‘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.
‘And then I came back to Wrexham. And the streets were clean! And the buildings weren’t falling down. And there were no lepers on the street corners, taken out by organised criminals and left there all day without water.’ – Sandra, Chirk.
Fear makes us feel alive. Think about that little daily dose of terror provided by newspaper headlines. The terrorists, global epidemics, sex criminals and looming military invasions that each day are reported as immediate dangers to our comfortable lives. There’s a surge of adrenaline, a threatening figure on the horizon with malevolent intentions. Teeth start to bare, the mind races with tenuous analogies to ‘jungle warfare’ and ‘survival of the fittest’. Turns out social mobility, welfare or the right to a fair trial were luxuries that this nameless, faceless horror might steal from us: let’s remove them ourselves. It’s as if we’re supposed to enjoy this ‘pure’ or ‘natural’ state. Nature’s had such different meanings in different eras, and its status now makes me uncomfortable. I myself prefer the soppy and gushing lyrics of the Romantics. The Ancient Mariner, Ozymandias or Endymion didn’t harangue us with shrill terrors about benefits cheats, travellers or irresponsible single mothers.