Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, April 29, 2008

WE had better start making a list.
The English are voting on whether to become part of Wales and if we haven’t got a list before we know it they’ll all be in.
Alright, it’s only started with the little village of Audlem , over in Cheshire , but you know what they say about wedges having a thin end.
Not that I’m saying we won’t welcome them all should they so choose to exercise their democratic right to become part of God’s Own Country, but we might want to exercise a little discretion.
Of course, you can understand why they all want in. After all, we’ve won the Grand Slam, Duffy’s top of the charts, Cardiff in the FA Cup, Doctor Who setting up home here, Gavin&Stacey’s Bafta, Joe Calzaghe a world champion twice over. We pretty much rule the roost, so you can sympathise.
Pub bores everywhere are suddenly finding Welsh great-grandmothers in their lineage and that’s enough for them to order their Grand Slam pullover and get all teary-eyed during Land Of My Fathers, even though not a couple of years ago they could be heard belting out ‘Swiiiiing Loooow, Sweeeeet Charrrrr-iiiii-oooott’ at the merest peep of a white shirt.
The people of Audlem, however, 63% of who want to be part of Wales , voted for far more practical reasons. They believe that they aren’t getting the services they deserve in England and believe being part of Wales will see them better provided for.
Well, with free prescriptions for all and no SATs tests for kids you can’t say they are far wrong.
So Audlem, formerly in Cheshire , but now part of what I am going to call Greater Wales – Croeso, Welcome.
The nay-sayers at Wrexham County Borough Council have raised the small matter of Audlem being quite a way away from us and Whitchurch being in between. Let’s not let that get in the way of things eh? Let’s annex Whitchurch too. I would say today Audlem, tomorrow the world, but it sounds a little too much like a chap whose ambitions ended badly.
But rather than seeing it as the English joining us, perhaps we ought to regard it as a return to Wales of what is rightfully ours. After all, Audlem and much of that part of the world was Welsh until we lost it to Northumbria 1400 years ago.
So.if we get Audlem, and Whitchurch, where else should we absorb into Greater Wales (got quite a ring to it that hasn’t it, Great Britain , but Greater Wales).
Well, we’ll have Liverpool for a start. We built it, we’re having it back, and we’ll put a stop to them tearing down the ‘Welsh Streets’ as part of Prescott’s grand renovation scheme.
We can quietly take Shropshire, but I think we ought to draw the line at Birmingham , on the grounds that it’s good to have someone outside Wales who also gets the mick taken because of their accent.
Most of Herefordshire and the West Country should surely be ours. Cornwall , I imagine, would be quick to secede too. The M4 corridor could see Welsh tanks across the Severn and on the outskirts of London before breakfast. If Wales had any tanks that is, and given how quick we take umbrage it’s perhaps best we don’t.
Keep the border creeping eastwards and once we’ve taken Yorkshire even I’ll be back in the fold. No need for hiraeth, I’ll be home.
Naturally there is the small matter of most of these communities not speaking Welsh. But I don’t think we ought to let that get in the way because except for the North West corner, most of our own communities don’t either.
It’s a whole new take on independence as well. You’ve no need to be independent of the English if they’re signing up to join you in their droves.
So, come one, come all, vote early, vote often to join the fastest expanding nation in the UK .

AS an exiled Welshman, albeit self-imposed, it’s always nice to bump into those with links to home.
So when I pitched up in a tiny North Yorkshire village it was a pleasant surprise that my nearest neighbour is an ex-office in the Welsh Guards.
We had a chat about the relative merits of North Wales guardsmen and South Wales – we agreed that North Walians were far the superior, although that might have something to do with Wrexham soldiers always being up for a fight.
Anyhow, Captain Mike is doing his bit for those injured in Iraq and Afghanistan next month in aid of the Help for Heroes charity.
This charity is raising funds for a swimming pool and treatment centre at Headley Court , the forces’ centre where service personnel recover from injuries received in action.
Captain Mike and hundreds of other riders will be cycling through the battlefields of France to raise money for this charity in late May.
You can read all about their efforts on the charity website http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/ If you would like to sponsor Captain Mike, drop me a line at my e-mail address d.banks3@btinternet.com, and I’ll put you in touch.

PERHAPS the fact that the English are voting to become Welsh is not entirely unconnected to news that a church in Wales has applied for a drinks licence.
The Reverend Geraint ap Iorwerth could soon also be known as mine host as he wants a licence to serve alcohol at St Peter ad Vincula Church in Pennal, near Machynlleth.
It might have the ministers of the dry Sunday chapels turning in the grave, but in these days of declining church numbers the sort of social function where alcohol is served is one way of getting people through the door.
And apart from the nonconformist suspicion of the demon drink, the Church has always had a close association with brewing, especially the monasteries.
And if my shaky recollection of The Bible serves me, and I think it does, Jesus turned water into wine, not the other way round.

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