By Christian Amodeo, who runs award winning, cult Cardiff and Wales-celebrating brand, I Loves The ‘Diff (ilovesthediff.com)
As it happens, on the table in front of me sits a near empty 1.5L bottle of Brecon Carreg sparkling water. I’m not drinking from it specifically to get in the mood for writing this guest blog article – though it can’t do any harm – and neither, it should be noted, have the nice people at Brecon Carreg sent it to me (the year’s supply comes later, I assume). No, it’s quite fitting that I have the honour of writing for Brecon Carreg now because having recently donated a kidney, my New Year’s resolution echoed doctors’ orders to drink more water. And as a keen surfer of the zeitgeist, I was interested to see that the NHS in Wales has just launched a Water Keeps You Well campaign, extolling the virtues of staying hydrated.
Quench Your Thirst Day (Thursday 10th March) notwithstanding, the most important day of this month here in Wales is of course 12th March when we play England in the Six Nations rugby. Only joking, it’s the first of the month; St David’s Day. A special date in the calendar for all Welsh people, the feast day for the patron saint of Wales is for some of us – especially those asked to write about it – an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be Welsh.
Now, I’m the opposite of a purist – bloodline-wise we’re a motley crew in Britain, and as a half Sicilian Welshman far be it from me to start suggesting what qualifies someone as Welsh. I’d argue that if you feel Welsh and you well up at the national anthem being sung in the national stadium then that’s good enough; you’re in the clwb.
I’m yet to meet a Welsh person who isn’t proud of their nationality or heritage, yet how many of us have ever stopped to question why it is the case? What are we proud of exactly?
For starters, I’m proud of my city, and of the land of Wales. This happy, green land of hills and mountains, stunning beaches, and beautiful sheep-speckled scenery is something we can all take pride in. My second New Year’s resolution was to get to know it better – to get off the beaten track more often; to leave the city in order to explore more of the West Wales coastline and more of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons.
But what makes the people of Wales Welsh? Some elements of Welshness are easy to identify. As with any culture, language plays a large role – not just Welsh (or Cymraeg), but also how the Welsh use (or abuse) the English language. In these parts at least, not only your lovely accent but your pronunciation of certain English words – tooth (tuth), forward (fo-ward), ear (year) – identify you as a local.
Last week I was chatting to a young lady from Llanelli who was boasting about the ability of Llanellians to incree-ess and maximi-ez the number of vowels in any given sentence. I think it’s lover-lee, the Welsh accent, I do.
We have nonsensical sayings too (‘I’ll do it now in a minute’, and ‘by there’ instead of just ‘there’), which combined with a sprinkling of Welsh words (cwtch, bach, dew dew) is what we refer to as the hybrid, Wenglish.
My Taffywood range of greeting cards and mugs celebrates the fun we Welsh have with language, and the ‘Welshified’ book and film titles of the range tickle many a bone because as a nation we definitely like a good ‘laff’.
For me, Welshness carries with it many quality traits that have been forged over centuries in steelworks and mines, and in Baptist churches and working men’s halls, on rain-beaten mountains, and through what we who have it so easy in 21st century Wales might call ‘tougher times’.
(And if this list doesn’t make you proud to be Welsh, I’m not sure what will…) We’ve inherited and we remain conduits of a pride, a passion, a down-to-earth friendliness, a burning sense of social justice, and a cracking sense of humour. I would add ‘a love of the odd drink’ and ‘a hearty appetite for Welsh cakes’ to that list, too. I always thought these things ran in the blood. Who knows, perhaps there’s something in the water.
To be in with a chance of winning an I Loves The Diff mug, check out our competition on Facebook which ends on Thursday 3 March 2016.