Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Ar Hyd y Nos

At Heathrow, waiting to fly home – ar hyd y nos – all through the night.

It took me five hours to get Heathrow from Swansea, the towns shedding Welsh names and becoming more prosperous and less interesting, en-route. I sat listening to the girls opposite chattering in Welsh, all the while trying to dislodge a lump in my throat. Entering the subway to walk from the bus station to the airport, I passed the entrance to the underground. It’s sign read, Piccadilly Line. The same station from which I caught the tube into London five weeks ago.

I fought a sudden mad desire to plunge back down into the earth and start over.

But no, I took a firm grip of my overstuffed-suitcase and turned into the subway.

Waiting for my flight, I find myself reflecting. What have I achieved? What has this trip meant to me?

First and foremost, it has been a recognition – of duality and loss – a search for the five year old girl who left these shores forty two years ago and had always meant to return. A recognition that I will ever be drawn back to this place of my beginning. Forever, in search of the part of me that never left. It is significant to have realized this.

Secondly, it has been a time of clarification. I have always wanted to learn Welsh, ever since mum pulled out a battered brown book of Welsh grammar and showed it to me. I finally put that desire into action about six years ago when I started learning Cymraeg at the Celtic Club in Melbourne. Going by my early ineptitude for languages (in school), I never expected to actually speak Welsh. I was content to simply learn.

But not anymore.

With the help of a fabulous online program called SaysomethinginWelsh,’ I did a great deal of language preparation prior to this trip. As a consequence, I managed to speak a little Welsh in North Wales (I spoke a great deal more in my head, as I read signs and pored over my dictionary). This has crystalized my desire. I am no longer content to simply learn Welsh. I want to speak it. I hope to come back and do an intensive residential language program in a couple of years.

Finally, this trip has given me space – to walk, to think and to pray. I researched while in England and wrote while in North Wales and did a great deal of walking and sightseeing. But by far my most important re-discovery was of myself. After the terrible strain of the last few years, I needed to be reminded who I was. To walk by alone in high windy places, to see myself reflected in the habits of distant family, and to be welcomed by people I have long wanted to greet.

They have just made the final call for my flight. I must board the flight and travel home now – ar hyd y nos – all through the night. If you have ever heard that haunting melody, you will know exactly how I am feeling.

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2 Comments

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  2. Great to hear that you had such an important time in Wales – it was a pleasure to meet you, and I’ll look forward to hearing when your book is finished. I think if you’re afraid of something, it’s a good sign it’s important (well, apart from spiders, possibly!)…:-)

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