On Being Welsh

Beddgelert, North Wales by A Roger Davies on Flickr (cc)

Beddgelert, North Wales by A Roger Davies on Flickr (cc)

I’m not sure why I feel so Welsh.
Though I do.
I always have.

I grew up in Birmingham in the UK. But my family hails from Wales (and before that Ireland) and we spent every holiday in our caravan in a Welsh camping ground. Mostly we stayed at a small village near Rhyl.

Late sun on New Years Day, Conwy Valley, Wales, UK by erwlas on Flickr (cc)

Late sun on New Years Day, Conwy Valley, Wales, UK by erwlas on Flickr (cc)

Perhaps it’s because of the happiest memories: of forest walks and mountain climbs. Donkey rides on the stony beach. Hot chips in newspaper, the salt rough on my lips. Ice-cream cones melting down my wrist. Vinegar on bee stings and bulls in green fields. Waggly tails on black faced lambs. Even in summer, it rained like old ladies and sticks (mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn). Spots hammered against the caravan windows, and we grabbed books and jigsaw puzzles to wait for the sun to come out.

Wales, UK by neiljs on Flickr (cc)

Wales, UK by neiljs on Flickr (cc)

When I first started writing my short story (the one that turned into an urban fantasy novel, you can read about that here) the setting was always Wales in my head. No-one wants to read paragraphs of description anymore, so the trick is to give a snippet of setting in context that sets the scene for readers. I hope I’ve achieved that!

A stormy day at Mewslade Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK by geographyalltheway.com on Flickr (cc)

A stormy day at Mewslade Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK by geographyalltheway.com on Flickr (cc)

My father, like a dog with two tails (fel ci efo dau gynffon), remembered a few words of Welsh at the end of his life and told us stories of scrumping apples, catching rabbits for dinner, and doing anything to avoid working in the pits. That’s how we ended up in Birmingham!

Knowing who I am makes me stronger.

How about you? Do you know where you come from? Does it help you to understand who you are?

Until next time, Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn (The dragon will show the way).

Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn
Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn

Am I The Last Person on Earth to Start Watching Downton Abbey?

downtonI must be the last person to get onto the Downton Abbey TV series!

I’m more of a Dr Who fan… But I really enjoyed Upstairs Downstairs (BBC Costume Drama from a couple of years ago – I was bummed to find out BBC decided not to do a season three). I also loved The Paradise (BBC Costume Drama last year) … and found myself wanting more. More. More!

I could watch season three episodes right now, for free. But I’m a start at page one girl, so I wanted to see it from the beginning. I downloaded the first season from iTunes and settled down to watch the first episode.

Why is there not an addiction warning?

Downton-Abbey-Ep4I watched all seven episodes of season one in one day. Only threatening glares from my husband stopped me from purchasing season two and settling in again! The drama. The clothes. The characters.

Of course there’s a naive scullery maid, a self-centered first footman, a stiff-lipped butler, turf war downstairs.

But there is also O’Brien, the ladies maid – deliciously evil, with no redeeming features in season one. And the sisters. Lady Edith dobs on her own sister, Lady Mary, when she has the poor taste to have a Turkish visitor die in her bed. Then Lady Mary diverts Edith’s suitor at a garden party and poor plain Edith loses her only chance at marriage. Maggie Smith is deliciously imperious, always excellent in everything she does. The script and acting is fabulous throughout. The characters three dimensional, the plotting tight and the clothes gorgeous. Did I already mention the clothes?

I have to get through seasons two and three so I can watch season four with the rest of the world 😛

Have you ever come late to a series, and have to catch up like mad? Are you a fan of British costume drama? Is there a TV show you just never miss?

Do you Appreciate Rain?

We met my sister and her farm (and her big black pig!) a few posts ago. I asked Jenny to write something about farm-life … and she got her inspiration in a downpour. Here is her amusing take on rainfall: Rain? Don’t Complain! Take it away Jenny 🙂

Here I am, water dripping down my face, off my chin, down my back, and into my wellingtons. I’m outside, in a downpour. But I’m not complaining.


Not that long ago I expected water to come out of the tap when I turned it. I was living in the city then, the whole idea of turning a tap handle and no water flowing was preposterous! Then, I moved to the country. Ahhh the serenity. Bliss. Another bonus – no water bills. The stuff falls from the sky in abundance. It fills the rainwater tanks. In fact they overflow. I can’t believe I used to pay good money for it! Well, that’s how it was during my first idyllic months in the country. My first Summer shocked me to the bone. I turned the tap handle and, you guessed it, nothing came out. Who could I call? No water company, no plumber.  Just no water.

Who drank, flushed, washed in, or otherwise wasted MY water? Made no difference really. The main tank was empty. But all was not lost, we had a small back-up tank, and at the current rate of consumption (add this, multiply by that, divide by 22.76) we should be OK for another three weeks. Shame there was still another eight weeks of Summer to go.
A new house rule was implemented, ‘if it’s yellow, it’s mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down’ and applied to basic ablutions. Trees, plants, and the vegetable garden were all watered via bucket from second hand bath water. Yep – that’s right. I watered my veggies with a human consommé. Water from the washing machine was pumped out into the closest paddock in the hope of providing a square metre of grass for the hungry ruminants.

I think I spent the whole Summer carrying buckets, dragging hoses and looking up at every cloud with a pathetic but hopeful look on my face. It’s been 3 or 4 years now and I’ve got my own little farm. I moved in not long before Summer began. The dam was full. The vegetation was lush.


By the end of (would you believe) the driest Spring, Summer, Autumn in ages – my dam was just a smelly mud hole, the vegetation was crunchy underfoot and I was stressed to the eyeballs from constant threats from nearby bush-fires. It was about that time I solemnly swore to never, ever, complain about the rain again.

So here I am, outside, in a downpour.


It’s 12 days into (would you believe) the wettest start to a Winter in ages. The tanks are already overflowing. I’m watching the water gush out of the overflow. I can’t waste it! So I am dragging heavy hoses to try and divert the water 100 metres down to the dam.

Waste not. Want not! The damn is slightly less muddy, and the way things are going it will be a lake soon.

Thank you Jenny, for providing the words and the photos 🙂

What is your relationship with rain? I like jumping in puddles … as long as I have dry clothes to change into 😛

When Nice is Maybe Not so Nice

Nice has become such a strange word. Does ‘That’s nice’ mean whatever it is, is nice … or something else entirely? Grumpy cat doesn’t need much interpretation!


I point at yummo chocolate, shoes and stationery (yes I am a bit weird I know 🙂 but I do have an amazing collection of notebooks and pens) and say “ooohhhh that looks nice.” And I actually mean I would like the item(s). But otherwise I use it when I can’t think of anything better to say.

How do you use the word nice?

Now I am thinking about it, the strongest association I have with the word, is with my mother telling me to make sure I was always one of the nice girls. I just knew the bad girls were having a whole lot more fun so ‘nice’ doesn’t necessarily mean good in my book!

I will be watching myself! The next time I go to use the word ‘nice’ – I will make sure I really mean it. Whatever it is I mean 😛

How about you? What do you say instead of nice? Or is the word not fraught with too much sarcasm for you?

Earworm Attack

I really enjoyed watching Phantom of the Opera last week. It was an amateur production but the performers were amazing. Sadly though, I still had the music in my head several days later. It’s one thing having a simple catchy tune caught up in the cobwebs between my ears, but trying to sing along to “Music of the Night” is a much more serious (and dispiriting :P) matter.

WANA Commons by Kristen Lamb, on FlickrWANA Commons

The music wasn’t so much caressing me as hammering holes behind my eyes!

I tried ignoring it. Then several hard soduku puzzles. I decided overkill might help so I listened to different versions on u-tube (and squeaked sang along) a dozen times in a row. Nope. Nada. Nothing worked.

In despair, and without optimism, I found my hard rock playlist, pointed to November Rain and danced around the lounge room with my hairbrush microphone.

It worked!!!

What has worked for you when a dreaded earworm strikes?

Paulie Pig

I love staying with my sister on her small farm in rural Victoria. We are city born but Jenny has set deep roots in the country. She lives in a magical place surrounded by tall trees at the end of a 4km dirt driveway. Alpacas, sheep, chickens, dogs, a pig and a cat share her home; wallabies and koalas visit every day. Bright red parrots eat the fruit from her trees before it ripens, but she doesn’t care, they carry little pieces of magic on their glorious wings.

Did I tell you about the pig? He is called Paulie, is big, black and a little scary.


Well I am a scared of him anyway! He behaves like a dog, and sulks like a toddler. Jenny assures me he can always be distracted with fruit … That may be the case but I prefer to throw it from a distance 🙂

The first time we visited, Jenny showed us around the farm – including the old farmhouse, barn and dairy – with the dogs and Paulie the pig in tow. While I was across the other side of the barn, Paulie nudged my oldest dog Ellie and sent her flying over in a commando roll. I vaulted over bales of hay to get to Ellie; she picked herself up, shook herself and carried on snuffling farm smells as if she tripped over a tree root. The pig grunted. My sister bent double laughing.

In her defence Jenny did make sure Ellie was okay first … But then she doubled up laughing. Apparently me flying across a barn yelling ‘bad pig’ is somewhat amusing.

Of course you can only take the fruit protection so far. If you walk around with it in your pockets he sniffs it out and starts snuffling …

Do you like short stays in the country?  Or do you have your roots firmly in rural soil?