As it was St David’s day yesterday, I thought I would honour the date by being a day late and post about Wales. So here are my 10 best things about Wales and the Welsh…
1. The countryside. If you want breathtaking scenery, Wales is the place for you. In fact, Wales is home to no less than three National Parks: Pembrokeshire coast, Snowdonia, and the Brecon Beacons, encompassing exquisite beaches, jaw-dropping cliff-tops, magical mountain views, and rolling hills and valleys, too. And the bits in between aren’t shabby either. Seriously. If you need proof, google Anglesey’s beaches or mid Wales’s Elan Valley.
2. Because I have started with the countryside, I’ll continue with the theme. From the Welsh countryside comes some of the tastiest lamb and beef you could wish to devour. In fact, from farm to fork Welsh Black cattle and lamb are a treat, first for the eyes, and later for the tastebuds. Being horsey, I absolutely have to mention Welsh ponies and cobs, too. These hardy but feisty little characters have beauty and movement that has seen them acquire a world-wide renown. They also have the biggest hearts of the equine world, meaning you won’t find a better four-legged friend or errrr… neigh-bour. Sorry. As for dogs, well even the Queen has chosen a Welsh breed as her choice of canine companion, the corgi.
3. So maybe not strictly Welsh as such, but the NHS was devised in 1948 by non other than Wales’ very own, Aneurin Bevan. And in all credit to the NHS in Wales, they’re still leading the way in healthcare provision for all because all prescriptions are free. For everyone.
4. Music. There’s a reason it’s dubbed the land of song. I’m not joking, most of the Welsh can sing. Even the odd Welsh dog can. And excuse the pun, some – humans, not dogs – are the dog’s bollocks at it. We’ve ex some phenomenally talented crooners. For example, the legendary Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Bonnie Tyler, Stereophonics, the Manics, Catatonia, and Bryn Terfel all sang their way to stardom. All this is without the iconic male voice choirs. It’s no wonder our National Anthem is a belter.
5. Whilst we’re on the subject of performers, there has been some blinding talent on both silver and small screen with Welsh roots. Catherine Zeta Jones, Rhys Ifans, Ioan Gruffydd, Matthew Rhys, Joanna Page, Christian Bale and Michael Sheen, for example, all have Welsh blood running through their veins. Sir Anthony Hopkins, an indisputable Hollywood heavyweight has never shaken his accent, and Richard Burton even got Elizabeth Taylor to marry him twice. And he was a miner’s son.
6. In sporting terms, Wales might be best known for their passion for rugby. True, we have seen many a rugby legend pull on a red jersey, from Barry John, to Mervyn Davies, Gareth Edwards to Shane Williams. And another Gareth, this time Gareth Thomas deserves his own mention as the first professional rugby player to come out as gay. That said, Wales has also churned out some other supremely talented sporting heroes: Tanni Grey Thompson, Colin Jackson and Geraint Thomas for example. I should probably mention Gareth Bale, too. He was so good at school-boy level that they didn’t allow him to touch the ball with his left foot to even up the opposition’s chances. He’s not so shabby on the pitch now, either. Oh, and maybe, Joe Calzaghe, because his record speaks for itself: 46 fights, 46 wins.
7. We have produced some pretty awesome writers, too. Given she wrote my all time favourite, Gavin and Stacey, I have to mention Ruth Jones. Again. Can you tell that I’m a fan? But even this piece of genius comedy is somewhat overshadowed by the incredible canon of literature produced by Dylan Thomas. A second Thomas, this time R.S wasn’t so bad either. And neither are Gillian Clarke and Owen Sheers. Of course, in terms of children’s literature, Wales claims one of the greats as its own: Roald Dahl. Surely there isn’t another writer’s work that has been such an enduring favorite with both adults and children alike? I grew up on it, and I can remember my grandfather literally crying with laughter every time we revisited George’s Marvellous Medicine. Perhaps he loved it all the more because he was a George, too, who knows. Talking of grandfathers, the Welsh have also had many a tribute in Shakespeare’s writing, attributed to his allegedly Welsh grandmother. Both CS Lewis and Beatrix Potter also had Welsh family. The former wrote affectionately of his grandfather, whilst the latter regularly stayed with uncle. In fact, she even wrote The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies from his garden.
8. Whilst we’re on the subject of language related ‘stuff’, let’s change direction slightly to Wales’ most unique selling point: the language. If you haven’t heard Welsh spoken, you have missed out. It’s a beautiful language. And the weird and wonderful sounds it demands you roll over your tongue mean that you can properly articulate your feelings. It’s also made for some of the best place names. Take Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerichgwyndrobwylllantysiliogogogoch. Yes that is all one word.
9. Another unique trait Welsh folk have is their sense of humour, and it’s own strain of humorous celebs. Not convinced? Here’s the evidence: Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon, Rhod Gilbert, Tommy Cooper and Harry Secombe. Enough said? I think so, too.
10. Last, but for me, best, is the sense of community that rural Wales in particular can boast. If you need bolstering, there’s a whole bus-full ready to have your back. On the other hand, it does mean that everyone knows each other’s business. There’s so few people that literally any small occurrence is a news-worthy event. And because everyone knows everyone, there’s no need for formalities such as full names. Nicknames suffice. These are usually Name+name of farm. Or sometimes for more personal traits, much to the detriment of the bearer. My friend, for example, speaks of local Dai Coc un Ochr. Remember what I said about the sense of humour?