From Aberystwyth With Love

Monday 16 – Friday 20 July: Welsh ‘At a Gallop’
It’s strange how people who should know better revert to classroom stereotypes even in adult education. You get the show-off, the shy one, the clown and the one who resents being there, probably because her employer is paying for her to be there, so acts up as much as possible. Quickly clocking the woman on the other side of the room as ‘looking a bit miserable’ I took a seat a safe distance away and was relieved to be joined by a very jolly young girl who was my partner for the initial session.

There’s a lot of working with a partner or in a small group on the Cwrs Carlam, which is, indeed, Welsh at a gallop. The tutor gives you the nuts and bolts of a chunk of grammar, which you and a partner then put into practise through a series of short exercises. The trick, I’ve found, is to try to suspend your embarrassment and just wade in.

A good tutor will make you work with everyone and before long I found myself paired with the ‘miserable’ woman. Once we started chatting I discovered, to my shame, that in the space of a few months she had lost her father, her dear old dog who’d been by her side for years, and then her husband contracted a rare cancer and died. So much for their dreams of building a new life in the country – and all this only eighteen months ago. Small wonder then that she wasn’t exactly grinning from ear to ear. In addition this lady, I’ll call her Jo, hadn’t been near a Welsh class for well over a year and was very nervous about the course.

With a bit of encouragement Jo started to regain her confidence and by the end of the week she was smiling again which was lovely to see. She has a huge emotional journey ahead and lots of decisions to make such as whether to stay in Wales and continue to forge her new life or whether to return ‘home’ to be closer to her children. Whatever she decides I wish her well and I am truly sorry for my snap impression. I’ve learned a lot this week – and not just about Welsh.

Tuesday 24 July: Honno
Whilst I’ve been learning Welsh at Aberystwyth, Rose (cruelly rejected by Condé Nast – you’ll be sorreee!) has been gaining some work experience there with the lovely Helena at Honno. Honno ( is an independent co-operative press guided by a committee of volunteers who set the strategic direction, decide the publishing direction and manage the office and staff. Most notably Honno is run by women with the aim of increasing opportunities for Welsh women in publishing and bringing women’s literature to a wider public. And, ahem, they have published yours truly.

It’s been brilliant for Rose who is probably seeing more of what it takes to be a successful publisher than she might do at a bigger operation. This week she’s been helping Helena organise a book launch and applying some of the transferable skills she acquired during years of Saturday’s at Sainsbury such as predicting the likely location of the cocktail cherries at Somerfield (with the pickles if you’re interested) and lugging back the ingredients to make pink and blue cocktails!

The lucky author, whose book, ‘Big Cats and Kitten Heels’ is being launched this week, is Claire Peate. So if you’re near the Millennium Centre at Cardiff this Thursday pop in a buy a copy of Claire’s book… and when you nibble your cocktail cherry, think of Rose!

Wednesday 25 July: Coast to Coast
We are rushing around like headless chickens today because we’re off to Southampton tomorrow for Rose’s graduation ceremony. Tickets are limited which means that only Rose’s dad and I will be able to attend but the university have pulled out all the stops to make sure that all family members can share in the big day with marquees and big screens of the action. Tom, Rose and I set off at crack of doom tomorrow, stopping at Cardiff to pick up Lily, and we’ll be meeting the girls’ dad and their stepmum at Southampton. It’s one of those occasions when everyone has to put their differences aside and jolly well get on since this is Rose’s day… but am I very shallow for touching up my roots and slapping some fake bake on my legs before I go?

Hwyl fawr!

The painting is 'Beach' by Tom Tomos


Faith said…
I love the colours in that painting. Made me smile about you and your fake bake for Roses' graduation.... my eldest gets married next year and her step mum is far slimmer and much more glam than me.....! Hope the day goes well for Rose and you all.
countrymousie said…
Im with you on putting extra slap on if faced with an ex wife and mother! Never leaves you that one I am afraid however well you get on! Trouble is there is always someone younger, slimmer, prettier out there - we should give up worrying but we dont do we.

Good luck with the graduation though - a memorable occasion for you all - another layer of fake bake wont do any harm!!! love mousie
Oh so lovely to see you here again Chris, I have been checking, but knew you were busy in Wales. Best of luck with the Graduation tomorrow for Rose, seems ages ago now that I atended my son's in Nottingham University, must admit I was quite choked up with tears, but then I am the emotional one!

As much slap of fake bake as you want dear girl, enjoy!

Suffolkmum said…
With you all the way on the fake bake. Bet you'll stun them all. The graduation sounds like it will be nice - mine feels like yesterday although it was - oh God - nearly 20 years ago! When I was at Southampton they didn't do all that big screen stuff - sounds much better now. That poor woman on the Welsh course - I've been guilty of getting people completely wrong sometimes too.
Zinnia Cyclamen said…
Hope graduation was terrific and rain-free.
annakarenin said…
Wow I had a lot of catching up to do.
There has been a couple of blogs recently about the disgraceful lack of adequate funding for children with special needs.

What a proud Mum you must be today though, all the best.
Who wouldnt brighten up siting next to you! Good luck with the forced grin gritted graduation adn definately do roots and fake tan and speak in welsh!!!
Grouse said…
My dear, it is totally shallow and unnecessary to feel competitive when dealing with the extended family. One should be open hearted and magnaminous. This is, of course, best facilitated by a healthy dose of fake bake and a new outfit.......
Cait O'Connor said…
I love the painting too. Hope you all had a wonderful graduation day.
Nos Da
Well its all over now and I hope you had a great time and you slapped on the fake bake and the sun shone on a smiling happy family gathered for Rose.
sally's chateau said…
You were absolutely right to be shallow !!
Woozle1967 said…
Good to catch up with you again. Jimmy used to work in Wales a lot and was going to do the intensive Welsh course too, but things have changed now and so he hasn't (obviously, der!). xx
LittleBrownDog said…
Not at all shallow - there's nothing like a bit of fake bake for boosting the morale (but I'll bet you look great just as you are, anyway - if that photo's anything to go by, you look gorgeous).

For what it's worth, I too was rejected by Conde Nast, which shows they know nothing when it comes to talent (!). I've also heard from a highly respected source that they don't pay very well.

Loved hearing about your Welsh class. My sister, too, is learning Welsh at a day school, though not in Aberystwyth, so can't have been the miserable-looking lady. She's not far from Cardiff, though, so I'll ask her to look out for cocktail cherries.

Could I ask you a novel writing question? This is going to sound a bit dim, but it's really the nub of what I'm struggling with: Do you have to start at the beginning? When I write features, I rarely start at the beginning, but come back to it at a later stage, but somehow, I can't seem to get going with fiction without deciding where the beginning's going to be, which I'm finding a bit hard having not fleshed out the middle and the end (if that makes sense - probably not!) Hope you don't mind my asking, anyhow.
CTaylor said…
OOOhH you went to Aberystwyth too! I was there last week and beautiful it was too (the pleasant weather helped). Did you get out and about much? We took the electric train up to the Camera Obscura, wandered along the promenade (what a disappointing Pier!), visited the castle and took the steam train to Devil's Bridge (and missed the last train back and had to pay for a taxi. Doh!)
Posie Rosie said…
What a lovely and unusual painting. Hope all goes well with the graduation, proud mummy moment, enjoy!
LittleBrownDog said…
Dear Cris, thank you so much for sharing your writing tip - makes a lot of sense to me. I'm not entirely sure whether it's a structure thing that's holding me up or a lack of confidence thing - suspect a bit of both!

Honestly, I find one of the most helpful things is reading about people who are going through the same process, and experiencing the same kind of good days and bad days. Glad to hear you're getting ahead of the stage fright bit - know exactly what you mean!

Looking forward to hearing all about the graduation day - hope it all went well.


Popular Posts