Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Friday, October 08, 2004
Some Welsh Nots. I would like to make a couple of petty-minded, carping, negative quibbles about some things people say in this Guardian special report about the wonderfulness of the Welsh Assembly while totally ignoring the important points it makes. Why? 'Cos I'm a blogger, that's why.
..."It has been an effective assembly," counters Morgan. "Since Labour came to power in 1999, unemployment, which was much higher in Wales than the UK, is now lower. Infant mortality rates are lower, GCSE A to C grades are higher. These simple facts show the assembly has been worthwhile."
Well it could be Labour rather than the assembly that caused any or all of these improvements. Or Bush's presidency. Or sunspots. Or the closing of one gyre and the opening of another.
"I think things have moved on in the past few years and now a lot of the Cool Cymru ethos is about pride in the assembly," says Janet Ryder, a Plaid Cymru assembly member for North Wales. "There's a real sense that we can stand on our own two feet. I don't think you'd find any people in Wales now who would want the assembly to be scrapped.
What, no one at all? Get out more. I have no strong opinion either way, but I've met undeniably Welsh people who say it's a black hole for taxpayers' money.
The threat to Welsh isn't quite so brutal as it was in the 19th century, when speaking Welsh was regarded as offensive by Anglocentric educators. "In the days of the "Welsh Not" in the 19th century," says Huw's friend Elaine, "if I said something in Welsh at school, the teacher would put a piece of string with a board around my neck with the legend "Welsh Not". If Eifion then said something to me in Welsh, the board would be hung around his neck. Then if Elaine said something in Welsh to me at playtime, it would be hung around her neck. At the end of the day, the one with the Welsh Not would have their hand spanked."
One little point you will rarely if ever see mentioned in accounts of the Welsh Not - but will hear from talking to old people who remember their parents telling them about it - is that this procedure was supported by nearly all the parents of the pupils involved. They saw the English language as the key to prosperity and Welsh as confining its speakers to low status. It may be regrettable that they had this perception, even more regrettable that they were rational to have it, and still more regrettable (though typical for the times) that they were willing to use such harsh methods to mould their children in the desired direction, but have it they did. You can hear the last echoes of this attitude in the opening pages of Alan Garner's The Owl Service where Gwyn's mother says, "You know I won't have you speaking Welsh. I've not struggled all these years in Aber to have you talk like a labourer. I could have stayed in the valley if I'd wanted that."

Some of you may be saying that's three quibbles, not two. Hah! Three is a Welsh couple.

(This post has grown gradually over the afternoon.)