Saturday, April 14, 2012

Welsh rarebits

The Welsh Flag

My first visit to Wales. I noted a few odds and ends to report: 

I breezed through Cardiff (the capital of Wales), where my train arrived, but was there long enough to form the impression that the people of Cardiff are very sporting. No fewer than two football stadiums, one holds 75,000 and the other 35,000. The big one is right in the centre of the city a block or two from the railway station. Handy. 


Animal life: On my drive from Cardiff to Brecon in the Brecon Beacons (as the main mountains in South Wales are called) the road-kill consisted of a pheasant, a badger, a small deer and a squirrel. The live animals I saw consisted exclusively of sheep - many sheep, with many baby lambs, newly born. Some black lambs. Some sheep with white wool and black spindley legs. Sheep with long woolly tails. And falcons: stopping for a sandwich at the Brecon Beacons National Park Centre I was greeted by a display of captive falcons; and I swear that I later saw one sitting on a roadside branch, looking hungrily about. 

Welsh Rarebit.
Food: good local produce and plain country fare, including home-baked bread, wonderful cheese, and - in one excellent find - rock cakes like my Nanna used to make. I did eat Welsh Rarebit, and nice and cheesy it was too. The other predominant food (in addition to lamb) is leeks. In most things. A National Vegetable.

And now we come to the language. I expected to be a bit baffled, but I’ve never before known the GPS lady betwattled. After a few game tries on place names like “Merthyr Tydfil” she completely gave up on “Ffwrd” (“Turn left into F-F-W-R-D Road”, she spelled out). The same with  “Stwff” and “Cwm”. Even I know “Cwm” is “coom”.  

Ah, the lilting Welsh language! Here’s a Basic Guide (if you can follow it) cribbed from a tourist brochure:

Welsh Equivalent sound
C cath(cat)                  cat (never as in receive)
Ch chwaer(sister)       ch as in loch
Dd yd dda (good)       dd is pronounced as th in them
F y fam (the mother)   f sounds like a v
Ll llaw (hand)            Tricky one, the nearest sound in English is 
                                   L with a th in front of it
Th byth (ever)            three (never as in the)

A few greetings:
Bore Da                     Good morning
Noswaith dda            Good evening
Sut mae?                    How are you?
Diolch                       Thank you
Da                             Good
Dydd Da                   Good day
Nos da                       Good night
Hwyl                         Cheers
Croeso                      Welcome
Iechyd da                  Good health
Cymru                      Wales

I must say that despite the teensy language gulf, the Welsh showed themselves a very welcoming, friendly people. After all, one of the most famous Welsh songs is: 

We'll keep a welcome in the hillside
We'll keep a welcome in the Vales
This land you knew will still be singing 
When you come home again to Wales.

Which is an excellent lead-in to that other thing that Wales is famous for: male voice choirs and magnificent singing:

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