Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cellweiriol, gonest, 'cranky'

It's been a while since I've written any sort of update on what's actually going on in my life. A fair number of this blog's readers are family members who check in occasionally to see how the child bride is doing, and who have no interest in "Doctor Who." Sorry, y'all.

Rachel's fine. She's been in better spirits since summer arrived and her Welsh course ended. I think the latter may have had more effect. The summer is typically British. Occasionally the sun will peak out and make you think: "Ooh, I'm a bit busy at the moment, but tomorrow I will go out and make the best of this weather. I'll make a lunch and bike out to Gelynis and pick strawberries and it will be lovely."

But then it will rain for three days.

The child bride is planning to carry on with her Welsh learning in the autumn; I wonder whether it will be worth it. I wonder that on multiple levels.

Welsh is at the heart of my minimal English blogging. If you read Welsh you'd know a little more about life in the Cope-osphere. But, of course, you don't read Welsh -- a nagging little fact that hovers in my mind as I continue work on the book that is occupying all my time at the moment. On my Welsh blog I have a quote from A.A. Gill, the man Welsh people love to despise because he once described them as "stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls." (a)

"Welsh is the only language you learn to be able to talk to fewer people," he once wrote.

It is a flawed statement, of course. We don't -- or, at least, I don't -- do things simply because lots of other people do them. Else we'd be learning Chinese. But there is a certain emotional truth to what Gill says (b). I am locked away all day in my little room and I wonder who will read this book. Not any of my old friends, not any of my family members. I worry it will be purchased only by that brand of Welsh learner who has become a farcical enthusiast -- buying stuffed dragons (c), seeing inherent value in anything written in the language and unthinkingly parroting Cymdeithas (d). They probably won't like my book.

But I carry on, trying to figure out why I feel at once drawn to and repelled by this place, its people, its language.

I suspect my mood will improve next year, once I am done with university. Uni makes me grumpy. Especially when I get poor marks for absolutely ridiculous reasons.

Such was the case recently when I earned an outrageously unfair mark in one of my exams. I contacted my department with a desire to appeal the exam's result and they put me in touch with the person who had marked it in the first place. How that situation could ever favour the student I do not know.

In essence, I was told, I had not written enough in my exam. I had not used up enough pages in my answer booklet. I pointed out that there were only two hours in the exam, but to no avail. I pointed out also that I have particularly small handwriting. That sounds like grasping at straws, but perhaps those of you who have actually seen my handwriting could back me up on this: I cram a lot of words onto a single page. I am willing to bet money that if you took the exam booklet of a person who scored 10 points higher than me and counted up each individual word, I would have the same amount, if not more.

I didn't ask them to do that. They would have just thought up another reason to have the grade stand. But the not-enough-words argument really digs under my skin. I am paying $18,000 a year to have someone criticise my penmanship. (e)

It makes you wonder whether people who earn first degrees in Britain are actually all that intelligent. Or can they just write really fucking fast?

And yet I want to carry on being educated here. Last Friday I drove out to Carmarthen to talk to someone at Trinity College about their master's degree in creative writing.

Trinity is a tiny place, small enough that it could probably be crammed into an IKEA, in a dingy little town some 60 miles or so west of Cardiff. Their MA programme would allow me to write a project in Welsh, which is more in line with the vagaries that are my plans for the future. For all my frustrations and desires to walk around Eisteddfod throwing bricks at people, I don't want to leave. I want to be a part of this thing. I want to be a Welsh-language author.

Why not English? I don't know. It's that mysterious connection.

Beyond all that, not much is happening. My third and final year approaches. Watching bad economic news on television is a strange solace because the child bride and I were already struggling. Misery loves company. Pundits claim the American frontier is closing in the face of rising petrol prices -- the great American road trip is becoming a thing of the past. I wonder how this will affect the plans of Llŷr and myself for next summer. There's nothing good on television. I wish the Olympics would start. I wish Strictly Come Dancing was on.

I am lonely. Days speed by.


The post's title translates as "joking, honest, cranky," which is how Asuka describes my Welsh blog.

(a) I would really like to read the actual article from which that quote came but I can't seem to find it online.

(b) There is also a certain truth in his statement that: "The Welsh... can take offence at silence, and nothing in the world has skin as gossamer-fine as a Welshman with a grievance." They are at times on par with American evangelicals with their desire to be offended by the world around them.

(c) "Plush toy dragons" for our friends in the Home Nations. If an American refers to a "stuffed" animal he is almost always referring to a cuddly little thing for children, not a formerly living creature that has been taxidermied.

(d) So, pretty much me up until about a year and a half ago.

(e) And in an age when few people ever write things by hand, for fuck's sake. I write in my journal, but I wonder how many times a year the average person writes more than 100 words by hand.


Anonymous said...

I did not know Rachel was doing a Welsh course. Cripes!

The UK exam system is all about the writing-a-lot-in-a-short-time, I have no idea why. As an extra pressure, you can also lose marks if your handwriting is illegible. The horror! And yes, I can confirm that your handwriting is miniscule.

In two weeks my term finishes and I will be going properly West Country crazy. I will visit you! I am not nearly so neurotic or vomity in the school holidays, honest!

Owen Hansen said...

I've emailed you the pugnacious troll article but from a subscription database. Let me know if you are unable to view it or are prompted for a password and I'll cut and paste.

Chris Cope said...

Thanks Owen. I am surprised at how disappointingly not offensive that article actually is. To draw offence from it is to miss the point entirely.

Zoe said...

Hmm, I was about to say that I'm very much looking forward to your book Chris, but then I got to this line:

"worry it will be purchased only by that brand of Welsh learner who has become a farcical enthusiast -- buying stuffed dragons (c), seeing inherent value in anything written in the language and unthinkingly parroting Cymdeithas (d)."

Although, to be fair, I only have one stuffed dragon, I don't watch just any program on S4C b/c it's in Welsh so I doubt I'd do the same with books, and I recently published an article questioning the approach of the current .cym bid (not quite a Cymdeithas thing, but along the point of not questioning anything seen as positive for the language), so maybe that will exempt me a bit from that statement. (:

Regardless, I'm looking forward to your book Chris. So daliwch ati!

Chris Cope said...

Zoe, I hope you didn't take any offence. Check the footnote on that statement: I was effectively describing myself. It's part of the Welsh-learning experience, I think. We all go a bit stupid twee, like Americans in Dublin faking Irish accents (and again I'm referring to myself). Some people I have met never get out of it, though.

Zoe said...

Nah, no offense taken. (: I failed to mention my Welsh themed room, including dragon duvet cover, stuffed sheep, and Welsh flag hanging on the wall. So I understand, really... (:

Lucky said...

Oh, sure, you'll write a novel in Welsh, but we haven't heard a thing about Penhill OR Sneaveweedle in months. ;)

Concerning the American Roadtrip - bring a friend who chips in for gas and it's still cheaper than flying. I think the problem is a need for instant gratification and no sense of adventure...

...But then, I love my roadtrips.

Chris Cope said...

Lucky -- Just Monday, the child bride was saying the same thing. Sneevweedle and Penhill will return. I just don't know when.

Anonymous said...

I think you are suffering from some post Dr. Who season blues.

I know I am.........

Anonymous said...

Did you know Christopher Glamorganshire? What's the latest?