Last night, when Mark Drakeford was celebrating his win with imported potcheen, Adam Price had to calm him down and talk him out of declaring the Welsh republic straight away. He wanted to wear his bandoliers, and everything.
I would follow that man into the jaws of Hell itself. He will build us an empire of fire and blood.
While Cymdeithas yr Iaith welcome the appointment of Aled Roberts as Welsh-language Commissioner, and call for the rôle of Commissioner to be safe-guarded, a friend of mine expresses concern that he might expect everyone to use the Rhosllanerchrugog dialect.
Through the careful decapitation and evisceration of a mouse, my cat is able to determine the fact that it did not die of natural causes.
13th November: I feel for hard leavers, like Boris Johnson, who foresee the UK becoming a despised, forgotten vassal state to a more powerful eastern neighbour.
Cyfarchion o Gymru. Greetings from Wales.
The loss of housing stock to property ‘developers’ and second-home owners is common in rural areas throughout the UK and Europe. But in Wales, where the national language has become a minority language in only a century through persecution, exploitation and neglect, the loss of rural communities in its heartland is a cause of anger, grief and despair.
5th November 2018: Appearing in court in Caernarfon for non-payment of his TV licence fee, William Griffiths of Bodorgan, Môn, joins Heledd Gwyndaf and other protesters in Cymdeithas yr Iaith in campaigning against Westminster’s control of Welsh broadcasting, and the threat to Welsh democracy that this represents. Meanwhile, the newly-elected chairman of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Osian Rhys, reminds us that membership is open, not only to fluent Welsh-speakers, and to activists willing to risk imprisonment for their beliefs, but to all who wish to protect and preserve the national language of Wales
Tân cyntaf y gaeaf, gwin blodau’r ysgaw, a cherddoriaeth Daniel Jones. Cyfarchion y tymor i’m darllenwyr i gyd.
Plaid Cymru MP, Liz Saville Roberts, addresses the House of Commons in Irish, as she urges the British government to institute legal protections for the Irish language.
22nd October 2018
Last Saturday I took part in the demonstration which brought the centre of London to a standstill, and was one of the largest protests in the UK since the marches against the poll tax in the late Margaret Thatcher years. My purpose in attending was to stop Brexit, to end your premiership, and to bring your dreary and shambolic government to an end.
I would like to apologise in case the congestion and noise caused you any alarm or distress.
Dr Rob Mimpriss
B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Member, The Welsh Academy
21st October: 700,000 people, a crowd driven to a standstill because Whitehall could not contain it, loud music, ribald humour, and shouting, yet not a single cross face or angry gesture that I saw. Remain is the People, and the People at their best.
21st October: A day or so after the referendum on Brexit, one of a group of friends with whom I was discussing the result explained how he was persuaded to vote Leave. He had been planning to vote Remain on the basis of the evidence that had been presented during the campaign, but just as he reached the voting booth he imagined Deborah Meaden saying ’I’m out’ on The Dragon’s Den, and so he voted Leave on the basis of a whim and a catchphrase.
Deborah Meaden addressed the march for a People’s Vote in central London yesterday. 700,000 people participated, creating the second largest protest march in a century.
The comments below come from a friend, and attempt to persuade an acquaintance online — who knows that he knows best, because most people think as he does — that in fact, the question of Scottish independence is far from settled, that the future of Ireland is not some peripheral detail to the UK, that Wales is not a loyal follower of England, and that Brexit is not a project supported by the four nations of the UK:
Scotland had a referendum to stay in a UK that was part of the EU. The contempt with which their vote, and their subsequent ‘remain’ position, is now held in by Westminster shows how little the government cares for the opinion of their ‘united’ partner. Another vote for independence is almost inevitable, given how badly-treated the Scots now feel.
Northern Ireland also voted remain, yet now faces having border communities torn apart and a potential return to nationalist violence because of a predominantly English government propped up by a minority of NI extremists. The culmination of a process begun in 1919 is now a more realistic possibility than ever before.
Wales has had its language, communities and traditions almost obliterated by its neighbour. Within my parents’ lifetime, kids were beaten and punished at school for using their native language in a concerted attempt at erasing it — and the cultural perspectives that go with it — from history. More than the other surviving Celtic nations, Wales gets English newspapers, English television, English culture. No wonder they were taken in by the same illusory future come the referendum.
Other Celtic nations — regions now — like Cornwall and Cumbria have been long-since subsumed into a south-east English view of these islands. That has been the process for hundreds of years: start in the bottom-right, obliterate any dissent, stamp a new culture over everything. When that system ran out of British Isles, they moved around the planet doing the same.
Brexit is a death rattle of a particular type of English nationalism, English exceptionlism and superiority. It will lead to the breakup of the UK, and, with it, the loss of those first English colonies, just as the Empire lost the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Palestine and all the rest.
Only in conversation with a Brexiteer would one be challenged to explain whether and how a majority can be wrong.
10th October: It is deeply discouraging that even twenty years after we established the principle of home rule, ordinary Welsh speakers feel that they must risk court and imprisonment merely to defend a language and culture that ought to be valued by everyone. It is deeply hopeful that the culture they are defending still exists, in part, because of the sacrifices made by their predecessors.
A study by the Centre for European Reform, reported in The Guardian, shows that far from saving the UK £350 million per week for use at home, Brexit is costing the UK £500 million per week in lost growth, and is perpetuating an austerity that would otherwise be at an end. I recall the mythical Irish hero Mael Duin’s journey to the underworld, and the mill that he sees there: ‘Here is sent all the corn that men begrudge each other.’
10th September: This tired plea for basic tolerance and courtesy towards the Welsh language is not a response to Katie Hopkins’ latest spasm of hate, but to the racist attack on the language before that (or the one before that, or the one before that), and will do just as well for the next one. It was posted to Facebook by a professional translator in 2017, and is followed by my translation:
Dwi di blino. Di blino ar deimlo bod rhywun yn ymosod arna i o hyd. Di blino ar orfod amddiffyn yr iaith ges i'n magu ynddi, yr iaith dwi'n byw ynddi a'r iaith dwi'n gwithio ynddi. Dwi di blino ar glywed pobl sy'n gwybod dim yn diystyru'r gymuned nath fy ngwneud i'n pwy ydw i, ac yn dweud ein bod ni ddim yn bodoli nac yn bwysig. Dwi di blino ar ddarllen sylwadau difeddwl ar gyfryngau cymdeithasol sy'n dilorni'r hyn rydw i a'r bobl dwi'n eu caru yn ei gredu ynddo. Dwi di blino ar gwmnïau mawr a sefydliadau a ddylai wybod yn well yn gwahaniaethu yn erbyn fy niwylliant i. Dwi di blino ar orfod egluro pam fy mod i'n dewis siarad iaith sy'n dod yn naturiol i mi, a gorfod cyfiawnhau fy rhesymau am astudio “iaith roeddwn i'n ei siarad yn barod” yn y brifysgol. Dwi di blino ar bobl sydd ddim hyd yn oed yn rhan o'r sgwrs yn meddwl fy mod i'n siarad amdanyn nhw. Dwi di blino ar ddeud wrth bobl mod i'n gyfieithydd, mond iddyn nhw ddweud wrtha i bod fy ngyrfa i'n wastraff o arian a bod pawb yn deall Saesneg beth bynnag. Dwi jyst di blino. Raid i rywbeth newid.
I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling under constant attack. I’m tired of having to defend the language I was raised in, live in and work in. I’m tired of hearing people who know nothing about it devaluing the community that made me who I am, saying we don’t exist or don’t matter. I’m tired of reading thoughtless comments on social media abusing what I and those I love believe in. I’m tired of large companies and institutions that ought to know better discriminating against my culture. I’m tired of having to explain why I choose to speak the language that comes naturally to me, or justify my reasons for having studied a language I already spoke at university. I’m tired of people who aren’t even part of the conversation assuming that I’m talking about them when I speak Welsh. I’m tired of telling people I’m a translator, only to be told that my career is a waste of money since everyone understands English anyway. I’m tired, and something must change.
It is a curious necessity of the nearby farmer’s approach to husbandry that he will give you hell for deviating from a footpath even while his livestock placidly graze his neighbours’ lawns.
Coloneiddio’r canol oes a’r cyfoes: Parked in front of Caernarfon Castle, built by Edward I to consolidate his conquest of Wales, a van advertising holiday homes on Llŷn, where there is homelessness, where there is a shortage of affordable homes for local people, and where the Welsh language and Welsh culture are under threat. The advertising, needless to say, is printed in English only.
Internal Colonialism by Michael Hechter, a sociologist’s study of England‘s relationship with its Celtic neighbours, demonstrates that annexation of Scotland and Ireland precipitated their industrial decline: a reduction in the range of products they manufactured, and a reduction in the number of nations to which they exported, as England reconfigured their economies to suit its own import needs. Hechter explores the economic effects of this into the early 70s, when he is writing, demonstrating that the economic disadvantage that the Celtic nations suffered during the industrial period, along with residual cultural racism which affects the type of investment they receive, leaves them impoverished and reliant on England today.
Hechter also explores the suppression of the Celtic languages and cultures, which again he relates to England’s import needs and the cultural racism by means of which its expansionism was justified. The end product for Wales is an economy hopelessly reliant on tourism which it resents, in part for the stridency with which it conducts itself.
30th July 2018: Welsh nationalists in the civil service were labelled ‘subversives’ and were marginalised and denied promotion during the Margaret Thatcher years, according to official documents explored by Wales Online. That such people were never told that they had been blacklisted, but were left to suspect that they were suffering discrimination, or to reason with themselves that they were somehow failing in their duties at work, reminds me of the subtler forms of oppression practised against democrats in Hungary and Czechoslovakia by the Communists.
27th July: The flooding of the village of Capel Celyn is important in the history of a small, stateless nation because it demonstrated our powerlessness as a colony of England. Liverpool Council wanted the reservoir for industrial purposes, even though it forced the language barrier into a retreat from the position that deliberate and destructive anglicisation had imposed, so that when Gwynfor Evans, the leader of Plaid Cymru, went to remonstrate with them, they banged their desks to drown out his voice. Every MP that Wales had, bar one, voted against the reservoir, but in Parliament it is English votes that count.
In the recent drought, the water levels in the reservoir have dropped, and the village has become visible. If a levy of just one per cent were applied to the water that England extracts from Wales, it would raise £3 billion for Wales every year.
English Votes for English Laws, introduced as an expression of English spite after the Scottish referendum, followed the fiftieth anniversary of the flooding of Capel Celyn by a couple of days. I wrote to David Cameron to point out the fact. I did not receive any reply.
The headline is banal, the comments utterly horrifying. MailOnline readers reveal their fully-fledged Nazism as they express their grief for Adolf Hitler’s death, and their admiration for his deathcamp policies.
A screengrab from a British nationalist Facebook group kindly supplied by a friend. A pride in national culture and heritage which never mentions a composer or author, a sense of thwarted national greatness, a hatred of enemies without and outsiders within, a paranoid self pity, a mob mentality and a demand for mob rule, and a myth of victimisation arising from a war that perhaps few of these self-proclaimed patriots remember.
‘Within Wales, surveys consistently indicate most people have a positive attitude to the language. But Wales exists within the British state. And, to the extent they think about such things at all, many of those with a strongly British identity are deeply contemptuous of the native non-English languages of these islands. Welsh, along with Gaelic and Irish, is rarely valued as part of the collective cultural heritage of all of us in these islands. This should belong to all of us – but it does not.
‘The left has no room for smugness on this issue. Lots of people who would happily support indigenous cultures in the global south have little time for them in the UK. Many friends and colleagues in Aberystwyth, who would be impeccably leftist on other matters, made no attempt to engage with the local culture around them, and were seemingly oblivious to the linguistic marginalisation and colonialism in which they were complicit. But they were hardly alone. The Green party in Wales, for instance, has rarely shown much time for the language, and sometimes appeared almost openly dismissive.’
Prof Roger Awan Scully, reviewing the state of the Welsh language in response to the Welsh government’s proposals for a new language act, in New Statesman.
Only in conversation with a Brexiteer would it be necessary emphatically and repeatedly to assert that Hannah Arendt is not the same person as James O’Brien.
Art the Armed Forces Day, 11am-10pm, 27th June, Y Tabernacl, Llandudno, with an art workshop, music and readings, and an insight into the history of peaceful protest and pacifism in Wales. Rob Mimpriss, Trystan Lewis, Louise Fazackerley, and others.
Images of the march in London on 23rd June by Anna Reynolds. Over one hundred thousand people, no disorder that I saw, and the flags of Scotland, Cornwall, Croatia and Wales, including my own.
The state of public morality in the UK: someone on a ‘cross-party’ political discussion forum reports that he is ‘bored’ of hearing about those who died in the fire at Grenfell Tower.
12th June 2018: Rachel Sylvester reports in The Times today that an unnamed Conservative MP cannot support amendments to the Brexit Bill today because death threats from Brexiteers have made him afraid for his family. In addition, she reports, a former minister has described the UK as enduring ‘a reign of terror.’
In the 1950s, the experimental psychologist, Leon Festinger, sent his postgraduate students to infiltrate and observe a small cult that was operating in the area at the time. The cult leader was in telepathic communication with a race of aliens whose flying saucer was on the way to earth, and would destroy and remake its surface on 21st December 1954. The cult leader and her followers would be made leaders in the new world order that the aliens would institute.
As the date drew near, and the cult grew, the leader offered her followers various early meetings in remote locations with the aliens; but always, due to technical difficulties, government interference, or lack of faith on the part of the cult, they failed to appear. Despite this, cult members’ expectation of their apotheosis grew palpable, and they stripped their clothes of belt buckles, zips, and anything else containing metal that would interfere with the flying saucer’s drives. Once again, the aliens failed to appear, and 21st December passed without incident.
After a brief period of bewilderment and despair, the cult came to realise that their faith as a group had saved the entire earth from destruction, and the failure of their predictions became proof that their teachings were true. When Leon Festinger called on them, they hailed him as an alien travelling in disguise. His book about the cult, When Prophecy Fails, remains a seminal study of the way the mind invents pretexts for rejecting truth, and is relevant in the light of Michel Barnier’s warning that the UK must face facts about the inevitable economic and political consequences of leaving the European Union.
19th May: Accounts of the royal wedding today remind me of James Frazer’s account of the monarchy among (as I recall) the Ashanti people of North West Africa in his seminal work of anthropology, The Golden Bough (1890). Their king, who represents the land, and the health of the land, is elected once a year, housed in a palace, freely given everything he seeks except his freedom, and is publicly whipped to death at the end of his term, to fertilise the land and ensure good crops.
I am not convinced that this is a better defence of monarchy than the fact that UK’s royal family work hard.
19th May: ‘Brit ydi Betty — hei, go dda rŵan, cyfatebiaeth cytseiniad — Brit ydi Betty. Ia, Brit o’r Brits. Coronation Street, Jiwbilî, Y Cwîn, Alf Garnett, Falklands. Union Jack, Princess Di — y cwbwl. Gadael llonydd iddi hi ydw i. Dwi mewn occupied territory yn y fan hyn.’
Angharad Tomos, Yma o Hyd.
The flyer that just dropped through my door, inviting me to ‘discover retirement living to the full in Benllech’, is written, appropriately enough, in English only.
#BrexitMeansRacism: A second sample of the hatemail sent to Prof Tanja Bueltmann of Northumbria University, following her appearance at the Women Against Brexit rally. See other samples above and below.
@WomenObeyUKIP. ‘Genocide’ used as verb.
20th April: The German journalist, Sebastian Haffner, remarked that the effect of the Nazi race laws was to give legal existence to concepts that had no other existence, to force race and purity of blood into being with nothing but their own brutality: it became important to be pure German, to be Aryan, because one’s life depended on it. The insight has other parallels in our time, but a year or so after Theresa May set out to unite us as a British nation which, like the Aryan race, has no existence except for the obedience it demands; a year or so after she set out to abolish our European identities, and weaken our Scottish and Welsh identities; a year or so after she set out to crush the Welsh and Scottish nationalists who seek, as she claimed, to divide us, I find it almost impossible to pay attention to the needs of my own country — the undermining of its political and cultural identity, its twenty-year domination by a single party, the growing crisis brought about by the suicide of one its ministers — because of the constant anger and fear that her policies arouse in me.
My local Asda displays men’s toiletries, not beside the women’s toiletries, but beside the household cleaning products.
9th April: If the British ignore a petition which has garnered thirty thousand signatures in a country of only three million in just a few days, and which already represents a whole one per cent of the population, then they openly acknowledge that Welsh democracy is meaningless, and that even such a groundswell of protest, if it comes from Wales, can be ignored. If, on the other hand, they bow to this petition, then they confess that Wales is not a principality, and that the crown prince of England — if there should be such a thing — has no title to Wales. In either case, the recent fashionable lie that the UK is an equal partnership of willing participants, and that Wales is not a colony of England, is exposed.
If a man gives me a casual back-hand blow, I am advised to turn my face to the side, to challenge him with the other cheek that can only be struck with the fist. The constant humiliation of an equal must be perpetuated either by ignorance, which is now fading in Wales, or by the threat of violence. Wales’s growing awareness of itself must lead to oppression or to liberation. The very sourness and weariness of Rod Liddle’s remarks acknowledges that the old relationship is no longer sustainable.
By private agreement between the Swedish government and the Swedish royal family, the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark, currently named after the water it crosses, is renamed the Charles X bridge, in honour of the Swedish king who invaded Denmark in 1658, and razed its capital, Copenhagen, to the ground. The people of Denmark naturally protest, demanding that the bridge retain its geographical name, or be named after some joint Scandinavian achievement, or after some Swedish figure less insensitive to Danish history.
It later transpires that while the decision to rename the bridge was made entirely in Sweden, the Danish government was ‘informed’ of the change, but decided not to bother complaining. The Danish ambassador to Sweden tells his people that they should ‘respect’ King Charles X, and castigates them for being evil nats. The reason this has not happened, and the debacle over the Severn Bridge is happening as I write, is that Wales still belongs to England, and therefore deserves no better.
By agreement between the Republic of France and the European Union, the Channel Tunnel is renamed in honour of Charles de Gaulle. The people of England understandably object, and a sharp increase in spontaneous human combustion is observed among Daily Mail readers. It transpires that Theresa May was notified of the change while Home Secretary, but didn’t get around to doing anything about it.
The disagreement over the Channel Tunnel is settled to the satisfaction of both sides, at which point the Welsh timidly pipe up, and ask if they get a say in what the Severn Bridge is called. Both sides round on them in a fury, to condemn them as a threat to the stability of Europe, and as small-minded, paranoid and divisive nats.
Pont wreiddiol y Tywysog Cymru ym Mherfeddgoed ger Fangor, gyda sgarthiadau’r tywysog presennol i’w gweld yn y blaen.
The original Prince of Wales Bridge in Perfeddgoed near Bangor, with the droppings of the current prince visible in the foreground.
The problem here is not so much that Lincolnshire, or any other English region, might be offered the same powers that the Celtic nations are offered, although in most cases such comparisons are intended to belittle and sting. The problem is that any power that an English region refuses can, with a facile pretence at fair-mindedness, be refused a Celtic nation also.
27th March: #BrexitMeansNazism. And an activist friend in London informs me that as MPs meet to discuss the significance of the fact that the Leave campaign cheated, an anti-Brexit protester outside is attacked by young men giving Nazi salutes, and violently assaulted.
24th March: Among the thousands of demonstrators who took part in the march against Brexit in Leeds today, I saw just two counter-protesters. One flapped his union jack as we walked past, and muttered something patriotic and rousing, and the other held up a sign as we gathered before the stage, handwritten on part of a cardboard box that a vacuum cleaner had come in.
He heckled the speakers, which we didn’t much mind, but as speaker after speaker came forward, and gave speeches he didn’t understand, but disagreed with anyway, he became more and more physically threatening. During one such confrontation, someone quietly fixed a ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ sticker on the back of his jacket. The last I saw of him, it was still there.
The Leeds Ibis Budget Hotel. Your belt and shoelaces may be confiscated upon arrival.
‘This Williamson... this — how do you say — Gavin Williamson. He is not strong man. He is like man who sleep with other man, because afraid vagina will eat him, or like woman who sing in feminist punk band, because she has not found man. He is from England, no? Very small, very damp, again like vagina... So, this Williamson, I say we ignore him. But if he die in crucifixion accident, or during night-time visit to abandoned sausage factory, send condolences to widow. Dmitri, you know what to do.’
‘Look at the Irish situation with the British. The humiliation of Native Americans, how their language was denigrated. In Africa, of course, we were forbidden to speak our mother tongues. Japan imposed its language on the Koreans. So wherever you look at modern colonialism, the acquisition of the language of the coloniser was based on the death of the languages of the colonised. So [language] is a war zone.’
The Kenyan writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, on colonialism, on writing in one’s national tongue, and how repressive regimes seek to crush the imagination that says there is a better world than the world they rule, in interview with The Nation.
The English, keeping the Welsh language at bay... Like South Africa.
A friend of mine, an anti-Brexit campaigner and socialist in England, remarked on Facebook that it is inconsistent with Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism that he oppose freedom of movement for European workers, and oppose laws designed for their joint protection. I agreed, and added that even though he accedes to the 52% who wish Britain to leave the EU, he ignores the majority in Scotland and Wales who seek greater autonomy within the UK. Within an hour, my English friend had blocked me, apparently for agreeing with her comment. As a Welshman.
I am sensible of the loss. I value my English friends. They give me opportunities to practise my patient sighing.
In my small single room in a cheap hotel near the railway station, the single-serving sachet of instant coffee bears the toothmarks of a previous guest.
The original series of Flash Gordon, starring Buster Keaton in the title role, is touchingly reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Flash Gordon needs a brain, Dale Arden needs a spine, and Dr Zarkov needs a pair of trousers.
14th January: The rally outside the Senedd in support of Brexit yesterday, organised by the People’s Charter with speakers from UKIP, was less than spectacular. A dozen or so people turned up.
This was the rally whose participants were specifically asked to leave their swastikas at home.
I am the author of three short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums: Stories from Denbigh Mental Hospital Told by Leading Welsh Writers, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016. I was a contributor with Nigel Jarrett, Rachel Trezise, Tristan Hughes and others to Brush with Fate, an anthology of Welsh fiction translated by Hala Salah Eldin. I am a member by election of the Welsh Academy.
I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, 2017), and A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017). In addition, I have translated fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros.