. (One would think.)

    I will let you guess the circumstances which brought these fine English rocks (a HUGE amount, actually) to our humble shores. Then, when you guess wrong several times, I will tell you.

    And then you will know. :)

  36. Big Pit is a real mine which was closed and is now the National Coal Museum.

    The steel industry was huge in south Wales too, and I think that has all but closed now.

    Max, dearest, you can't ask me a question like that and not expect me to investigate.

    I'll let the remark about my limited mind go for now. Only for now.

  37. Catherine? Damn. That's some good stuff, girl.

    Well, I must admit I had heard of Welsh coal. I think first from the movie "How Green Was My Valley" or something close to that. Not "Children of the Corn." The one that starred little Roddy McDowell. (This was before he died.) And I think the whole family were coal miners.

    Also, something about the Titanic being fired by Welsh coal. I'm a little fuzzy about that, though. It was pretty much wasted anyway, if it were true.

    Did you ever read a short story by Joseph Conrad called "Youth"? It speaks of coal in sailing ships (as cargo) and of coal cargo catching fire in sailing ships. The relevance? The coal may have been from Wales. But I'm not going to look it up. I only wanted to mention a short story by a good author, so you might think I may be worth talking to more often. You see.

    Thank you for your interesting comment, Catherine. I love your stories. True.

    Sorry about the Tom Jones thing, though. Not sincerely asked, I'm afraid.

  38. Just, you know, to keep things straight, before the movie as you call it, there was a book by Richard Llewellyn. Pronounce that.

  39. Do keep up Max, for heaven's sake.

  40. A.-Sorry. Trying to drop cards. Usually I can do that and still easily keep up with you. :)

    Interesting about an entire coal mine being "in" a museum. There are probably legends and songs about coal mine disasters in Wales. I recall a ballad/folk song by PPM about Springhill, Nova Scotia. Apparently there was coal there, too. Peter, Paul and Mary, I mean.

    I would pronounce it Lew-ellen. As in the song that the 7th Cavalry was playing when Custer led them into historical stupidity. But it probably is pronounced much differently.

    Ballast is right. Apparently the ships went back home much fuller than when they came. Did you reason it out or look it up?

  41. And, speaking of ports, A., (since Savannah has been brought into play, all ports are now fair game) what is the busiest cargo port in the USA? Los Angeles or New York? And don't google this time.

  42. Don't pout. I withdraw the question. Tell me more about Wales.

  43. The LL in Welsh is pronounced with the tongue in the same position as L but you let the breath out past your tongue to give a hl sound. Sort of. Some people say thl but it's softer than that. I've been well schooled by a Welsh friend who swears it's phonetic. It may be phonetic once you know where to start.

    My guess is that New York is busier than Los Angeles. I wouldn't know how to find out. Why are we having these guessing games?

  44. Could we start on Scotland do you think? I'm married to a native.

  45. No reason. Just that I can never answer any of your questions, and I feel a need to retaliate. It's a male thing. And that wasn't the question anyway. The question was what is the largest port in the USA. Then you were given two wrong answers to choose from. You either know it or you don't. I choose don't. I win. Let's move on. :) And I got your pronouciations wrong, so we are mostly even.

    Scotland? Sure. Right after Ireland and Italy, ok?

  46. Dredging the very depths for a final anecdote very loosely associated with Wales:

    My younger son had to go on a week long school trip, outward bound type, in the Brecon Beacons. It involved a visit to Big Pit and they walked up Pen y Fan (highest peak in the Brecon Beacons). It rained all the time. I don't think the accommodation was full of home comforts. When he got off the bus on their return, the normally placid and good-natured boy (just like his mother) had a face like thunder. I had to frog-march him to the teachers, who had slaved so hard to arrange and run the trip, to say thank you.

  47. Italy? Are we joining the EU?

  48. Coal mines...
    The south wales valleys were the home to numerous coal mines, and the prosperity of wales, also, the famous male-voice choirs of wales prospered there.
    damn... she beat me to it... ballast. oh well.
    Yes, there was a seam of coal, known as 'Welsh Steam-coal', that had the perfect characteristics for firing steam boilers. bit of a co-incidence, that, given its name.
    St Patrick, he of ireland and shamrocks and guinness was a welshman.
    swansea, seaport on the south coast of wales was repeatedly bombed by the luftwaffe during the second world war.
    My mother's family lived on a steep hill, and one morning, the stone steps to the front door were a foot away from the house.
    My mother was a civil-servant (government employee) working in the Post Office Telephone Service.
    When she went into work one day, the rest of the staff were sent home, but she and one other girl were asked to stay, in order to do the wage payments.
    The reason for the evacuation was that a german bomb had hit Telephone House, punched its way down through the building to the basement, but not detonated. Her boss's desk teetered on the edge of a ragged hole on the fourth floor.
    The two girls made up the wage packets, and turned a handle on a calculating machine to stamp the pay-slips. Until an army sergeant rushed in, to tell them to stop, the vibration had set the bomb ticking.
    Their boss, however, told the sergeant their work was vital, so he'd better stop the damn bomb ticking.
    The detonator was stopped with just seconds to go.
    Or I would not be here now.

    Her elder brother was of literary mind, a student of english, latin, and ancient greek. One of his friends was Dylan Thomas, who my mother disliked intensely. She said he always leered at her, and she thought he was disgusting.

  49. Sorry late to the party here, Max. Great blog you have here, especially for an American-Anglophile type like myself. I have Welsh and English ancestral roots, but have never been across the pond.

    However, this Welsh photographer out of Cardiff has some great photos of the area.

  50. To A. and Soubriquet, thank you for your wonderful stories and information. Both of you are so interesting, and the imagery you evoke is splendid!

    Welcome to a new commentor, redbeard. Thank you for stopping by. I hope we see you again. I am checking out the photo link you provided. This guy is good! Thanks again.



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