Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, June 17, 2008

SO the battle of the tick box has been won.
The 2011 census forms will include a box for people to indicate they are Welsh, not just British.
A trial run will be held in Anglesey next year and those who are Welsh will be able to express that. Good job it’s being held in October though, when the swallows of summer have left, otherwise the result might have been skewed and we'd think Anglsey was full of the English.
In a way I’m a bit sad about it. The absence of the tick box might have meant the revival of my old friends, The Independent Wales Party. My, the column inches I’ve had out of them.
We could have looked forward to another month of frolics as they gambolled from eisteddfod field to eisteddfod field, filling their coffin with forms that the Welsh refused to fill in because they could only declare themselves’ British.’
But no, some bureaucrat with no sense of fun has robbed them of their main raison d’etre and they can tick away to their heart’s content.
But wait, I think they might be missing a trick if they think the war of the census forms is won.
You see the forms let you say that you’re Welsh, but they don’t let you say just how Welsh you are.
There’s got to be gradations hasn’t there, otherwise everyone whose had a donkey ride on Talacre beach will be claiming they’re Welsh won’t they?
So can we work out a tick box system so people can choose just how Welsh they feel on census day?
Rather helpfully, I’ve got a few ideas of my own, see where you fit in.

A bit Welsh – once ate a stick of Llandudno rock
Quite Welsh – bought all of The Alarm’s CDs
Welsh – bought a Dafydd Iwan CD – haven’t returned it yet
Very Welsh – claim to like laver bread
Very, very Welsh – Lloyd George knew my father, but he knew my mother rather too well
Extremely Welsh – I’m a regular at the pub where we all speak English, but switch to Welsh when the English walk in
Ultimate Welsh – petrol – check, matches – check, now, where’s that holiday home?

Of course, I missed out the category pseudo-Welsh, where you knock out a weekly rant about Wales from a bolthole in England , but hey, it’s my tick-box form I get to edit it.
In the victory celebrations over the fact that the Welsh can declare themselves Welsh in their own country, we miss one important point. That is, will the Welsh get a tick box in England .
I suspect not. I rather think that if we are minded to declare our Welshness then we will have to do it by ticking ‘Other’ rather than British and then explaining where it is we come from.
Of course, we could risk the wrath of the census takers and add ‘Original’ before the word British, because that’s what we were before the Saxons crowded us out.
And in a way ‘Other’ is appropriate as the very word Welsh means strange, and I guess ‘Other’ is what we are in England .
The reason some were so vociferous about wanting a tick box is that they think it will bolster their ambitions of independence, as if a few thousand people ticking a box means you should start building your own navy and seceding from the rest of the UK .
It will provide a few headlines on the day they give out the results – ‘Lots of Welsh people say they’re Welsh – shock’.
What would be far more interesting and far more useful to know, would be how many people, like myself, count themselves as Welsh, but have left Wales .
I’m guessing there will be thousands in the job hubs of Liverpool, Manchester and most importantly, London .
All this talent (and I exclude myself from this point, naturally) is lost to Wales . We all have anecdotal evidence of young people leaving Wales . The traditional excuse if that they can’t afford a house, but I think it’s lack of opportunity not lack of housing that drives them out, because they aren’t finding cheap house in London let me tell you.
Let’s not let that get in the way of a good victory celebration about a meaningless tick box eh?
But if the exodus of young people continues, the coffin they carry in a few years won’t be for census forms, it will be for the nation itself.

HOW teacher Geraint Jones must have regretted his choice of practical joke that day at Ysgol y Creuddyn.
After all, there are so many he could have opted for – the whoopee cushion; the water-squirting flower; itching powder; electric handshake.
But no, he chose the old ‘fake bomb in colleague’s bag’ trick – always a winner, until, that is, the school is evacuated and the emergency services are called in.
It does make one rather wonder what life at the Llandudno school is like though. Because if I were to look in my bag and see what looked like a bomb, my first instinct would be to think – someone is having a laugh, not, oh my God, Al Queda’s latest fiendish plan is to take out teachers in schools in Wales thus bringing civilisation crumbling round our ears, we’re doomed I tell you, doomed.
Either that, or Mr Williams, who has been cautioned for his jape, does a convincing line in fake bombs. I take it it was more sophisticated than the old black cannonball labelled ‘BOMB’ with a fizzing fuse attached.
We never had anything like fake bombs in my schooldays. No, when I was in school one lad broke in and turned on all the gas taps in a fairly serious attempt the blow the place to smithereens.
So I suppose fake bombs are progress, of sorts.

1 comment:

JacquesT said...

I wonder if little Alun Cairns has any advice on which box to tick.