PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
I’m still working on the Wales & West piece, but things keep cropping up. And this week has been rather testing in a number of ways. So please regard this offering as a divertimento (as we say in Swansea).
Yesterday afternoon I had to take my wife and grand-daughter to the optician in Dolgellau. As they wanted to look around and do a bit of shopping I said to myself, ‘Jones, do you really want to hang around around Dolgellau for a couple of hours on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, or should you take yourself off somewhere?’
And so off I went in a north easterly direction.
Which of course brought me to Bala. But I didn’t tarry in the town, instead I took myself up to Frongoch, and the memorial to the Irish patriots interned nearby after the Easter Rising of 1916.
I wasn’t the only one there. In fact, I’ve noticed, that for such a quiet spot it seems to attract visitors from near and far. After a rousing rendition of The Foggy Dew I moved on up to Tryweryn.
There, once a farmer and his aggressive dog had passed, I had the place to myself. I just stood there for a while, thinking of Capel Celyn beneath the water, and how that hamlet’s fate has played such a pivotal role in Welsh politics and Welsh history. It’s certainly what ‘swung’ me.
I got back in the car and started driving back down to Bala, but then, on impulse, I pulled into the National White Water Centre, on Afon Tryweryn, not far below the reservoir.
It’s called the National White Water Centre but it’s not the Welsh National White Water Centre, where you’d expect school parties of Welsh children to be trained in kayaking and associated sports. In fact, it’s just a commercial venture that for some reason was receiving ‘Welsh Government’ funding through Sport Wales. In 2014/2015 this generosity reached £378,000.
So I suppose today’s visit was kind of checking on how things are going. And the answer would appear to be, not well. Not well at all.
I walked into a large empty foyer area, with an unmanned desk on my left, and on my right something advertised as ‘Manon’s cafe’. If she exists, Manon wasn’t there, for I was served my coffee by some young guy with a rather curious coiffure.
As it was such a nice day I took my coffee outside, to get a view of the advertised white water. And then I saw it!
Nothing less than an image of Bore Grylls; action hero, piss-drinker, insect muncher, and erstwhile business associate of Gavin Woodhouse at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.
A rarity indeed, this. For as we know the great man shies away from publicity.
Not far away was another sign, this one advertising Adventure Weekends by Adventure North Wales. (The operative word here is clearly ‘Adventure’.) So who or what is Adventure North Wales?
Well, the head office is in West Molesey. But not the West Molesey you’re thinking of, between Efenechtyd and Clocaenog; no, this one is in Surrey. Which probably explains why the website is entirely in English. (As is the website for the National White Water Centre.)
(I really must check if Adventure North Wales gets any funding from our wonderful ‘Welsh Government’.)
Coffee still in hand, I moseyed on a bit further and was confronted by signs for a brand of ice cream with which I was unfamiliar. Not that I eat much of the stuff myself, you understand, but being a grandfather . . .
‘Marshfield Farm?’ I thought, ‘Where the hell is that?’ To save you looking, it’s in Wiltshire.
I went back inside the main building. The cafe was now locked, the foyer was still empty, and the desk still unmanned. I had the place to myself. So I looked around at the signs and advertisements and then it struck me – here we are, just a couple of miles from Bala, yet everything is in English.
In fact, this place might as well be in England. And I suppose it would be, if England had more rivers where the flow could be controlled by a dam. And a political class that models itself on Uriah Heep. (The Dickens character, not the rock band.)
What this means is that not only did we lose Capel Celyn when the reservoir was built, but we also gained the National White Water Centre for England. Insult added to injury.
The National White Water Centre is an alien presence in Wales. Which I suppose sums up tourism in general. In Wales, but not of Wales.
And yet, this imposition and others like it are collectively lauded as ‘Welsh Tourism’; with politicians and other forms of low life telling us that they generate billions of pounds and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Bollocks!
There’s nothing Welsh about it – not even the fucking ice cream is Welsh!
How does tourism like this benefit Wales? What does allowing strangers to treat our country in this way say about us as a nation?
In the space of just over an hour I experienced conflicting emotions. First, I was paying homage to the men of ’16; then I was remembering my own political awakening in the 1960s; before, finally, being confronted with the ugly reality of ‘Playground Wales’.
As I drove back to Dolgellau I thought about the comparative positions of Ireland and Wales today.
The former is prosperous, confident, and about to be reunited. But if the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry is any guide, then Wales is drifting towards oblivion.
♦ end ♦