The clouds were moving so fast this morning. Streaking across the sky over the hills as if running to catch a bus. Dark grey over light grey; Wales at its grey October finest. Why do I live here I found myself wondering? Since I’m not Welsh. And none of my blood family live here.
Well, here’s one reason. Humour. It’s a pre-requisite. You laugh at the sheep-covered landscape, at the weather, at yourself. Humour is used here as a defence mechanism. Why’s that you ask? Duh! I can tell you’re not local. Because of the pervasive feeling of being attacked of course. That in these emerald valleys, invasion could happen again at any moment. Even the shorn green grass with sheep teethmarks is a constant masticating threat. Invasion in Wales having got down to the level of a single blade of grass. Oh yeah. Edward I has had that kind of lasting effect. And that was in the 1200’s, bitches.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a bit of martyrdom. It’s the Polish in me. But here’s the crazy thing. Despite the fact that Poland was invaded and attacked so much more recently than Wales, Poland feels so much more modern. Wales just feels ancient. In these rural parts especially, almost every house, every chapel, every craggy nook feels a thousand years old. Lichen older than your great-grandma. Poland is downright progressive in comparison. The Polish countryside is booming with new-builds, fancy two/three story houses, money fresh from strawberry picking/hotel cleaning/every-single-job-British-people-don’t-want-to-do.
And Wales? Well, it’s the mix of the good and the bad that I can’t resist. Poland just doesn’t have the same mix of pathos and humour. Sure, it’s plenty self-deprecating but Polish culture is brushed with a religious earnestness that’s too close to hypocrisy for me. Look, I’m not trying to be right-on here.. I only really noticed it when my mother brought it up.. and she is fully Polish. So there. See her if you have a problem. I wouldn’t recommend it though. She doesn’t have a lot of room in her little, detached house in Isleworth for prisoners. PS. Did I tell you it was detached?
But not everything is completely hunky-dory in Wales at the moment. Here’s the thing. Quest, our boat and sailing purveyor of the Ormerod family identity is still in Trinidad. We, on the other hand, aren’t. Doh! Here’s the reason; in order to balance the amazing opportunity to visit the world from the comfort of sleeping on your own bed and sitting on your own sea-toilet to having a community of friends and regular activities (read: dance class), we came home. That’s ok. Jack’s property business is super glad he’s home (‘Hi Daddy!’) and the girls are happy to see their same friends from the time they were just outta nappies. Because those nappy-wearing friends are the ones that really matter to them. And our family. Jack’s family (minus Grandpa) and trips to London to see my family. Even to Poland for that mixture of happiness and unavoidable discomfort. Go figure.
Since we’ve come back for a while, we’ve discovered that austerity doesn’t just sound like a Victorian name. Meet Regina and Austerity. Such nice girls. Well, it turns out that Austerity has come to stay in our town.
The result? We used to have a good secondary school. Now, in just a few years, our English-speaking secondary school in Aberystwyth turned from being a solid comprehensive to performing so poorly, it’s currently a step away from special measures. But is this a surprise? The school’s funding dropped by a quarter of a million pounds last year. This means the Council now allocates it £600 LESS per pupil than any other school in the county. Thanks Austerity.
Hold on.. what’s that, you say? Why don’t you just send the kids to a private school? Ok, that’s funny. You really aren’t local. See, there are no private schools in these parts. So unless they go away to boarding school.. It wasn’t a bad thing either I thought; kids were together in the classroom regardless of income or ability. Until the school lost its income that is. Oh dear. Thanks austerity. Don’t forget your buttoned-up Victorian coat on your way out.