NWR Issue 15


'PLEASE Miss Aldridge,' Claire said at once, '. . . but what I mean what I want to know is — however did we get back to being English again?'

Miss Aldridge, in matters relating to national identity, was always wonderfully reasurring. 'We were never really French,' she said. 'To he sure the kings and nobles who ruled us were French — for a few hundred years — but we soon turned them into good Englishmen.'[nl
'But some hundreds of years?' said Claire in disbelief, almost as though she, personally, had been required to spend the duration of the Norman Yoke conjugating verbs and munching on snails in garlic butter.

'Excuse me. Miss Aldridge, 'Jem said. . . 'Would you say that during the Roman occupation we all became Italians?']

This short extract from Temples of Delight, by the humorous (South African-born) novelist Barbara Trapido, neatly captures the confusion of cliché, condescension and bewilderment which many English people — and not a few of the Welsh — feel towards questions of nationality and identity.

Certainly, there are many who would rather such questions did not interfere with the smooth running of general elections. However, on this occasion, it is already clear that nationality and perceived identity may well have an important bearing on the outcome.

The future of the union between Scotland and England is being seriously questioned and the relationship between Wales and England is also being re-examined — against a background of astonishing change elsewhere in Europe. It is therefore an appropriate moment for this magazine to take a closer look at some of the characteristics traditionally identified with Wales and Welshness.

Few have done more to give the contemporary world — and the Welsh themselves — an image of Wales than Richard Llewellyn. Over half a century has passed since his best-selling novel How Green was my Valley was published and turned into an Oscar-winning film in Hollywood. Like all powerful images, it has a basis in reality, as Peter Stead recalls in his assessment of Llewellyn's achievement.

But Wales cannot go on living off the image Llewellyn created. With the collieries in the Valleys now down to three and mineworkers being counted in hundreds rather than thousands, the era of Welsh coalmining is ending. Other icons of Welshness too are either out of date, flawed or no longer able to carry the weight placed upon them.

If Wales is not to drown in nostalgia and caricature, it needs a new image based on new realities. And the task of creating this new Wales is as much — perhaps more — the responsibility of Wales's writers as of its politicians and economic development agencies.


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