A Week in Wales

Wales and I were, at best, ambivalent about each other for 58 years. It’s not the case any more. The week started with meeting a hero: one Arthur Furness. He’s set up a programme for ‘offenders’ at South Gloucester and Stroud College situated in one of the bleaker areas of Bristol, the intention of which is to gear the attendees up with the skills and qualifications to be personal trainers. I met two of the guys on the programme and, for them, it has been life changingly brilliant. The teaching strategies are informed by someone who was on telly twenty years ago and, altogether surprisingly, they work! Kyle, one of the attendees, described the teaching as “brilliant”.  Arthur and Megan and Emma who run the project are deeply cool people, and I’ll throw whatever weight I’ve got behind the project.

The next day, after an evening in a nice hotel in Swansea and speaking of deeply cool people, I met Darren Chetty for the first time. Working for University of Wales, Trinity St. David’s, I was delivering a speech for 450 recently qualified teachers at Brangwyn Hall in which I couldn’t see the back of the auditorium. To say Darren is a deep thinker is to somewhat understate things and my own ‘style-over-substance’ schtick was thrown into sharp relief by Darren’s ‘substance-over-style’. Culture is a plural! Thanks to Tom and Aled for taking care of the future.

I then spent four days listening to music with a softy of substance. We saw the sun rise while listening to Vaughan Williams, and he showed me Dylan Thomas’s writing hut, how far my eyes could see and that there is a possible future. We spoke of birds. He told me how the skylark moves. Our unlikely brotherhood deepened and was enlivened by the presence of Nina Jackson (who is sunshine itself and whom I love).

From there, and with few thanks to Transport for Wales, I visited one of my oldest friends who has just emailed me saying, “You know where we are.” It has been a reverberating time. Her partner, Dys, knows more about music than me, which is rare and, after a very beautiful woman had told me, in Hay on Wye, that I was “vastly too stylish for a hoodie” we found ourselves driving down a country lane, listening to Alex Chilton while observing a badger scuttle away. A cool day!

The final day was spent travelling. It’s nice to have friends and to spend time with great people. Wales and I are now no longer ambivalent about each other, and this ‘new-to-Bongwater-fan’ semi-regrets 58 years wasted ignoring a love I didn’t know I had. If you’re a serious music fan, check out Bongwater and Vaughan Williams: both deeply cool.

And can people stop telling me off about Tom Rogers? You’re all wrong. I came across how I wanted to come across. As Alina noted, everything I do is deliberate.

Added Fri, 2 Jun 2023 14:22

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