The day dawned with an even eariler start, than usual:
I had to have completed all the Ffarm chores – feeding, milking, cleaning, checking, turning out etc etc – to then be on the road by 0845 so that I could pick up Katherine for today’s Wesh language extravaganza – the Sadwrn Siarad, which literally translates Speak Saturday (translating Welsh into English). This intensive tutorial represents excellent value for money as it costs only £5 for the full day’s course. It takes place once per term & today’s course was held at the theatre in Felin Fach which for me is some 45 minutes’ drive from home. I always look forward to the day as I benefit so much from the revision & additional learning skills the intensive course offers. Also, whilst speaking nothing but Welsh for the entire day can be very taxing for a beginner, it is nonetheless extremely helpful for the uninitiated novice!
Our first lesson was a basic revision of the Welsh alphabet, after which we played an amusing sort of ‘Pronunciation Bingo’ which served as a useful linguistic prompt. After morning coffee we learned basic question forms, including the following:
“Beth yw’ch enw chi?” – “Dw’in Jo”. (“What is your name?” – “My name’s Jo”);
“Sut dych chi?” – “Ofnadwy, braidd; ond alla i ddim cwyno!” (“How are you?” – “Pretty awful; but I can’t complain!”);
“Ble dych chi’n byw?” – “Dw i’n byw ar bwys Castell Newydd Emlyn.” (“Where do you live? ” – “I live near Newcastle Emlyn.”);
“Beth yw’ch rhif ffôn chi?” – 01559 3xx xxx.” (“What is your telephone number?” – “dim, un, pump, pump, naw; tri… & complete numerical brainfart.”).
Katherine & I had a ‘picnic’ lunch together; both of us had rustled up some impromptu snack food for the occasion. I’d indulged in a chunk of tasty mature cheddar, juicy hothouse tomatoes, crunchy apples from our orchard, dried mango slices & some ‘al dente’ conchigilie pasta with wild rocket pesto & sweetcorn, dressed with aromatic torn basil tips.
Thus refreshed, we plunged back into classes with a ‘Pa Ddiwrnod?’ (‘Which Day?’)session, to reinforce days of the week (so similar in linguistic terms, to French!) – i.e. what day would you…..
Mynd i’r Capel (go to Church) – Dydd Sul (Sunday);
Golchi Dillad (wash clothes) – Dydd Llun (Monday);
Bwyta Crempogau (eat pancakes) – Dydd Mawrth (Tuesday);
Diwrnod Talu yn y Chwareli a’r Pyllau (pay day in the quarries & mines) – Dydd Mercher (Wednesday);
Diwrnod Pleidlesio (Vote) – Dydd Iau (Thursday);
Bwyta pysgod (eat fish) – Dydd Gwener (Friday);
Gwylio Pêl-droed (watch football) – Dydd Sadwrn (Saturday).
…after which, we had an identification exercise – ‘Nabod yr Arwydd’ (‘Recognize The Sign’), matching numbers to the Welsh words on a number of public information signs. Afternoon tea followed during which Katherine & I enjoyed some networking – she, chatting to a holiday cottage owner about the merits of various industrial washing machines & me, discussing pig prices & the like with fellow smallholders (hello there, Mike – glad you’re enjoying the Blog – & I’m sure you’ll soon be posting comments in Welsh!).
The final exercise of the day was the fascinating challenge of identifying the meanings of place names, & translating them from the (literal) English back into Welsh, marking them on a map of Wales. I’ve always been fascinated by the way in which places are named as the Welsh have such literal – & also incredibly rich & beautiful – descriptions for the environments in which they live & work; far more vibrant & inspirational than we tired old Britons over the border in Lloegr (England). So we started with the village in which our Day School was being held: Felin Fach, meaning ‘Little Mill’ (& I’m sure you recognise ‘Fach‘ from our own, Little Ffarm – unlike English, the adjective appears after the noun; so instead of saying the Little Mill, in Welsh it is the Mill Little). Some more fascinating examples include Pontypridd (‘The Bridge by the Earth House’) & Llanuwchllwyn (‘the Parish above the Lake’). We rounded off the day’s activities with a bit of general sgwrs (conversation) – & were delighted to discover how far we’d linguistically evolved.
Boo & I drove back to Maes Y Derw for a glass of fulsome red wine in the elegant, timeless drawing room; clock quietly ticking & fire softly spitting, before we departed briefly for a swift Saturday shopping spree in CK’s (“local supermarket for ‘local’ people”, as ‘Little Britain’ would say….!).
I then hurried back home for evening chores & to await Tony’s homecoming from Heathrow following his avaition equivalent of the Sadwrn Siarad – a hefty Airbus simulator grilling by his new bmi bosses – in the early hours of the morning. Despite feeling pretty wedi blino (tired) I had to stay awake; not only to watch out for stray fireworks (it’s that time of year again folks, keep your pets etc indoors!) but also because tonight is the annual ‘kamikaze’ event in the locality – that of the 50-year-old tradition of Newcastle Emlyn Night Rallying, during which 80+ cars come whizzing along our normally silent single-track lanes in search of the thrill of getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ in the shortest time & along the most hair-raising route possible. For those of you considering moving to rural Wales, I should advise that wherever you go, you will probably experience this annual phenomenon as it seems pretty common everywhere – so gear up for it!
Whilst it’s never impeded us in the past – the walls of our ancient cottage are so thick that they are virtually impenetrable from naturally elemental or from artificial sonic disturbance – I was especially concerned this year because Tony was wending his weary way homewards at the same time as the rally was taking place.
Very worried indeed, I contacted him at around 11.30pm to advise him that at that point rally cars were roaring through the village at high speed with an average of only 12 seconds between each vehicle. Worried, I watched the many sets of headlights hastening along the lane, periodically lighting up the lone beech tree at the top of the drive & turning the bare branches into a weirdly twisted, skeletal sculpture of white wood; a complex celtic knotwork of living timber. With a guttural roar as they shot round the sharp bend over the little bridge in the bottom of the valley, the vehicles accelerated at speed up the other side of the hill before flying along the narrow lanes to Moelfre & back out onto the main road.
By the time Tony calmly pulled to a halt in Ffarm Fach’s arrivals yard in the early hours of Sunday morning (Bore Dydd Sul – there you go, I’m learning….!) both he & I were ready for a well-deserved night’s sleep. However, when I asked him about the short but scary drive home along the village road this evening, he dismissed with disgust his nearest ‘boy racer’ rally rival: because rather than having to keep his foot on the accelerator to keep up with the professionals, our daring tactical pilot actually had to throttle back from the nearest car before neatly turning into our drive! Then as ever, he considerately negotiated our quiescent, woodland-shrouded lane before collapsing with relieved exhaustion into sweet, silent sleep.
Thank goodness his slumber seems to offer such relief; alas for me, my mind is still racing in top gear like the rally cars speeding past Moelfre – for there is always too much work to do: so much to learn, & with such scant rest for this wicked little farmer.