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Archive for Medi, 2012

Yn ôl ym mis Awst gyrrais draw i weld fy rhieni yn Llangollen ac i gymryd fy nithoedd, Christina ac Isabella, i wylio fy Aunty Brenda yn perfformio hefo ei grŵp cerddorol ‘Wrexham Signing Hands’; y mae’r grŵp yn perfformio amrywiaeth o ganeuon, gan ei dehongli trwy iaith naturiol y Gymuned Fyddar: British Sign Language (BSL). Pan gerddon ni fewn i’r dre, dyna le oedden nhw yn setio fynnu y tu allan i Y Capel (adeilad llyfrgell Llangollen a chanolfan twristiaeth), yn gwisgo ei crysau-t du hefo logo brodwaith.

Mi roedd yna awyrgylch trist i gychwyn wrth iddynt glymu ffotograff o aelod cychwynnol o’r grŵp, Malcolm Vaughan o Blas Madoc, i’r piler ger llaw, er cof am eu ffrind annwyl fu farw rhai dyddiau ynghynt. Serch hyn mi wnaeth yr awyrgylch pigo fynnu wrth i’r grŵp hel atgofion am Malcolm a oedd wastad yn llawn hwyl – ac wrth iddynt baratoi i performio rhai o’i hoff ganeuon, gan gynnwys: ‘A little respect’ gan Erasure.

Cychwynnwyd y grwp yn Fehefin 2010 gan aelodau o Wrexham Deaf Club ac maent yn cael ei harwain gan ysgrifennydd y clwb, Claire Hawkins, gyda chymorth Jo Jones, sy’n aelod o’r committee. Y mae’r grwp yn chwarae miwsig trwy amplifier ac mae Claire, a ddechreuodd dysgu BSL yn 2007, yn dehongli’r telynegion i BSL ac mae gweddill y grwp yn ei dilyn. Daeth y syniad am y grwp gan i Claire a Jo dysgu rhai caneuon wrth iddynt astudio am level 2 BSL; cafwyd ei gwahodd gan ddynes o Deaf Access Cymru i berfformio mewn digwyddiad elusennol ac yna aethon nhw ymlaen i greu grwp ffurfiol ac i brynu crysau-t ag ati.

Un o’r pethau y sylwais oedd pa mor amrywiol oedd y gerddoriaeth – er enghraifft roeddwn i wrth fy modd gyda ‘Return to Sender’ gan Elvis, tra oedd fy nithoedd wrth ei boddau gyda chaneuon gan ganwyr mwy cyfoes, megis Katie Perry – yn wir, cafodd y gan ‘Fireworks’ gan Katie ei gofyn amdani gan griw o blant a oedd wedi bod yn gwylio’r perfformiad. Cadarnhaodd Claire ei bod hi’n dewis cymysgedd o ganeuon, o ran steil a chyfnod, fel bod rhywbeth at ddant pawb.

Sylwais hefyd ei bod hi’n bosib pigo’r arwyddion fynnu’n reit handi ar ôl gweld can yn cael ei pherfformio un neu ddau o weithiau…ac arweinia hyn i mi joinio mewn yn y pnawn – syndod a phleser i mi! Fy hoff gan i’w perfformio oedd ‘Gold’ gan Spandau Ballet a oedd yn llawn arwyddion diddorol – gyda ‘aur’ yn cael ei harwyddo fel ffrwydriaid dramatig (dyna oedd fy nehongliad i beth bynnag!) Dysgais ychydig o BSL trwy gymryd rhan, ac mewn modd fydd yn fy ngalluogi i’w gofio’n hir dymor oherwydd ei chyd-destun o fewn caneuon yr wyf yn gyfarwydd â hwy.

Cawsom ein hymuno hefyd gan aelod o’r cyhoedd a oedd wedi astudio BSL flynyddoedd ynghynt. Mi roedd yn brofiad cyffroes – os ychydig yn frawychus pan sylweddolom faint o bobl oedd wedi ymgasglu i’n gwylio. Wrth synfyfyrio fy ‘stage-fright’, gofynnais i fodryb Brenda os oedd hi yn teimlo’n nerfus cyn perfformiadau; atebodd ei bod hi wedi bod ychydig yn nerfus y tro cyntaf iddi berfformio gan dyna oedd y tro cyntaf iddi berfformio mewn unrhyw agwedd – ond ar ôl y tro cyntaf mi roedd hi’n iawn.

Gan adlewyrchu ar fod yn rhan o’r grwp, esboniodd Aunty Brenda ei bod hi wastad wedi cael diddordeb mewn cerddoriaeth ac wedi gwylio ei ffrindiau yn gwrando ar gerddoriaeth, gan weithiau dymuno cael gwrando ei hun. Ond y mae’n gallu teimlo’r miwsig fel dirgryniadau trwy lawr pren (ond nid trwy lawr caled) ac y mae’n mwynhau darllen telynegion caneuon; felly dwy flynedd yn ol wrth i’r grwp dechrau ffurfio mi roedd hi wrth ei bodd yn ymuno.

Pan ofynnais iddi beth oedd hi’n mwynhau fwyaf, esboniodd Aunty Brenda fod ei diweddar Fam (Nain i mi) Alwen Edwards (née Jones), wedi bod yn aelod o gôr yr eglwys ers talwm, ac mi roedd hyn yn gwneud fod yn rhan o’r grŵp cerddorol yn enwedig o arbennig iddi. Nid oeddwn wedi ystyried hyn a ddaeth dagrau i’m llygaid gan feddwl faint yr oedd Nain yn mwyhau canu, ac amdani’n dysgu caneuon gwerin i mi megis ‘Mynydd Aberdyfi’. Rwy’n sicr bod Nain a Thaid, Glyn Edwards – arweinydd ‘Rhos Silver Prize Band’, yn gwylio Aunty Brenda gyda diddordeb ac yn browd iawn ohoni – fel yr wyf innau!

Ar nodyn ysgafnach, ddywedodd Aunty Brenda ei bod hi’n mwynhau trafeilio hefo’r grŵp ac mai ‘Dancing Queen’ gan ABBA oedd ei hoff gan i’w perfformio; mi rwyf innau’n hoff o hwn hefyd, yn enwedig gan fod yr arwydd ar gyfer ‘dawnsio’ yn cael ei ddangos trwy’ ddau fys cyntaf ar bob llaw yn ‘jitter-bugging’ pob yn ail (‘layman’s interpretation’  eto ynde!)

Gofynnais i Claire beth oedd hi’n mwynhau fwyaf am fod yn rhan o’r grŵp ac atebodd ei fod yn mwynhau’r ffaith fod yr aelodau byddar yn mwynhau; nid ydynt yn medru clywed y gerddoriaeth – er maent weithiau yn gallu teimlo’r bass os yw’n uchel. Ond hefo symudiadau’r arwyddion maent yn gallu cael syniad o sut mae’r geiriau yn cael ei chanu – hynny ydy: os yw’n cael ei chanu mewn nodyn hir neu i guriad cyflymach, oherwydd bod Claire yn estyn yr arwydd os yw’r gair yn cael ei chanu am yn hirach ayyb. Hefyd mae’r aelodau byddar yn dod i ddeall y ‘stori’ sy’n cael ei chanu.

Y mae’r grwp yn awyddus i ddenu aelodau newydd ac i bawb fwynhau hefo’i gilydd. Esboniodd Claire gall unrhyw un ymuno: hen, ifainc, dysgu BSL, rhugl mewn BSL, neu jest a diddordeb mewn BSL. Gall plant ymuno ond mae’n hanfodol iddynt fod hefo oedolyn. Gall unrhyw un sydd â diddordeb galw neu tecstio Claire ar: 07761818396.

Pan ofynnais i Claire ynglŷn â’i obeithion i’r dyfodol, adlewyrchodd fod hyn yn gwestiwn diddorol: i fynd ymlaen i fod yn enwog? Neu i’r grwp dyfu a chael llawer o aelodau? Yna ddywedodd: cyn belled fod pawb yn mwynhau ac eisiau parhau, mi roedd hi’n hapus – ac os yw’r grŵp, trwy berfformio, yn gallu codi arian i Wrexham Deaf Club fel gallent sylweddoli rhai o’i breuddwydion, gwell fyth!

Y mae’r grwp wedi helpu hefo achlysuron elusennol a hybu ymwybyddiaeth i Flintshire Deaf Children’s Society ac maent yn paratoi at fwy o berfformiadau hwyrach yn y flwyddyn. Dylid unrhyw un sydd â diddordeb mewn mynychu un o’r achlysuron, cadw golwg ar dudalen Facebook Wrexham Deaf Club am ddyddiadau wedi ei chadarnhau.

Cafodd yr erthygl yma ei gyhoeddi yn wreiddiol yn fy ngholofn ‘Synfyfyrion llenyddol’ yn papur bro Wrecsam: Y Clawdd.

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Back in August I drove over to lovely Llangollen to my parents’ flat-by-the-river and took my quickly-growing nieces, Christina and Isabella, to watch my Aunty Brenda performing with her musical group ‘Wrexham Singing Hands’; this group perform a wide variety of songs – interpreting them through the natural language of the Deaf Community: British Sign Language (BSL). We found them setting up on the steps outside Y Capel (Llangollen Library and Tourist Centre), all wearing their smart black t-shirts with embossed logo.

There was a slightly melancholy mood at first as a photo of founding member Malcolm Vaughan, of Plas Madoc, was attached to the nearby pillar, in memory of their dear friend who had tragically passed away just days before. However the mood soon picked up as the group recalled his fun-loving nature and they prepared to perform some of his favourite songs, including Erasure’s ‘A little respect’.

The group was formed in June 2010 by members of Wrexham Deaf Club and is led by the club’s secretary, Claire Hawkins, supported by Jo Jones, who is a committee member. The group play music through an amplifier and Claire, who began signing in 2007, interprets the lyrics into sign language and the rest of the group follow her lead. When asked how the idea for the group had come about, Claire commented: “Jo and I did a few songs a few years ago when we were learning our level 2; we were approached by a lady from Deaf Access Cymru and we did a charity event with them. Following this we formally established the group and went on to buy the T-shirts”.

One of the things I noticed was how varied the musical set was – for example, I was delighted with Elvis’ ‘Return to sender’ and couldn’t help but sway to Tom Jones’ ‘It’s not unusual’; meanwhile, my on-trend nieces were more impressed with songs by contemporary artists such as Katie Perry – in fact later in the day, Katie’s ‘Fireworks’ song was requested by a group of children who had been stood watching the performance.

Explaining how the set is put together, Claire commented: “Basically, I choose the songs and do a quick version of it in sign and see what the others think. I find it easier when I know the song or really like the song as it’s me that people follow, so as long as I know the song, it’s not too bad! So the more I like a song the better. I do like to mix it up though with some old songs for the older generation and some up-to-date songs for the younger listener/watchers. I try and mix up the style of songs too; we used to do the song ‘Poison’ for a bit of rock, but some members went off it and so it has been dropped from the set!”

Another thing I noticed was how quickly it was possible to pick up the signs after watching the songs a couple of times through…which led to me actually joining in later in the day (to my great surprise and delight), with my favourite song to sign being ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet, with the title word being the most dramatic and fun (two clenched fists hitting together, followed by the hands separating and opening up). I certainly picked up some BSL that day – and in a way which will help me remember the signs long-term because they were in the context of song lyrics with which I am familiar.

We were also joined in the afternoon by a passer-by who had studied sign language many years ago – it really was quite thrilling, if a little daunting, when we noticed how many people had stopped to watch us. Reflecting on my stage-fright, I asked Aunty Brenda if she got nervous before a performance and she said that she had been nervous before her first performance, especially since this had been the first time she had been involved in a performance of any kind, but that after the first time she had been fine.

Reflecting on what being a member of the group meant to her, Aunty Brenda explained that she had always been interested in music and had observed friends listening to music, sometimes wishing that she could listen to it herself, but was unable to hear the music. However she is able to experience music as vibrations through a wooden floor (although not through a hard floor) and had previously enjoyed reading song lyrics; so two years ago, when Claire asked members of Deaf Club if they would like to form a sign singing group, she had happily joined in.

When I asked her what she enjoyed the most about being a member of the group, Aunty Brenda explained that her late mother (my paternal grandmother) Alwen Jones, had always been in the Church Choir, and so this made being a member of the sign-singing group extra special. For some reason this hadn’t occurred to me and it brought tears to my eyes remembering how much ‘Nain’ loved to sing, and how she had taught me so many Welsh folk songs when I was little, including my favourite: ‘Mynydd Aberdyfi’ (to which she knew all the versus). I am sure that Nain, and my grandfather, Glyn, who was conductor of ‘Rhos Silver Prize Band’, are watching my Aunty with interest and pride – I know I certainly am!

On a lighter note, Aunty Brenda commented that she very much enjoyed travelling with the group and that her favourite song to perform is ‘Dancing Queen’ – which I have to say was also one of my favourites, especially since it contains the sign for ‘dancing’ which involves the index and second finger of both hands ‘jitter-bugging’ in alternate motions (at least that’s how I remember it in layman/ learner terms!)

When I asked Aunty Brenda what her hopes were for the group in the future, she replied that she would like to see more new members joining in so that everyone could enjoy sign-singing together. This was a sentiment echoed by Claire, who is keen to share the experience of the sign-singing with a wide audience; she commented: “Anybody can join, young, old, learning BSL, fluent in BSL, or just interested in BSL. Children can join but must always be accompanied by an adult”. Anyone interested in joining can call or text Claire on: 07761818396.

Reflecting on what she enjoyed most about her involvement with the group, Claire’s passion and enthusiasm were evident and I was fascinated by her thought-provoking comments: “I enjoy it that the deaf members enjoy it, because they can’t hear the music they can only possibly feel the beat if the bass is up high. But with the movement of the sign they can get an idea about how the word is being sung (whether it’s being sung in a long note or on a faster beat) because I try and elongate the sign if the word is being sung for a long time etc. Plus the deaf members get to understand the ‘story’ behind the songs too”.

When I asked Claire about her hopes and plans for the future of the group, she replied: “that’s a hard question really… do I want us to go on and be famous? Or do I want the group to become big with more members? I’m not sure to be honest… as long as everyone is enjoying it and want to continue, I’m happy to carry on; It’s when people can’t be bothered to turn up for practices or to the performances, that’s when I’ll give up. If it helps also to raise money for Wrexham Deaf Club so they can reach one or some of their dreams then I’m happy to help”.

The group have given performances at Deaf charity and Deaf awareness events for Flintshire Deaf Children’s Society and are planning some more performances at St Giles Church later this year (currently pencilled in for the 17th of November and the 13th of December). Anyone interested in attending these events can keep an eye out for confirmed dates on the Wrexham Deaf Club Facebook page.

This article was originally written for my column ‘Synfyfyrion llenyddol’ in the Welsh-language community newspaper Y Clawdd.

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I awoke just in time to witness the final stages of the transaction taking place a few inches from my nose; the too-cheerful air steward took the euros from the kindly gentleman next to me and handed him his extortionately priced coffee. The unfolding scene had shaken me from my dream and I felt too jumpy to slide back to sleep with any ease, so I dragged my heavy head forward and shifted my lower back to match the contours of the seat; I checked my watch: 5.55pm, so I’d slept another half an hour away of this torturous two and a half hour flight in my cheap, last-minute seat on this budget airline.

Looking around I realised it wasn’t actually that bad; the seats were sensibly spaced, appeared to be made of leather and were reasonably comfortable – beyond that I didn’t really have many expectations of plane journeys anyway. I decided I would treat myself by making a start on reading my new novel – that should help while away the next forty minutes or so before we landed and my post-thesis holiday could begin.

I reached into my bag and carefully brought out my exclusive, not-out-in-the-shops-yet and not-for-resale copy of Mari Strachan’s ‘Blow on a dead man’s embers’. I slowly undid the knot in the red bandana that I had lovingly wrapped around it to protect it from being scratched or bent in my ‘cabin-baggage’, and sat smugly savouring every detail of the cover. This book wouldn’t be available for another two months but she’d had her publishers send me a copy because I’d based one of my literature columns on her debut novel. Needless to say, I was very pleased with myself indeed.

I was just about to start reading when I got the feeling that I was being watched. I looked up, and then across to the right, where there sat a rather astonished-looking  baby, who had obviously been observing the peculiar book-unwrapping ritual with some interest. Upon meeting my gaze however his astonished look was replaced by quite a cool, grown-up expression:

“Seriously lady”  he seemed to be saying.

Just what are you doing with that there book?!”

I smiled sweetly at him and found myself making those annoying baby faces, complete with ridiculously over-pronounced baby talk; he promptly lost interest and turned his attention to the plastic spoon on the table in front of him. I returned my attention back to the book before me.

Then for about twenty glorious minutes I was whisked back in time to 1920s Mid-Wales, where I befriended Non Davies, a simple rural girl like myself (well I am at heart anyway); we sat in her kitchen together, observing her husband Davey ghosting scenes from the war as we tried to unravel the mystery surrounding his disturbing behaviour. But inevitably my escape was abruptly terminated by the endless announcements which always precede landing. So I rewrapped the book, flipped up the table and began planning my ‘holiday’ with military precision.

Retrieving my luggage from the carousel was surprisingly palaver-free and I walked through the arrivals doors to find my parents watching each person intently, their facial expressions a mixture of anxiety and hopefulness…quickly replaced by relief and delight upon seeing me…presumably because this confirmed that I had, in fact, caught the correct plane from John Lennon and thus had not buffooned my way onto a flight to Timbuktu…or somewhere equally as unhelpful.

As I drew closer their expressions altered again and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first – was it alarm? Horror? Concern? Ah, of course, they’d been out here four months or so already, so they hadn’t witnessed my transformation from wearing-well-thirty-something-cutie, to pale, puffy-faced, strained, post-thesis-burned-out-husk. Looking down I also noted that I was sloppily dressed in my used-to-be-baggy-jeans (now decidedly snug) and oversized-ancient-cardie, rounded off with some battered old flip flops and un-ironed, uninspiring, white Gap t-shirt; my slightly greasy, flat hair completed the look. Hmm, adorable…not. I really needed to get myself back on track.

Mercifully, I slept through most of the drive back to Playa Flamenca, with my Dad at the helm since he’s the only one in the family who has thus far mastered driving on the right hand side of the road. I was a bit dubious when my Mum told me she had made quiche for dinner, since shop-bought quiche is always soggy and tasteless; but it turned out that her latest creation was more of a four-cheese pie kind of a deal, with a delicious savoury version of her legendary pastai fale pastry – even the accompanying salad was made palatable in its wake.

The evening was long and pleasant; the sun kept shining and we kept talking…well it was mostly me talking really, firing my well-rehearsed monologue at them about my future plans for cracking into academia; plans which involved lots of additional, self-paid-for courses, highly competitive research grant applications (with slim chances of success) and numerous applications for research posts (again highly competitive, with slim chances for success). They listened, they nodded, and they sympathised; but really I couldn’t even convince myself to hold out much hope that my efforts would lead to a state of sensible, stable solvency – at least not for a good few years yet anyway.

Back when I’d been offered the funded PhD, we had all been convinced that I’d ‘made it’ and was now destined for a successful, lucrative career…well, at least a job that would pay the bills whilst also being interesting; but five years later and we’d all come to regard the path I’d selected as being more of an expensive, all-consuming hobby, which had left me swimming in debt and bitterly disillusioned. I lay awake for hours that night, as the realisation of my precarious predicament kicked in: what on earth was I going to do if I couldn’t now forge a career in academia – after all this life I’d frittered away chasing the dream?

For the next couple of days I stormed about, sticking to a strict schedule: need to lose weight so I’ll go to the pool; my parents watched in wonder as I charged through the gate and down the lane…whilst they continued with their leisurely breakfast in the sun. Next on my list was a visit to the Saturday morning market; reflecting on this now I’m having trouble identifying why this seemed so important – was this me allocating myself some ‘scheduled relaxation’? Or perhaps this came under ‘cultural appreciation and enrichment’? In any case, I visited the market…where I promptly huffed about, growing increasingly bitter at not being able to afford any of the fabulous knitwear or the pretty little white blouses and dresses with lace detail and colourful, embroidered flowers.

The turning point, which tipped the balance in favour of this being a ‘holiday‘ rather than a ‘mission’, really came when I decided that a tan would help rid me of my pinched, ”morlock-like’ complexion. So off to the beach I went, heavily laden with all the ‘kit’ I had decided were essential: towels, chair, three different sorts of suntan cream, a parasol in case the sun was too fierce, belly-board for some tummy-toning activity when cooling off in the sea became necessary. Basically I was seeing everything as ‘work’ – even a simple trip to the beach or market!

Having set up in an appropriate spot, smothered myself in factor 50 (I burn horribly through anything less) and gotten through the annoying procedure of re-donning shorts and flip flops to fetch the key from the bar-hut to visit the ladies…and having climbed the steps to the top of the cliff to where some bright spark had decided was a good place to put the beach-toilets…I was returning the key when I noticed the sign for ‘sandwich nata’. This conjured up memories of family holidays in Ibiza, when I had spent almost every waking hour in the pool, punctuated by visits to the snack bar for cheese toasties and the aforementioned ice-cream-biscuit.

                   I allowed myself a smile – just a little one mind, remembering how impish I was back then, how much delight I found in each new experience…the complete opposite in fact of my current temperament. I checked my purse – ten Euros, enough for a sandwich nata…and just enough for a mojito even…but I wasn’t here to enjoy myself…or was I?

This kind of ridiculous navel gazing went on for about five minutes until the bargirl snapped me out of it by reaching for the key from my hand and replacing it on the hook above the bar; she nodded to me and I found myself blurting out the imagined order in my text-book-sentence-Spanish before she had chance to turn away. Looking slightly startled, and perhaps slightly irritated at the thought of having to ‘muddle-the-mint’, she smiled at me pityingly and I realised I must be frowning and staring intently again…I loosened my grimace and touched the deep crease between my eyebrows; new mission: relax and fit in.

A few minutes later I was back in my low-swung beach chair, sandwich nata in one hand, fully-muddled-mojito in the other. As the sun beat down on my carefully-placed sunhat, I took a few bites of my ice-cream-biscuit and sipped my mojito. Around the third, long sip I began to truly relax; I didn’t have to be anywhere today, or tomorrow even. As long as I kept a look out for decent research opportunities – which was now possible from the house thanks to the nice people from Olé having installed the home-hub last week – I was surely entitled to relax a little, do things just because I wanted to, rather than because they fitted into some big plan or other – wasn’t I?

I returned from the beach feeling newly optimistic. I took a long, refreshing shower, put on a pretty little blue, flowery, loose-fitting, cotton dress from Joe Brown’s and headed for the kitchen, where to my pleasant surprise I discovered at least half of last night’s four-cheese-quiche under a strategically-placed dish-towel. I carved myself a hearty piece, brewed a pot of tea and sat happily daydreaming whilst enjoying the divine pastry.

I poured a second cup of tea and headed for the sun lounger on the patio in front of the house, taking my bandana-clad novel with me. The novel soon sucked me back through the vortex of time and space, and soon I was accompanying Non on her daring adventure to track down the woman who had apparently stolen her husband’s heart and was somehow tied up in the mystery that kept Davy locked in an imaginary battle; would she confront her? Would she find the answers she was seeking? It was all very exciting.

An hour or so later my parents returned from Mercadona, hulking numerous bags of tasty treats, including the just-so-much-nicer-than-home, full fat milk (it has a pleasant ‘nutty’ flavour). I rewrapped the novel and helped them unpack. Over the next couple of days I pretty much followed this pattern of beach or pool, then preparing and eating lunch, followed by reading my novel – which I decided was perfectly valid since I was going to base my next ‘Synfyfyrion llenyddol’ column on the ‘genre-of-the-seedy-underbelly’, with Mari’s novel at the heart of it. In the evenings I was mostly occupied with checking my emails and trawling for research jobs.

One afternoon, I arrived at a crucial bit of the story; it was tense, then, Davey finally revealed the dark secret at the heart of the unravelling mystery…I won’t write it here as it’s a spoiler, but suffice to say it was pretty shocking – so shocking in fact that I yelled out: “No”. At which point my Mum looked up from her sweeping in surprise. I explained what was going on in the story and my Mum again expressed surprise – she had been quietly observing the bandana-wrapping-ritual and had assumed that this must be one of the Jean Rhys novels I was forever harping on about (she didn’t put it quite like that, but that was the gist…and in fairness, I had been a bit of a Jean-bore these last couple of years!) Obviously I had a couple of ‘Jean’s’ with me, but they were just cheap, penguin classics, so no need for bandana-wrapping. However this did remind me: I really must get around to writing my novelette ‘I dream of Jean Rhys 30 years later’ based on the conference I’d attended the previous year…I was currently mimicking my role-model’s writing pattern, that’s for sure…cue more pangs of anxiety and self-recrimination!

That evening I opened my googlemail account to find an email from a very Welsh sounding person whom I did not recognise. Casually I opened it, assuming it would be a circular from Llenyddiaeth Cymru or one of the other mailing lists I’m signed up to. But as it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Addressing me specifically, Pedr ap Llywelyn, of Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru no less, was writing to say that he had read my column in a recent issue of Y Clawdd (community newspaper) at some über-Welsh event that our editor had been presenting at, and that he had liked the article very much (it was the one which linked Aled Lewis Evans’ book of short stories with the L’Oreal strap-line and Radley handbags, all to a soundtrack of the folk song Moliannwn – quite a feat, I thought!) Anyway, Pedr went on to say that Gethin, our editor, had given him the address of my wordpress blog where I post all my columns and latest literary offerings, and that he was impressed enough with the content of my work to offer me my own column in ‘Gweler’ magazine, with an associated book option.

After that the good news just kept coming as he explained that there was some funding available, for folks like me – budding authors whose Welsh was colloquial rather than ‘correct’, to enable us to attend an intensive two week course at Nant Gwrtheyrn, with top-up sessions thereafter, to help us get our treigladau right, and any other ‘polish’ we needed; the offer of the column and book option came with the condition that I first attend the course. Was this for real? Had my rambling, obscure ‘literature’ montages with suggested ‘soundtracks’ not only just paid for themselves in course fees, but also brought me one step closer to the Jessica Fletcher lifestyle I so yearned for?

I fired off a carefully constructed email, making sure that he was left in no doubt regarding my enthusiasm for snapping up this offer, and listing all the novel plots I had on the back-burner: the social-sci-fi-thrillerThe Bodhyfryd Chamber – set in a dystopian future, complete with its own bespoke dialect, à la Clockwork Orange; and the catchily-titled and mystical: Carmen Fernandez-Jones and the secrets of Cegin Dodo…describing the adventures my nieces and I would have from the gateway of my magical kitchen…all very Magic Far Away tree/ Lion the Witch and the wardrobe! I even pitched my fledgling idea for a zombie-esque, pandemic apocalypse based in Wirral, which dovetails around to prequel The Bodhyfryd Chamber…and I don’t even have a title for it yet! But I’d figured this might show I had my finger on the pulse of the current ‘hot genres’ as well as being an eccentric, off-beat genius!

Having checked my email every hour for two days solid, feeling thoroughly ignored and dejected, I received a short email from Pedr saying that those ideas all sounded interesting enough, but that what they actually had in mind was a column and novel based on…well, me, essentially; it seemed that the idea of a bumbling young academic-wannabe, who spent her spare time writing articles for her community newspaper, attempting to infiltrate the ‘Welsh literature scene’ – all whilst living over the border, experimenting in her farm-house-style slate kitchen, trying to write novels and learning to be a ‘dodo’ (aunty) was what had caught their fancy.

Apparently, they felt that my wholesome persona, coupled with my heart-felt yearnings and endeavouring for success in something other than reality TV and b-list celebs-ville, would be the perfect antidote to the current overkill of this sort of thing, and might also help to inspire some of the young people who were currently being put off the idea of university by the recent funding horrors and dreary job prospects beyond. Hmm, I’d have to carefully tone down the exacerbation I felt with my current ‘Temps Perdi’ predicament, but this unexpected career break would help with that; in fact, I’d already done a complete one-eighty and was busy extolling the virtues of my university education, reflecting that I owed my analytical mind and engaging writing style to my ‘journey so far’ (oh cringe! Did I seriously just utter that ridiculous cliché?)

So, in summary, it seemed that they were looking for an easy reading, mildly entertaining, weekly meander – no doubt to fill the slot previously inhabited by Lowri Reiki/ Mami-medrus…oh, I could do that…oh yes! I rubbed my hands together in glee at the thought that I could plunder my long-neglected ‘Inklingettes’ blog for additional source material; the Miranda-esque posting: ‘A graduation, Jam side down’ would certainly pack a punch as a stand-alone column, and the more whimsical offerings of ‘A thesis picnic’ and  ‘PhDs and long stories’ would also do quite nicely.

A few emails later and we had hammered down the details: I would attend the course on a fully-funded scholarship and I would then begin submitting weekly columns, whilst also simultaneously working on the associated novel with an editor from Y Lloft publishing house. I’d get a small sum for the column…just enough to keep me in Guerlain, and then when the novel was published I would get a percentage of sales following the first ten thousand copies sold…which initially would probably not be that many since linguistic minority fiction only had a niche audience who could read and understand it, much less those who would choose to do so.

Okay, so it seemed I wasn’t exactly going to reach the dizzy heights of a beach house in Cabot Cove overnight, but if it was successful enough they might publish an English language version – then I’d be ‘cooking’, as they say. In the meantime, at least now my actual hobby of fiction-writing would begin to pay its own way, or at least stop costing me money (in competition entrance fees and such) and who knew, maybe my academic ‘career’ might even follow suit? Wow that would really be something – an Atwood-esque, combination, portfolio-career, with a twist of Bradshaw…but without the rude bits!

So after three splendid weeks in Spain I conceded that it was time to go home. I surfed the budget airline pages until I found a suitably cheap flight back, packed, and sent dozens of emails informing all and sundry that I would shortly be ‘back in town’. To my great delight, upon checking my emails on the day of my departure, I had an email from Luke, one of my friends back at the University, saying that, not only did he have some examining work which he could put my way, but that there was a 0.8 Research Associate contract in his department which would shortly be advertised – for which I had the perfect experience!

Everything was finally beginning to work out, as though my whole life so far had merely been setting the scene for this moment. But I was getting ahead of myself, the research job wasn’t even advertised yet and there’d be heaps of people applying. After a ridiculously out-of-perspective moment, in which I was more concerned with the idea of getting the job for the sake of the column, rather than because it was a fantastic career opportunity, things came back into focus; I had a good chance of getting this position and if not this one, then a similar sort of thing sometime soon. In the meantime I had this thoroughly random, yet thoroughly brilliant opportunity to really test myself as a creative writer, on a topic for which I would never be short of material – what with the trials and tribulations of preparing research grant applications, the endless redrafting of papers for publication in journals and the weighing up of impact factors…

I practically skipped out to the car with my bags and sat grinning to myself all the way to Murcia (as I practiced, in my head, being interviewed about my success – à la Jimmy Rabbit in ‘The Commitments!’) As I boarded the plane and settled in my seat I was optimistic that I was returning home with a much better ‘hand’ than the one I had arrived with – and I even had a couple of aces up my sleeve. This plane was taking me back over the border and into a different linguistic space (well, for the column anyway) and there were plenty of interesting options to consider. One thing was clear: the future was bright – and it certainly seemed set to be more profitable for me than it had been until now!

This short story was written for The Quattro Authors Facebook page. Please feel free to download it to your kindle or IPad, or simply print it off; or you can email me and I can send you the PDF!)

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