Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, February 5, 2008

YOU’VE not really made it as a miserable nation until you’ve featured in a Radio 4 drama.
Part of my work sees me trekking to various parts of the UK behind the wheel of my car and I listen to a lot of radio.
I can’t abide the clatter of Radio 1 and I’m not yet able to surrender to the pipe and slippers feel of Radio 2, so it’s usually Radio 4 for me.
As a news broadcaster it’s without equal, but when it ventures into drama, it doesn’t matter how sunny your disposition, you’re in for a bad time.
It’s always the same, the afternoon play opens with the howling wind sound effects, a bit of lashing rain in for good measure, and more often than not in the distance a child can be heard wailing plaintively in the teeth of the storm.
Then a Celtic voice begins – Irish or Scots – to explain just how they came to be in this benighted state and wasn’t it all the fault of the English, so it was.
And it’ll continue in this vein for a good 45 minutes or so until the various protagonists all die of potato blight, or else make it to the USA where they find a land of milk and honey and the Mob, and the 3 o’clock news puts us all out of their misery.
I’m just waiting for the day the play opens with the sound of lapping water and a Welsh voice intones, to the sound of crying children in the background: “Tryweryn, drowned by the English.”
Then we will have made it into the ranks of the truly miserable, the permanently aggrieved. Then we’ll be able to hold our heads up among those whose crofter ancestors were evicted during the enclosures, or who are descended from those who barely survived the potato famine.
And we’ll deserve the title of miserablists because this very week a council near Aberystwyth is contemplating spending £1,000 preserving a wall, upon which graffiti is daubed urging us to remember Tryweryn.
Remember Tryweryn, how could we ever forget it?
And I've been as guilty as the next man, banging on about it, usually in the face of some Englishman who beleives we've never been treated with anything other than the sort of stern kindness meted out to a disobedient puppy.
And who was Tryweryn drowned for can you tell me? Yes, on the face of it the dastardly Liverpool Corporation, boo, hiss. But who was it working for? The people of Liverpool and a good proportion of them were, like it or not, Welsh.
There were 80,000 Welshmen and their families who migrated to Liverpool in the 19th century and their presence is evidenced by the 70 Welsh chapels that were there. Any Welsh child will tell you where the Eisteddfod of the Black Robe was held.
We built Liverpool and we even named many of its streets after our homeland. Voelas Street, Bala Street, Madryn Street weren’t given those names just because the English had been down our way for a holiday.
The inconvenient truth is that the drowning of a Welsh valley may have been done to us in an arrogant way, but in doing so it was for the benefit of many Welsh people.
The fact is that Liverpool was the capital of North Wales and it remains the creative and cultural magnet that draws many of our young people to earn a living there when their own country, to its shame cannot provide such an opportunity.
For all Cardiff’s claims to our allegiance, Liverpool remains a city that we have invested much in, and we should not let one event, however unjust, shape our relationship with it.
Remember Tryweryn by all means, but there must surely be better things to spend £1,000 on a than a bit of daubed masonry.What will they do if the wall falls down, daub another entreating us to remember the wall that told us to remember Tryweryn?

ONE of the more successful offerings of Channel 5 has been the US drama Prison Break.
In it, an unfeasibly handsome young man gets himself sent down so that he can save his incarcerated brother.
The key to their escape is contained in the intricate tattoos that adorn every inch of his honed body that can be decently shown on TV.
I suspect that someone in the Welsh team is similarly tattooed, only that can explain the jailbreak mounted at HM Prison Twickers on Saturday. My money’s on Henson.
It was looking like a grim Six Nations at one point, weeks of hard labour just to avoid the wooden spoon.
But the one of those magical moments happened that show you how a game can turn.
Lesley Vainikolo entered the fray to the admiring cheers of the Ruperts who have always admired a bit of beefcake on the move.
Mark Jones, the Welsh wing, had the misfortune to take the ball, facing the wrong way and he must have felt as well as heard Vainikolo bearing down on him like an express train.
In the crowd kindly fathers must have put a protective hand over young eyes, not wanting them to witness a Welshman disappear in a puff of blood and wintergreen.
Then Jones ducked.
Not elegant, but sharp, very sharp, and it did the job. Vainikolo looked for all the world like Wiley Coyote, speeding at full tilto toward the roadrunner in some death-dealing machine, only to be sidestepped yet again. By the time the Tongan’s mass came to rest he was somewhere in the upper tiers.
Speed of thought, hands, feet, have always terrified the opposition in rugby and Wales put 20 unanswered points past the World Cup finalists.
The day before the Welsh had been an unflattering 8-1 to win the tournament. Yesterday those odds had halved. And no, I hadn’t put a bet on them either.

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