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Tag: Wales

Brexit and backstop, Britain and Ireland

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

“The misunderstandings are too many,” noted the Irish writer Frank O’Connor, and he was convinced of where the blame lay. “Ultimately, perhaps, all the misunderstandings can be traced to sixty miles of salt water which stretches between Britain and Ireland.”

O’Connor was writing in in Cork in 1940 and, one hundred years earlier, Mr and Mrs Samuel Hall embarked upon their three-volume opus Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc. Their journey, as we say today, began with a purgatorial crossing to Cork, and their thoughts pre-echoed those of O’Connor:

“It was not alone the miserable paucity of accommodation and utter indifference to the comfort of the passengers that made the voyage an intolerable evil. It was once our lot to pass a month between the ports of Bristol and Cork; putting back, every now and then, to the wretched village of Pill, and not daring to leave it even for an hour, lest the wind should change and the packet weigh anchor.

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that comparatively little intercourse existed between the two countries or that England and Ireland were almost as much strangers to each other as if the channel that divided them had been actually impassable.”

The “wretched village of Pill” mentioned by the Halls there is actually Pillgwenlly, which is now a parish in the Welsh city of Newport. And Wales, as we know, voted for Brexit. The misunderstandings are too many.


Low carbs at the Fish & Chip Bar in Cardiff

Wednesday, 12 July, 2017 0 Comments

The do like their bars in Wales. And not just for pints of Brains and Tiny Rebel. At the Fish & Chip Bar in Cardiff the emphasis is on low carbs. Just one chip!

Cardiff


With Wales and God in France

Saturday, 9 July, 2016 0 Comments

No, not for Euro 2016. The date was 29 September 2007 and the game was Wales vs Fiji in the Rugby World Cup. The venue was Stade de la Beaujoire, which is the home of the FC Nantes football club. Huw Griffiths provided the tickets, the sun shone and the Fijians won in style. Afterwards, we ate cuisses de grenouille (frog’s legs) and washed them down with lashings of the local Muscadet. Despite the volume consumed, a green apple bottling stood out with its bouquet and name: Michel Delhommeau Symbiose. Later, we found out that it’s made by Michel and Nathalie Delhommeau, a husband-and-wife team based in Monnières. The German maxim, “leben wie Gott in Frankreich” (to live like a god in France), summed up our weekend with Wales in Nantes.

2007 Rugby World Cup Nantes


Cymru am byth

Saturday, 2 July, 2016 0 Comments

The last time Wales were in a major football tournament was 1958, when they lost 1–0 in a quarter final to Brazil — thanks to a first-ever World Cup goal by a youngster named Pelé. He scored two more in the final, when Brazil beat the hosts, Sweden, 5–2. Fast forward to 2016 and Wales have reached the semi-finals of the European Championship after beating the hot favourites Belgium, 3–1, last night.

Aaron Ramsey was simply magnificent for Wales and the heart-breaking footnote to last night’s heroics is that he will miss Wednesday’s semi-final against Portugal in Lyon through suspension. He was rather harshly booked for handball, a silly foul.

Note: Cymru am byth means Wales forever, or long live Wales.

Wales


English referee: Wales in, Northern Ireland out

Saturday, 25 June, 2016 1 Comment

Norn IronWe’re talking football, here, not referendum results. This evening in Parc des Princes in Paris, Wales and Northern Ireland are set for an historic meeting as they each attempt to reach their first European Championship quarter-final. Given the backstory of the players, the football on offer will be will be more like that seen in Premier League fixture, rather than a continental style game and, keeping it in the family, as it were, the match has an English referee in Martin Atkinson.

Wales Wales have a trump card in Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive footballer. With a goal in each group match he is tied with Spain’s Álvaro Morata as the tournament’s joint top scorer on three, one ahead of his Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo. The prediction here is that after Martin Atkinson blows the final whistle, Bale’s Wales will be in and Northern Ireland out of the competition.

It was a different story with Thursday’s EU referendum. The Leave side won in Wales, where 52.5% voters chose to depart the EU, compared with 47.5% supporting Remain. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, voted to stay in the EU by a majority of 56% to 44%.


Hodgson’s choices (contd.)

Friday, 17 June, 2016 0 Comments

Our post here last Sunday criticized Roy Hodgson for his use of substitutes in England’s opening Euro 2016 game with Russia. With a one-goal lead, the manager opted for strength instead of speed and his introduction of the flat-footed Jack Wilshere and James Milner led to a draw, when a win was there for England’s taking.

Yesterday against Wales, Hodgson chose differently. At half time and a goal behind, he opted for the fleet-footed Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Later, he brought on the gifted young Marcus Rashford. The result? A win for England thanks to goals from Vardy and Sturridge. The moral of the story? Who dares wins. Rashford was impressive in his competitive debut but starting with him against Slovakia on Monday might be too bold a move. Vardy and Sturridge should be on from the start, though, as they work well together and can magic goals out of thin air.

Slovakia lost their opening game to Wales and then went on to defeat Russia. They’ve got a good side and can be counted on for a surprise or two. At the end of May, they beat Germany 3-1 in a friendly game, and while Germany are no longer the gold standard of international football, they don’t lose too many matches, friendly or not. To win against Slovakia on Monday, Roy Hodgson will have to be daring. It’s his choice.


A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Sunday, 28 December, 2014 0 Comments

The great Dylan Thomas knew that the best Christmas present of all is a story well told. A Child’s Christmas in Wales is a classic Christmas story and it’s more relevant this year as 2014 marks the centennial of the poet’s birth. Snippet:

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang “Cherry Ripe,” and another uncle sang “Drake’s Drum.” It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

Dylan Thomas (1914 — 1953)


A girl whose single bed held two to make ends meet

Sunday, 26 October, 2014 0 Comments

If he had lived past 39, the “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive”, as Dylan Thomas called himself, would be 100 years old tomorrow. The end came in New York when he drank 18 straight whiskies in the White Horse Tavern and announced “I think that’s the record.” He staggered outside, collapsed, was taken to the Chelsea Hotel, fell into a coma and died the next morning in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Dylan Thomas loved words. In his unfinished Notes on the Art of Poetry, he wrote: “What the words stood for, symbolised, or meant, was of very secondary importance; what mattered was the sound of them as I heard them for the first time on the lips of the remote and incomprehensible grown-ups who seemed, for some reason, to be living in my world. And these words were, to me, as the notes of bells, the sounds of musical instruments, the noises of wind, sea, and rain, the rattle of milk-carts, the clopping of hooves on cobbles, the fingering of branches on a window pane, might be to someone, deaf from birth, who has miraculously found his hearing.”

But words, in the form of gossip, can be a cause of great hurt, too. As Shakespeare wrote in Henry IV Part 2 Act 1 Scene 1, “Enter RUMOUR, painted full of tongues.” Here’s now Thomas viewed those dishing the dirt.

The Gossipers

The gossipers have lowered their voices,
Willing words to make the rumours certain,
Suspicious words tug at the neighbouring vices,
Unthinking actions given causes
Stir their old bones behind cupboard and curtains.

Putting two and two together,
Informed by rumour and the register,
The virgins smelt out, three streets up,
A girl whose single bed held two
To make ends meet,
Found managers and widows wanting
In morals and full marriage bunting,
And other virgins in official fathers.

For all the inconveniences they make,
The trouble, devildom, and heartbreak
The withered women win them bedfellows,
Nightly upon their wrinkled breasts
Press the old lies and the old ghosts.

Dylan Thomas (27 October 1914 — 9 November 1953)


The lovely gift of the gab lost

Sunday, 25 May, 2014 0 Comments

In George Orwell’s novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, the protagonist Gordon Comstock struggles in vain to complete an epic poem describing a day in London: “It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments.” What Comstock battles is a phenomenon called “poet’s block”, a much less famous torment than its cousin, “writer’s block”. When Dylan Thomas found himself unable to compose, he created the image of “The lovely gift of the gab” that “bangs back on a blind shaft”. The combination invokes the image of a once-rich vein of language in a Welsh mine that is now empty of inspiration.

On No Work of Words

On no work of words now for three lean months in the
bloody
Belly of the rich year and the big purse of my body
I bitterly take to task my poverty and craft:

To take to give is all, return what is hungrily given
Puffing the pounds of manna up through the dew to heaven,
The lovely gift of the gab bangs back on a blind shaft.

To lift to leave from treasures of man is pleasing death
That will rake at last all currencies of the marked breath
And count the taken, forsaken mysteries in a bad dark.

To surrender now is to pay the expensive ogre twice.
Ancient woods of my blood, dash down to the nut of the seas
If I take to burn or return this world which is each man’s
work.

Dylan Thomas (1914 — 1953)


Journalist of the day: Queen Victoria

Tuesday, 8 April, 2014 0 Comments

“This book, Mamma gave me, that I might write the journal of my journey to Wales in it.” So began the first volume of a diary written in 1832 by Princess Victoria of Kent, aged 13. Recording her thoughts was a habit that the young royal — later to become Queen Victoria — would continue until her death 69 years later.

8 April 1871: “Still dreadful news from Paris. The Commune have everything their own way, and they go on as quite in the days of the old Revolution in the last century, though they have not yet proceeded to commit all the same horrors. They have, however, thrown priests into prison, etc. They have burnt the guillotine and shoot people instead. I am so glad I saw Paris once more, though I should not care to do so again.” Queen Victoria (1819 — 1901)

Queen Victoria

Tomorrow, here, the feminist who noted in her journal, “The number of men present interested me; it showed how much money there is to be made out of women’s hair.”


Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Saturday, 29 March, 2014 0 Comments

Describing his early poems, Dylan Thomas said that they were “eggs laid by tigers.” Peter Bruun, Martin Ullits Dahl and Jonas Westergaard from Copenhagen liked the Welshman’s phrase so much that it became the name of their band. Along with their name, the group get all their lyrics from the Swansea bard, who was born 100 years ago this year.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.