Thanks, Cliff, for the proxy posts last week – couldn’t have written better myself.
I know I said I’d do Windsor this week, but I’m still in wind-down mode from Hay. As usual it was massively stimulating and as usual it rained most of the time – it’s the price you pay for all that mountain greenery and lamb chops. Because London has a drought and there’s a hose ban in force, we’re not allowed to wash our cars, so I took hoses and cloths to Hay with the intention of washing it with Welsh water, of which there's no shortage. But by the time we got there I had collected so much mud that I chickened out and decided to keep the car mud-encrusted as a badge of good citizenship.
A problem with Wales is that, having never been a victim of wetback migrants clambering across Offa's Dike, they have a limited range of surnames. (They should do like Sweden did when they found they had too many Jensens and Larsens: they paid people to change their names to exotic ones like Smith and Jones.) We went to the local library one day to see if we could get on the net and the nice lady said ‘What name?’ When I gave it she smiled patiently and said ‘Everyone in Wales is called Jones, including me. Perhaps if you could give me a little more information?’
Even in Wales, language nationalism thrives. Road signs have to be bi-lingual, which means you’re still trying to understand them as you crash. (‘Ah yes, I see,’ you say from the blood-soaked wreckage, ‘so ARAF meant “slow down”. And what’s Welsh for ‘intensive care?’)
It’s very important. too, in case of urgent need, that you know that the men’s room is labelled ‘DYNION’ and the women’s ‘MERCHED’. The Welsh, being rather Puritan, tend to deal harshly with transgressors, the minimum sentence being four hours of the Treorchy Male Voice Choir singing selections of Rugby songs. (Tip for travellers: a good way to avoid unwittingly committing this offence is to note carefully which genders go in and out of which doors.*) Welsh language signage is a fairly recent phenomenon – it appears only in modern signs. If the sign is hewn in stone and reads ‘These almshouses were built in 1765 to house poor and indigent widows of the town’, it appears only in English.
Another unique feature of life in Hay is its temperamental mobile 'phone reception. The only spot with reasonably reliable reception is the central car park next to the Municipal Merched and Dynion. Unfortunately it is not easy to park there because it's full of carloads of people with mobiles stuck to their ears.
* - beware of transvestites!