Monday, August 10, 2009

Jan Morris: A Writer's House in Wales

A collection of Welsh tidbits from Jan Morris' A Writer's House in Wales.
I try not to believe in race, only in the effects of history and environment, but sometimes I cannot help feeling that the age-old strain of the Celts, the original Welsh, is still apparent here. Certainly Welsh people are still proud to be thought of as Celts - it differentiates them from the English - and the pageantry of the National Eisteddfod is deliberately, if imaginatively, modeled upon the supposed rituals of the Druids. Celts are always said to have been convoluted people, volatile, enthusiastic but easily discouraged, expressing themselves in art forms that were full of circles, knots and peculiar circles, and today our people are undeniably fluid and flexible too. They are careless about names, sometimes spelling them one way, sometimes another - two of my own children spell themselves Morys, the other two Morris, and I forget which way my grandchildren have gone. Time is scarcely an exact science among my neighbors. Their reportage can be unreliable. As a shrewd American once wrote, if truth elsewhere is more or less like a straight line, among the Welsh it is "more in the nature of a circle"; to my way of thinking, for I have sufficient Celt in me too, only another way of saying that imagination is as real as reality.

For one of my temperament all this makes life agreeably sinuous and slippery. Occassionally indeed it can be so laid back as to be maddening. The mail may be a bit late because the postman has stopped off for a cup of tea up the lane. Iwan and his family, whom we are expecting for drinks this evening, may not bother to turn up because Megan has homework to do, or alternatively may cheerfully arrive half an hour early. Sweet Blodwen, having assured us she would be here on Thursday morning for coffee, rings on Thursday afternoon to say she was so sorry to have had to go to Pwllheli for a hairdressing appointment. How many times have we telephoned dear Mr. Edwards to come and cure the leak in Elizabeth's ceiling? What a relief it would have been if Mr. Roberts the plumber had put the taps on consistently, so that we could be quite sure that hot water was going to emerge from the left-hand tap, cold water from the right. Do you see that wooden corner cupboard? Wil the carpenter made that for us ten years ago. Although I often meet him in the street he still hasn't bothered to send the bill, but a Christmas or two ago he did send us a framed poem imagining how much happier the world would be if it were inhabited entirely by friends.

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