And ready by Monday, I’m improving!
DAY 2, PART 2
Around Caerfyrddin (and Maridunum)
For today, I had planned not one, two language meet-ups: Aberteifi in the morning, Caerfyrddin in the evening. @Deborah-SSi had suggested to contact @margaretnock for all details and updates, so I did. And it definitely was a good idea, cause she offered a lot of extra help for my trip (diolch yn fawr, Margaret!) and also a guided tour of Carmarthen. In Welsh, of course, since I’m here to practice.
The first thing we come across, after meeting at the bus station, is a bronze plaque outside the town’s Guildhall: I had noticed it before, but couldn’t guess who that affable guy (with outstanding sideburns!), waving to a crowd could be. He’s Gwynfor Evans, first ever Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament. By the way, it was his threat of a hunger strike to force the Conservative Government to honour its commitment to provide a Welsh-language TV (S4C). Chwarae teg for bending the Iron Lady!
We proceed to visit St. Peter’s Church, Merlin’s Oak and the old railway sites, the big fish sculpture (a curious oddity that reminds me of the whale in Pinocchio - but with fins) and of course the Roman amphitheatre. Well, I have to admit that Roman sites in Britain always need a bit of imagination for us Italians to see what we’re supposed to see. Ruins in Italy are more…self-evident, shall we say? However, I’m amazed to find out that I accidentally ended up one of the most important towns of Britannia and I’m curious to learn more about Rhufeiniaid yng Nghaerfyrddin - even though it’s kinda hard to pronounce it right.
But hey, now thinking back to all the things we’ve been talking about…did I really understand all that stuff in Welsh? I swear I can’t remember which language we used. Let me ask Margaret. Yes, she says we did use Welsh most of the time!
It’s amazing how much more I’m able to understand speaking with people in person, rather than listening to the radio or any recorded material or watching TV. I guess nonverbal communication counts. But probably, it’s mostly that I’m aware that I’m going to have to give some sort of feedback at some point, and it would be embarrassing to admit I have no idea of what they’ve just said. That extra pressure forces me to be way more alert and focused and do my best to understand…and it works!
Roaming for food (and drinks)
Dee joins us for tea and we go to West End Fish and Chips. No, wait: pysgod a sglodion. Just sounds so much better, in Welsh. No competition.
We have a look at the menu. What’s the difference between “one battered cod” and regular fried cod? - I ask.
Well, that’s actually “unbattered cod” not “un battered cod” - they tell me. Ooops!
I order the small portion, and it’s huge. We wonder who’d be able to eat the jumbo. It takes quite some time to finish it, so we can discuss the photo on the wall: two elephants taking a dip in the sea, and the caption Mixed bathing in Aberystwyth. How come there was elephants in Aberystwyth? Who took them to the beach? Does mixed refer to male and female elephants, women and men, or pachyderms and humans? All questions still unanswered, when we head for the Ivy Bush Hotel for the meet-up.
The lounge is warm and comfortable. Let’s get a beer, before sinking in a Chesterfield sofa and Cymraeg. “Beer or lager?” the lady asks. But…isn’t lager a beer? I’d better choose something more traditionally British. I usually prefer buying local anyway, so…Welsh Ale, maybe? A few older ladies, dressed up for some joyous celebration, are chatting in Welsh next to us. They order and leave the bar with a bottle of wine in a large bucket of ice. One bottle and a bucket each. The procession of the matronae gyda’r gwin: a mysterious cult of Bacchus survived from Maridunum times? That was weird.
Caerfyrddin - Grŵp Sgwrs (and some rugby)
Accidentally, there’s also going to be the Six Nations opening match, tonight: Ffrainc - Cymru. Oh well, I guess we can’t expect a crowd at the meet-up. In fact it’s a very small group, but probably even better for me, because my brain’s starting to feel tired, after 24 hours mostly in Welsh. The atmosphere couldn’t be more relaxed, it feels like a group of friends, out for a chat and a drink on a Friday evening. Margaret can actually speak fluently and embroider town names on a map of Wales at the same time. Instead, it still takes me a huge effort to put together some sort of sentences. But I keep on trying, sometimes mixing in English words to fill the gaps, sometimes just sticking to the vocabulary I’ve learnt so far - but as long as they answer me, I guess it’s working fine…and it’s great!
Bill is a very dedicated and generous learner, because he’s at the meet-up even though it’s clear he did care about the match. There’s a TV in the room, so Bill, Dee and I have the chance to take a sneaky peek at the highlights, while we talk. I have to confess: I had never- ever seen a match before. I don’t completely understand what’s going on, but it all seems more fun in the home of rugby than in Italy, that’s for sure. When we leave, France is winning. Going back to Llandysul, Dee tunes on Radio Cymru, to hear the updates. I can guess from the tone of the speaker’s voice that something exciting’s going on in the last few minutes…tshhhfffshh…although it’shhhhshshsh…ac_ffssshh_-chrsh…mh…bzzzz….oh bloody hell!..tsshhstshhh…whatever, but yes, Wales won. That’s good cause since I’m here, and people so nice, I’m going to cheer for Wales. And thanks for another lovely day, everybody!
P.S. Click here if you’d like to read ([Tour diary - Day 2 p.1] Roaming around Wales, speaking Welsh)