Welsh Flag

I’m back in Wales, back at home, and after four months – four difficult months – it really does feel great to breathe air that doesn’t leave you with snot the colour of slate. To be able to look up at the night sky and see actual stars instead of enough neon to power a small African state.

Yesterday I pretty much kicked back; I worked on a redraft of short story I wrote in Hong Kong and read some Lord Shang. I’m currently recovering from the disappointment that my story, my masterpiece, is not quite as wonderful as I thought it was when I was writing it. But I still like it.

Last night I popped over to see my brother, R. There was beer, banter and a remote control helicopter. G and my sister, E, looked on with amusement as the previously mentioned helicopter was flown into the Christmas tree, TV, sofa, table, pretty much anything. Never let my bro or myself behind the controls of a real aircraft.

Now I’m warming up to tackle a tricky story I drafted a while back that needs some major work before it’s anything like ready to go out. Later I think I’m going to go for a walk. Possibly down to where the masthead photo for this blog was taken (courtesy of my lovely G).

Anyway, it’s the time of year when everyone and their dog is posting top tens rounding up various aspects of the year. I’m no different. Here’s my top ten cool shit about Wales:

1. Coast: There’s no getting away from it: the Thames is simply not a compensation for real coast and, although I moved around an awful lot growing up, I’m most at home by the sea. There’s nothing best than getting on a good road bike (pedal not petrol) and cycling along the cliffs, even in the rain, it’s just the nuts.

2. Air: Once you’ve lived in London you don’t notice how polluted it is, I do like going for a walk and not feeling like I’m smoking twenty Benson and Hedges.

3. Rissoles: For the uninitiated a rissole is a corned beef potato cake wrapped in either batter or breadcrumbs, an acquired tasted. You can’t get them in England. Not in London. Not in Leeds. Not in Bradford. Not in Bristol. Nor Birmingham. Nor Manchester. A real childhood thing: rissole and chips soaked in enough vinegar to make me feel light-headed. Damn I’m hungry.

4. Grass: Now to be fair in London I live on the side of a hill on top of which sits a large park but it’s contained, an artificial thing preserved within the confines of a city. Yes it’s a cliché but I like the fact that from my parents place I can walk into proper countryside, if I want, with horses, sheep and even a cow or two.

5. Mountains: You have to go a long way to even find a decent hill in London; I know how long it took to find the one I live on. For mountains you have no chance. Wales is a nation of mountains, hills and coast. There’s landscape here you can’t get anywhere else.

6. Beer: It’s nice not to have to auction your kidney to buy a pint of beer. It’s nice it doesn’t have to be from a chain pub that was once an old theatre or music hall listening to stockbrokers bragging about who’s got the biggest…deal.

7. Castles: It’s very hard to get blocked in Wales, especially if you write fantasy. If you do you just go for a walk, there’s a legend lurking around every turn. In addition to the features already described there are three castles (albeit in ruins) all within easy reach of my folks place. In fact there’s one just out of shot on the masthead for this blog.

8. Family: They’re all here, especially at this time of the year. Quite frankly it’s great to see them, to chew the fat and take the piss. And my brother’s enthusiasm for this time of year is infectious.

9. I’ll be there now, in a minute: Although there is arguably a strong Taff contingent in London you don’t really here the accent or the idioms that often and so when I do it makes me smile.

10. Home: Wales is home, it’s where I spent the most time growing up, it’s where my folks are, it’s where my brother is, it’s where I met G and it’s where I go when I’ve had enough.

Oh yes. The taffro is on recharge. Be afraid.