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Sunday, 25 July 2021

Nothing about the scenery

We did nothing cultural on
holiday. Although this is clearly
a church it has been modified
for other purposes. The distant
figure in red is grandson Zach.
Climbing not aspiring.

Just back from a two-week hol in Wales. One major reason: to escape England, a country I presently loathe. A temporary state of mind, I trust.

But would Wales be sufficiently foreign? After all, it’s not unfamiliar territory. The border is a mere eight miles from my house.

Holidays can be deceptive. The best way to “discover” a country is to work there, lolling tells you very little. Luckily (if not for me) an opportunity to “work” there arose on the first day. A medical condition had recently flourished and I needed help. NHS, our health service, extends to Wales but the service is embattled thanks to Covid. I desperately needed a specific drug and knew there would be delays. I had to go private, which meant paying. More particularly, Occasional Speeder, my daughter, was able to arrange this for me online.

The prescription travelled through cyberspace; to fulfil it we drove to nearby Carmarthen to a chain pharmacy. In the car park we looked for guidance. A woman, carrying a bag typical of those containing prescription drugs, stood alone addressing the world at large. Uttering the story of her life and the way it complicated her relationship with pharmaceuticals.

Yes, she knew our pharmacy. It wasn’t far. She described the route, slightly incoherently, then walked with us, continuing to tell her life story. There were complications about our prescription and while waiting we popped out to another pharmacy for palliative measures. Car-Park Lady abruptly re-appeared there too and resumed her biography.

Here was foreignness. The Welsh speak voluntarily and at length. Car-Park Lady was typical. The proprietor of our second villa was another. Almost the exact opposite of the English. We weren’t irritated, rather we were refreshed. More follows, perhaps.

11 comments:

  1. Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your holiday. I'm so intrigued by regionalism.

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    1. Colette: It's not exactly regionalism; Wales is a different country with a different language and a different parliament (called the Welsh Assembly). Its economy was traditionally based on coal; the market disappeared and nothing has been found to replace it. The United Kingdom (a combination of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) is governed from London and the attitude has been stingy towards Wales. Living so near to Wales I have become more and sympathetic to its plight. For one thing they take music (ie, my type of music) far more seriously than we do.

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  2. Glad to see a new post here and that you've been away on holiday. Looking forward to reading more about your trip to Wales.

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    Replies
    1. robin andrea: Less of a trip more a cleansing process. I can't guarantee what I write won't be prejudiced.

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  3. As you know I walked round the whole Welsh boundary in 2011 (fifty eight days.) The people were repeatedly friendly and so often went out of their way to help me. Just to fill in on you unreported scenery I noticed the rolling hills were more verdant and cultivated than much of England where agriculture and sheep pasture seems to give way to bracken and rough ground at a lower level. An oft repeated conversation became a sort of leitmotif:
    "Where are you walking to?"
    "I'm walking round the whole of the Welsh boundary."
    "Where did you start?"
    "Fishguard."
    "Where will you finish?"
    "Fishguard."
    "Oh!"
    --------------
    By the way you once criticised me for using centred type, especially on my photo captions and I see you have broken your rule.

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    Replies
    1. Sir Hugh: Horse for courses; this caption is not meant to be taken seriously. Your centring seemed to suggest you weren't aware there were any options. One fault: Centred text is harder to read than text justified left and right (the normal format in, say, books).

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  4. "Uttering the story of her life and the way it complicated her relationship with pharmaceuticals." Most intriguing.

    I know little about my paternal line, except that my "Youmans/Yeomans" portion came over before the Revolution. But I had an Aunt Dilly and an Uncle Dafford--both seem corruptions of Welsh names. And I like Wales. And on my maternal line I have a famous Welsh ancestor who came over before the Revolution. So I suppose I have some Welshiness in me. I did love my last trip there (went for my friend Clive's retrospective.)

    Centered type! Had a journal put a poem of mine in it without permission. Heavy eye-rolling...

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  5. Marly: In adjacent England I might have thought Car-Park Lady mad and avoided her. Wales made our group more tolerant; realising she was merely compulsively talkative, an aspect of the foreignness we were searching for. More than that, it became obvious that C-PL's life was bound up with her work; work that had shaped her. My first "real" novel, Gorgon Times, was based on that very theme. The kettle could hardly call the pot black.

    You hit the button on centered type. Simon Armitage, our new Poet Laureate, recently complained about the way the printed media - mostly newspapers - try to save space with poetry by printing the lines continuously, separated only by forward slashes. Thereby depriving the poem of its form and several of its important implications.

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    1. I know what you mean. Was wandering with my husband and youngest in a weirdly shaped little "forest" outside a beautiful stone church somewhere (Cape Cod, maybe?) and we were accosted by an off-kilter vet who told us his life story. Maybe it was the peculiar lolling trees or the presence of the church or simply being untied from normal reality, but it seemed that the act of hearing the story was important. Maybe it is just that stories are important, and that it's good to be loving to others--which we commonly do not take time to do.

      That was a good complaint, and it certainly seems related to the erasure of form in general. And the leveling of everything.

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    2. Marly: I like to pretend I'm unconventional and yet I too fear deviations from my norms.My late friend Joe and I were strolling through London and a rough-appareled youth accosted us, wanting to sell us a poem. I shrank from this but Joe (whose knowledge of poetry far outweighed mine) paid up, read the poem, and pointed some rhythmical blunder. This angered the youth who thrust back the coinage and re-grabbed the poem.

      Yet I, with the slyness of all writers, got to observe this even if I didn't participate. And to record it for my slice of posterity.

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    3. What a good story! Yes, well, we are a step removed so often, watching.

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