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Mountains. Hills. Valleys. All shades of green. This is Cymru.

I never realised how much I missed topography like this. We had entered Wales in our little van (having sold the sensible Ford sedan), crossing the River Severn. I cannot say that my Welsh or Cymraeg lessons helped from the start or is it Gymraeg, a soft mutation of the C to a G?  A warning to anyone travelling to Wales: do not rely on a Cymraeg begginer to read the signposts. Rely on satelitte navigation.

Remember too that Northern Welsh is not the same as Southern Welsh. I am allegedly learning the latter. Words differ, accents change and if I know a snippet of Southern Welsh, I am in a language deficit with Northern Welsh. The key to learning a language is to speak it out loud and hear your voice struggle along. A good reason to head to South Wales. My first encounter with a local person was in a village shop or siop, and had me stunned. Nothing came out of my mouth but a whimper. By the end of the trip I was brave enough to say hello, goodbye and thanks in Welsh. Lots of thanks or diolch. The solution: find someone at home to speak the language with me.  Hence the purchase of the book with the cover below. Ivy is going to be my Welsh language partner. We are going to have fun learning sit (stedda), stay (aros) and lie down (gorwedda lawr) in Welsh. Ivy will have the opportunity to ignore me in 3 human languages.

Apart from the joy of hearing this curious Celtic language on our trip (albeit spoken by few today), the castle ruins we visited were wonderfully quiet and bold. No entrance fees, few rules, hound-friendly and the chance to be inside castle ruins with metre thick walls (or is it 39.3701 inches?) without strangers around. We had castles to ourselves. The first castle we visited was in the village where we stayed and we could see England or Lloegr from the top of an outside wall. It was easy to imagine years of conflict between the Welsh and English, Anglo/Saxons, Normans and Romans, and all sorts of people who wanted this idyllic country. Some castles where built to keep the English out and some were built to keep the Welsh in. The strangest thing is that with Covid rules, we could visit Wales but the Welsh could not visit England! Metaphorical castles in the so-called modern era.


Did we see any Welsh squirrels or gwiwerod? Yes, we saw a few tots living in a very old tree on the side of a former castle moat. Ivy may not have chased these squirrels but what Ivy did manage to do, and before we could stop her barking fit, was to scare a whole flock of grazing sheep down a hill into a valley. She is still baffled by the baa sound coming out of puffs of clouds on legs. I suppose Ivy and I need to learn these words: Os gwelwch yn dda dod yma! Ddewr (Please come here! Behave!). (Such words could be useful for a few humans I know………)