My family was Welsh. Sort of. The really Welsh part, my father, had been born in Australia when his genuinely Welsh parents decided to emigrate. The relatives who lived in Wales (my mother’s family) were very careful to tell everyone they were actually from Bristol, and had moved to south Wales because my grandfather got work there. So when my mother talked about ‘Going home to Wales’ she meant her family, but she didn’t mean Wales, as in terms of culture or language.
I was born near London, but my parents chose to give me a Welsh name, Carys. It comes from the Welsh word ‘cariad’, which means sweetheart or darling. In 1960s Hertfordshire nobody had ever heard of the name and mostly got it wrong. It was my heart’s desire to have a mug or an eggcup with my name on it, but in all the shops there was only ‘Linda’ or ‘Caroline’ or ‘Susan’ etc. It’s different now, there are plenty of Caryses around, but still when I hear the name I think it must be me.
Anyway, there I was living in this supposedly Welsh family, in England, and my dream was to go and live in Wales, so when I decided to become a teacher, that is where I went to study. Oh dear. Surrounded by real Welsh people, including Welsh speakers, I realised really fast that I wasn’t Welsh at all.
Nevertheless, as well as all this faux-Welshness, and my Welsh name, I actually managed to be born on Wales’ National Day, St David’s Day, which is March 1.
Wales has a tradition of Eisteddfod, which is a festival of song and poetry, and because my Welsh (?) father was the headmaster of the school I attended (yes, it was strange) we never did school work on March 1, but had a school eisteddfod. It was a marvellous birthday for me: I loved singing, loved writing and reciting poetry and loved the chance to show off. I once won a prize for singing this song:
I sang in English, by the way. I can’t speak or understand Welsh, neither could either of my parents.
Here is some background to St David and his day:
There is even a city in the west of Wales named after him:
I was always proud of being Welsh, although I wasn’t really. My Welshness was supporting the Welsh rugby team:
and making Welsh cakes sometimes:
(I am not sure they are really delicious. Wales was always a poor country, no abundance of delicious ingredients: plenty of coal in the valleys, which was mined for and brought wealth to the English and not much else except beautiful mountains, castles and beaches.)
And that was about it, really. Anyway, St David said “Do the little things” and it seems to me this is the perfect saying for these times of Corona, and reminds me of William Blake’s poem:
The flowers are certainly out around our house this week, and the air has been full of insects and bees. A reminder that even in times of Corona, small joys can still be found.
PS: Happy Birthday me!