Ever since joining ABC Wednesday I'd always planned W to be something to do with Wiltshire as it's where I live. However, last week's last minute holiday to an even bigger W, put paid to all of that. We may have only travelled a couple of hundred miles, but Wales certainly feels like being in a different country. The fact that around 40% of the population are native Welsh speakers plays a major part and we were staying and travelling around stronghold Welsh speaking communities in North Wales so got to hear it most of the time. The radios playing in shops are tuned to Welsh speaking stations, TV's Channel 4 shows the Welsh version and the word on the street is in it. In fact I was so entranced by the sound I even followed (surreptitiously I hasten to add) a young father and his toddler girl around Woolworths in Porthmadog just to hear them, in spite of having absolutely no idea of what they were actually talking about - probably something along the lines of 'Mind that mad woman following us Myffanwy - choose your toy and let's go and find mummy'.
Welsh is a living Celtic language (this also includes Cornish, Manx, Scots Gaelic, Irish and Breton - some extinct, others living) and is the most widely spoken of its type today as well as being Britain's oldest language. Whilst it's been repressed in the past, usage is increasing now thanks to its inclusion in the National Curriculum for Welsh schools plus the use of bilingual signage such as that shown in the above picture. As you can see it's totally different to English. For a start it has 7 vowels, instead of 5 as W and Y are included - that would make Countdown a bit more difficult to play eh? Also a number of double letters are counted as a single consonant - ch, dd, ff, ng, ll, ph, rh and th. Remember these will be fitted into single squares when completing a Welsh crossword! To counteract this explosion of consonants, there's no k, q, v or z.
NAH and I have had a lot of fun with a simple Welsh dictionary on holiday - deciphering place names, everyday words etc. So we know Llanegryn where we were staying means 'Church of' (Llan) and possibly Egryn as a saint's name. Nearby Tywyn translates as a 'sandy plain near a seashore'. We've also been continuing our definitive guide to Bara Brith (= speckled/ mottled bread) whilst we've been away. This is a delicious, gooey tea bread and the station tearoom at Llanfair got the 'best of vote' this time around. NB this was not the famous Llanfair PG - Britain's longest place name (do click on the link to see the full name in its full mind blowing glory, you'll see why I didn't attempt to type it!), but a more modest community we passed through in mid Wales on the way home.
North Wales isn't the only Welsh speaking stronghold, parts of South Glamorgan in the south are too, particularly the former mining villages of the Rhondda. My uncle Sid was a miner from this area and I have clear memories of him teaching me to swear in Welsh when we used to visit him and aunty Violet for summer holidays on the Gower as a child. Unfortunately this skill hasn't followed me into adulthood.
For other W posts for today, see Mrs Nesbitt.