Sunday in Wales
To be Welsh on Sunday in a dry area of Wales
is to wish, for the only time in your life,
that you were English and civilized,
and that you had a car or a bike and could drive or pedal
to your heart’s desire, the county next door, wet on Sundays,
where the pubs never shut and the bar is a paradise
of elbows in your face and ribs and the dark liquids flow,
not warm, not cold, just right, and family and friends
are there beside you elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder,
and the old ones sitting indoors by the fire in winter
or outdoors in summer, at a picnic table under the trees
or beneath an umbrella that says Seven Up and Pepsi
(though nobody drinks them) and it serves as a sunshade
on this Sunday evening when the sun is still high
in the summer sky and the little kids tumble on the grass
playing soccer and cricket and it’s “Watch your beer, Da!”
and the gymnasts tumble over and over the family dog
who hides beneath the table and snores and twitches until
“Time, Gentlemen, please!” and the nightmare is upon us
as the old school bell, ship’s bell, rings out its brass warning
and people leave the Travellers’ Rest, the Ffynnon Wen,
the Woodville, the Antelope, the Butcher’s, the Deri,
the White Rose, the Con Club, the Plough and Harrow,
the Flora, the Pant Mawr, The Cow and Snuffers,
the Villiers Arms, the Cricketers, the Mexico Fountain,
the Church (the one with handles on the prayer books),
God Bless them all, I knew them in my prime.
Comment: In the old days, when there were twelve counties in Wales, each county voted whether or not to permit the consumption of alcohol in public houses (pubs) on Sunday. Those counties who forbade Sunday drinking were called ‘dry’ and the others, who permitted it, were called ‘wet’. I remember hearing about the rush from Sunday Chapel Services in dry counties as the church-goers headed over the border into the wet counties where they could fill up in the proper fashion. The pubs listed at the end of the poem are all in the Swansea or Cardiff area, and yes, I have visited them all. The poem was designed to be read in a single breath … at quite high speed and in a Welsh accent. Alas, it takes me more than one breath now and I, like the ageing church-goers, must stop a couple of times as I wend my way down Memory Lane, from the dry to the wet.
2 thoughts on “Sunday in Wales”
I love this piece of nostalgia, Roger. Couldn’t manage either the one breath or the genuine accent, but your Welshness shines through the Canadian in you.
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I was asked the other day whether I felt that I was Welsh or Canadian and which influenced my writing most. The answer really is that I am neither Welsh nor Canadian, in that nationalistic sense. However, I am myself. I am just Roger. Roger dw i.