Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Blog seventeen o Gymru – interviews, armchairs and expensive turkeys

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I am sitting in a cafe in Y Trallwng (oh, alright, Welshpool), having travelled forty eight miles for my National Insurance Number (NIN) interview. I tried to apply in Welsh but the polite man on the phone told me the service wasn’t available in Welsh and that I must call a different number. ‘This is a bilingual country,’ my very-English-don’t-see-why-I-should-learn-Welsh friends tell me. ‘I should be able to speak whatever language I want.’

‘Correct, I tell them. ‘But have you ever thought Welsh speakers might like to be able to speak their own language – in shops, cafes, libraries, offices and surgeries?

So what is happening in my life? Apart from morphing into a rabid Welsh language fanatic?

Well, as you can see, I have an armchair, a magnificent development. Kindly donated to Stiwdio Maelor, I wasted no time in claiming it and, as Veronica has left the country and I am now womaning the stiwdio until early March, I have moved my desk and computer into her workspace. I also have a car. And her washing machine! In fact, I may not invite her back. Possession is nine tenth of the law and, once I get that National Insurance Number there will be no shifting me.

I had to tell the woman at the NIN interview how often I’ve come to Wales. I said, ten times in the last five years. But they don’t stamp passports anymore so I couldn’t show her the dates. Her Majesty’s Revenue will have to look them up. I hope I pass the test. It’s like The Battle of Britain trying to get a foothold in this place. I wonder if it was this difficult for the English when they took over half the world? 🙂

Oops! Rabid fanatic hat again. 🙂

On the subject of washing machines, I have now added plumbing to my growing list of accomplishments. After painting, hanging pictures, and learning how to frame art work, I have also moved a washing machine down eighteen narrow steps and re-installed it in Stiwdio Maelor. I didn’t do the job single handed. I have a very supportive, Welsh learning, ex-librarian friend who kindly offered her tools and expertise. Once we’d got the machine down the steps of Veronica’s house, driven half way to Corris, turned back to collect the part we had forgotten, and then unloaded the washing machine, we were pretty keen to accomplish the task without male intervention. Alas, we were thwarted at the final hurdle. Try as we might, we could not turn the knobs on the water outlets.

Since installing the machine, I have morphed into a non-tree dwelling duplicate of Enid Blyton’s Washer Woman. I have the clothes horses set up in front of the central heating and each time I walk past, I turn the sheets. Yes, there are quite a few significant changes happening in my life, I clean toilets, turn sheets, teach people to light the wood stove, unblock the drains and take the bins out. I will come home a vastly improved version of myself. Though, I’ll be in a different hemisphere. So it might be harder performing the tasks upside down.

Now in case you think I’ve lost sight of the wider world while in Corris, last Thursday, was Thanksgiving and, as we have an American staying in the Stiwdio, it was decided a turkey would be in order. I reckon the butcher saw us coming. It was the most expensive turkey in living history. But, we all ate ourselves silly and made a determined effort to use the left overs (vegetable soup with coriander and turkey stock being my particular contribution). In a couple of weeks, Corris is having a Christmas, Soup and Song evening and in an attempt to give the event an international flavour, I have been asked to make a contribution. I thought I might sing Six White Boomers (like we sing that all the time in Australia) but my preliminary research reminded me that the author was Rolf Harris so…oops! Probably not that one. Any ideas for an Australian Christmas song anyone? I’d hate to admit that we actually sing Jingle Bells in our shorts and sun hats while lighting the BBQ on Christmas Day.

Tan wythnos nesaf!

 

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6 Comments

  1. Andy Lowe

    Hi Liz, fab blog post as ever!

    “I wonder if it was this difficult for the English when they took over half the world?”

    In the interests of fairness and balance could I add that the Scottish, Welsh and Irish also played a not insignificant role too?!? 😉

    PS, the plumbing doesn’t look half bad either!

    🙂

  2. Elizabeth Jane Corbett

    Indeed! Maybe I should change that to British? My ancestors, that’s for certain. So, I’m guilty on multiple counts – Welsh and English, then migrating to Australia and building a new life on the complete defeat and dispossession of another race. Oh, dear, thinking about history is so uncomfortable…

    • Andy Lowe

      And mine….., probably best not dwelt upon too deeply!

      Any chance of changing “roll” to role? 🙂

  3. A few points – I reckon Andrew will be very upset (not to say anything about me) if you decide to claim Maelor and not go home (though I – and I’m sure Mary – would be very happy should you want to stay and keep working, so I don’t have to work so hard!)
    Next point – the picture of the plumbing in my kitchen is upside down – or was that for us in Australia to see, since supposedly we are opposite!
    I’m also sure that once you are back home the domesticated, handy person you are in Wales will disappear and you can go back to libararianing (can I make a noun a verb?) and writing without a thought of drills and plumbing and gas bottles and dwr Cymru and fire regulations.
    Interesting typo – so ‘Corris is having a Christmas, Soup and Song evening and you’. What are they going to do with you?
    And I have never sang Jingle bells in shorts while lighting a barbie – maybe that’s a British immigrant thing?

    • Elizabeth Jane Corbett

      Maybe you could sing Jingle Bells in your shorts while lighting a BBQ this year – seeing as your are officially a Welsh artist in residence in Australia.

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