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Shadowlands & Reflections

I wrote this a while ago as a sort of joke 2012 retrospective piece, and initially wasn’t going to post it on here at all. However, in the wake of the popularity of my previous post wherein I visited the location of a BBC adaptation of a classic novel, it seems more appropriate. Forget country houses and nineteenth-century romances and read on if you fancy a trip to Narnia by way of the Great British countryside…

Wrapping myself more tightly in my inadequate layers I attempt to minimise the possible gaps in my clothing through which the wind can creep, and peer over the ship’s railings to see if I can catch a better glimpse of our destination. Cee is standing a little ahead of me on deck keeping a weather eye on the horizon. The first hint that there was something other than sea out there appeared about an hour into the voyage, a smudge on the border between sea and sky that disappeared almost as soon as it had arrived, leaving us in doubt as to whether it had been visible at all. Continue reading

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¿Croeso i Patagonia?

It is a strange thing that the Welsh language sounds so utterly alien to an English listener, despite the fact that its country of origin is part of the same geographical landmass as our own. Spanish, however, though not quite comprehensible, retains that Latin resonance so near to familiarity that despite not knowing more than ten words of it I almost feel I would be able to get the gist if it were written down. This is what struck me most during the opening scene of Marc Evans’ 2010 film Patagonia, which opens with an extract from an Argentinian text written in Spanish, voiced-over in Welsh, subtitled in English. I felt a little at odds with myself and my assumptions of British identity: how is it possible to feel so linguistically disconnected to a place with which I ought to feel some sort of association, being so geographically, politically and culturally close; whilst I feel I can identify more with a language of a place about which I know so little, have never been to and with which I have no such cultural connection? The English word welsh actually derives from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘foreign language’. For a non-Welsh speaker/reader it’s easy to see why: at one point in the film an Argentinian character visiting Wales for the first time looks up from a local map to proclaim: This place has got six L’s in it! Must be a spelling mistake. 

Of course the Welsh identity is much more definable than general British or specifically English, not least because of the language: in parts of Wales over seventy percent of the population speak Welsh as a first language after a dramatic rise in its usage during the latter part of the twentieth century. It was partly because of the importance of the retention of this language to maintaining a sense of a Welshness that the Welsh colony of Y Wladfa in Patagonia, the pivotal location of the film, came into existence. Continue reading