There are two world in Wales. Within weeks of arriving, I had begun to get a sense of the divide. I worked out that the Church of Wales services were all bilingual and, as not many Welsh speakers attended, the bi tended to swing towards the monolingual. I found a Welsh chapel in the Main Street of Machynlleth. It’s notice boards were completely in Welsh. No taint of bilingualism there. The services were held every second Sunday, the notice board informed me, and on alternate weeks at Capel y Craig. The notice board gave no indication of which Sunday was the second Sunday. Or indeed the location of Capel y Craig. There was no phone number to contact.
Nothing to help and Aussie language learner in search of Cymru Cymraeg.
I had read about the resurgence of Papurau Bro (local papers) in Janet Davies excellent book The Welsh Language: a history. But as I had been given a pile of Welsh magazines to read, not to mention novels, and the articles in my Welsh homework book. I didn’t give the local Papur Bro (local paper – singular), much consideration. Until someone pointed out that the Chapel services and times were listed in the pages of Blewyn Glas.
Blewyn Glass! I’d seen that magazine. But where?
‘You can get it at the local post office,’ my source informed me. ‘The October edition came out this week.’
Okay, so I may have got a little excited and headed down to the post office first thing the next morning. I may also have failed to notice that Blewyn Glas cost £1 and walked home with it tucked under my arm, marvelling at the amazing free news service.
I showed my illegally acquired copy of Blewyn Glas to the long suffering artists in residence who had been forced to endure my lectures on the future of the Welsh language. I pointed out the calendar pages. It’s all there, I told them. Every Chapel service – times, preachers, locations – along with every Merched y Wawr meeting, Cylch Llenyddol (literature circle), Cwb Gwawr and choir practice, in every small town, in the whole district.
Once they had expressed the obligatory murmurs of excitement, they scurried back to their creative pursuits. I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to read Blewyn Glas from cover to cover. After the calendar section, it was arranged by towns, each section made up of reports, coming events, milestone celebrations and photographs. Corris took up one and a half pages. I started reading the Merched y Wawr article. Hang on a sec. I stopped, blinked, doubled back. Started reading again, more slowly. There was someone called Liz mentioned – a someone called Liz who happened to be an Australian language learner.
I was there on page 10 of Rhifyn 419 of Blewyn Glas.
What does it say? I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to learn Welsh if you want to read Blewyn Glas. But it may have just included the words ‘especially good’ and ‘from an ‘non Welsh speaking family’ as well as talking about the BBC grammar book that inspired me to learn Welsh on the other side of the world.