Hiraeth

Wikipedia will tell you that the Welsh word Hiraeth has no direct translation, but that the University of Wales, Lampeter (that’s right, the best Uni in the world) attempts to define it as “a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, and the earnest desire for the Wales of the past”. I’m not sure that, as a non-Welsh girl, I’m allowed to claim to feel this, but I will claim it nonetheless. Maybe it’s the childhood holidays I spent in Wales, with English grandparents, but Welsh cousins. We’d stay up ‘late’ at night, playing Red Indians (we were non-PC back then) and creating Pagan rituals to the moon. This was, I’m sure, an invention of my beautiful cousin’s – she has always been so very creative, so very romantic… so very Welsh!
Maybe it was the years I spent living there through University. I had never felt so entirely comfortable with any group of people, so utterly accepted. There was something beautiful and very special about living in such a small space, being known by almost everyone you passed. Even now, I know it annoys the Husband and the other ‘spouses’ when we all get together and all we can talk about are the glory days of our student youth. I think it’s unusual how many of us are still in touch, but that might just be what happens when you’re thrown so viciously into such a tiny and incestuous group. I count many of these people as family, even if – when I meet them for drinks these days – I can’t actually remember what it is that they do for a living.
Or maybe it’s that there really is just something magical about Wales.

I spent the last week in Wales. First, staying with Mummy Wordman in her haunted house in Llangollen. I’m always disappointed when I don’t see ghosts. I’m a true believer (I subscribe to the Fortean Times for Gawd’s sake) and yet they don’t come visit me. I can only assume this is because they don’t, in fact, exist. Which didn’t stop me from being freaked out when, after a fairly sleepless night, I asked Wordman and Bee if there were ghosts in the house and they just looked at each other and said “Do you really want to know?”. I had to drink an awful lot of wine to get the courage up to go and sleep alone in a room that has two doors (Where does the other one go? I’m told it’s just a cupboard, but I’m not so sure).

Cherry Tree. Imagine being able to leave your house and walk mere metres before you find yourself on a mountain. Wake up in the morning and hear nothing but the birds and the breeze in the trees. Make tea by the Aga, collect the coal from the shed, sit by a roaring fire all day. This is a life I dream of. I nearly moved in permanently. There is a kind of poetry around mountains, it gets in your lungs.

[I want to write about the Little Man who makes me smile so. How we played NeeNaws in the cushions, how he learned to say my name and melted my heart, how he dragged me round the house with a hose putting out fires, how he giggled as I turned him upside down, how tickly his tummy is, how much I love him. But he makes me gushing and silly, so I won’t.]

After Llan, we travelled back to Ponty for Wordman’s birthday. It seems to have become a tradition; the same people watching the rugby on his birthday. Maybe it was a tradition before I knew him again and got invited. Last year, Cardiff were playing away, so I was totally unprepared for Cardiff on a Match Day. The sheer number of people was dizzying, even for a Londoner like me. Everywhere you looked there were people in their Rugby shirts, the pubs were rammed, you could get your face painted on the streets. Noise, excitement, laughter… and none of the worry that at some point someone will get stabbed. It was a Wales / Ireland game. The only time I’ve ever seen two opposing teams so happily drinking (and singing!) together.
We watched the match in the Rugby club next to the Stadium, so that we could hear the roars. I wore a borrowed Lions shirt, and tried not to speak too loudly in my English accent. Later, I was amazed to find myself being dragged away from talking to men in a club. “It wasn’t like that!” I protested, “we were talking about the problems that arise from teaching Religion in such a multicultural environment as London, or whether the early-nineties really were a fashion minefield – he wasn’t chatting me up!”. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that this is the way Welsh men chat you up. It is a big step up from “Oi! Wanna snog?!” – which is all I remember from my brief single years in London. (but easier to avoid, if you are – like I am – happily married!). Even I, though, recognised that being hoisted over the shoulders of a gentleman who then called for a taxi, was probably a pick-up. But, then, I deserved it for telling him how much I liked Gingers… And even he was smiling.

[Note to the Husband: None of them was as lovely as you, I promise]

People talk to you in Wales. They smile and greet you as you walk past them on country roads. The women in cafes call you ‘love’ or ‘bach’ (which always reminds me of the Best Friend – who so loved hearing it). People stop in the street to catch up, because they all know each other. Everywhere there is laughter and song and history.

They voted Yes. I think it was a good thing.

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