Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

Daffodils

…or Happy St. David’s Day, if you don’t speak the language. St David’s is the best of the saints’ days that we take notice of in the UK (not counting St Nicholas), because he has daffodils and leeks, and daffodils and leeks are both brilliant. So in celebration, here are my five favourite Welsh things (not counting people I know):

5. Glamorgan sausages, which are the only vegetarian sausages nice enough that when you cook them, the meat eaters get jealous.

4. Bonnie Tyler (who narrowly won a close-fought battle with Shirley Bassey and really I love Charlotte Church the best, but I wanted an excuse to make you watch this again).

3. The Brecon Beacons. Every summer for ten years, from my early teens until my early twenties, I went camping in South Wales. We camped in the field of a farmhouse that belonged to friends, a farmhouse so remotely-located that its address wasn’t even a street name, but just the hopeful-sounding “Hillside”. We were so high up that clouds would often form below us in the green valley at the bottom of which nestled the village of Crickhowell, and across which loomed the Sugarloaf and Table mountains – not quite the height of their Brazilian or South African counterparts, but a sturdy day’s climb nonetheless. I think there’s a great deal to be said for being able to see mountains every day, and even more for being able to climb up them whenever it takes your fancy.

2. Second place is A TIE between David Edward Hughes, who invented the radio and is therefore directly responsible for both my favourite pastime and the way I make my living, and Little Johnny Williams (he isn’t particularly called that, but he is the same height as me, which for a boy I think is quite little). Johnny plays for Crystal Palace and we love him so much that we sing whenever he comes on the pitch. His song goes like this:

OHHHHH JOHNNY JOHNNY

JOHNNY JOHNNY JOHNNY JOHNNY WILLIAMS.

Maybe you have to be there.

1. This:

Advent song for December 9: Nos Galan, Wales

Nos Galan, also known as Oer yw’r gwr, is a Welsh folk song dating back to at least the eighteenth century (that’s when it was first written down, but it was already old then). I’m not going to tell you much more about it if you don’t already know what it’s called in English, because I want you to listen to this gorgeous version without preconceptions (you may have to skip an ad first, but I promise it’s worth it).

If you want to cheat, the Welsh lyrics and the English are both listed here. The English version isn’t a translation of the Welsh, though, because even though I only know a dozen Welsh words, one of them is “Cymru”, which appears in the third line of the Welsh version and nowhere at all in the version I grew up with. Google translate suggests that the first verse in Welsh is actually something like:

Cold is the man who can not love
Old beloved mountains of Wales
To him their warmest love
[Gwyia] joyful next year

(It couldn’t handle “Gwiya”. Do let me know if you know what it means.)

UPDATE: We have a better translation via Pegasus and specifically Rhian, their Welsh alto:

Rhian’s mum says it is used in specific idiomatic expression meaning ‘Hope there is much celebration for you next year”

So we can assume that the final line is to be translated as above. Phew. Thank you, Rhian’s mum.

Anyway, I like those words much better than the English ones, and this version of it has turned a carol I always thought of as quite dull into something magically beautiful. That’s Welsh singing for you, I suppose*.

*Technically, these singers are Dutch, but Dutch and Welsh are kind of similar, aren’t they? And it’s clearly a Welsh version of a Welsh song, and it’s by far the nicest version I could find, so I cheated a bit. Sorry.