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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 17-Mar-13


Sunday 17-March-13

Being Welsh

Yesterday, after years of shouting at the TV, I went to my first rugby international. And what a fixture! In the European Six Nations tournament, Wales had lost only one game and England had won everything. But then it was set in Wales, in the massive Millennium Stadium, where countless thousands of Welsh voices would rise in song and joy, vigorously exhorting their red-clad champions to greater heights of Spartan prowess.

It was a proxy for an old, old battle. The English, led by the rampant Normans, annexed Wales in 1282, and we're still a bit unhappy about it. They declared Wales a principality, a mere plaything for a young Prince and continue the tradition to this day.

They have managed to annoy many other countries, but our beef is the oldest. It is something the English don't really understand, an attitude typified by their bafflement over the Welsh language and why anyone would want to speak it. Everyone speaks English, don't they? In fact an English person in Wales, hearing Welsh spoken may well feel rather alienated and perhaps affronted by a 'foreign language' being used in their own country. For in truth, the 'United Kingdom' is very England-centric.

This typifies a major aspect of what it is to be Welsh. The English these days are not unpleasant or unkind. They just know themselves to be naturally superior and so unconsciously look down on the Welsh as a handy foil to prove this. The Welsh are seldom militant about this, even though it rankles. But living in the shadow of a dominant neighbour is an important part of being Welsh.

Being Welsh also means loving the hills, beaches and open countryside. Life is a bit slower here though we know well the meaning of hard work (and working for English managers). We have a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour and have a deep love of music and poetry that goes back way before the Normans. We are social and passionate and enjoy a good argument, though we don't hold a grudge. This is important with respect to the English as it lets us live together without bitterness. While their unconscious arrogance could erode our confidence, it does not. Mostly, we don't mind them and get along fine. We just like to beat them in competition whenever possible, so we can feel a bit like David smiting Goliath.

So the rugby was loud and glorious. We bawled and sang as our champions tilted at the English favourites. And glory of glories, we not only beat the old enemy, we annihilated them. 30-3. I'll say it again, because it's hard to believe: 30-3. I expected a close match and feared defeat. And in the words of the BBC headline, to 'trounce' the invaders was indeed a truly historic victory. I yelled and cried and came out hoarse and deaf. Cardiff was teeming with revellers and the English, good for them, were magnanimous in defeat.

A chap next to me said 'It was better than the 70s', a time when Wales were hugely dominant. There's an old Max Boyce piece about Wales beating the almighty All Blacks back then. Now, in Max's words, I can say it.

I was there.

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