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 (http://www.honno.co.uk/) 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?
The painting is 'Beach' by Tom Tomos