Reasons to Love Wales, Part Two

So, if we humans gossip to decide what is and isn’t culturally acceptable – what would the gossip be.. about me? Oh shit. Because you never think that way around. Unless it’s mixed with a shovel of shame. I can hear it now. ‘Is she that big-mouthed American-sounding woman who lives in Borth and home schools her kids? She used to dress nicer. And be skinnier.’ Gossip has just found me and knocked me on my face. Where I belong.

I do think a lot about identity. Perhaps because mine is historically so mixed up. Like a tree that has sprouted too many branches. Genetically I’m a mongrel. Father British and mother Polish, but lived in the States for my formative years. We went to live there so my parents could be on neutral ground together.. that doesn’t sound promising does it? Indeed it wasn’t. Back to the UK when I was fourteen but with just one parent. The one who wasn’t even British. Ok, she has a British passport but really? She can’t even say mayonnaise properly. So, with my beautiful, mayonnaise mis-pronouncing mother I spent my teenage years without a handle on who I was.

Perhaps now you’d have called it Borderline Personality Disorder. All I know was mine was a fragile stability with a traumatised family, no friends who knew me for any length of time, no environment that didn’t feel like a broken compromise. Looking back now, I think I was lucky to have survived. And this isn’t to rubbish the people who were around me at the time. I was a pretty shitty friend to them. Here comes my heaped shovel of shame.

Where we we again? Oh yeah. I’m a shitty blog writer too. Well, my hubby Jack isn’t the most social person. Unless it’s on his terms. When it comes to spending a Sunday afternoon with anyone else than me and his kids, his own company will do very nicely thank you. But there is one family we know who breaks this Sunday rule. And on this matter we come again to identity. And another reason I love living in Wales.

‘It’s no good being self-congratulatory living here,’ Jack said, as we drove home from said friends’ house last weekend. ‘People don’t like it.’

I frowned into the rural darkness. ‘They don’t?’ I’d lived in Wales for ten years without ever quite noticing that no-one liked a show-off.

He nodded. ‘That’s a big difference between being in England and being in Wales. In order to get along within this community, people don’t appreciate it if you stand out. ‘

Right. That is old school. It’s like Celtic communism. How does Jack know this about Wales? Number one: he went to the Welsh-speaking secondary school in our town despite not being a Welsh-speaker.. owww… I wince every time at this hardcore fact. Hardcore because not understanding curriculum content through the medium of Welsh was considered synonymous with being cognitively challenged. Jack spent his whole school experience in the slow-learner’s class.

Number two: he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of everyone around here. It’s proper local freaky. And he gained it primarily by osmosis. Along with his social ambivalence, he’s no gossip (unlike his big-mouthed American-sounding wife). He simply lived here.

Best example ever. Last week a friend of Lulu’s came round. Her friend brought another friend with her who, it turns out, lives really close to us. In fact, we can see part of her house from over our fence. I’d never met this kid before and marvelled over meeting our neighbour. What I didn’t expect was a whole run-down of our neighbours’ lives. Plus their family connections. I shook my head at my husband. We’ve lived in our bungalow for eight years and he’d never said a word? About any of it? All I’d ever known was that this house had a trampoline.

He shrugged at me. ‘What do you expect? I went to school with both of them. She was in the same class as me.’

‘She didn’t speak Welsh either?’

His face brightened. ‘Everyone spoke better Welsh than me.’



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