Happy birthday Lewis!

Lewis Evans was born on 25th January 1963, which would make him 52 today. Today is also St Dwynwen’s day.

St Dwynwen’s day is usually described as “the Welsh St Valentine’s day”. Although it is not well celebrated outside of Wales (and not all that well-known inside Wales, either), it is increasing in popularity as Wales asserts its language and cultural heritage more.

Like most Celtic myths, the myth of St Dwynwen has several variants and one of those variants involves rape.  Dwynwen was the daughter of Brychan, a man who had somewhere between thirty-five and fifty children. She fell in love with Maelon. Depending on which version you are following she did not marry Maelon either because he raped her, or because her father refused them permission (either because he didn’t like Maelon, or because she was betrothed to another). At this point, quite naturally, she flees into the woods where she meets an angel. The angel gives her a potion that will erase her memories of love for Maelon, and also freeze him in a block of ice.

Dynwen drinks the potion, then the angel grants her three wishes. She wishes that Maelon be thawed, that God will fulfil the hopes and dreams of true lovers, and that she should never marry. She then becomes a nun and devotes her life to God.

It’s an unsatisfying myth, by modern standards. If we believe the rape version then we want Maelon to remain as a block of ice, the bastard. If we believe it was only Brychan preventing the marriage then why didn’t she ask the angel to change her father’s mind?

You can visit St Dynwyn’s church on Anglesey, at Llanddwyn. Legend has it that there is a sacred fish that live in the well there, that can predict the fortunes of couples.

In 2003 the Bwrdd Yr Iaith (Welsh Language Board) joined forces with Tesco to promote St Dynwen’s day (and maybe sell a few bunches of flowers to amorous Welshmen). One of their suggestions for how to celebrate was to write a love poem to read out at the pub. Which is rather sweet. But if you don’t have time to write a love poem, or you are not planning on going to the pub, here’s some other suggestions:

  • Make some Welshcakes, they are delicious! You could cut them out with a heart shaped cutter for extra romance.
  • Have a cwts (pronounced cutch). If you’ve finished the book you’ll know that cwts is Welsh for cuddle. It often tops the list of “favourite Welsh words”
  • Call someone you love “cariad” – it means “darling” although it can refer to anything between a lover and a platonic friend depending on how you say it!
  • Be kind to someone. Actually, you could do that every day!

T’ Yammer* uh Thornethorpe – how to talk proper

Thornethorpe is loosely based (geographically at least) on my home town of Ossett, in West Yorkshire. Ossett is part of the “five towns” that surround Wakefield, and each has a subtly different accent.

I have avoided typing dialogue phonetically where possible, because I find it really tiring to read (I’m looking at you, Emily Bronte) so you’ll have to imagine the accent in. There is a very thorough and rather academic look at yammer (speech) on wikipedia, but for the accent of Ossett/Thornethorpe the main thing you need to know is that we generally drop our aitches, our vowels are flat, and where possible we avoid the word “the”. The stereotypical Yorkshireman says “There’s trouble at t’mill”, we would say “There’s trouble at mill.” (This is an “incredibly complex phonetic process” according to the British Library.) There’s an adorable video of a little Yorkshire girl talking about her dad if you want to get an idea. The rock band The Cribs come from nearby Netherton, but they’ve gone a bit posh in my opinion.

The dialect of the area isn’t particularly broad, especially compared to parts of south Yorkshire, but there are a few words that might confuse international readers.

There’s not many unusual words used in the book, the two that sick out to me are “ginnel” (an alleyway between houses) and “laik” (to play – from the old Norse). Other unusual uses of words are “right” to mean “very” (“I’m right pleased”); using “us” in place of “me”, and “me” (pronounced “mi”) in place of my (“pass us me pen”);  and (not in the book unless I mis-typed) switching of “was” and “were”. If there’s any bit of dialogue that doesn’t make sense then drop me a line, if there’s enough I’ll do a glossary.

*I have never heard anyone use “yammer” for “talk” in seriousness. People do say “Stop yammering on” though.

Coming soon! Mighty Like a Rose

I am very excited to announce that my début novel – Mighty Like a Rose – will be coming soon to Amazon. A tale of love, friendship and solidarity, set against the backdrop of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, Mighty Like a Rose follows Mary on her journey from neat detached house to the front line of the UK’s longest-running industrial dispute.

Watch this space for more details!

Cover design by the very talented Jhinuk Sarkar – see more of her work at http://cargocollective.com/paperfig