Thursday, 30 July 2015

In a Minute Now: Growing Up in Wales

My mother sat me down as a child and shared something with me:

"Becky, we found you in a bin and decided to keep you."

She also strapped me in my pushchair with a loaf of bread and pissed herself laughing as the ducks swarmed towards me while I screamed (I can't have been too bright a kid.  Upon reflection, I should have just lobbed the bread away from myself), but her questionable sense of humour is beside the point today.  I think she might have been right about the bin thing.

I sound nothing like any of my family members.  Dad was a moustachio'd scouser (is there any other kind?), Mum and the youngest sis have strong Welsh accents, and even the middle sis, who is only two years my junior, has a hint of a Welsh twang in there, even if it is only a subtle one.

I, however, sound like I've just come from a Victorian tea party, which prompts the question

"So...Where are you from, exactly?" or, from those more rude and/or drunk 
"You're not from around here, are you?"

The answers are Wales and yes, shut up!  I've lived here for twenty odd of my twenty seven years.  Before that, I was an army brat living in Germany, but the vast majority of my memories are here, as well as half of my family, who give me biscuits and tea when I visit so I ain't going nowhere!  I belong in this sheep strewn patch of green as much as anyone who was born here.  I loves it, I do.  I have no idea why in two decades my accent's not even remotely deviated from that of a BBC newsreader, but I'm proud to have been brought up here.  Hell, my first name even featured heavily in an infamous welsh riot masterminded by cross dressing locals (see: BBC Wales History - The Rebecca Riots) !

I love Wales' industrial history and its deep roots in art, literature and music (Dylan Thomas may have been a roaring drunk, but that bastard was a clever roaring drunk!), and I love the fact that even if you are in a city, everywhere still has that local feel.  I live in Swansea right now, and my favourite thing about it is that even though it's a city (albeit a baby one), you can always find refuge in the greenery of lakes and trails when you're out running.  Oh!  And I'm seldom further than twenty minutes from a beach!  Not bad, eh?

So..thought I'd use today's post to share with you some things I've learned growing up in South West Wales.  Here goes:

1.  The smaller the town you grow up in, the less need there is for surnames.  My hometown is called Penygroes, which translates to "top of the cross".  Probably because there are more churches than actual families there, which meant that everyone was named by their neighbours after where they worked.  Pete the Petrol Station, So-and-so the Shop.  And so on.  Don't think it works as well these days.  Becky the Call Centre doesn't quite have the same twee feel to it.  Becky the Blog does, though... Might have to pedal that one and see if it sticks.  Sounds a bit too much like "blob", though...Hmm.

2.  Rissoles are a delicious treat from the chippy, and not balls of offal in breadcrumbs (or "lips, arse and teeth" and I heard someone say not-so-inaccurately once).  So much so that my local nightclub served them alongside burgers at the end of the night.  It's been a while since I've gleefully torn into a glob of questionable "meats" at 3am.  I miss that nightclub.

3.  "Butt" is a term of endearment and not just another way for someone to call you an arse.

4.  It is an important tradition to dress your children in old timey Welsh ladies' and men's clothing once a year on St David's day.  You  might think it's cute to see your offspring in a little bonnet and pinny, but I remember what a whole day dressed in fabric made from Satan's beard felt like.  It felt itchy.  And hot.  However, I ever choose to replicate my genes, I know for a fact that I was inflict this on the poor sod too.  "Ahh, look!  You look like a tiny adult!  Stop scratching and smile for the camera - it's not that itchy!"

5.  It is also tradition on this date to eat cawl.  (Pronounced "cowl") - a watery soup made from what tastes like salty water and moist, soft vegetables. Mmmmmm.  Okay, maybe I'm not as Welsh as I'd like to be.  Can't stand the stuff.  It's like drinking armpit water with lumps in.

6.  The Welsh language is the best.  The alphabet is all kinds of fucked up.  We have all the English letters... A, B, C...etc... but this isn't good enough on its own.  How to we make an alphabet our own?  I know!  Let's throw in a handful of extra letters, to trip the foreigners up!  Here we go.  How about... A, B, C, Ch, D, Dd, E, F, Ff, G, Ng, H, I, J.... I never liked K, can we get rid of that one?  Cool...L, Ll, M... etc.  Language is much more colourful, but try and sing that one to the alphabet tune and someone might have to gently guide you to a corner and quietly sit you down with a snack so you don't strain yourself too much.

Here are some words I like:
  • Pili pala (pill-lee-pah-la) - Butterfly
  • Popty ping (pop-tee-ping) - Microwave
  • Guto Ffowc (git-oh-folk) - Guy Fawkes (I love this one.  When I learned it, my mum, who isn't a Welsh speaker, thought I'd made it up and was just using it to say mild swear words)
  • Cacen (Cack-en) - Cake (same reason as above.  "Haha, I get to say "cack" and no one can tell me off!)
  • Coch (Co...spit all over everyone making a noise I can't write down phonetically) - Red
7.  There is no sense of urgency in Wales.  Everything is done "In a minute now."  So, now, then?  Or in a minute?  "I said I'd do it!  In a minute now!" 

8.  You cannot move for castles.  If you go on a school trip, you go to a castle.  Fancy a walk?  Let's go to a castle!

My house

9.  No flag can top ours.  We have a mother lovin' dragon on it.  Anyone care to claim their design is cooler than that?  Anyone else got a badass red DRAGON?  No?  Didn't think so.

10 Wales is effing gorgeous.  This next picture is just a generic view from the area I went to comprehensive school in, taken on my phone.  In South West Wales, this kind of view is standard:

My garden

Sudden urge to go outdoors now.  No idea why.  I think I'll leave my list there and get my shoes on.  Hwyl fawr, pawb! Cymru am byth! =)

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