Thursday, February 01, 2007

Column, January 30, 2007

WHAT would make an Englishman jealous of the Welsh?
I ask because that’s the foolhardy promise that Rhodri Morgan has made.
Not only can we aspire to be the equal of our larger neighbours, such will be the quality of services this side of the border, the English will be green with envy, according to Mr Morgan.
You can only applaud his aspirations, but I have to say it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the relationship we have with the English.
For them to ever be in a position where they felt jealous of us, some terrible disaster would need to have befallen them the like of which the world has never seen before.
Maybe, just maybe, if the icecaps melted and the flatlands and hillocks of England sank slowly beneath the globally-warmed waves, they might, just might mind you, cast an envious eye in the direction of Snowdonia and dry land. But even then they’d just move in and call it England, they have, after all, got form for that sort of thing.
No I have spent some considerable time now moving among the English, and have to say that in their dealings with the Welsh, the green-eyed monster rears his head very rarely, if ever.
My scouse-inflected vowels mean that I’m rarely picked out as a Welshman, until I reveal my status – usually while capering about laughing in the aftermath of a successful Six Nations campaign (if we’re unsuccessful, then the Welsh light is hid firmly under a bushel and they can think me scouse for another year for all I care)
But when I do define myself as Welsh it is usually greeted with a nonplussed silence as people try to work out why on earth I would want to do so, after all they say, I don’t sound Welsh. What they’re saying to me is that I could ‘pass for English’ so why don’t I keep my guilty secret to myself and enjoy all the privilege and benefits of being born as one of God’s favoured (English, that is). Just keep schtum about the taffy bit, they won’t tell a soul.
Either that, or they treat me to a rendition of what a Welsh accent should really sound like, which for the record is usually a rather nasal-sounding tenor, with a good dollop of the Hindu Kush thrown in, peppered with a few ‘look you’s, ‘there’s lovely’s and an obligatory reference to sheep.
Jealous? You’ve got a mountain or two to clim before you make them feel that Rhodri.
In the eyes of the many English who have not been here, Wales is a mystery involving hostile and aging locals, firebombers who would burn down your beach windbreak if it started looking a bit like a permanent residence, leeks, daffs and ladies in tall hats.
Those who have been here are, of course, much better informed and can add in beautiful beaches and mountains to the list of hostile locals, firebombers, leeks, daffs, etc, etc.
Of course, most of us care little how we are defined by people who don’t even know us and we quietly get on with our own, Welsh, thing. And long may that continue. But it won’t continue for very long if those who dismiss us as daff-loving choristers realise that actually there’s a better life being had in Wales than there is over in England.
Were Rhodri every to succeed in making the English jealous of us, you can bet that the next day there would be questions in Parliament and whichever Chancellor was in power at the time would come under enormous pressure to cut off the largesse that was being thrown in our direction courtesy of the English taxpayer.
Of course they neatly ignore the fact that an awful lot of English taxpayers are actually, like myself, Welsh taxpayers, in England. All they see is liberties being taken.
Look at the way they moan at the financing of the Scots. Millions are being lavished up there, mostly it has to be said to stop them drinking, smoking and eating themselves into an early grave and who would begrudge them that – the English would, that’s who.
But Scotland always has in its favour that fact that most English people do not want to live there. We don’t have that advantage, as we know, lots of English people want to live here, especially when they retire.
If we succeed in making them jealous then ever more of them will make that journey westward to spend their twilight years taking advantage of the superb services Rhodri is putting in place. And given that the English will have paid for them with their taxes, I can’t see how we can complain (although I’d sure quite a few of us will)
But like Rhodri, I dream of the day that the Welsh inspire something other than sneering condescension in our neighbours, but suspect our days would be numbered after is we ever did.

THE caller wondered is Mrs Banks would be at all interested in the installation of a stairlift at our home.
“Not really,” she replied.
“Oh,” replied the eager young man on the end of the phone, obviously sensing hesitation and a possible sale in her tone, “Are you managing without then.”
It was at this point that Mrs Banks revealed that she had yet to hit 40 and that while we had been renovating our house, a stairlift was not high on the list of priorities, and that, yes, she had been managing without than you very much.
I think she was a little hasty myself. Think about it, you come home from a long, hard day and all you want to do is collapse into bed – what could be easier than sitting yourself down and zipping up courtesy of the stairlift?
And if they could organise a rail for the thing running to the nearest pub, they’d be onto a winner chez Banks and my order would be in post haste.
So if the nice young man would like to call back he’ll get a less frosty reception from the, aging, man of the house.


Martin Wilding Davies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Wilding Davies said...

You're quite wrong; but it's really a matter of perspective. Many English people are deeply jealous of our sense of national identity and distinct culture, something they have almost entirely lost. Being Welsh in London is, in my experience, considered quite cool. The English, on the other hand, don't realise that the Welsh lack confidence and are intimidated by their neighbours. So, for example, when Peter Hain tells us we’re dependent on English handouts and that we’ll end up like Bosnia if we step out of line, we believe him. Relating this thread to an earlier post of yours, I would suggest there is muted interest in Welsh independence because the people don’t have the information with which to make an informed judgment, because they don’t have confidence in their ability to manage themselves, and because the idea of handing real power to Rhodri Morgan’s generation of Welsh politicians doesn’t bear thinking about.

Ifan M Jones said...

Banksy, if the English are so indifferent to Wales why are you so keen on them running our country? No wonder we're one of the EUs poorest nations if the people who rule over us just don't give a damn.

How about independence so that we can quietly get on with our own, Welsh, thing?

Regarding the whole 'English taxes pay for our services, bla bla bla' how much welsh money will be spent on an olympics which will have no regenerative effect on Wales whatsoever? And how much do we pay the Royal Family in taxes to ignore us completely, only floating in to show they don't know the words to Hen Wlad fy Nhadau once in a while (as William did in the game on Sunday)?