Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Category: Cymraeg

The wrap up – affirmation, extreme generosity and the Welsh language

Over the last two months, I have stayed in London, Bowness-on-Windermere, Caernarfon, Corris, Llangollen, Y Bont Faen, Llandysul and Y Borth. I have worked in the British Library, the National Archives and Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru. I’ve received so much help and affirmation. I have also crossed the line which all Welsh learners yearn to cross – having friends with whom I relate solely in the Welsh language. But how to sum it all up?

Let’s start with the generosity.

I caught an inkling, Mared, wife of Owain Glyn Dwr, would be the subject of my next novel while living in Wales. My friend Aran lamented that there had not been a major film about Owain Glyn Dwr.  I read some books, realized he’d had a wife, and thought, what would it have been like to be that woman? The idea for a novel was born. I set about reading everything I could get my hands on. I also wrote to academics. One of them, Dr Gideon Brough, was particularly encouraging.

At the time, his affirmation was massively important. See, back then, I wasn’t sure I had a right to tell Mared’s story. This uncertainty has been borne out during a number of my recent meetings. From people tentatively asking: so, Liz, what made you want to write about Mared? Er…you do realize this is a contentious topic? Or simply the startled faces of people who have recently moved to Wales: Oh, God, what barrow is she trying to push here? 

I get this tension. When a country has been conquered, annexed and incorporated, when it’s language is fighting for its life, when academics drop in for flying visits and act like they know everything, when Owain’s name has been hijacked by various political causes, or when you’ve simply moved to Wales and want to feel welcome, the idea of an Aussie interloper coming in and stirring the pot is alarming. Yet, Gideon, never once questioned my right to tell the story. He simply said: go for it! This project is long overdue. He also spent a whole day of his kids’ half term holiday (like all day) answering my lame questions.

The day I spent with archaeologist Spencer Gavin Smith and his wife Megan (also an archaeologist) was similarly incredible. I wrote asking a for information and ended up being given a full guided tour of the Glyn Dwr sites (during which I asked an alternate string of lame questions). Because of Spencer, I spent my last day in the library trawling through the Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, unearthing all manner of articles by Derek Pratt. I braved English roads and drove to Lower Brockhampton so that I could see the type of home in which Mared would have lived. I also faced octopus-on-steroids roundabouts in South Wales and learned that SatNav’s work best when you are paying attention – not when you are re-writing story scenes in your head. But that is another story…

In Llandysul, I spent a day and a half with Dr John Davies, a man with an impressive beard, an even more incredible library, and a keen interest in Owain Glyn Dwr’s mother’s family. John drove me around the borders of Owain’s southern estates, answered multiple questions, gave me CDs and memory sticks bursting with information. He also gave me the precious gift of assuming my Welsh was up to the task of discussing history – which it was. An incredible milestone.

Add to the above, the countless people who made time to catch up with me – too many to list but you know who you are – my friend Lorraine who listened to me ‘think aloud’ for a week in Llangollen and, of course, the incredible Veronica Calarco who, through setting up Stiwdio Maelor, has made it possible for me to spend extended periods in Wales. I stayed overnight with my friend Carolyn in Y Borth more times than was polite, took my brand new friend Anne up on her offer of accommodation in South Wales, had the fascinated company of Dee and Iestyn on the John Davies’ magical history tour, got shown around the Senedd Dy by Neil McEvoy and met up with an amazing group of SSiWer’s in the Mochyn Du.

On top of all this, my friend Aled in Australia suggested I catch up with Carys Davies (wife of the late Sir Rhys Davies, author of the incredible The Revolt of Owain Glyn Dwr) and Gruffudd Aled Williams (author of Dyddiau Olaf Owain Glyn Dwr). I felt nervous about phoning the above. I hate cold calling people – especially in Welsh. Added to which, this was Cymru Cymraeg and all the old doubts about my right to tell this story came flooding back. But I took a deep breath, dialed their numbers (rather than confess a lack of courage to Aled), and, as a consequence, enjoyed two lovely dinners in Caffi Pen Dinas. With Carys, I chatted about my mother’s family, how I’d learned Welsh, and my recent Say Something in Welsh Bootcamp. Before long, we were chuckling over the pictures of me clambering onto that pillar on top of Twt Hill (thanks Aran). After lunch, we attended a lecture in the Drwm where I was introduced to people as, Liz, who is writing a novel from the point-of-view of Owain Glyn Dwr’s wife. I thought: okay, maybe, this is going to be alright.

While having lunch with Gruffudd Aled Williams a few weeks later, we discussed history and winced over some of Glyn Dwr’s more anachronistic portrayals – like taking tea with his family in the fourteenth century and Iolo Goch drinking blood from a skull. At some point, I don’t know when, I decided it was safe to share the outline of my story. It is a fragile thing, a story concept, without the build up you put into developing it on the page, and not easily shared but, for some reason, it all came tumbling out. In Welsh. But strangely I didn’t need  language to understand Gruffudd’s response. I saw it in his eyes, the way he smiled, leaning back in his chair. O, hyfryd…

Lost in another world – some serious Welshing

You’d be excused for thinking I’ve dropped off the planet. I have in fact, been in another world. A mile-long-resource-list, race-against-the-clock world, in which I’ve pitted my wits against legal and institutional constraints in order to access information.

Mostly, I have been working in Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, a gorgeous Art Deco building, nestled half way up Aberystwyth’s Penglais Hill, which is home to the largest collection of maps, manuscripts, books and journals pertaining to Wales. After a rocky start, in which I inadvertently broke the library’s ‘no digital photos’ rule, I booked myself into a library tour. In English (yes, that serious), followed by a one-on-one introductory session with a librarian. Through these session, I worked out that I could in fact use the library photocopier to scan to my email address for five pence a page. Which is outrageous, seeing as I have a perfectly good scanner on my iPad. But preferable to paying the £20 per day photography fee. The only constraint being that each page comes through as a separate email. So, when not at the library, I’ve spent hours downloading and moving individual PDF pages into folders. But, LlGC weren’t about to change their policy for a jumped up Aussie with aspirations of writing a novel from the point-of-view of Owain Glyn Dwr’s wife. So, I figured I’d better just toe the line.

As it turns out, LlGC is an amazing place to work. The building is stunning and they have whole bays full of the books I have been online-drooling over for months. I’m not sure what the staff make of me. You see I keep turning up and ordering lots of items and I persist in speaking Welsh, even when English would be easier. However, on seeing my book list and my extensive use of the catalogue’s ‘saved items’ function, the librarian conducting the introductory session figured I wasn’t going away. At least, not for the foreseeable future, and, quite frankly, I’ve been having a ball. Even, if the poor staff are working overtime.

Now, in case you don’t know the lay of the land, Stiwdio Maelor (an amazing creative artist’s residency studio in North Wales), is over an hour away on the most direct bus route to the LlGC. Fortunately, my good friend Carolyn now lives in Borth (only twenty minutes on the train). I have therefore been doing lots of sleep overs. Ours is a Welsh language friendship, so in addition to harassing the library staff, I’ve spent my evenings nattering to Caroline, whose Welsh is way better than mine (bonus for me). When, our friend Gareth joined us for the weekend, it was like Bootcamp all over again, with miming, misunderstanding and lame jokes in the Welsh language. We stayed up late one night comparing childhood TV experiences (as you do). When asked about Aussie TV shows, the only program I could come up with was Skippy. Which for some reason, we all found hilarious in the early hours of the morning.

As Carolyn works for Y Lolfa, I scored an invite to their fiftieth birthday party. For those who don’t know, Y Lolfa is a small press specializing in Welsh and English language books with a Welsh focus. I hadn’t realized Y Lolfa was founded in 1960s during the heady days in which Merched y Wawr was established and in which, Gwynfor Evans won Plaid Cymru’s first seat in parliament. It seemed fitting that the event featured a video with fake greetings from the queen. The following quote from Y Lolfa’s editor pretty much sums up the tone of the evening:

In a world dominated by large corporations and bureaucracies Y Lolfa believes that ‘small is beautiful’ in publishing as in life. It was André Gide who said: “I like small nations. I like small numbers. The world will be saved by the few.”

In the midst of all this Welshing (my friend Veronica has assigned a verb to my activities), I also got interviewed by S4C. It was my friend Helen’s fault. She’d been asked to do an interview for the Welsh learner’s TV program Dal ati. Being a self confessed hater of public speaking, she suggested I might like to join her. I wasn’t sure the producers of Dal ati would be all that keen on an Aussie interloper. My suspicions were confirmed when the producers sent a list of questions to Helen and not to me. But due to the above mentioned self-confessed hatred, I decided a show of moral support was required. As it turned out the strategy back-fired on both of us because, once they realized that we were friends, who had met online through the SSiW language forum, their journalistic eyes lit up. Helen’s carefully considered responses were thrown out the window and, all of a sudden, the cameras started rolling. The result, Helen’s excellent Welsh turned to ice and my mouth went into overdrive (my own peculiar nervous reaction) and I proceeded to make a number of ridiculous statements which, if they don’t edit rigorously, will see me portrayed me as light-headed Aussie bimbo on national TV.

Helen and I spent so long licking our wounds after the interview that I missed the train to Borth. Which meant that I had to change for the Parti Penblwydd Y Lolfa in the tiny toilet cubicle of the Wynnstay Hotel. This meant ordering an obligatory drink in the Pizzeria which, incidentally, sold only crisps. As I was wearing a borrowed dress (thanks Carolyn), I wasn’t sure how it should look and, quite frankly, the Wynnstay’s mirrors weren’t nearly long enough. I ended up crowning the afternoon’s loopy utterances by asking a couple in the Crisperia whether they thought I had my dress on backwards. They, to their credit, took the question in their stride. The man even said I looked very nice. Needless to say, I left the hotel pretty swiftly after that and made absolutely certain I didn’t open my mouth at all on the bus back into town.

We had dinner at a Greek restaurant prior to the Parti Penblwydd and found out too late that they only took payment in cash. While Gareth made a dash to the teller machine, the waitress made polite conversation with me.

‘There are lots of Welsh speakers out tonight (like they are normally locked up). Is something going on?’

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘it is Y Lolfa’s 50th birthday party.’

Upon which, her eyes grew wide. ‘And you’ve come all the way from Australia?’

It was tempting, oh so tempting to reply in the affirmative. But I didn’t want ‘dreadful liar’ added to my already going-down-hill reputation. Turns out this was wise because, during the party, the three of us were discussing something that involved pushing buttons. The verb to push was unfamiliar to Gareth.

‘Gwthio? He asked.

I said, yes, gwthio, and mimed the action of pushing a button. For some reason, Gareth had confused the verb to push with the verb to pull. So Carolyn said tynnu and mimed the action of pulling a lever. Through a series of repeat actions (which may have included a few other verbs) we established the contrasting meanings, at the end of which we looked up into the eyes of a startled onlooker, ‘Er…do you always communicate like this?’

‘Well, yes, of course, doesn’t everyone?’

A week in Cymru Cymraeg

In Wales, there are two worlds. The English speaking world that you see on the surface and the magical, Welsh speaking world, of Cymru Cymraeg, that lies beneath. Once-upon-a-time, Cymraeg was the dominant language in Wales. It infused every element of Welsh life and culture. Now it is possible to be born, raised and to live in Wales, without entering its realm. This week, during my Saysomethinginwelsh bootcamp, I somehow found my way into this magical, world.

Yesterday it was hard… so hard to leave.

I hadn't met any of my fellow bootcampers prior to our week long holiday in Tresaith. We had all followed the same Welsh course and participated, to varying degrees, in the learners forum, but we were essentially strangers, defined by forum posts, stamp-sized web photos and a common desire to take our language skills to the next level – to experience a week immersed in the Welsh language.

I caught the train from Moreton in the Marsh and arranged a lift with one of my fellow bootcampers from Aberystwyth (yes, I know, a lift with strangers I'd met online). Once we'd settled into the Canolfan, the rules and format of the week were explained. Dictionaries were not encouraged, we were told, nor were sentences like: beth yw y gair am sausage? Miming and talking around the unknown word was the preferred method of communication. For example, if you didn't know the word for sausage you might say: cig sy'n mewn croen hir – meat that is in a long skin while miming the shape of a sausage with your hands. Inevitably, another learner would know the word. If not our Welsh language hosts would provide it.

Once the guidelines had been established we were asked to go around the room and convey interesting things about ourselves to each other using only mime. This was hilarious and, as you can imagine quite difficult. At the end of the fifteen minutes, it was a relief to start talking in Welsh.

After the initial, enforced silence, the chatter didn't didn't stop. We did all the activities that any group of friends might do on a holiday. We rose late-ish (me latest). Had breakfast, visited, towns, castles, museums, villages and restaurants, went on walks, took photos, got lost, browsed in book shops, shared meal preparations, misunderstood directions, got lost, went to the pub, stayed up late, laughed, talked, sang beneath the stars, all under the banner of the Welsh language. I'm not going to give you a blow by blow description of the week. I couldn't. You had to be there to experience the wonder. But here are some of my personal highlights.

Walking through the wonderful Welsh countryside

Making castles on the beach

Speaking Welsh

Laughing at my mistakes

Visiting a water operated woollen mill

Doing a drama session in Welsh

Laughing like a school girl

Realising I understood what that was being said

Laughing even more

Doing a tour of Castell Aberteifi

Hearing about the first Welsh Eisteddfod

Having a lesson in a cwrgl

Realising I understood everything the teacher was saying


I repeat: everything while turning hopeless circles in a cwrgl

Swimming in the Irish Sea

Making jokes in Welsh


And laughing

Til I feared my sides would split

Thinking in Welsh

Realising I was thinking in Welsh

Telling my friends

Knowing they understood

Wishing the week would never end




Learning to facilitate – an unexpected lifeline

One of the worst things about volunteering to tutor in a language you do not yet speak fluently is a breathless dog-paddling sense that you could sink at any moment. One of the best things about volunteering to tutor in the same, said language is a realisation that if you keep paddling you can somehow stay afloat.

Of course, it also helps if someone unexpectedly throws you a lifeline.

This is my third year of tutoring beginners' Welsh and to make the whole damn thing more breathless, I decided to chuck out the tried, tested and proven ineffective course book and to try using the SSiW audio lessons instead. The bonus is that I am no longer the primary teacher. My job is merely to facilitate a weekly session in which people get to practice what they've learned from the audio lessons.

The latter is easier said than done.

You see, Andrew was always the games person in our family. I read the stories. He played the games. I made the fancy birthday cakes. He ran the party activities. I took the kids to events – like free shopping centre entertainment or movies (when we could afford them). He took them to the park and invented games. Are you picking a pattern here? I am not a natural games person. I am therefore being forced to operate way outside of my comfort zone. By the end of the term one we'd exhausted my complete games repertoire. We'd played memory games – with home made flash cards, bingo, guessing games, versions of I went to the shop and I bought a…using the geiriadur lliwgar. And we've had fun. Some weeks I'm not sure if people are laughing with me or at me. But, they kept coming back. And they are excited about learning Welsh. At the end of the term one someone asked:

'We don't have to stop over the holidays do we? We can keep going with the lessons?'

This year I've been fortunate to have a three slightly more experienced SSiW learners in the class. One of them, Jason, I'd met on the forum. Though, for the first few weeks, I was so busy dog-paddling that I didn't make the connection. Jason seemed to know what he was doing, however, and had experience with language learning. So, I picked on him to help model games and activities. After a few weeks of doing so, I decided, I owed him an apology and a thank you. That's where the unexpected lifeline comes in.

'I work as a trainer and a facilitator,' Jason said. 'If you ever need someone to bounce ideas off.'

To which I replied:

'Bounce! Na jyst twlid y holl pel ata i, plis – bounce! No just throw the whole ball at me please.

Turns out Jason had heaps of ideas. Some of them so simple I'm embarrassed I never thought of them. We got together last night and thrashed out a revised approach. And here's the thing. It's going to be easier. Way easier. I may even manage to progress from desperate dog-paddle to free style.

Here's how it's looking so far.

  • Introduction – a chance to check where people are up to in the lessons and to ask questions
  • Ice breaker game involving the new patterns for the lesson – this will involve teams and a little more competition
  • Divide into pairs and do an activity based on the new patterns – this may involve dialogues, role plays or questionnaires in which people have to produce the Welsh
  • A form of Gwenyn Geirfa (word bee – like a spelling bee) – initially with me reading the Welsh words and people writing down the English – eventually like Gwenyn Geirfa on Hwb with people taking turns to be in the hot seat.
  • To introduce this more on the spot type of Gwenyn Geirfa we may have a 'prepare Liz for bootcamp' session in which I am put on the spot to come up with vocabulary on a theme. This would involve each class member coming up with a word for me. Yikes!
  • Watch Hwb's, Y wers Cymraeg, and then talk about what was going on in the segment – identifying words recognised and bits not understood. I have been showing these but failing to use them as a comprehension exercise.
  • Do some work with spelling. People seem to want to see the words they are learning in the audio lessons. We may use these words to explore the difference between the Welsh and English alphabets.
  • Learn some simple nursery rhymes and songs.
  • Idiom of the week – maybe with charades.
  • A wrap up at the end of the lesson with time for thoughts and questions.

What do you reckon? It's not too late to join the class. Oh, and if you have any ideas for games, songs, nursery rhymes I'm keen to hear from you.


Mae periant bara gyda fi – I have a bread machine

Rhoidd ein plant i ni beriant bara am Nadolig – Our children gave us a bread machine for Christmas.

Yn gyntaf, ro’n i’n synnu gan y anrhegion – at first, I was surprised by the gift. 

Dw i ddim yn ‘domestic goddess’ neu ‘earth mother’ – I am not a domestic goddess or an earth mother. 

Dw i wedi bod gwybod i ddweud ‘best thing’ ac ‘sliced bread’ yn y un frawddeg – I have been known to say best thing and sliced bread in the same sentence. 

Ond y mwy meddyliais i e, y mwy wnes i sylweddoli  roedd e’n syniad da – But the more I thought about it, the more I realised, it was a good idea. 

Dw i ddim yn gallu bwyta gwenith – I can’t eat wheat. 

Prynais i bara arbenigedd a rhio e yn y rhwegell – I buy specialty bread and put it in the freezer. 

Ond fy ngŵr, Andrew, ddim yn hoffi bara wedi i rewi – But my husband, Andrew, doesn’t like frozen bread. 

Mae fe’n prynu bara ffres – he buys fresh bread. Ond wedyn, mae gormod o fara gyda ni – but then we have too much bread. 

Mae rhaid i ni daflu e yn y bin yn aml – we have to thow it in the bin often.
Roedd periant bara yn syniad da – the bread machine was a good idea!

Darllenais i llyfr gwydbodaeth – I read the information book. 

Wedyn, es i allan a prynu y blawd arbenigedd – then I went out and bought the specialty flour. 

Roedd amser yn dechrau – it was time to begin. 

Wnes i mesuro y blawd ac y ‘yeast’ yn ofalus ar fy nghlorian newydd – I measured the four and the yeast carefully on my new scales. 

Wnes i dywallt y dŵr mewn – I poured the water in. Ac wedi troi y periant ymlaen – and turned the machine on. 

Wedyn arhosais i ac arhosais i – then I waited and I waited. 

Cymerodd y periant pedair a hanner awr i bobi y bara – the machine took four and a half hours to bake the bread. Ond pan daeth e allan o’r periant roedd e’n berffaith – But when it came out of the machine, it was perfect.

Diolch yn fawr plant – thanks very much kids!
Mae’n ddrwg da fi am y llunia yn ddrwg – apologies for the bad photos (and Welsh). 
Dw i ddim gallu bod yn dda yn bopeth – I can’t be good at everything. 🙂

Great little giant

Cawr mawr bychan — great little giant,
Cryf cadarn gwan, gwynion ruddiau — strong, mighty weakling, pale of cheek.
Cyfoethog tlawd — poor wealthy one,
A’n Tad a’n Brawd, awdur brodiau … our Father and Brother, author of brothers …
Isel uchel — low and high,
Emmanuael, mêl feddyliau … Emmanuel of honeyed thoughts
Pali ni myn — he won’t have silk,
Nid urael gwyn ei gynhiniau — of no white weaving are his rags;
Yn lle syndal — no fine linen
Ynghylch ei wâl gwelid carpiau … where he lies, only tatters …
Ei leferydd — and his words
Wrth fugelydd, gwylwyr ffaldau — are for shepherds, the fold-watchers,
Engyl yd fydd — there’ll be angels
A nos fal dydd dyfu’n olau– like day, night will become bright …
Nos lawenydd — a night for joy
I lu bedydd; byddwn ninniau — for all Christendom; so let us be.
This lovely poem was written by Brother Madog sometime in the twelfth century.

Gwlyio y pel-droed – watching the football

Mae heddiw yn y rownd terfynol o bel-droed, rheolau Awstraliantoday is the final round of Australian rules football. 

Dyn ni’n enw e ‘r ‘Grand Final’  – we call it the Grand Final.

Mae gyfrianchol gyda fi I have a secret. Dw i ddim yn hoffi pel-droedI don’t like football. Dydy e ddim yn Awstralian iawn – this is not very Australian. Efallai, dw i’n gwylio y pel-droed gyda fy nghwr, Andrew, prynhawn yma Therefore, I am watching football with my husband Andrew, this afternoon.

Dyma ydy e’n bwyta creisionhere he is eating crisps.
Mae fe’n gallu bwyta creision achos mae fe’n mynd i feicio bob dydd Sadwrn yn y mynydd he is able to eat crisps because he cycles every Saturday in the mountains. Dw i ddim yn bwyta creision achos dw i’n cysgu bob dydd Sadwrn yn y gwely gwastadI am not able to eat crisps because I sleep in every Saturday, on a flat bed.

Achos, dw i ddim hoffi chwaraeon, dweudais i i fy nghwr – bydda i’n gwylio y pel-droed os dw i’n gallu gweithio yn fy nghyfrifriadur a yfed coffi. Because I don’t like sport, I said to my husband – I will watch the football if I can work on my computer and drink coffee.

Dw i’n cael y prynhawn hfrydI am having a lovely afternoon. Dw i wedi ysgrifennu llthyr i fy Nghefnder yn GymruI have written a letter to my cousin in Wales. Dw i’n ysgrifennu y blog yma, nawr – now, I am writing this blog.

Fel i ddweud, dw i ddim yn hoffi pel-droed – like I said, I don’t like football. Ond dw i’n gobeithio bod y tîm Gathod yn enill – but I hope Geelong wins.

Pam? Why?

Pryd, daeth fy nheulu o Lloegr i Awstralia, daethon ni fyw yn dref Geelongwhen my family came from England to Australia, we lived in Geelong. Roedd fy Nhad yn gweithio i ‘Ford’my dad was working for Ford. Effallai, dw i’n gobeithio bod tîm Geelong yn enill, heddiwtherefore, I hope Geelong wins today.

Mae nhw yn enill, nawr, am y trydydd chwarterthey are winning now, at he third quarter. Mae y gêm yn mynd yn gyffrous – yn gyffrous iawn, iawn. The game is getting exciting – very, very exciting.
Mae rhaid i fi stopio ysgrifennu, nawr  I must stop writing now. 

Edrych â y gêmwatch the game.

Efallai, dw i’n gwneud hoffi pel-droed tipyn bachperhaps, I do like football, a little bit.

Efallai, dw i’n tipyn bach Awstralian, hefydperhaps I am a little bit Australian too.

Mae flin da fi, am fy nrwg Cymraegsorry about my bad Welsh. 🙂

How to make Pice Bach

Life has been unbelievably busy since returning home – with interviews, articles to write, library work to catch up on, a language to keep learning, and a family all deserving of my time.

I have thought about blogging so many times, but it has never quite happened. Today, at last I show up with a recipe. The Anglicised name for this sweet treat is Welsh cakes. But the Cymraeg is so much more evocative – Pice Bach ar y maen – little cakes baked on the stone.

Cynhwsion – Ingredients

  • 8 owns blawd hunan-codi (hint: hunan-codi means self raising)
  • 3 owns menyn (butter)
  • pinsio halen (I leave the salt out)
  • 3 owns cwrens (currants)
  • pinsio sbeis cymsyg (mixed pice)
  • Wy (an egg – the w is supposed to have a little accent but I don’t know how to achieve this, yet)
  • tipyn bach llaeth i gymysgu (a little milk to mix)
Dull – method
  • Rhwbio ‘r menyn i mewn i’r blawd hunan-codi nes iddo edrych fel brwision bara – rub the butter into the self raising flour until it looks like the bread crumbs 
  • Ychwanegu y cynhwysion sych, yr wy a ‘r llaeth – add the dry ingredients, the egg and the milk
  • Cymysgu i does ffyrm – mix to a firm dough
  • Rholio allan, a thorri yn grwn – roll out and cut into rounds
  • Pobi ar y maen dros wres cymedrol – cook on the stone (cast iron pan will do) over a medium heat.

Mmm … delicious – mwynhau!

Responding to a phone call …

I haven’t posted in Cymraeg for a while.

I bet you thought I was slacking off.

But rest assured the pursuit of bilingual proficiency is still gyda fi – with me.

Last week I learned about how to respond to phone calls. Now this is a great relief because, when I grow up, I want to live in Wales.

I plan to work in a library.

Now, I am presuming old ladies are the same all over the world. That somewhere in Wales there is a library, like my current branch, that specialises in services to the antiquarian female of the species.

Just in case you are not familiar with the antiquarian female. They are renowned for worrying about their fines – even when their seniority makes them exempt. They chase up their reservations with terrier like tenacity. They also like to speak to their favourite librarian – which can be a problem when a library service employs a new phone system, and their call no longer goes to a specific branch.

But not to worry. Now I have done Gwers un deg tri – that’s lesson 73, I reckon I am now employable anywhere in the Welsh speaking world.

Here is how I think it will go:

It is 10:01 am. The library opens at ten, and if the antiquarian female is not pacing up and down outside the library door, she will be on the phone.

Bore da, ga i’n siarad gyda Rhiannon, os gwelwch chi ‘n dda? – Good Morning, may I speak to Rhiannon, please.

O (that’s, Oh, in Welsh), mae Rhiannon yn mewn y cyfarfod, bore ma. Ga i chi helpu chi? – Oh, Rhiannon is in a meeting. Can I help you?

Nage, unig Rhiannon – no, only Rhiannon (you gotta hand it to the elderly, they are persistent).

Ga i ymryd neges? – May, may I take a message

Wel, dw i ‘n eisiau yn gwybod a Rhiannon wedi ffeindio fy llyfr – Well, I want to know whether Rhiannon found my book.

Beth ydy y llyfr enw? – What is the name of the book?

Dw i ‘n ddim yn cofio enw. Roedd e’n enw doniol – I don’t know the name. It was a funny name.

Gadw Rhiannon yn llyfr i ti? – Did Rhiannon reserve the book for you?

Wel, dydw i ddim yn gwybod! Dw i ‘n eisiau gofyn Rhiannon – well, I don’t know! I want to ask Rhiannon.

Ydych ch yn cael y card llyfragel? – Do you have a library card?

Wrth gwrs! – Of course!

Fe fyddi di ‘n darllen y rhif yn y card cefn, os gwelwch chi ‘n dda? – Will you read the number on the card, please?

Here, you must bear in mind that I have had to repeat these quetions a number of times, in a very loud voice, but I am not sounding harrassed or impatient. I am impeccably polite. It is the first thing we learn in library school – especially in regard to old ladies.

O, mae ‘n dau, sero, sero, wyth, pedwar, sero, sero, dau, pump, naw, un, pump, dau, saith – Oh, it is: 20084002591527

Ydy y llyfr enw y Guernsey literary ac tynnu croen taten cymdeithas? – Was the name of the book, the Guernsey literary and potato peel society?

Ydy enw yna! Sut oeddet ti ‘n gwybod? – Yes, that’s the name! How did you know?

Fe welais i ‘n ar y cyfriadur – I looked on the computer.

Wel, dyna deallus! – Well, there’s clever!

That’s it folks, five minutes in the life of a bilingual libararian.

I will not tell you how long it took me to write that crisp and rivetting piece of dialogue. Nor will I let myself think of the possible number of mistakes, contained therein.

I will simply sit back and await lucrative job offers from all around Wales. I will probably get Llareggub (that’s buggerall backwards, in case you were thumbing through your dictionary).

So I won’t be giving up my daytime job, just yet.

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