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Archive for Hydref, 2010

               Fel sawl un ohonoch mae’n siŵr, yr wyf, ers rhai blynyddoedd bellach, wedi bod wrthi’n mwynhau’r gyfres BBC: ‘Who do You think You are?” lle mae ‘celebs’ yn mynd ati i ymchwilio hanes eu teuluoedd, dysgu am eu hetifeddiaeth ac yna synfyfyrio eu ‘hunaniaeth’ yn sgil yr hyn a ddatgelir. Gwelsom Julia Sawalha yn yfed llefrith gafr gyda’r ‘bedouin’ yn wlad Iorddonen, lle hanai teulu ei thad ohoni; tra trafaeliodd Jeremy Irons hyd a lled Iwerddon yn chwilio am wreiddiau Gwyddelig yn ei deulu er mwyn esbonio’r teimlad o gynefindra a chartref y cafodd y tro cyntaf iddo ymweld â’r ynys, er gwaethaf ei magwraeth ‘quintessentially English’.

            Yna, yn gynharach yn y flwyddyn, cychwynnodd rhwydwaith deledu NBC darlledu cyfres Americanaidd wedi ei selio ar y gyfres Saesneg.  Y ‘Celeb’ cyntaf i fynd ati i ‘hel achau’  oedd Sarah Jessica Parker, a ddatgelodd cysylltiadau teuluol Americanaidd dros ben, gan gynnwys y ‘Goldrush a hefyd un o’i thylwyth a fuodd yn lwcus i ddianc rhag cael ei grogi yn Salem am fod yn wrach, gan i’r llysoedd perthnasol cael ei ddiddymu dyddiau cyn i’w hachos cael ei glywed! ‘Celeb’ arall nodweddiadol yn y gyfres oedd Brooke Shields, a darganfyddai cysylltiadau teuluol i bendefigaeth Eidaleg, gydag un o’i thylwyth yn fancwr i’r Fatican, a hefyd cysylltiadau i deuluoedd brenhinol Lloegr a Ffrainc trwy Henry IV a Louis XIV.

            Wel, medde chwi, y mae hyn i gyd yn ddiddorol iawn ond mewn pa ffordd y mae’r rwdlan yma yn ymwneud a ‘Synfyfyrion llenyddol’? Wel, yn ddiweddar fues wrthi’n darllen adolygiad blynyddol Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru a ddes i ar draws pwt ynddi yn sôn am y cwestiwn ‘Pwy ydych chi’n feddwl ydych chi?’ a’r ffaith fod y bobl hynny sydd â diddordeb mewn hel achau a hanes lleol yw un o’r carfanau pwysicaf sy’n defnyddio’r llyfrgell y dyddiau hyn. Y mae’n ddifyrwaith poblogaidd ac mae fy nhad yn gwario oriau yn pori’r we ac ar y ffon hefo pobl o America a thu hwnt yn ychwanegu canghennau at y ‘Goeden deuluol’. Tra buon ni lawr yn Aberystwyth yn y Llyfrgell, gwelsom hen luniau o’n teulu ni yn archifau’r papur bro ‘Nene’ ac roeddent wrth ein boddau! Perodd i mi synfyfyrio’r teimlad hwylus hyn, gan sidro sut allaf ei harneisio i fy ngyrfa fel awdures; yna sylweddolais mai’r cwestiwn  ‘Pwy ydych chi’n feddwl ydych chi?’ (a’r synfyfyrion y mae hyn yn ennyn) yw sylfaen  sawl un o’m hoff lyfrau, gan gynnwys dau lyfr gan Alex Haley: ‘Roots: The Saga of an American family’ a’r dilyniant: ‘Queen: The story of an American family’. Yn wir, wrth i mi feddwl, dechreuais weld genre cyfan o’m mlaen, gan gynnwys rhai caneuon posib i’w gynnig fel soundtrack i’r golofn, megis: ‘Coward of the county’ (Kenny Rogers), ‘In the Ghetto’ (Elvis) ac, yn fwy dadleuol fyth ella: ‘Who are You’ (The Who)!

            Dechreuais sidro’r rhesymau am atyniad rhyfeddol y ‘genre’ ac es ati i ymchwilio a gwirio ffeithiau er mwyn sgwennu colofn arno. Dysgais mai’r actores Lisa Kudrow oedd yn gyfrifol am gynhyrchu’r fersiwn Americanaidd o’r sioe, wedi iddi weld y gyfres wreiddiol wrth ffilmio’n Iwerddon. Y mae dyfyniad ganddi yn dweud: “It’s those tiny, wierd little connections to the past that make the show so interesting.” Yn wir, wrth synfyfyrio’r ffenomena fuaswn yn crybwyll rhywbeth tebyg gan gynnig mai’r canlynol sy’n ennyn ein diddordeb yn y maes o ‘achyddiaeth’ (genealogy):

  • Y ffordd y mae  bywydau ein teulu (a theuluoedd y Celebs) yn adlewyrchu, ac wedi ei phlethu gyda, ddigwyddiadau hanesyddol, nodweddiadol (megis y treialon gwrachod yn Salem)…
  • Sut mae hyn wedyn yn ennyn emosiwn a realaeth i’r hanes, oherwydd bod y bobl yma yn golygu rhywbeth i ni: “These are my people” (I ddyfynnu SJP)
  • Ac yn olaf, y syniad wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey ene (i ddyfynnu Dr Who) o’r teimlad fod rhai pethau ‘yn y gwaed’ (i ddyfynnu ‘Jeremy Irons’) – y teimlad o fod yn ‘Connected’ (i ddyfynnu Brooke Shields) a oedd hefyd yn tybio fod hanes ei thylwyth yn rhannol gyfrifol am ei phenderfyniad i astudio diwylliant a llenyddiaeth Ffrangeg yn y brifysgol 

             Nawr te, cyn yn ddiweddar iawn, mi fyddwn innau wedi twt twtio am y trydydd pwynt uchod. Fuasai fy astudiaethau academaidd (Cymdeithaseg) yn dweud wrtha’i mai lol botes oedd syniadau fel hyn ac, oni bai am rhai nodweddion biolegol, ein hamgylchiadau personol sy’n ein siapio yn fwyaf. Ond, rhai misoedd yn ôl, ges i freuddwyd a gall, er gwaethaf y ffaith nad wyf yn grefyddol, cael ei sidro’n ‘datguddiad’; yn gryno, cwrddais â fy Nhaid, Glyn Edwards (cyn arweinydd band pres Rhosllannerchrugog), a fu farw o leiaf ugain mlynedd cyn i fi cael fy ngeni…dihunais gan barhau i deimlo fy mod wedi ei gwrdd o’r diwedd, a’i fod wedi estyn ataf er mwyn rhoi neges i mi…(am fwy o’r stori fisâr yma darllenwch ‘Paradocs y Pili-pala arian’ ar fy ngwefan isaf).

            Eniwe, yn ôl at y llenyddiaeth! Wrth sidro esiamplau Cymreig, fuaswn yn argymell dau lyfr yn arbennig: ‘O Drelew i Drefach’ (Gwasg Gomer) gan Marged Lloyd Jones a ‘The Pleasure Seekers’ (Bloomsbury) gan Tishani Doshi. Y mae’r cyntaf yn adrodd hanes Ellen Davies, neu ‘Nel fach y Bwcs’ (gan mai llyfrwerthwr oedd ei thad) a ganed yn y Rhondda cyn symud yn hogan fach, hefo’i theulu, yn 1870 i Batagonia. Mam yng nghyfraith i’r awdures oedd ‘Nel’ ac mae’r llyfr yn llawn straeon annwyl o’r teulu a’r gymyned Gymreig yn setlo ym mheithiau garw, estron y Wladfa, gan gynnwys cyfeillgarwch a’r ‘Tuhuelche’ (Indiaid brodorol). Ymysg fy ffefrynnau yw’r sôn am y Tuhuelche yn ymgasglu y tu allan i Llain-las, sef cartref y teulu, gan weiddi am ‘Poco bara’ gan oeddent wedi cael blas arno ac yn fodlon cyfnewid ceffylau am y ‘danteithfwyd Cymreig’; y rhodd o ‘poncho’ i’r teulu adeg ei cholled; a’r ffaith fod y Tuhuelche wrth ei boddau yn gwrando ar y Cymru yn canu emynau, a byddent yn sefyll mewn rhes y tu allan i’r capel, yn siglo o un ochr i’r llall i’r miwsig, gan guro eu traed a chwerthin ar eu pennau!

            Y mae’r ail lyfr, The Pleasure seekers yn gyhoeddiad newydd sbon gan y bardd Tishani Doshi o Madras, sy’n adrodd hanes ei rhieni, Babo a Siân, a’r plethu o ddau ddiwylliant gwahanol ar y naw (Gujarati Jain a Chymreig) wrth i’r ddau ‘pleasure seeker’ mynnu parhau a’i chariad a phriodi, er gwaethaf pob ymyrraeth deuluol. Eto mae’r llyfr yma yn llawn dop o straeon annwyl, wrth ddilyn bywydau Babo a Siân, o gyfarfod yn y cantîn yn ei gwaith, trwy gyfnod gwrthdystiad Babo yn nhŷ ei Ba (nain) ym mhentref Ganga Bazaar, lle aeth pan fynnodd ei deulu ni chaf weld Siân eto, nes iddynt briodi a setlo yn dŷ ei hunain, sef Tŷ-y-giatiau-Oren-a-du ym Madras, a magu teulu ei hunain. Y mae’r ddau lyfr yn ‘labour of love’ ac yn hynod o hwylus a difyr i’w ddarllen. Gobeithiaf ysgrifennu fersiwn (neu sawl fersiwn) fy hun rhyw ddydd…gan gychwyn, efallai, gyda hwyl a helyntion y teulu Pinto-Edwards!

Hoffwn ddiolch i Tishani Doshi am rhoi caniatâd i ni ddefnyddio ei llun. I ddarllen fy ngwaith llenyddol, gan gynnwys cyn-erthyglau o’r golofn, ewch i sbïo ar fy mlog/ wefan: www.saralouisewheeler.wordpress.com  

Cyhoeddir yn wreiddiol yn fy ngholofn: Synfyfyrion llenyddol, ym mhapur bro Wrecsam: Y Clawdd,  Hydref 2010 (Rhifyn 141)/ Originally published in my column: Synfyfyrion llenyddol (literary musings), in the Welsh language community magazine: Y Clawdd, October 2010 (Issue 141).

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              Mis yma fuon yn ddigon ffodus i dderbyn llythyr, a hynny gan Mr Alun Davies, Ffordd Caer, sy’n cynnig llun ateb i brydyddiaeth ein colofnydd, Sara Louise Wheeler, a fuodd wrthi’n trafod yn ei erthygl yn rhifyn 140 (Gorffennaf 2010) Y Clawdd: Pam fod brechdanau’n fenywaidd? (A chwestiynau difyr eraill!) Dyma’r llythyr a cherdd gan Alun Davies, gydag ymateb gan Sara Louise Wheeler; gellir lawrlwytho cerdd wreiddiol Sara Louise Wheeler ynghyd a’r erthygl lawn oddi ar ei wefan:     www.saralouisewheeler.wordpress.com

Annwyl Golygydd

            Diddorol a difyr oedd sylwadau Mrs Sara Louise Wheeler yn rhifyn diwethaf ‘Y Clawdd’. Caniatewch i mi felly awgrymu ateb iddi â rhigwm fel yr amgaeedig.

            Yr hyn sy’n ddiddorol yn y Gymraeg yw nad oes air yn cyfateb yn union i’r gair Saesneg ‘IT’ e.e. “IT is raining” – “Mae HI yn glawio”. HI a FO neu FE yn Gymraeg, gan ein bod yn bobl rywiol! ‘Vacillating nouns’ yn ôl J.M.J. Felly BRECHDAN o ddyn – rhyw fath o Gadiffan!

Yn Gywir

Alun Davies

Baled y frechdan

(I’r rhyw nid adweinir)

Mae rhywbeth bach yn poeni pawb

Nid yw yn haf ym mhobman

A’r hyn sy’n blino ambell un –

Ai hwn neu hon yw brechdan!

 

Pan steddaf lawr i fwyta

Fy mrechdan amser te

Ni roddaf yn fy ymyl

Ramadeg J.M.J

 

Ac felly nid wy’n poeni

Am ryw fel ‘eg’ a ‘bi’

Pwysicach i’m bryd hynny

Yw blas fy mrechdan i.

 

Pe chwiliech bob geiriadur

Un Spurrell neu un Bruce

Nid yw yr un o’r rheini

Yn help i agor drws.

 

Naw wfft i’r holl gwestiynau

Pa le?” “Pa fodd?” a “Sut?”

Yr hyn sy’n broblem inni

Nid oes Gymraeg am ‘IT’

 

Rhown heibio holl reolau

Gramadeg rif y gwlith

Ni chawn ni drafferth bellach

Wrth fwyta bara brith

 

Beth yw’r ots am genedl brechdan

Paid a dirdynnu’th fron

Duw a’th waredo, Sara

Ni elli ddianc rhag ‘HON’.

  

Ymateb Sara Louise Wheeler:

Rwyf wrth fy modd a’r gerdd yma, a’r ffaith y cafodd ei hysbrydoli gan fy ngherdd i. Efallai af ati y nawr i geisio sgwennu cerdd newydd fel ymateb, gan ofyn am eglurhad pellach am frechdanau – Pam Benywaidd ac nid Gwrywaidd? A pam “Y bara hwn” (gwrywaidd) ac nid “Y bara hon” (benywaidd)? Pwy benderfynodd? Ac os yw’r bara yn wrywaidd, oni ddylid cenedl y frechdan dibynnu ar gydbwysedd cenedl weddill y cynhwysion? Er enghraifft: brechdan caws – gwrywaidd, brechdan letys a moron – benywaidd?

A oes system i weithio’r peth allan? Neu oes rhaid dysgu pob un trwy broses o ‘osmosis’?! Rwy’n cofio mai “O’r alaw hon” yw hi, gan allaf glywed llais swynol Meinir Gwilym wrth iddi ganu “Fin Nos” (o’r albwm “Dim Ond Clwydda”) ac fel graddedig yn y Gymraeg allem fod yn weddol hyderus fod Meinir yn gwybod ei stwff; ond beth am y sylwebyddion rygbi a chwynodd y pedant amdanynt (Yng nghylchgrawn Golwg sef ysbrydyoliaeth fy ngherdd) yn cam-dreiglo ‘Y linell’ (lle ddylent ddweud Y llinell?) Peryg i ni ddilyn yr esiamplau anghywir!

Ta beth, hoffwn i gynnwys eich llythyrau yn Y Clawdd felly anfonwch eich llythyrau a sylwadau at: clawdd@ysgolmorganllwyd.Wrexham.sch.uk

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            When I initially set my sights on ‘breaking in’ to a career in academia, I had quite a difficult time getting a foot in the door, primarily because my written English was not of a sufficient standard. I hadn’t properly grasped the simple rules, for example: grammar and punctuation. In fact, I didn’t even use ‘full stops’ with any kind of consistency! A turning point came when I applied for a temporary, part time job, as a ‘P.A.’ to cover a period of maternity leave.

            I felt quite confident as I walked to the interview, with my degree certificate in a conference-file under my arm, along with relevant experience under my belt. But, without wanting to bore you with the whole story, the result of this outing was that I found myself back in my flat, sitting on the kitchen floor, in my suit, weeping and chiding myself; I had failed to get a job which asked only for GCSEs because I didn’t know the difference between “It’s” ac “Its” and some other similar linguistic details. However, once I had dried my tears, I decided that I must do something to fix this pronto or else this entire university-palaver would have been a waste of time.

          I attended night classes for English Grammar and I read: “Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” (which explains the “It’s” ac “Its” issue perfectly by the way). Before too long I had mastered many of the rules which had once been such a mystery to me – in fact, I became a bit of a pedant and a “much-sought-after-proof-reader” amongst my colleagues. Then I landed a job as a researcher within the University and I felt that I had ‘arrived’.

           However before too long my Clark Kent life wasn’t quite enough. A strange super-hero-ish feeling awakened in me and I yearned for an outlet for my creative energies; so I began writing poems and stories. I had originally intended that my literary activities would be in the Welsh language and I set about attending local Eisteddfods. However this led to a huge reality-check when I received my first short story back with the following sentence written on it: “Gormod o wallau iaith: Rwy’n amau mai dysgwr sydd yma?” (“Too many linguistic mistakes: I suspect there is a learner at work here?) So obviously, I had some work to do ‘fixing’ my written Welsh – however I was quite confident that I could do it since I had been so successful with my written English.

           However despite my best efforts over the next few years I never even came close to reaching a satisfactory standard with my written Welsh. The rules were more complex, particularly the enigma of ‘mutation’. Another problem was that the nature of my Welsh was fundamentally different to that of my English. I had set about, at an early age, styling my spoken English on that of Sir Alec Guinness, Deborah Kerr a Julie Andrews. I would sit for hours replaying certain bits of footage from the videos of the Star Wars trilogy, Mary Poppins and The King and I, listening and then stopping the video and practicing out loud (although I have no idea what sparked this particular decision and subsequent behaviour!)

           In any case this meant that I did at least speak English ‘correctly’, if a little pompously. This developed further of course when I took to studying my undergraduate degree in English. But the Welsh I speak is still the language of the hearth rather than the more polished, scholarly English I have crafted. I mix ‘tenses’ and I make linguistic bloopers of the same kind that may be observed in ‘everyday English’ used on soap operas, football commentating and reality TV. The Welsh that I speak is ‘natural’ but not ‘correct’.  I also mix idioms which renders them nonsensical, in much the same way as George Huws from C’mon Midffild does with his “Dyna sut mae’r cookie’n crymblo! (That’s the way the cookie crumbles!)

          I brooded over the problem for many years. One time, when I was watching the Sali Mali DVD with my niece, Sali Mali began counting the sandwiches: “Un, dwy, tair, pedair…” “But why are sandwiches feminine?” I whined, and my niece stared at me, puzzled. Then, one day, as I sat on a train, reading Golwg (Welsh language magazine), I saw a letter which drew attention to the tendancy of Rugby commentators to mix gender and mutation rules: “Y Llinell, nid y linell” (the llinell not the linell) complained the pedant. A poem began forming in my mind. I pulled a biro and pad of paper from my briefcase and started scribbling. By the time the train pulled into Lime Street I had the foundations of a poem. I entered it as part of a collection fin the “Ysgoloriaeth Emyr Feddyg” (Doctor Emyr Scholarship) competition (National Eisteddfod, Cardiff and district 2008) and they receive a favourable review in the book of “Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau” (Compositions and Judgments) although, again, the Judge Ceri Wyn Jones mentions the linguistic mistakes!

            Unfortunately I am still totally clueless when it comes to ‘correct’ Welsh and I am tending to write creatively in English more now, particularly when it comes to competitions. However I still enjoy writing in Welsh thus I treasure the opportunity to write in Welsh here, for my community newspaper/ magazine. The soundtrack of this month’s column therefore is the Stereophonics album: “Just enough education to perform”. And, if you will forgive the hubris, I would like to share my poem with you, in the hope that you will enjoy it: (In the original column just the Welsh version of the poem was printed, but I have since translated the poem and both versions were published in Voice magazine (united press) so I have included both versions below:

(Welsh version): 

Pam fod brechdanau’n fenywaidd?

(A chwestiynau difyr eraill) 

 

Y Llinell, nid y linell.

Y llong, y llinyn, y llyfr, y llwyn.

Mae Sali Mali’n cyfri’r brechdanau,

Un, dwy, tair, pedair,

Gan mai benywaidd yw brechdanau ynte?

Ond pam fod brechdanau’n fenywaidd?

A sut mae gwybod pryd i dreiglo –

A phryd i beidio?

Meddal, trwynol, llaes, Cysefin.

Mae gen i’r tabl ym mlaen fy ngeiriadur,

Ond waeth iddo fod am fecaneg cwantwm ar y blaned Siwenna wir!

A beth am yr acen grom te?

a’r symbolau deniadol eraill?

Maen nhw’n edrych yn neis iawn ar y dudalen,

Ac yn ychwanegu ryw Je ne se quoi at enwau pobl,

Mae’n rhaid i mi gyfaddef,

Siôn, Siân, Llŷr ag Andrèa.

Ond dwi’n methu’n glir a chofio’r rheolau,

Ac maen nhw’n niwsans i’w teipio ‘fyd –

Codau cymhleth fel rhyw fath o semaffor hunllefus,

Mae’n ddigon i gadw rhywun rhag blogio!

A sut mae sgwennu’r dyddiad hyd yn oed?

-af, -fed, -ydd, -ed,

A pam fod rhai pethe yn un-deg-tri,

Tra bod eraill yn dair-ar-ddeg?

Rwy’n ddieithryn i iaith fy nghalon –

Mewn pob ffordd “cywir” beth bynnag.

Ag eto, mae yna brydferthwch i’r cymhlethdod.

Hen iaith urddasol, swynol, cyfriniol,

A’i idiomau pert a’i eiriau barddonol.

Mae yna ddyfnder sy’n deillio o’i hanes maith,

A’r traddodiadau morffolegol yng ngwreiddiau’r iaith.

Y mae cyfoeth yn deillio o’r tafodieithoedd niferus,

A sioncrwydd yn yr ymennydd pan fo Cymraeg ar y wefus.

Ac felly rwy’n fodlon straffaglu â marciau diacritig,

Am yr anrhydedd o ‘sgrifennu yn yr iaith fendigedig.

Anwesaf yn awr y teg, tecach, a’r teced,

A’r drud, y drutach, y drutaf, a’r dryted.

Y mae’n bleser i ddysgu sut i gywiro fy ngwallau,

A dysgu’r ffordd orau i gyfrif brechdanau.

 

(English version): 

Why are sandwiches feminine?

(And other interesting questions)

 

 The Llinell, not the linell.

The llong, the llinyn, the llyfr, the llwyn.

Sali Mali is counting the sandwiches,

Un, dwy, tair, pedair,

because sandwiches are feminine aren’t they?

But why are sandwiches feminine?

And how to know when to mutate –

and when not to?

Meddal, trwynol, llaes, Cysefin.

I have the table in the back of my dictionary,

But it may as well be on quantum physics from the planet Siwenna!

And what of the acen grom?

and other decorative symbols?

They look very nice on the page,

and add a Je ne se quoi to people’s names,

I must admit.

Siôn, Siân, Llŷr and Andrèa.

But I can’t for the life of me remember the rules,

and they’re a nuisance to type as well.

Complicated codes like some nightmarish semaphore,

it’s enough to keep someone from blogging!

And how to write the date even?

-af, -fed, -ydd, -ed,

And why are some things un-deg-tri,

While others are dair-ar-ddeg?

I’m a stranger to the language of my heart –

in every “correct” sense anyway.

And yet there’s a beauty which lies within the complexity,

Of the old tribal language shrouded in mystery.

With its pretty idioms and poetic phrases,

Steeped in a history which continually amazes.

Morphological traditions which contemporaries respect,

and the richness derived from each dialect.

A vivaciousness of spirit when Cymraeg is spoken,

So proud are we that it has not been forsaken.

And thus I am willing to study diacritics,

 For the honour to write with their added aesthetics.

I’ll embrace now the teg, tecach, and teced,

the drud, the drutach, the drutaf, the dryted.

It’s a pleasure to learn how to correct my gwallau,

and to learn the correct way to count the brechdanau.

 

This article was first written in Welsh and published in my column Synfyfyrion Llenyddol (literary musings) which appears in each issue of Y Clawdd, the Welsh-language community magazine for the Wrecsam area. It was published in July 2010 (Issue 140) and then posted here on the 15th of July 2010. I have translated it here so that everyone can enjoy it. / Cafodd yr erthygl yma ei gyhoeddi yn gyntaf yn fy ngholofn Synfyfyrion llenyddol sy’n ymddangos ym mhob cyfrol o Y Clawdd, papur bro ardal Wrecsam. Cafodd ei gyhoeddi ym mis Gorffennaf 2010 (Rhifyn 140), ac yna ei postio yma ar y 15fed o fis Gorffennaf 2010.  Yr wyf wedi ei cyfieithu fan hyn er mwyn i bawb cael ei fwynhau.

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            As February turned to March, and the cold spell continued to grip us, I looked out through the window one Saturday morning, across the fields and marshes, and pondered “When will we have blue skies again I wonder?” This got me to thinking about a collection of short stories we studied at school called: “ga’i ddarn o awyr las heddiw?” (“Can I have a piece of blue sky today?”) So I went to the bookshelf to find my treasured copy.

           Now usually my Saturdays operate with military precision: get up, go to Tesco, unpack the shopping, clean the house, do the ironing, make tea. An organised Saturday like this makes it easier to cope with a week full of work and study, but sometimes it can evoke the feeling from ‘The shining’ of: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. So sometimes it’s nice, and perhaps even important, to escape from the routine and do something fun.

           On the Saturday in question I’d just moved house and had been busy for days struggling with boxes, sweeping and tidying, and getting cross when I couldn’t find things; and I was very tired. So I decided that I deserved the luxury of going back to bed, opening this little book, and spending a pleasant hour or so reading something that was nothing-to-do-with-work-or-my-thesis. Like a cherry on the cake my husband brought me a lovely cup of tea before vanishing into the fields to go bird watching. So I settled down to enjoy this collection of short stories written by my ‘literary idol’, Mr Aled Lewis Evans, who was a teacher at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd (secondary school) when I was there as a pupil in the early-nineties.

            I remembered fondly how we had studied the book in our Welsh literature class with Mrs Liz Williams and that she gave us an essay set on the story ‘Alltud’ (Exile); we were to decipher its meaning and write about it. So, when the bell rang, there we were of course, in a little gang, following poor Mr Evans around the corridors trying to persuade him to give us the answer, with one boy asking if it was about someone with a ‘split-personality’, to which Mr Evans laughed and said “Erm no, but that’s an interesting idea!”

              Like many of the books I studied whilst at school, I got far more pleasure from reading it as an adult; I had a better understanding of what the stories were seeking to convey and thus I appreciated them far more. The title of the book comes from one of the short stories (of the same title) which tells the story of a young girl who has experienced a lifetime of suffering, through a difficult childhood and a broken marriage, and then in her depressive state she has come to view the world through the metaphor of clouds and blue skies; she focuses on making ‘a piece of blue sky’ for herself. This is the main theme of the collection which follows a plethora of complex characters as they seek their own ‘pieces of blue skies’ in lives that are full of clouds. It is a powerful message, particularly in these grey days of grim winter, with the spectre of recession looming and nothing but sadness filling the news channels; sometimes it’s hard to see even the smallest patch of blue sky, and life seems to be passing by in an endless stream of anxiety and pointlessness.

                Each time I find myself dwelling on this however, my favourite folk song ‘Moliannwn’ (We praise) echoes in my mind, like a light in the darkness: “Daw’r coed i wisgo’u dail, a mwyniant mwyn yr haul, a’r ŵyn ar y dolydd i brancio!” (“The trees come to wear their leaves, and we’ll take pleasure in the pleasantness of the sun, and the lambs on the hills will prance”). Somehow it gives me an extra bit of ‘oomff’ each time I think about the old, nostalgic farm and the woolly, little lamb jumping on the hill! I start mulling over the metaphor of the lyric which comes later in the song “ac ar ôl y tywydd drwg, fe wnawn arian fel y mwg, mae arwyddon dymunol o’n blaenau(“and after the bad weather, we’ll make money like the smoke, signs/ omens for our futures look agreeable”) until pretty soon I have forgotten my sorrows and find myself humming the tune for hours!

                 Interestingly, as I was verifying the facts for this article, I learned that ‘Moliannwn’ was one of Wales’ Bob Tai’r Felin’s best loved songs. Bob Tai’r Felin was the performance name of Bob Roberts, a famous Welsh folk singer from my Nain’s (grandmother) era, who hailed from the Bala area in North Wales. According to some well-read members of the online forum maes-e.com, ‘Tai’r Felin’ (the mill houses) were in the Cwmtirmynach area, and this resonated with memories of my Nain telling me (after we had been singing Moliannwn together one day) that Bob was from the area near Tryweryn. However the words were written by Benjamin Thomas, a poet who was originally from Bethesda but who lived for most of his life in the United States. Benjamin wrote the song whilst living in North Pawlet, New York State. He set the words to an American tune: ‘The Old Cabin House’.

                Anyway, back to the collection of short stories! This little book has given me that same kind of ‘Moliannwn-esque’ lift over these last few weeks of bleakness.  The stories are full of the dearness of the author and they transport you around the world as he considers society, relationships and identity. Whether he’s celebrating the new year, sipping champagne in a club in Rimini, or else sitting in a cafe in Bangor, during the bustle of the Christmas shopping rush, eating a jacket potato with cheese and onion; Aled Lewis Evans possesses and incredible talent for literary musing and reflection and he is able to encapsulate the atmosphere of a particular setting and occasion, brilliantly observing the personalities of those around him, and highlighting a particular nuance or inspirational message.

             And in an odd kind of way, whilst promoting their hair and skin care products, the beauty company L’ORÉL have created a mantra which draws on the same profound concept as that of Aled Lewis Evans’s book, and that of the folk song ‘Moliannwn’; we all deserve a ‘piece of blue sky’ in our lives. We all need them in order to blossom like the snow drop and prance like the lamb-on-the-hill. But sometimes we can become too busy with responsibilities or else we simply find it hard to give ourselves permission to relax. The message of this month’s column therefore is: claim your ‘piece of blue sky’ today; insist upon it – whether it’s a pair of ‘Ugg boots’, or a ‘Radley handbag’, or else simply a quiet hour back in bed on a Saturday morning reading a book that is just-for-fun. Demand your ‘piece of blue sky’ today, because you’re worth it!

               After writing this article I learned that a new collection of Aled Lewis Evans’s stories is about to be released, in English this time. The title of this collection is: ‘Driftwood’ and it is being published by Gwasg y Bwthyn (Cottage press), Caernarfon. It will be on sale in Siop y Siswrn, and there will be an official launch party on the 16th of June 2010 in Wrecsam Library. It is intended that this collection will be available before the National Eisteddfod 2011 which is to be held in Wrecsam. It is hoped that the collection will act as a bridge for non-Welsh-speakers, particularly those from North East Wales, to try reading some of Aled’s work in Welsh.  

               The launch party for Aled’s new collection of short stories, Driftwood, mentioned above, was very successful and the book is selling well and has met with some very favourable reviews. The collection contains some translations from the original Welsh language collection discussed in the article above, including “Can I have a piece of blue sky today?” and also an excellent fantasy story called: “The Border” to which I have written a piece of fan-fiction which picks up the story from where it left off and seeks to answer some of the questions set forth by the mysteries described in the original story. I have submitted this story (“Eerie Arddlin”) to a short story competition and have my fingers crossed that it will fare well! Whatever the outcome I shall either post it here in its entirety or else post directions here of how it may be obtained if it has been published as part of an anthology or similar. Copies of ‘Driftwood’ can be obtained from the Welsh shop: Siop y siswrn or else bought online at Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Driftwood-Monologues-Aled-Lewis-Evans/dp/1907424040

This article was first written in Welsh and published in my column Synfyfyrion Llenyddol (literary musings) which appears in each issue of Y Clawdd, the Welsh-language community magazine for the Wrecsam area. It was published in May 2010 (Issue 139) and then posted here on the 22nd May 2010. I have translated it here so that everyone can enjoy it. / Cafodd yr erthygl yma ei gyhoeddi yn gyntaf yn fy ngholofn Synfyfyrion llenyddol sy’n ymddangos ym mhob cyfrol o Y Clawdd, papur bro ardal Wrecsam. Cafodd ei gyhoeddi ym mis Mai 2010 (Rhifyn 139), ac yna ei postio yma ar y 22ain o fis Mai 2010.  Yr wyf wedi ei cyfieithu fan hyn er mwyn i bawb cael ei fwynhau.

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I was a pupil at Ysgol Bodhyfryd (Bodhyfryd primary school) when I first began dreaming of becoming and author and a poet. I remember it as though it were yesterday. I had just written a poem on the theme of bullying: ‘Billy y bwli’ (Billy the bully) and Mr G was asking Owain, one of the boys in my class, to draw a suitable picture to accompany my poem so that it could go on the wall, because it was so good. Now I had always enjoyed writing poems and writing stories and I had received praise from several of my teachers for my work, including a story about: ‘Y cyw bach melyn’ (the little yellow chick) and an English poem: ‘The sea is like a…big, grey cat’. But on that day I had one of those eureka moments and decided that it was a writer that I wanted to be.

So I applied myself to perfecting my art. I wrote a collection of naive poems, I drew up ideas for novels, and I read, broadly and deeply. I enjoyed school and so I arrived at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd (Morgan Llwyd Secondary school) full of enthusiasm. I was put in top set for every subject and the future looked very bright indeed. Then, inexplicably, I began to fail. Skills such as spelling, neatness and numeracy began to grow in importance, where creativity and understanding had previously been emphasised. It was as though I had been successfully playing a game for years and suddenly the rules had been changed and I was the only one who was failing to adapt.

I was moved to set three (of four) in several subjects and a question mark hung over my ability to even pass the GCSEs. Even though I still enjoyed Welsh and English lessons, and the books and poems we studied, my interest in school work was deflated and my dreams of being an author vanished; in fact, I didn’t really think much about the idea of a ‘career’ at all until I received the unexpected news that I had done reasonably well in the GCSE exams. In a fateful, whirlwind moment I decided to go ahead to the ‘sixth form’.

Whilst studying for A levels I had my next epiphany; the Sociology teacher worked regularly with people who experienced learning difficulties, including dyslexia, and it was her belief that I showed some of the symptoms of the condition. After a long, arduous and drawn out process (spanning many months) I eventually had a test which confirmed that I did in fact have dyslexia. Initially devastated and concerned that this spelled the end of any University hopes, I began reading about the condition and I realised that it was dyslexia that was the root cause of many of my failings. I learned that it was possible to ‘fix’ many of the difficulties, for example punctuation, and I ploughed forth with renewed enthusiasm to learn how to write ‘properly’ (in the English language anyway).
I went on the study a degree at University and was then elected to serve for a year as a sabbatical officer in the students’ union. It was whilst working here, serving on validation panels for courses and modules, that I decided that I wanted to be an ‘academic’; studying, reading and writing for a living – what could be better?! I began reading novels again and, through the work of Jean Rhys and Margaret Atwood, I had a new epiphany: I recaptured my dream of being an author, with the new added twist of simultaneously being an academic.

In the beginning it was my intention to write in Welsh and I set about entering the local eisteddfodai and then the national eisteddfod. I attended a course at Ty Newydd writer’s centre: ‘Magu hyder’ (Nurturing confidence) which was excellent. However huge problems awaited me in this direction and I had to forget this particular idea for the time being (more about this some other time, in some future column perhaps!)
Now then, perhaps it would seem to be a rather strange choice, perhaps even unwise, for someone with dyslexia to want to be an author or an academic, let alone dreaming about succeeding in both fields? Doesn’t dyslexia mean that it is impossible for you to read and write? Well no is the short answer; with the long answer including descriptions of the way in which the condition effects the individual in a cluster of disadvantages but also different additional abilities. To summarise, it is almost as though the brain has been ‘wired differently’ rather than being ‘broken’.

As a result, particular and unique talents emerge, particularly (I would suggest) following years of hiding some difficulties through shame, for example: being unable to read an ordinary clock; getting lost in the city in which you have lived for the past ten years; having to constantly compensate for ‘short-term-sequential-memory-disorder’ through being pedantic about neatness and order. However happily enough it seems that it is possible to come to terms with the condition and to harness it to your advantage.

An excellent example of this is Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal of the boxer Rocky Balboa who is successful, despite every barrier, because of his strong spirit, his perseverance and his ‘eye of the tiger’. Indeed, Rocky II contains several references to the learning difficulties of the character, which are based on the difficulties of the writer himself (Stallone).

Just recently Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) was discussing with Paul O’Grady that the only footage of him on a motorbike in the series Happy days was some thirty seconds during the opening credits, which were filmed just before he lost control of the bike (the same one used by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape) and fell off, leaving the bike to slide along the road until it came to rest under a lorry! He was unable to ride a motor bike because of his weak motor abilities which are a part of his dyslexia; and yet, he was the king of cool on this popular show.

In light of these stories I am therefore hopeful that I, in spite of my difficulties, will be able to focus this ‘dyslexic-wmff’ on the unique ‘talents and abilities’ which I possess, including my creativity and flare for original ideas, and somehow harness this to aim for a career in creative writing. With this in mind I have created a blog: http://www.saralouisewheeler.wordpress.com where I am busy posting my poems, short stories and articles from this column, and I will be promoting my ideas for novels on which I am currently working.

This article was first written in Welsh and published in my column Synfyfyrion Llenyddol (literary musings) which appears in each issue of Y Clawdd, the Welsh-language community magazine for the Wrecsam area. It was published in March 2010 (Issue 138) and then posted here on the 29th March 2010. I have translated it here so that everyone can enjoy it. / Cafodd yr erthygl yma ei gyhoeddi yn gyntaf yn fy ngholofn Synfyfyrion llenyddol sy’n ymddangos ym mhob cyfrol o Y Clawdd, papur bro ardal Wrecsam. Cafodd ei gyhoeddi ym mis Mawrth 2010 (Rhifyn 138), ac yna ei postio yma ar y 29fed Mawrth 2010. Yr wyf wedi ei cyfieithu fan hyn er mwyn i bawb cael ei fwynhau. (rhagor…)

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            During the past few months I came across the work of two talented, Ceredigion-based artists, whose work got me to thinking about ‘Nostalgia’ as a genre. I’m talking about those things which  conjure up warm, cosy feelings and ideas of when life was simpler, more naïve and pleasant. Things like the picturesque villages of the TV series Midsomer Murder, Hepzibah’s kitchen in the novel Carrie’s War and even inanimate objects such as Tiffany lamps and Portmeirion crockery.

            The idea of a ‘golden age’ has been alluded to in popular music for example ‘Those were the days’ (Mary Hopkin) and ‘Yesterday once more’ (The Carpenters), and also in a classic sentence uttered by Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), as he handed over the lightsaber to Luke for the first time: “Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”

            The feelings and emotions that this ‘genre’ evokes are powerful and there are examples throughout history of the sinister use of ‘nostalgia’ for example the promises made by the Nazis of a national and cultural renewal based upon ‘Völkisch’ movement traditionalism. There are also interesting examples of the idea of a ‘Golden age’ being used as an ideology or blueprint for life, for example isolationist communities such as the Amish.

            In a less extreme way perhaps, some minority communities have mobilised nostalgia in order to protect their culture and way of life, for example the ‘Ghost Dance’ of the native Americans, and, to some extent, the Welsh community and our commitment to protect our Eisteddfods, bardic traditions and our wonderful language (a campaign in which our community newspaper plays an important part!)

            More generally however, where the ‘genre of nostalgia’ transcends the arts, it is a nexus to familiarity; escapism from the harsh realities of the present and acts like a ‘chicken soup for the soul’.

            The small details are crucial to the appeal of this genre, including fond memories of the dubious fashions and attitudes of the 1970s portrayed in the series ‘Life on Mars’.

            So as I set about conceptualising this article I reached for my trusty ‘Academi Gymreig’ dictionary and searched for an appropriate Welsh word for ‘Nostalgia’. But the offering was disappointing, just one word – ‘Hiraeth’.

            Now ‘hiraeth’ is a broad term which can bring meaning to many concepts and is used in a variety of ways, but somehow it didn’t quite fit what I was trying to convey. I discussed the matter with my fellow maes-e cyber friends and we analysed the common usage of the word, including the fact that there is a certain element of sadness to ‘hiraeth’ whilst ‘nostalgia’ brings a smile to the face and a warm feeling inside, eliciting the feeling “Weren’t they good days?”

            In addition, I would suggest, that ‘hiraeth’, usually, is used to describe feelings of sadness about something we have lost, or at least something that we remember from our own experiences – something we were once a part of. But ‘nostalgia’ offers more than this I think – it is used to convey feelings of familiarity and attraction to things that we have not necessarily previously been a part of nor experienced during our upbringing; this feeling is conveyed in John Denver’s ‘Rocky mountain: “He was born in the summer of his 27th year, comin’ home to a place he’d never been before”.

            This lyric resonated with my own feelings about the song ‘Bugail Aberdyfi’ (John Ceiriog Hughes), which begins with the lyric: ‘Mi geisiaf eto ganu cân, i’th gael di’n ôl, fy ngeneth lan, i’r gadair siglo ger y tân, ar fynydd Aberdyfi’ (I try again to sing a song, to bring you home my sweet love, to the rocking chair by the fire, on Aberdyfi Mountain).

            Now then, I have never been to Aberdyfi, nor have I ever owned a rocking chair by the fire, but somehow the words evoke in me a feeling of ‘home’. So this is definitely not the conventional ‘hiraeth’ – perhaps it could be described as hiraeth-eilaidd (secondary hiraeth)?

             So I was in a quandary about what word to use – ‘Hiraeth’, ‘Nostalgia’, ‘Coffâd’? Or maybe there was scope here to create a new word? One linguist I spoke to suggested felt it would be useful to include competitions within the Eisteddfod to create new words for nuances such as this one; I wonder whether there might be scope for this in the forthcoming Wrecsam Eisteddfod? Or perhaps there are linguists amongst the readers of Y Clawdd who might suggest an existing suitable word for ‘nostalgia’.

              Anyway, back to the artists from Ceredigion! The first was Valériane Leblond, a young artist originally from French-Quebec who moved to Wales with her partner (a Welshman). Valériane creates unique artwork which portrays ‘yr hen fywyd’ (the old life) in rural Wales, including the distinctive white cottages and the women in their aprons hanging their patchwork quilts on the washing lines. I love her pieces, with their old-fashioned Welsh names such as ‘Wedi’r hirlwm’ (after the long winter) and ‘Gwres yr aelwyd’ (The warmth of the Hearth). Her artwork can be viewed, along with details of how to obtain them, on her website: http://www.valeriane-leblond.eu

                 The second artist was Mari Strachen, a new author who has published her fabulous debut novel: The Earth Hums in B-Flat (Canongate). This astute author has managed to encapsulate life in a small, Welsh-speaking community and present it to a wider audience by writing it in English. She uses names such as Guto’r Wern and Price the Dentist, which evoke memories of Huw tŷ capel and John Jones Tŷ Pren from the novel many of us will have studied as School: Gwyn ei byd yr adar gwylltion (John Idris Owen).

                 Reading this novel I was transported to the familiar, Welsh village of the 1950s, and I got that rare feeling, which comes only when I am really enjoying a novel, of “what on earth will I do when this book is finished?”

                  However, there is something deeper and darker here, as the story unfolds to reveal the more sinister side of village life, where dark secrets, lies and tragedy are entwined in the lives of the villagers (more about this in an article-in-progress on the ‘genre’ of the ‘Seedy underbelly’…I’m already working on appropriate terms!)

             Mari Strachen is currently working on her next novel ‘Blow on a dead man’s embers’. And I am at the front of my (rocking) chair…, in front of the AGA in my slate kitchen, with a cup of tea in my Portmeirion mug, under the light of the ‘Tiffany lamp’, to the accompaniment of Poems, Prayer and Promises…waiting for it to come out!

I would like to thank Valériane Leblond for giving permission for us to use depictions of her artwork and thanks also to Mari Strachen for giving us permission to use photographs of her and her book.

This article was first written in Welsh and published in my column Synfyfyrion Llenyddol (literary musings) which appears in each issue of Y Clawdd, the Welsh-language community magazine for the Wrecsam area. It was published in Februrary 2010 (Issue 137) and then posted here on the 27th of February 2010. I have translated it here so that everyone can enjoy it. / Cafodd yr erthygl yma ei gyhoeddi yn gyntaf yn fy ngholofn Synfyfyrion llenyddol sy’n ymddangos ym mhob cyfrol o Y Clawdd, papur bro ardal Wrecsam. Cafodd ei gyhoeddi ym mis Chwefror 2010 (Rhifyn 137), ac yna ei postio yma ar y 27fed o Chwefror 2010.  Yr wyf wedi ei cyfieithu fan hyn er mwyn i bawb cael ei fwynhau.

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For as long as I can remember, I have loved all kinds of science fiction, from the television series Star Trek, to the radio series Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and, of course, the classic Foundation Series books written by Isaac Asimov. It’s a broad ‘genre’ which explores technological possibilities such as space travel, along with the possible sociological changes which would accompany such developments, for example the republic of ‘Gilead’ in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s tale’.

Over the years I have read heaps of science fiction books and the shelf in my living room trembles beneath the weight of several box-sets of science fiction series including: Star Trek Next Generation, Babylon 5 and Firefly. But strangely enough it had never occurred to me to look for science fiction books or television series in Welsh until I started discussing the topic one day with my cyber-friends on maes-e.com.

From these discussions I came to understand that there was a paucity of science fiction in the Welsh language (we managed to list about 10 books/ television series). However there was one book that captured the imagination of this society of Welsh ‘Trekkies’ (or nerds), and that was Wythnos Yng Nghymru Fydd (A week in the Wales that will be) by Islwyn Ffowc Ellis (of Cysgod y Cryman/ Shadow of the sickle fame). So, like any nerd worth her salt, I went off to graze the internet to track down a copy. However this proved to be a more difficult task than I had imagined as it was out of print, apart from an abridged version. Eventually I found a copy on sale through a second-hand book dealer online and I bought it along with another of IFE’s lesser known sci-fi books: Y Blaned Dirion (The Gentle planet).

               Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd is such a fabulous book it warrants an article all of its own (more in a future column perhaps). But, suffice to say, it is a story light-years ahead of its time and the sentence “We must go back to the future” is uttered here decades before the appearance of Marti McFly and Doc Emmett Lathrop Brown!

Y Blaned Dirion‘ is another treasure which was originally broadcast during January and February of 1959 – again, decades before the appearance of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 1978 on BBC Radio 4. Most importantly of all, in my opinion, it was in the novel that we see, for the first time, the appearance of the word: ‘Gwyddonias’ which was a word conceptualised by Islwyn Ffowc Elis as a more Welsh word, in terms of structure, for science fiction – rather than the mere translation: ‘Ffuglen Gwyddoniaeth’, which is currently the most widely used term.

Whilst there is much debate in the English science fiction community as to who is the ‘founding father’ of the genre – Jules Verne or H.G.Wells? There can be little doubt that Islwyn Ffowc Elis was the pioneer of sci-fi in the Welsh language.

There was much enthusiastic debate amongst members of maes-e.com about re-embracing this special word ‘Gwyddonias’ created by the giant of the genre, and also about how we could promote the output of Welsh-language science fiction. As a result a few members got together to create a gwyddonias-fansin, in the form of a blog http://bodiorbydysawd.rhwyd.org/ and this provided a platform for articles reviewing contemporary TV series such as ‘Dr Who’, as well as the classics of the genre.

Oddly enough, it seems that there has been a surge of Welsh language science fiction in the last few years, with new books published, including Y Dŵr (The Water) by Lloyd Jones, and Fflur Dafydd won the Wobr Goffa Daniel Owen (prize at the national eisteddfod) with her novel: Y Llyfrgell (The Library) set in the year 2020. This led to her being granted a term as a resident author at Iowa University in the United States, and she has been working on a translation of the novel into English.

Gwasg Gomer (Gomer press) have recently re-published the full version of Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd and I can highly recommend it as a Christmas present for anyone who enjoys science fiction or has an interest in Welsh politics and the future of the Welsh language.

The unexpected surge in Welsh science fiction, coupled with the inexplicable surge in fantasy stories surrounding vampires, including True Blood a Twighlight, makes this an exciting time for Welsh nerds. And as an über-nyrd myself, I look forward to charting its development, perhaps commenting and reviewing some of the work here in my column.

This article was first written in Welsh and published in my column Synfyfyrion Llenyddol (literary musings) which appears in each issue of Y Clawdd, the Welsh-language community magazine for the Wrecsam area. It was published in December 2009 (Issue 136) and then posted here on the 2nd of December 2009. I have translated it here so that everyone can enjoy it. / Cafodd yr erthygl yma ei gyhoeddi yn gyntaf yn fy ngholofn Synfyfyrion llenyddol sy’n ymddangos ym mhob cyfrol o Y Clawdd, papur bro ardal Wrecsam. Cafodd ei gyhoeddi ym mis Rhagfyr 2009 (Rhifyn 136), ac yna ei postio yma ar y 2ail o fis Rhagfyr 2009.  Yr wyf wedi ei cyfieithu fan hyn er mwyn i bawb cael ei fwynhau.

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