It may seem a curiously peculiar thing to say, but for a nation that sits geographically and culturally so close to our own, Wales can often, even on a clear day, appear to nestle so uneasily far away.
Taking a stroll through Edinburgh on any given day, you are quite likely to stumble upon a variety of accents from across the globe. American, Spanish, English, Irish, Australian… But, unless you are particularly fortunate or happen to plod through town on the day of a Scotland Vs Wales Six Nations match, then the chances of you coming across someone from the land of song is relatively slim.
Of course, there are all kinds of reasons for this. How many Scots are you likely to overhear on your average day in Cardiff?
Wales is a proud and great nation that has given the world so much. We all know the odd thing or two, here and there. Tom Jones, Dylan Thomas, daffodils…You know the kind of things we mean. But there is so much more here to delve into. So many more riches to recognise and admire.
And so, as St David’s Day approaches, we here at Belvoir would like to take a moment to recognise our Celtic cousins – in Edinburgh, Wales and across the world – with these 5 things you should know about Wales and the Welsh.
St David’s Day: It may not be as fashionable or as commercial as the likes of St Patrick’s Day, but the patron saint of St David is celebrated across Wales every year of the 1st March. It is not, to some disgruntlement, viewed as a public holiday, but there are many parades, choral recital and literature readings, amongst other things, held across the land to mark the occasion. Never shy (much like the Scots) to display a little bit of patriotism, the Welsh flags can be seen on full display, daffodils pinned to every lapel and many a kitchen perfumed by the delicious traditional meat and vegetable soup, Cawl.
Who was this St David? Well, little is known of his actual life. What documents there is appeared some 500 years after his death and so it is hard to confirm what is true and what is not. He is said to have lived to over 100 and performed many miracles, becoming recognised as a Saint during the Welsh resistance to the Normans. It is believed that he died on 1st March, 589 AD and that his remains were buried in St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire. “Do the little things”, a phrase from his final sermon, has becoming a popular saying in Wales.
The Language: If you have ever been fortunate to travel to Wales, you will have no doubt noticed that all road signs are written in both English and in Welsh. This is because Wales is a proudly bilingual country. Welsh, or Cymraeg as it is known by the locals, is famous for being difficult for everyone else to get their tongues around, though it does bare a loose resemblance, sonically, to other Celtic languages, such as Scots Gaelic. One of the oldest living languages in Europe, Welsh has struggled to survive in the modern world. Until 1850, it was spoken by around 90% of the population, but now thought be more like 29%. However, a target has been set to double that number by 2050.
Natural Beauty: If you enjoy long walks, wildlife watching and water sports, then it would be difficult to find better places in the UK than those found in Wales. From Snowdonia National Park to the sprawling and stunning Pembrokeshire Coast, the country is a dream for those who like to live their lives in the great outdoors. Wales has 5 AONBs (Areas Of Natural Beauty) which are protected by law. These areas include Anglesey AONB, Clwydian Range & Dean Valley AONB, Gower AONB, Llyn AONB and Wye Valley AONB. But the eye candy does not end there. Rolling hills, long beaches and crystal clean rivers can be found all over this ancient, rugged landscape. Wales certainly has it all to offer.
The Arts: Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Christian Bale, Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Duffy, Catherine Zeta – Jones, Ivor Novello, Paul Whitehouse, Super Furry Animals, Catatonia, Funeral For A Friend, Bertrand Russell, Roald Dahl, Richard Llewellyn, Philip Jones Griffiths, R S Thomas….And that is just a tiny snippet from the 20TH/21S Century. Not bad for a country with a population currently around 3 million (it’s highest ever).
Sports: It would be completely wrong of us to not bring up the fact that Wales has a pretty darn good rugby team. Much like New Zealand, Rugby is not just a sport that is played for fun at the weekend or at a lunchtime break at school, but a key component in the nation’s cultural identity. The National team has had great success over the past 15 years, winning 5 Six Nations titles and winning 14 consecutive matches between March 2018 and March 2019. The national team also became number one in the World Rugby Rankings for the first time ever in August 2019. Though most renowned for their rugby, Wales has also produced a plethora of sport stars from other fields, such as Gareth Bale, Ryan Giggs, Colin Jackson, Joe Calzaghe, Iwan Thomas. Nicole Cooke, Lynn Davies and Ian Rush.
Wales is a remarkable country of remarkable people. And so, we at Belvoir wish all of you of Cymru a fantastic St David’s Day. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, we wear a daffodil for you.
Hapus Dydd Gwyl Dewi (Happy St David’s Day).
Cymru am byth (Wales Forever).