Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What did the Welsh ever do for us?

There’s more to a Welsh class than learning Welsh. The Welsh are as idiosyncractic as any people – why say it’s raining cats and dogs when you could say it’s raining like old women and sticks (hen wragedd a ffyn) - and like any proud nation, they have bold claims about their place in history. In evidence, I proffer these two gems of historical “fact”:

1. How your cornflakes got their box

Nansi Richard Jones, a famous Welsh harpist known as “Queen of the Harp”, once visited Mr Kellogg of cornflakes fame. Mr Kellogg was launching new packaging for his cornflakes, previously only sold in bags. Nansi (a marketing executive in the making years before anyone knew what a marketing executive was or realised that the world could come to a crashing halt without such a person) suggested to Mr Kellogg that perhaps he could feature a cockerel on the box – not just because cockerels crow in the morning whilst you are tucking into your bowl of cornflakes (curse those pesky cockerels), but also because the similar sounding “ceiliog” is Welsh for cockerel. And it’s no coincidence that the colours of the Kellogg cockerel are the red and green colours of the Ddraig Goch (Red Dragon) of the Welsh flag. The rest, as they say, is (marketing) history!

2. How the U.S. of A. got its A

So you thought that Amerigo Vespucci gave his name to the Americas? Well, think again! Enter stage left, Welshman Richard ap Meurig, also known as “ap Meryke” (see where I’m going here….?). This is the chap who helped fund John Cabot’s voyage of discovery to Newfoundland in 1497. As thanks for the cash in hand, Mr Cabot named this new country after the Paymaster General and, as if by magic, the country of America came into being.

There are doubters amongst us who question the authenticity of such claims, but there’s no arguing with these other “interesting” (in the widest sense of the word) facts about Ceredigion:

- there are no motorways or dual carriageways (but there are lots of tractors, horse boxes and trailers, and innumerable ways of saying “goodness me, isn’t this traffic moving very slowly, do you think this nice chap could pull into one of the passing places and let us very patient folk go past”)

- there is only one major traffic light controlled intersection (but no one is quite sure where it is or what it would look like if they accidentally drove through it)

- there is only one escalator (and that didn’t arrive until autumn 2011 when the new Next store opened in Aberystwyth and although sales of the “fantastic collection of cushions in a variety of colours and styles” have been slow, the novelty moving staircase has seen a lot of action).

But who wants to see countryside in a motorway blur or a whizz down a dual carriageway? Why while away life queuing in traffic at junctions? Slow down and watch the celandines flower. And while you’re waiting, why not come to Ceredigion and take a ride on the escalator?