Wednesday, March 25, 2015

From O. Reader


I blame it all on Welsh TV.

I remember for many years that Welsh TV was – well – Welsh. Like. You know. Sort of. As viewed by foreigners from England.  I also remember once there was a competition in a national newspaper as to what could make you punch the remote control quicker than anything else. There was one outright winner:

“And now for our classic movie - Singing in the Rain...   (pause)    ...Viewers in Wales have their own program...”

But it has changed a bit, and Welsh language programs have been fairly adventurous, especially since they gained their own dedicated channel. OK, so the programs for tiny tots can resemble Beatrix Potter on acid, but some of the others aren’t too bad, even if (like me) you need the subtitles.

British TV in recent years has shown a number of crime dramas originating in Scandinavia. They have invariably been dark, moody and miserable. Well, someone worked out that parts of Mid Wales can be dark, moody and miserable – especially when it rains. That’s 365 days of the year. So they decided to do a moody Welsh noir.

There were two versions – an English language one, lapsing into Welsh in home situations with subtitles (which is more the reality in Wales) and one totally in Welsh. They were filmed back to back. The English language one was called Hinterland and the Welsh, Y Gwyll.

So someone in our household of two (who shall remain nameless) suggested that we did Aberystwyth and did the film locations. In previous years we have done the same for British crime series Inspector Morse (Oxford) and Foyle’s War (Hastings). We have our stash of pics of Mr and Mrs O pulling faces (the local word is gurning) in front of well-known sites of the Ghost of TV Series Past.

We managed to get respite care for my mother for two weeks. The government’s idea is to give carers a break, so they don’t crack up and cost the State even more money. So off she went for her “holiday” and off we went for ours. And that is why we have been shivering in a caravan near Aberystwyth. Now we like caravans. I have lived in several in my murky past. The problem is the time of year and lack of insulation. We were promised verbally that the van would have central heating. They lied. They of course denied this, and we have just stuck it out – with hot water bottles, piles of bedclothes and eReaders, and a cold nose when waking up in the morning. Not being canine, and pushing elderly, it hasn’t really worked as it should we have done.

But Aberystwyth has been interesting. There is a series of books by Malcolm Pryce with pastiches on familiar titles – Don’t Cry for me Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth Mon Amour, Last Tango in Aberystwyth etc. They are a sort of mixture of Raymond Chandler crossed with Terry Pratchett. Imagine hard boiled dialog but Druids replacing the Mafia. Aberystwyth houses a famous university and the National Library of Wales. We did the library, the tour, the exhibits, and some researching (Mrs O on Welsh folk songs, and me on Welsh Bibles) and as always when away, we looked up the local folk club, with a whole new unsuspecting audience for our limited repertoire. We also attended a one day meeting attended by over 300 where the whole program was in Welsh. I will be doing one of the talks in English in a few weeks time at a repeat event and thought I might have gained some points. And if I could have understood more than the odd word, perhaps I would have done. Mrs O is the linguist in our family. The language is certainly making a comeback from those former days of being suppressed and children using it in schools being punished by the authorities.

And of course, the locations for Y Gwyll. One key location was a place called Devil’s Bridge. I’d been there before, but a million years ago when our daughter was small, and we never did “the walk”. This time we did.  This time I wished we hadn’t.  It is a one-way trip down an extremely steep gorge, with high water-falls to your side and rainwater underfoot; then crossing a scary bridge, and up the other side. Once you have entered – using a primitive slot machine – you can’t get back. There’s a catch-phrase from a British quiz show – I’ve started so I’ll finish... No choice here. We reached the bottom, Mrs O was hyperventilating, and I had come to realise how badly I had done my leg in the day before (don’t ask). Never mind, says I, we are half way there. Except that the second half was going up; mountaineering with slippery rocks, dodgy handrails, and the real possibility of doing an impersonation of that famous Holmes-Moriarty scene from the Reichenbach Falls.

I think I am getting old. I once mentioned in an old post how my father walked 13 miles for charity (and more important for him, a story on the front page of his local newspaper) when he was 95 years old. He died shortly thereafter, but I hasten to add that there was no connection between the two events. However, I have decided after Devil’s Bridge that I am not going to emulate him.

And finally, we spent time in the caravan and shivered and caught up on DVDs. While writing this, we have been watching Paranoiac. It’s a British Hammer studio horror picture based loosely – very loosely – on a superior Josephine Tey novel, Brat Farrar. The old Hammer Company turned it into an over-the-top shock-fest – and it made me laugh out loud and spill my beer. It was the sort of film that as a teenager you would take a girl with you to see in the cinema. At a crucial scary moment you would clutch her hand – only to find it already contained an ice cream, resulting in an unpleasant experience for both of you.

Anyhow – I’m rambling again. As you do. As I do. So to-morrow it’s goodbye to Y Gwyll and Aberystwyth and cold feet – we head back to civilisation and work and responsibility and all that. And decent central heating. It reminded me of a newspaper filler that compared attitudes of people of a certain age with certain decades. Example – Year 1965: “I want to look like Elizabeth Taylor.” Year 2000: “I don’t want to look like Elizabeth Taylor.” And the warmth one?  1965: “I wanna to go to California, man, because it’s COOL...” 2000: “I want to go to California because it’s WARM!”

I’m with the latter all the way.


  1. Griffin3:10 PM

    In the UK, by law a copy of all new books has to be lodged with the British Library. In addition, the National Libraries of Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland and Oxford's Bodleian and Cambridge Uni Libraries have the legal right to request all new books - but in practice many printers just send out copies to them all anyway.

    Seems you went to a great deal of trouble just to get a surreptitious sight of my new book in the National Library of Wales. :-)

  2. An occasional reader7:40 AM

    Well, you didn't think I was going to BUY a copy did you...?

    I did ask at the desk but I couldn't understand what they said back to me...

  3. Griffin8:02 AM

    Yesterday, I had yet another congratulatory e-mail from someone who had finished reading the book.

    However, he also pointed out that on page 80 (which describes WW2 evacuees) a date is given viz. 26 February 1841.

    As you were the poof reader, I would like to hear your full explanation for this embarrassing faux pas as soon as possible.

  4. Having tried to watch the video that Rachael attached to your post, I can well understand why the English tried to suppress the Welsh language.

    I assume the video was related to the television program you mentioned. I watched two very pretty young ladies talking, but the noises coming from their lips hardly seemed like language.

    I am sure the Welsh people have many fine attributes, but their native tongue is not one of them.

  5. An occasional reader10:34 AM

    Note to Griffin

    It must be a case of time travel. Or mebbe someone tinkering with their work AFTER Occasional has poof read it... It has been known to happen.

    Note to Harry

    Rachael's video wasn't actually of the TV crime series I mentioned, but well illustates that having chronic catarrh is a pre-requisitive for a good Welsh accent...

    And am I glad I write under an assumed name here!