“Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!” will be the greeting across Wales and the Welsh-speaking world this morning. Daffodils will be worn and schoolchildren will dress up in their national costume. Back in 1975 all this was alien to this Englishman. I knew that Cardiff was the capital of this small but resilient chapel, rugby and beer loving nation, but little else.
On a wet autumn afternoon, I found myself, a twenty-year-old nervous Englishman, driving across the Severn Bridge (there was only one in those days) and into a foreign land. Having driven some way along the A48 (before the days of the M4), my poor little mini, unused to such torrential downpours in its native East of England, started to cough and splutter. I took shelter under a bridge and waited for the cars electrics to dry out. Being without map, compass or provisions, (mobile phones were just the speculation of mad science fiction writers in those days!) I came to the conclusion that my destination was just over the next hill.
After a while there was a tap on the window. There stood a policeman, not just of ordinary English-size, but a giant of a man with a neck wider than the Bristol Channel. In a sing-song South Walien accent he asked if I was lost! I told him that it was my first time in Wales and that I was almost at my destination, a small village beyond Llanelli. With utmost patience he explained that I had over 60 miles to travel and that I’d better be on my way as it would soon be dark!
When I finally arrived in the small village of Pembrey, having taken many wrong turnings in the pitch black night, including a grass-covered sheep track up a hill, I found the house, standing alone on a hill above the village.
Little did I know then, but this was where I’d be married, enjoy holidays with children and a place and people I’d grow to love and cherish, including my wonderful Welsh wife of 36 years, Helen. Not bad for an English youth who once stood ringing a doorbell in a foreign land, dressed in purple jeans, mismatching jumper and untidy hair, on a dark and wet night 41 years ago.
Happy St David’s Day.