An edited version of this article was first published in the South Wales Echo on 2nd March 2016. We’ve a regular monthly column, see, and they’re all listed by yer. Those that didn’t get an online outing on WalesOnline we’ll repost on this blog.
Happy St David’s Day for yesterday. I hope you had a lovely day in spite of the Welsh weather.
You know you’re getting on when all of your childhood memories become sun-drenched. Ah, sunny St David’s Day was always a high point in the school calendar, not least because of the half-day. (It should be a national holiday for us all, of course.)
At school I recall the desire to win the Eisteddfod poetry competition and be named the Bard. I never did win – from reading this column you’re probably not the least bit surprised. I remember one year feeling pretty jealous of Huw Wright sitting up on stage on the large wooden bardic chair, especially as I was sure I’d written a spellbinding masterpiece. Later that day I concluded privately that my evocative nom de plume (Snoopy) had done my chances of success few favours.
St David’s Day is a time to celebrate our nationality, but what does it mean to be Welsh? As with any culture, language plays a large role. I’m not just talking about Cymraeg itself here, although that is of course really important. Personally, I am fascinated with accents, pronunciations, and how we misuse English, often to comic effect.
We celebrate our nonsensical expressions, such as ‘I’ll do it now in a minute’, ‘whose coat’s that jacket?’ and saying something’s ‘by there’. I recall a bemused English girl at university once shouting at me: “An object is just ‘there’ – saying it’s ‘next to there’ is ridiculous!” I should have been proud of my fluency in Wenglish instead of blushing with youthful embarrassment (and falling in love with her). Perhaps Cardiff Uni should offer courses in Wenglish….?
As you may know, our Taffywood range of greeting cards and mugs, with their ‘Welshified’ book and film titles, celebrates the fun us Welsh have with language. Our latest one came out just the other day is the Monty Python-inspired Life of Ieuan.
As shining and exciting as this city and our little nation’s futures are, thinking about what makes us who we are invariably leads us to our past. Welshness, or perhaps our vague concept of it, has been forged over centuries in fields, mines and factories, in small communities, churches and working men’s halls. Sometimes part of our Welshness is taken directly from loved ones who’re no longer with us.
Take Welsh cakes, for example (just don’t take mine!). Have I told you before how my great aunty Cerid, who lived in Griffithstown, made the best Welsh cakes ever? No word of a lie. It never crossed my mind as a child that one day this lovely lady would no longer be with us. Had I realised this, I’d have put her to work making and freezing her Welsh cakes by the thousand, day and night, so we’d never run out. It makes me so sad to think I’ll never taste her Welsh cakes again, but God knows I try to sample as many as I can in the ceaseless search of worthy imitations.
I want to bake free
This brings me on to David Le Masurier of Pettigrew Tea fame who yesterday opened new venture Pettigrew Bakeries at 595 Cowbridge Road East. We popped down to the new Victoria Park bakery to lend our support …and snaffle free Welsh cakes. And very good they are too. We wish the new venture the best of luck.
While we’re talking food, the imminent Cardiff restaurant event of the year is happening…in Barrybados, no less. We’re feeling very smug and privileged to be sampling the menu at the Hang Fire Smokehouse’s first honest-to-goodness permanent restaurant at The Pumphouse, Barry tomorrow evening.
Talk about great ambassadors – the hang Fire ladies Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn have taken the UK street food scene by storm, and I’m super excited to visit Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, to see (taste) this latest episode in their ride to star-spangled glory.
Speaking of great independent local businesses, last Thursday we went along to Crafty Devil’s Cellar (actually a smart shop near The Canton pub on Llandaff Road) for the launch of a new beer from Canton microbrewers Crafty Devil.
The aptly titled ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ beer (great Stooges reference, by the way) is not a beer for dogs (I got the wrong the end of the stick, as it were). It’s actually a collaboration between Crafty Devil and Friends of the Dogs Wales to raise money for Cardiff Dogs Home. Crafty Devil co-founders Adam Edinborough and Rhys Watkins have created “a perfect hair of the dog beer”, they say. It’s a full-flavoured, hoppy American pale ale – I sunk two and bought a box to take away.
The beer is the brainchild of Peter Wilks, a committed volunteer with Friends of the Dogs Wales since getting his own dog from Cardiff Dogs Home some three years ago. Friends of the Dogs Wales works to raise money, improve facilities and promote responsible dog ownership.
It can be a hectic place, Cardiff Dogs Home, but almost as busy is the impressive Friends Of The Dogs Wales website (friendsofthedogs.org.uk), where you can see the 33 dogs currently waiting to be rehomed in Cardiff, as well as see photos and read comments from enthusiastic walkers who’ve spent time with each dog.
There are 1,037 registered dog walkers, and a new walkers’ induction takes place on the last Sunday of every month. Last weekend more than 30 people went along.
Hoi-Ping Weeks is one of the Friends’ latest volunteer walkers. She took Lady C for a walk in Cardiff Bay on Monday. It was Hoi-Ping’s first ever dog walk. “I wasn’t allowed a dog growing up, but have always wanted one,” she explains. “This allows me to spend time with dogs, whilst giving dogs that may have been neglected or rejected some love and attention in return. As the Dogs Home is Council-run money can be in short supply, so the time volunteers devote to dog walking is valuable.”
To become a member of Friends of the Dogs Wales costs just £5. (“What do you get as a member?” asks its website. “A nice warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy!”) I’ve joined, and I think that’s the reason I have this feeling in my stomach – but then, I did eat A LOT of Welsh cakes yesterday.