Hay on Wye
Wales does draw many people in and I was delighted when my oldest friend also made a permanent move to this wonderful country. We met when we were seven years old and haven’t been able to get away from each other since!
With busy lives, and living about a 3 hour drive apart, we don’t always get the opportunity to meet up as often as we would like but a few weeks ago we spent a glorious day in Hay on Wye. I must say that book or antique enthusiasts could spends days (and a lot of money if so inclined!) in this picturesque town.
Hay is pretty much equidistant from where we both live and I can’t imagine why we have never thought to meet there before. We are both voracious readers (not that we agree on the same reading matter that is) and my friend is a published poet so the thought of spending a day browsing book shops filled us both with glee. We were not disappointed.
After a quick perusal of the craft centre by the main car park, and with me feeling a bit smug after purchasing some Christmas presents, we made our way down through the maze of streets to The Poetry Bookshop. I don’t pretend to understand or know a lot about poetry but while my friend made agonising decisions on which books she just absolutely had to have I lost myself in a world of medieval ballads. The romance of the language is beautiful with such a mesmerising rhythm.
With tummies rumbling, we just peeked through windows of some of the other fascinating bookshops on the way back up to find some lunch. The outrageously decorated shop Murder and Mayhem, dedicated to horror and crime fiction, and Rose’s Books, specialising in rare and out-of–print books we decided would have to wait for another visit to the town as we didn’t want to rush.
After a lovely simple lunch at Oscars Bistro (with absolutely scrumptious cakes) we headed to the antiques market in the centre of the town. Made up of 2 floors of little rooms, filled to the brim with eclectic collections of items for sale this was another great opportunity for present buying and for marvelling at the tastes and fashions of past generations. We did resist the temptation of trying on the most wonderful assortment of 60s hats but the rail of coats did capture my attention for quite a while!
A few more bookshops and we ended back up at the castle. Even here in the gardens there are outdoor covered shelves with a completely random selection of books (50p paperback, £1 hardback – contribution to be put in the box in the wall) and we had a real giggle at the titles on offer. The view from the castle over the town to the countryside beyond is stunning and I’m afraid my photography skills don’t really do it justice. My excuse is that it was so sunny I couldn’t really see what I was taking a picture of.
I would recommend a visit to Hay-on-Wye without hesitation. Who else love this part of Wales? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
The Welsh Language
The Welsh language is beautiful, whether spoken in the rounded lilt of the south or the more staccato rhythm of the north, and I had every intention of learning to speak it as soon as I could after my move to Wales. I had visions of me speaking fluently to my new Welsh friends within months. I had the tapes (showing my age here!) and accompanying books but unfortunately things didn’t go quite as planned and I am still working on it!
I mastered ‘Bore da’ (good morning), ‘Prynhawn da’ (good afternoon), ‘Nos da’ (good night) and ‘Diolch’ and ‘Dim Diolch’ (thank you and no thank you) quickly and thought how well it was going. However, we then came to the traditional Welsh word for please – Os gwelwch yn dda. The pronunciation (oss gway-looKH un tha) took me a while to get the hang of, but it did make for a good introduction to the Welsh alphabet.
There are 29 letters in the Welsh alphabet. The 5 English letters not included are K, Q, V, X and Z and there are 8 double letter combinations to be added which are used as single letters in Welsh: CH, DD, FF, NG, LL, PH, RH and TH. The majority of them can have their pronunciation fairly easily explained phonetically and if anyone does want to know how, give me a shout.
The letter ‘LL’ is more difficult. The best description I have come across that worked for me was to place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth by your top front teeth then make a short, sharp breath. Are you all trying it?? The resulting noise should give you a good idea of the letter sound. It worked for me and certainly helps when it comes to pronouncing place names confidently. Does anyway else have a better way?
Whereas I may not still be fluent in Welsh I have picked up a lot of words and phrases that I had not come across before living here. My absolute favourite has to be the word ‘cwtch’, usually used in reference to a warm hug and in place of the word cuddle. There is no literal English translation but ‘safe place’ is probably the nearest equivalent phrase. I think this is the most lovely thought – that when you give someone a cwtch you are providing a safe place for them to be.
My whole family now use ‘cwtch’ – especially after the incident where a family member was most offended when she asked my then 2 year old daughter for a cuddle and was rewarded by a blank look and then the view of her wandering off!
What are your favourite Welsh words or colloquialisms? Is there a particular phrase you think sounds more evocative in Welsh than English? I’d love to know your thoughts!