Not being British, I never understood the obvious animosity between the English and Welshmen.
Over the past two years or so, I have read so many WWII histories, autobiographies and documentaries that played out between London and Somerset, also Cornwall. One such recent re-read was Londonised Scottsman Robbie McMillan aka Coltrane taking Britain’s B-roads in an old Jaguar. He circumnavigated Wales with almost surgical precision.
Or the hapless Pete McCarthy, an Irishmen with an acquired London accent. His error was visiting a Cardiff pierside pub. He laboriously described his passage through Wales as an ordeal fit for martyrs. It seems that he escaped being lynched or impaled – by a scary thin margin.The ready posse seemed willing.
Some Welshmen educated us in their deep disapproval of Englishfolk. “We don’t like the English,” they whispered.
As a South African, my nation tend to be pro-Welsh. We aren’t even embarrased when Welshmen skin fifteen-odd Springboks at Cardiff. But if we lose against fifteen Roses, we don mourning bands and grieve for months. And bury our heads in shame! Hehehehe.
In so many autobiographies that described lives from Plymouth to Penzance or even the Scillies, from Foye to Worcestershire, folks may mention Wales in the passing. Some will say that Wales is “just across the brook’ or “just over the hills over yonder.” They might tell the reader about a forthcoming rugby game in Wales, to happen within a fortnight.
Just don’t expect them to admit to actually visiting there and telling about it. They simply don’t elaborate. Denial is an easy way out.
I Googled this animosity and discovered the lenghty history of war upon war right up to the 1800’s. I understood. As an Afrikaner, aka Boer, my own tribe still is a bit sore about Milner & Kitchener raping our country, concentration camps for womenfolk, children and the frail elderly, a scorched earth maybe. Livestock genocide in most brutal ways imaginable.
My own parents taught my children to distrust the English, not to forgive them and preferrably to hate them.
It took special effort and focus to sanitise young minds. What would be the point of embittering sweet innocence?
I saw no need for such animosity as even my late grandparents were too young to remember much. One can forgive and let things be. Really.
However, the ferry terminal is no place for a queen’s accent to show bravery by ordering a pint at Cardiff’s dockside. An Irishman with a fake accent apparently can risk losing his life!
I did visit England, sadly not Wales. Cambridge, the Cliveden, black rivers and narrow boats, people minding the gap and another war, to slay drooling cattle and sheep with snotty noses is what I had encountered.
If Milner & Kitchener’s 450,000 men shot so enthusiastically, it wouldn’t have taken them three years to subdue eighteen thousand men, many of them boys with no beard yet. But let’s not start another war now! Let peace prevail.
I must say, the British resilience during WWII remains exemplary. But I prefer the kinder England and the Darling Buds of May.
And traveling the United Kingdom along B-roads has been on my bucket list well before reading Robbie’s.