All Quiet on the First Great Western Front

Last week I returned to the Old Country – well, not the Old Country itself, but rather Cardiff, my land’s increasingly swish and cosmopolitan capital, with its rapaciously expanding shopping-and-eating quarter and its incongruous postmodern street sculptures making it feel a bit like a Torchwood theme park. The second most immediately notable thing about Cardiff at the minute is the preponderance of Emo kids there. I know Emo hit the subculturally-attuned youth of south Wales hard, but that was some years previously, and I was aghast to discover that the wretched thing still holds much of the city in its terrible, slappable, Lego-fringed grip. Will we never be set free?

This weekend I’m going to Southampton to be a superstar DJ. By which I mean, to hand over some mix CDs and hope for the best. I hope you all have good weekends; here are some curios to take you into it.

# ‘It’s like Swift as Jackass…’ ‘Or, even faster.’
Political satire has been walking wounded ever since the Nobel Peace Prize went to Henry Kissinger, but the current government has been especially egregious in outstripping the imagination of even the bleakest comic mind. I suppose we’re not actually at the stage where the long-term unemployed are chain-ganged and made to construct an enormous Mt Rushmore-esque triptych featuring Thatcher, Rupert Murdoch and Kate Middleton, but it can surely be only a matter of time. Until then, in the rapidly-shrinking space in which satire still breathes, you can find some here.

# Many Minds – ‘Thermo-Nuclear War (Pre-apocalypse)’

Club Soda Records is a new independent Dubstep /Electro record label based in West London. Ahead of its debut release on March 21, here’s a free download of what they have to offer. Still on an apocalyptic tip:

# Akira the Don & Chilly Gonzales, ‘Don’t Need A Weatherman’

One of my homeland’s finest. Kudos both for the mock-up album cover and the dubious if suitably Dylanesque taste of the lyrical claim to be ‘iller than Christopher Hitchens’.

# And finally, now for something completely different:

Going home always reminds me of the number of words I hardly ever use when out of Wales, because of their obscure or untranslatable nature. Here are six of the best.

1. HIRAETH – usually translated as ‘longing’ or ‘yearning’. Peculiarly Welsh form of rose-tinted homesickness, often expressed in poetry and song. Key to hiraeth, I think, is the longing for a romantic ideal of the place you left, rather than for the dismal, damp, low-skied, malevolent unemployment blackspot you actually know it to be. The apotheosis of hiraeth is probably ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home’, despite that song having been written from the perspective of an imprisoned American. I get hiraeth all the time, although it’s frequently hard to distinguish from a particularly maudlin hangover.

2. CWTCH – ‘snuggle’ is a disgusting word, but I don’t mind cwtch, though they’ve come to mean roughly the same. A cwtch is an affectionate hug, with the implication of safety and protection. To cwtch a baby is to nurse it Welsh-fashion, wrapped in a shawl, and I think the word is still employed most often by mothers to upset children, viz. ‘Don’t cry love, they’re all a load of bastards, like your father was – come and have a cwtch on the settee.’

3. TWP – harmlessly insane, roughly equates in tone to ‘tapped’ or ‘crazy cat lady in-waiting’. Viz. ‘Gone to live in London, really? Well, she always did seem a bit twp.’

4. TAMPING – not actual Welsh, but south-east coalfield dialect, meaning seethingly angry. Conveys a particular edge of pent-up outrage suddenly unleashed. Comes from ‘to tamp’, the action of packing sand, clay or earth into a drill-hole above an explosive. Viz. ‘And then after all that they said they couldn’t sell me drink at nine in the morning – bloody tamping, I was.’

5. HWYL – roughly equivalent to the Irish craic, denotes the enthusiasm, zeal or possibly gusto – which is almost invariably in inverse proportion to the potential for success – with which the Welsh sing hymns, attempt industrial struggle and, especially, engage in competitive ball games. Viz. ‘Played with great hwyl, we did, shame we lost 92-3.’

6. YCH Y FI! – a splendidly onomatopoeic expression of disgust. To be used when, for instance, alighting from one’s Megabus only to notice that the grass outside Cardiff Castle is festooned with fucking emos.

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3 comments

  1. Izzy Robson

    After that description of Cardiff and hiraeth, I want to marry you, I actually want to marry you :-p

    Having lived with a Welshman-in-London for 5 years, suddenly all becomes clear!

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