How I learnt to Love Wales and Being Welsh

I think one of the things that would surprise sixteen year old Chris the most is how much thirty-three year old Chris feels about Wales. I wasn’t a patriotic kid, and didn’t feel any real affection or pride in my Welsh heritage. Welsh was the language of school, and the books we studied there. Sure, there’d occasionally be something which broke through like Pam Fi, Duw? but a lot of the Welsh things I was exposed too were kinda naff.

The change has happened slowly over the years, partly because of my time at university. Although I attended a Welsh university, we Welsh students were the minority, and most of the students seemed to be English. It was these English students who shaped my growing love for Wales.

There was the normal things you expect from English students- sheep shagger jokes, whining about the bilingual signs and, of course, telling us we weren’t a real country. English people then get really huffy when you point out that if Wales isn’t a country, then neither is England as both are part of Britain.

The Welsh students banded together, especially when the Six Nations started up, and we were lucky enough that our first year, 2005, saw Wales win the Grand Slam.

welsh

It wasn’t just the rugby victory that started to win me over, it was starting to realise just how Wales had been treated. South Wales, the area I grew up in still bore the scars of Thatcher’s war on the unions, with mass unemployment and closed down factories, mines and failing steelworks.

As time went on I learned more about how Wales was routinely overlooked, poorly funded and treated as a poor relation or joke. Finding out about Welsh towns literally flooded to create a reservoir to serve England, about attempts to kill the Welsh language and how Wales was just used for it’s resources. It made you realise how hard people had worked and fought to keep Welsh culture alive.

It made me proud. It made me angry. For me the words of Phil Bennett before a match against England captured my feelings towards Westminster and how Wales was treated:

bennett

It made me appreciate the Welsh language more, regret all the times I saw it as a pain or dismissed it as a dead language, cursed my parents for sending me to a Welsh language school and complained about the dire novels we had to read.

There are still English people who complain about the Welsh language. Laughable arguments about the signs being too difficult for them and dangerous, when all they need to do is ignore the first line. Who grumble that they go to places and the Welsh speak Welsh. Who whinge about how money is wasted on Radio Cymru and S4C.

Sod them.

The Welsh language has endured similar attacks over the years. Banned in schools, marginalised and underrepresented, those channels and stations were the result of hard fighting and lengthy campaigns. The bilingual signs a massive victory in ensuring our heritage was respected and returned to prominence.

I’m glad every Welsh kid is taught some Welsh now, I only wish they were taught more about the attempts to destroy it. How speaking Welsh is a sign of rebellion, of resistance, of a culture refusing to let itself be erased to satisfy it’s oppressors.

I’ve tried to embrace Welsh in new ways. I watch S4C when I can, I’ve sought out Welsh language music and even looked into reading some Welsh books.

I’ve even been inspired to find a new way to engage in the language thanks to an anti-Welsh tweet. Some gammon who chose to live on this side of the bridge but refuses to respect his new home made a sarky point about how the buttons for the Welsh option on ATMs is never as worn as the button for English. Well, since reading that I always pick the Welsh option now, so that they know it’s used and appreciated, and as a thank you for all the people who stopped it from dying.

In the words of Dafydd Iwan, “er gwaetha pawb a phopeth, ry’n ni yma o hyd” (“in spite of everyone and everything, we’re still here”)

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 

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