Phil Wyman


 

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The last week, I’ve been in and out of Cardiff, or the ‘Diff. I am staying a little over 6 miles outside Central Cardiff with my friends Dawn and Andrew in Gwaelod y Garth. Gwaelod y Garth was once officially part of the Rhondda, but more recently has been incorporated into Cardiff. Consequently, it has become quite posh. I am staying at the foot of Mynydd Y Garth (Garth Mountian), which inspired the fictional location Fynnon Garw for the movie The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain . I still have yet to discover why the hill/mountain in the movie was named “Garw’s Well”. Oh well.

It’s a short travel to Cardiff from Taff’s Well, the nearest station from Gwaelod y Garth. So, I‘ve been coming down the mount to hang out in Wales’ capitol. I will go ahead and announce my prejudice now: Cardiff is my favorite big city in the world. Big is a relative term here. It is estimated to be about 360,000 right now (2017), which makes it a little over one-tenth the size of the Boston area, where I live. But, this is one vibrant and creative 360,000. A good deal of the BBC is moving to Cardiff. Doctor Who is filmed here. It has a vibrant nightlife, and lots of good food – and good craft and cask beer. Of course there is sport – especially Rugby. Principality Stadium in Cardiff is the 4th largest stadium in the UK, and each of the stadium’s bars is able to pour 12 pints of beer in 20 seconds, making it the fastest beer park in the UK – almost double the speed of Twickenham. It also has a resident hawk named “Dad” that chases pigeons and seagulls away.

I’ve been to Cardiff a number of times. I’ve been to a Six Nations tournament game. I’ve wandered Saint David’s Shopping Center, the Llandaff Cathedral. I’ve been to Saint Fagan’s Museum of Welsh History, but there were things I had not done. So today, I did a few of them.

I finally toured Cardiff Castle. Little of the Castle dates back to the ancient days of knights fighting dragons (which, of course, actually happened in Wales, but the big red dragons always beat the English posh-type-Lordy-dudes, and made friends with Welsh Princes and Princesses – true story, honest to Guinevere), but it is a worthwhile visit nonetheless. You can get the audio tour of the castle in Welsh and English. Always opt for the Welsh, unless of course, you want to understand it, and you haven’t learned any Welsh yet.

I stopped at Marchnad Caerdydd (Cardiff Market). It smelled of fish, curry, fresh fruit and Welshcakes. I walked away with Welshcakes in 5 variations. Last of all, I went to Chippy Alley. Caroline Street, as it is known by old folk (nod to Chris Castle here), is host to curry and chip shops, and I stopped at Dorothy’s for Chicken Curry and Chips – far more than I could eat. Dorothy’s is supposedly the original chip shop on Chippy Alley.

I have a few favorite stops in Cardiff: I love Waterloo Tea in Wyndham Arcade, Spiller’s Records (the oldest record store in the world established in 1894, and now located in Morgan Arcade), and a few pubs like Brewdog, City Arms, and Mochyn Du (Black Pig). Did I mention that good beer is a thing in the ‘Diff?

Tomorrow I am planning on visiting the Doctor Who Experience. So, until then Teithiwr Twp signs off while having a Session IPA at Brewdogs – that’s a beer, if I didn’t mention that there is good beer in Cardiff. Good beer makes a ‘Diff you know.

Some links:

Spiller's Records: http:// spillersrecords.co.uk/
Fun history on Chippy Alley: http://yourcardiff.mediawales-1.titaninternet.co.uk/2011/01/20/a-history-and-a-debate-chippy-lane-or-chippy-alley/" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://yourcardiff.mediawales-1.titaninternet.co.uk/2011/01/20/a-history-and-a-debate-chippy-lane-or-chippy-alley/&source=gmail&ust=1497471271657000&usg=AFQjCNGtOtH6oa8VL4TQtKHf8JnDvuQcTA" rel="noopener noreferrer"> http://yourcardiff. mediawales-1.titaninternet.co. uk/2011/01/20/a-history-and-a- debate-chippy-lane-or-chippy- alley/

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The Hay Festival is a two-week affair. I spent the second week at the festival working as a steward. Thus, I was able to experience the festival for free, and get fed along the way. I worked two, sometimes all three shifts, on most days. Consequently, breakfast, lunch and dinner were covered by the event. They treated us well, and I ate far more than I am normally used to eating. And being able to experience the events completed my intellectual feasting as well. Y Teithiwr Twp slowly became Y Teithiwr Tew (The Fat Traveler).

My first stewarding stint at the festival was with the kids. Someone needed to watch the ‘Make and Take’ door. As children came in and out from Make and Take tent, I monitored them to make sure no one was lost, or was purposely being left behind to have the festival babysit as the parents got all intellectual. Needless to say there were always a few free-range children pecking around the Make and Take tent, and typically it was not the children, but the parents who were lost. I greeted the children and parents with a “bore da”, a “p’nawn da” or a “croeso”. Some of the people responded back in Welsh, and did so with huge smiles. I joined the kids for a class on drawing unicorns one afternoon, because – well, everyone should know how to draw unicorns. I now have a book I have written about Spikey the Unicorn whose dream it was to play lead guitar for Metallica on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.

One afternoon and evening was filled with an India/Wales mashup: poetry and music from Indian and Welsh artists working together. The night ended with the group Khamira, a combination of the Welsh jazz/folk group Burum, and musicians from India. (YouTube link to Khamira here)

The next few days I spent at the BBC tent. On the last weekend of the event, Saturday became Bernie Sanders day. The crowds were huge, the events were sold out, and everyone wanted to talk about American politics. Bernie is a rock star in the UK, and the excitement was almost as large as Bernie’s campaign on the way to the Democratic National Convention. In the end, the stewards all decided that Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbin were the really same the person, as were Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. Clearly there are competing conspiracies happening here.

Meanwhile, a Dalek from the Dr. Who stood at the entrance to the BBC tent. I was briefly accosted by the Dalek, and lived to tell about it. Steven Moffat the former and most recent writer for Dr. Who and the current writer for Sherlock closed out the BBC tent sessions on Sunday Morning.

The last event of the festival featured comedian Bill Bailey. A thousand Brits laughed uproariously, as he talked about American actors mumbling through their lines. As he pranced around mumbling like Vin Diesel and Helen Mirren from Fate of the Furious, I couldn’t tell where his thick West Country mumbling began and Vin Diesel imitations ended. Everyone howled while I understood one word in a hundred. I finally decided that he was speaking Cornish, and I was in a room with a thousand radical Cornish nationalists, which is apparently more than double the number of Cornish speakers who actually exist, but my personal conspiracy theory still made more sense to me than his West Country mumbling.

Throughout the week at Hay, I found myself repeatedly being asked if I was the American who: 1) spoke Welsh, and 2) was sleeping in a hammock in the trees above the Wye river. At one point the Quaker tent at the festival needed a Welsh sign to say that their Welsh language brochures were free. They approached the Steward tent to ask if there was a Welsh speaker who could help write the sign. The fact that an American was sent to handle the task became a source of jokes for the next couple days.

My experiences in Welsh ranged from a Welsh speaking father and son who stared at me as though I was an alien speaking Clingon, to a conversation with pair of couples from North Wales who told me that I spoke quite well and should continue to embarrass the Welsh people who have forgotten their Welsh.

In the evenings, I typically went into town. My favorite watering hole was a pub called Beer Revolution. It has a nice little garden out back, and a fine line-up of ales for nerdy micro brew lovers like myself. Then I spent one late night at Kilvert’s with my friends Stephen and Jed, whom I met from the previous years stewarding at the HowTheLightGetsIn philosophy festival.

I’ll be back at Hay-on-Wye next year for both festivals: The Hay Festival, and HowTheLightGetsIn. It is a place that feels like a home for nerds. Hay! Are you coming next year? Perhaps we could form an AmeriCymru takeover.

For now, hwyl fawr from Y Teithiwr Tew.

Link to Khamira: <a href="https://youtu.be/BzuyOt5ov30" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q

&source=gmail&ust=1496941053612000&usg=AFQjCNEaEB4iDbrarVnypoxrCR_FSCTYng" rel="noopener noreferrer">

Link to Hay Fest: https://www.hayfestival.com/

Link to HowTheLightGetsIn: https://hay.htlgi.iai.tv/



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Y Teithiwr Twp #3 – In the Summer House


By Phil Wyman, 2017-06-06



On my third day at Hay-on-Wye, The New Welsh Review hosted a writing awards ceremony. The ceremony was sponsored by AmeriCymru and Aberystwyth University. I puttered my way to the Summer House. It was a particularly warm Welsh day. The festival had seen little rain, which may be attributed as a minor miracle. At the festival in Cornwall, I found an injured pigeon, jokingly presented it to the set up crew as dinner, but when I let it go, it flew away. With the pigeon healing event I had already considered calling the pope to ask for the canonization process to begin, but now good weather was following me through Cornwall and Wales. I figured I had two minor miracles under my belt at this point.

A pretty lady in a beautiful peach dress met me at the door of the Summer House. Gwen Davies turned out to be the judge of the contest and the editor of the New Welsh Review. She introduced me to the three short list finalists for the novella prize, which was co-sponsored by AmeriCymru. Nicola Daly wrote The Night Where You No Longer Live . Olivia Gywne wrote the The Seal . The winner of the prize was Cath Barton from Abergavenny who after retiring has pursued writing as a new career. Cath had been a contributor to the former Celtic Family Magazine out of Los Angeles. Her book The Plankton Collector is a fantasy realism piece about a magical individual (The Plankton Collector) who appears as a variety of everyday common people to bring help to others in need, and the resolution to their difficulties comes in common ways. The prize-winning piece was good for a £1,000, plus an extended excerpt of the book was professionally read and placed into a beautifully animated video. Catherine Haines won the New Welsh Review Memoir Prize (co-sponsored by Aberystwyth University) for her book My Oxford about a young woman studying at Oxford who survives severe anorexia.

As the ceremonies began, we drank wine and nibbled on tasty bites. Then the awards were announced, as the photos were snapping. I caught Cath Barton after the event in a nine-minute interview, which you can watch here. She is a gracefully engaging woman. I made a point of asking her about her emotional acceptance speech. She cried, she laughed, and she made us all love her to pieces. Her short thank you was my personal highlight for the afternoon ceremony.

The New Welsh Review describes itself as the foremost English language Welsh literary magazine. It seeks out the best in new fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, and offers a vibrant outlet for expression and discussion. Gwen Davies is a wonderful host as are the other staff members: Marketing Dude Jamie Harris, and Administration Maven Bronwen Williams. (I suppose I should admit to Californizing their titles.)

Since I am traveling, I signed up for the New Welsh Review in digital format, which was only £6.99 for the year. If you are a writer or an avid reader with a serious case of Cymrophilia breaking out all over your body like a Red Dragon rash, then you should consider signing up. You can go online to <a href="http://www.newwelshreview.com" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://www.newwelshreview.com&source=gmail&ust=1496866301097000&usg=AFQjCNEEIYhXRIMLcQ9F2oIFpF3FgsM-rg" rel="noopener noreferrer"> www.newwelshreview.com and find the link to sign up for hard and digital copies for £16.99, or if you want to get the e-format only, you can contact Bronwen Williams at admin@newwelshreview.com .

Next post, I will finish up my thoughts on Hay-on-Wye and the Hay Festival. I somehow became mildly famous for being the American Steward who spoke Welsh and slept in a hammock in the trees. Bernie Sanders spoke at the event. It turns out that he is a rock star in the UK, and I had to answer all kinds of questions about American politics. Then I tried to follow the cawl thick accent of a British comedian, who told jokes about American actors mumbling.

For now, hwyl fawr from Y Teithiwr Twp.

The video for Cath's book can be found at <a href="http://www.newwelshwritingawards.com/" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://www.newwelshwritingawards.com/&source=gmail&ust=1496866301097000&usg=AFQjCNEJjvfuf1GxdF5YXEFinm3leLGZ2w" rel="noopener noreferrer"> http://www. newwelshwritingawards.com/

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Pics below:

1. In red: Olivia Gywne, in black: Nicola Daly, in pink: Cath Barton

2. Jamie Harris and Gwen Davies

3. The beginning of the award ceremony in the Summer House

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I was flying United.

That was a paragraph in itself, don’t you think? I tried to pack everything as tightly as possible. I was planning to have nothing but carry-ons. I am a ridiculously passionate tea nerd that hates coffee. (Na, dw i ddim yn hoffi coffi. Dw i’n casau coffi!) The day before traveling, I stuffed eight ounces of loose-leaf tea into the metal canister for my small camp fuel stove. It wasn’t until I arrived at the airport that I nervously stood in the TSA line wondering what they would make of a canister of dried leaves. Fortunately, United shuffled me off to Air Canada, and apparently the Canadians don’t care whether I transport dead leaves.

After 36 hours, I arrived at my first destination: bus to plane, plane to plane, plane to train, train to bus, bus to Cardiff. In Cardiff I helped my friend Charlie pack his van full of lighting equipment for a festival on an estate in Cornwall. Charlie, Paul, and I arrived at Boconnoc Estate at 3:30am. I stumbled around the in the woods looking for a place to hang my hammock tent, and finally climbed into it as I saw the morning light beginning to break on the horizon.

Over the next week, I ran into only a few Welsh speakers. I was speaking with a girl who grew up near Llanberris one night. I asked, “Ti’n siarad Cymraeg?” She responded, “tipyn bach.” Then I launched into my best excessively mediocre Welsh. Behind her thick glasses, her big doe eyes got wider – not in some romantic way, but more like a deer in headlights. Somehow this stupid formerly monolingual, barely Welsh speaking American scares the daylights out of those who feel like they have forgotten their Welsh.

After a week in Cornwall, it was time to make my way to Hay-on-Wye – the famous little book town with the famously big book festival. Y Gelli (the Welsh name for Hay-on-Wye) must be the place from which the words were penned, “You can’t get there from here.” After being dropped off in Exeter, I went to the train station, and asked how to get to Hay-on-Wye. The man in the train station said, he had no idea, and never heard of it. So, I bought a ticket to Bristol. At Bristol, I asked the lady in the train station how to get to Hay-on-Wye. After asking me to spell the name, she said that I couldn’t get there from Bristol. I had to take a train into Wales and back out again in order to find a bus to Hay. Six hours later, a train from Exter to Bristol, another from Bristol to Newport, a third from Newport to Hereford, and a couple hours waiting for the last bus from Hereford station to Hay-on-Wye and I arrived at the Hay Castle at 10:30pm. A pint of Butty Bach at The Three Tuns later, and I was hunting for a tree to hang my hammock tent in again.

It’s now my third day at the Hay Festival. I am able to experience events for free, because I volunteered as a Steward. I’ve been working shifts watching the door at a Children’s area called the Make and Take tent. I think I might be the only Steward greeting people in Welsh. Yesterday, a mother and her two young girls beamed when I said, “Bore da. Croeso.” Mom then asked her oldest daughter, about six years old, “Do you remember your Welsh from school?” The young girl nodded, and smiled a smile to melt your heart, and then a conversation at my level of Welsh began.

“Wyt ti’n cael hwyl yma?” (Are you having fun here?)

“Ydw. Mae’n hwyl iawn.” (Yes. It is very fun.”)

And this deeply philosophical discussion continued for a few minutes. I am not sure whose world was impacted more: mine, or the little girl who was able to use her Welsh with an American in an English language event on the borders of England and Wales. Okay, that’s not true. I know that my world was impacted far more than hers, for sure.

Hay-on-Wye is the quaintest little book town. It sits on the river Wye on the Welsh/English border, and the Hay Festival is one the most influential literary festivals in the world. It is an example of one more way that Wales punches above its weight in respect to influencing the world. For two weeks every year the sleepy little book town, filled with antiquarian bookshops of every kind, is inundated with nerdy people who love books and attend the Hay Festival just outside town. On most years, a Philosophy Festival called HowTheLightGetsIn occurs at the same time inside the village, and that is typically where you can find me hanging out. This year the Philosophy Festival took a year off, and I jumped over to the book festival.

You my not be able to get here from there, but when you finally arrive, this is one of the most quaint little villages, with two of the most vibrant festivals for nerdy people you will find anywhere.

In about two hours, the winners of a novella competition sponsored by The New Welsh Review and AmeriCymru will be announced. So, I will sign off until next time. Hwyl Fawr from Y Teithiwr Twp.

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Y Teithiwr Twp – The Stupid Traveler


By Phil Wyman, 2017-05-18


I am an obnoxious Cymrophile. Everyone I know knows that I am obsessed with all things Welsh. Over the last dozen years, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Wales. It has always been in month to six-week increments. There are dragons all over my apartment. The lilting noises of that beautiful singsong language regularly float out my windows in blaring BBC Radio Cymru programs and online Welsh Lessons. But now, I am packing the dragons away, and moving out.  I have four days left to accomplish this task, because I am becoming semi-permanently nomadic, starting with a three-month visit to Mother Jones Land. Yes, my mother is a Jones.

But I am your typical stupid American Traveler (Y Teithiwr Twp). Although I took languages in school (French and Spanish), and even lived near the Mexican border for forty years, I have been monolingual most of my life. You know the joke, right?

 

What is a person who speaks three languages called?

I don’t know.

Tri-lingual.

Oh. Yeah, yeah.

What is a person who speaks two languages called?

Bilingual!

Yep. What is a person who speaks one language called?

Monolingual!

Nope. An American.

 

Well, that was me, until fairly recently. Now, I can say that I speak Welsh - rather haltingly, and a bit like a toddler, but I can do it. I can hold a discussion with you if you are a learner or a teacher of the language, but the moment I step into Blaenau Ffestiniog my face is as confused looking as the proverbial deer in the headlights. What are those people saying? Why are they swallowing their words, and blowing them out their noses? Nonetheless, I am more excited for this year’s trip to Wales than I have been for any other I’ve taken. It will be a longer trip to the U.K., and I will be spending most of it in Wales and a good amount of that time yn Gymraeg.

I will also be sharing periodic stories from Mother Jones Land with you, and hoping to make you drool and yearn (which seems like a decent definition for “hiraeth”). I’ll visit pubs in Cardiff, where I met Chris Segar “The Ferret” last year, and had a full conversation in Welsh. I will be working as a Steward at the Hay Literary Festival, and will encourage you to go and bust the bank (and your back) bringing books home from the antiquarian bookshops. I will wander along the coast and hills of South Wales looking for ancient chapels, holy wells, and perhaps the Blue Stones in the Preseli Hills before I head to Stonehenge for the Solstice to actually touch those stones that somehow miraculously walked all the way to the Salisbury Plain by themselves. I will hang out with musicians (my friends Sera Owen, Gai Toms, and many more), and writers (The Naked Blond Writer – yes, that is what she calls herself) and hopefully be able to send you some pictures (no, no, no, not pictures of Naked Blonds!), video and stories. I will spend time in the North, and struggle to keep up with the “Cofi” pace of Caernarfon Welsh – minus the easy to understand and infamous four-letter word familiar greetings. Then I will end my three months of traveling at the National Eisteddfod helping to build stages and run sound for a fringe music festival put on by Cymdeithas yr Iaith.

I am extremely excited to share my travels with you, but if after the trip you don’t immediately buy your tickets to join me next year yng Nghymru, I will pout like a four-year old, because I won’t have fully accomplished my task.

Till, my next posting…Pob Hwyl.

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