‘Is it always as wet as this?’
‘More often than not’.
– Meteorology at the Stag Inn, Dolgellau.
I’ve stayed the night in Bangor, a town in north-west Wales, unremarkable to a large degree except for its expanding university. It has no obvious centre, no heart or locus where its people can mill around and meet. I leave Simon’s place, a gentle man who has kindly hosted me for the night through the Couchsurfing website, and I cycle through the town’s small and modest high street. There’s nothing flash or pretentious about the place, and few things have aspirations here higher than two storeys. Expect no concession to civic ambition, just more discount shops and supermarkets.
‘That’s how all the cities are changing now. … But there’s nothing you can do. Things change.’ – Mike, Llangefni.
Snowdonia is a wonderful place. Visit it if you can, explore by foot or pedal its gentle heights, mapping with your eyes how undulating fields become forests that give way to an explosion of jagged rocks strewn up and down peaks, clustering in valleys with the heather and bracken. There’s a few sheep ensuring that the grasses are kept short, but in certain moments it’s absent of life and just lovely.
‘What do people do for work around here?’
‘… Jobs.’ – Without irony, outside the Eagles Hotel, Corwen.
I awake in Chirk Bank, a small hamlet just on the inside of the English border. It’s a cosy place that my parnter’s aunt and uncle have here, and I’ve been made to feel welcome. Sandra’s given me a crash course in the Welsh language.
Bore da, a chroeso i Gymru! Mae’n debyg y dylwn ddysgu ychydig o ymadroddion, ond yn eu ynganu un anodd iawn.
I cheated a bit here and used an online translator, but just consider those words. If you have no Welsh, take a moment to attempt to pronounce them. So different does the language and appear, and flowing and unusual its sound, yet it’s the tongue of England’s neighbour.