How did you get on, Alwyn? Some people seem to make a lot by selling Kindle versions on Amazon, but most people make NOTHING. I'm thinking of dipping a toe into the water, but am very cautious.....
I'm with you on that, although I felt truly welcomed last summer in North Wales, on a deeper level than the rather superficial American treatment. I found the south a little less warm a few years ago, but I spent most of the time in Cardiff then, so it's understandable.
You're absolutely right about emphasizing what doesn't exist in the US, and also on "self-belief". Over the years I've read many comments on the supposed Welsh "wish to fail", especially in pieces on Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton, but also on others who nearly reached the top and then flamed out. Those kinds of statements tend to be self-fulfilling, in that when you try for something and then cock up, if you've read enough of that stuff you tend to wonder whether failure is in your genes, and from there it's a short step to using your genes as an excuse!
John: I've gained a valuable insight from the replies that I received to a blog that I started as a consequence of this conversation. To summarise, it boils down to emphasising what doesn't exist in the USA and talking about the positive social aspects. I've been on a few cruises onboard American cruise ships and visited New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and LA, so I know exactly what is meant when it comes to the 'welcoming' aspect . We really could do with a customer service 'upgrade' and a healthy dose of self-belief. Cymru am byth!
I self published'the Quarryman's Son' on Amazon in the form of an eBook nice part about this is that potential readers can read a few pages of of the book to see whether it appeals before reaching into their wallet for $2.95. Ceri was kind enough to review the book and commented on his blogg you might like to read his comments.
Interesting comment - I'd never heard the symbology of the flag before, but that's perhaps because of my expatriate life. You have a valid point about whether the image of Wales should be dependant on the country's history or should look more to the future. Looking at the other countries around the world with strong national identities, I would say that a large part of them all is their history, but an important part is always the strength of the current culture and economic structure.
By the way, where do I get "The Quarryman's Son"?
I have always believed the three colours of the Welsh Dragon represents White God ,Red our blood and language ,green our country. The mines whether coal or slate the latter used to employ 18000 men in North Wales and I might add sang just as well as the coalminers in the South are like the chapelsand castles that represent our history but do they represent todays Wales? Maybe an image of a Welsh Red Kite on a background of these contoured colours and maybe some black silhouettes of our historical past might add to a thought for the debate.Incidentally John I have spent the past half century in the Antipodes and recently published 'the quarryman's son which I think you might find amusing.
I've got to say, the 'Chinese query' tickled me pink! I absolutely agree with your observations and this subject is one that I often find myself ranting about whenever we go abroad. I recently started trying to capture north Wales in photographs and I tried to steer away from the 'obvious' views. When you look at things as a tourist, it soon becomes apparent that we are surrounded by turquoise seas, vast sandy beaches, jagged mountains, birds of prey, dolphins, stunning sunsets, and ancient castles. It is so good that cruise ships visit Anglesey more than six times a year, Prince William lives here, and the wealthy spend their weekends on the Lleyn and Anglesey. Now that is most definitely not the image that we portray, but it is absolutely 100% true of course, all of it- and I have the photos to prove it!
That of course is just part of north Wales, our members in the mid and south will be able to add a whole load more! Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the books of places like the Turks & Caicos islands. They actually have very little to offer, other than a beach, but they sound mega-luxurious and people will spend spend spend to get there. I know that Puffin Island doesn't have quite the same ring about it, but my point is that what is missing is an 'aura'.
It's also true that in North Wales we don't have a mining industry, no heavy industry at all in fact. However, we do have high-tech operations that make the latest car engines and wings for the biggest, most advanced passenger aircraft in the world. One of the largest wind farms in the world is about to be built and Anglesey has chosen to become an Energy Island with a massive focus on renewable energy. Things are changing- rapidly.
Surfing at Porth Neigl on the Lleyn Peninsula; in winter!
Perhaps we need to be selective about what we choose to tell people about Wales?
Lleyn Peninsula from Harllech, not Barbados!
I know it was only a fleeting moment, but yes, the sea really was that colour!
Red Wharf Bay at 3.30 am
If this was Scotland, maybe it would be associated with Whisky, camp fires, and excellent sea food?
That's as good as the "Are you Chinese?" response to my bumper sticker! Now I have "CYM" next to it, and I'm expecting "What does that stand for, 'Cover Your Messes?'"
But seriously, a nation of singing coalminers is where the current kluge of partial images points to but, apart from the fact that Walt Disney appropriated that particularone for the dwarves in "Snow White", I don't think it is quite what we want! Perhaps a beautiful young thing in a traditional becwn playing the harp?
I had some discussions while at the National Eisteddfod about the need for a coherent, instantly recognisable image for Wales: one that would compete with those of Scotland and Ireland, or even those of Sweden,say, or Italy. I've had 3 weeks now to mull it over, so I thought I'd raise the issue here.
Why does Wales need an image?
Well, there's always the matter of trade and tourism - a recognisable image can be considered a "brand" that helps to sell things. Then there's the matter of communicating to others: it would be nice not to have people say "Wales - isn't that part of England? Welsh - isn't that a dialect of English?" Or, in the case of the Red Dragon on my bumper "Are you Chinese? You don't look Chinese!"
However, what are other peoples' thoughts on this?
What is the image of Wales now?
Here in the USA it's probably Richard Burton and Tom Jones: Dylan Thomas if you're lucky. The USA is Wales' largest customer, but most of the exports are unlabeled commodities: energy and steel. Our local "Things Celtic" shop sells only Scottish and Irish products, and the only Welsh product I see in the grocery store is Caerphilly cheese, whereas I can buy Scotch whisky, marmalade, etc., etc. It would be interesting to hear from members in Australia, NZ, Canada, etc., which probably have more people with a closer connection to Wales, what our image is in those countries.
What makes an instantly recognisable image?
cabers, shamrock, I tabulated about 20 features that comprise the Scottish, Irish and other nationalimages, and we can get into detail if necessary, but it seems to me that the top ones are:
1. a National Dress (kilts, lederhosen, etc.),
2. recognisable last names (all those O's and Mac's, Swedish names in -sson, etc.);
3. an attractive and well-publicised folklore (Leprechauns, Selkies, Trolls, etc.),
4. distinctive musical styles or instruments (bagpipes, reels, jigs, polkas, schottisches);
5. a national drink preferably exported (Whisky, Guinness, lager, snaps, vodka, and so on),
6. distinctive scenery & buildings,
7. a national flower, and
8. a heroic history, preferably one that is anti-English.
No country has every one of these - for instance Ireland has no national dress. I would guess that in some way all the features of an image have to reinforce each other: in other words the image has to be coherent. There were probably lots of effete Scotsmen living in those castles, but if there were they have conveniently sunk from sight in favor of the hirsute, kilted, bagpipe and claymore-wielding tough guy striding through the heather. Two-handed swords and tossed cabers go together, as do Leprechauns andhappy-go-lucky slightly tipsy fellows with the gift of the gab and a lucky shamrock on their lapel.
Wales and Welsh culturehave unique features in most of these areas, but they do not seem to hang together to create an instantly recognisable, coherent, image: Welsh ladies' National dress does not augment the image of its Male Voice Choirs; the harp is most definitely not a bagpipe and is the Welsh harp is a rather refined instrument (not to say immobile). Merlin and Glyndwr the magicians (according to Shakespeare) do not quite fit with all those hyms by John Hughes and Joseph Parry.I do not think that a grimy coal miner has quite the romantic appeal of a kilted crofteror a yodeler in lederhosen, but our legacy of early industrial and civil engineering monuments (Pontcysyllte, Menai Suspension Bridge, Amlwch harbor, and all our little railway lines) to my mind should be an essential part of the image.
Is it honest to fashion an image?
This is a difficult question. Obviously it canbe dishonest if the image is not true to the people and land, but I thinkit is valid toemphasize those things that are most unique in a culture and de-emphasize those things that are not. Allhuman cultures are too complex tobe grasped easily in detail - there are lots of Irish people who have neither been near a bognorcomposed a poem, by far the majority of Scotsmen have always lived in the urban and sophisticated Lowlands rather than the Highlands, and few Bavarians actually live in the Alps, never mind yodel - so I think it is a valid and valuable thing to present to outsiders a simplified and, if possible, flattering view. The key thing is that it be simple and coherent enough to be easily remembered, and it should be instantly recognisable from one small part(e.g. - kilt: must beScotland. Alpenhorn - must be Switzerland).
What should the Welsh image consist of?
I'm a retired Geologist, not a PR person. Also, I'm both too close to, and too far away from Wales, having spent a lot of my childhood there but having been an exile for 50-odd years. My suggestion would be to ask the people of Wales and the Welsh diaspora what they think are the most unique things about themselves and Wales, and then have the Welsh Assembly, the Federation of Welsh Industry (if there is one) and a good PR firm spend a good deal of effort honing it.
So what are YOUR thoughts?