Although I have been working from home in Yorkshire for over a year now, my workplace is in London in the same street as the London Welsh Centre. I have often passed the Centre but never entered it or indeed had any dealings with it until last week. To celebrate St David’s day, the Centre offered a number of half-day courses over Zoom
As I don’t live anywhere near a Welsh speaker and the few Welsh speakers I do know are busy people who want to finish a transaction and get on with something else rather than suffer my mutilating their language, Having never actually conducted a dialogue in Welsh (except for ordering tea and a torta galesa and buying a local handicraft from a surly Argentine waitress at a cafe in Dolavon who affected not to understand my Spanish many years ago) I signed up.
Courses were available for various levels from absolute beginner to “advanced”. Because I felt that I must have learnt some Welsh from SSIW and watching film clips of Gareth yr Orangutan I chose the first level above “absolute beginner”. With the benefit of hindsight that may have been a bit too ambitious because many if not all the other students on the course were married to Welsh speakers or had some other regular exposure to the language and were, therefore, a lot more fluent than me. I stumbled over pronunciation and grammar.
Nevertheless, I had a good time and learnt a lot. We had a very patient teacher who took the trouble to email each of us in Welsh after the course. Each of us received a resources pack that included the recipe for Welsh cakes, the life of St David and lots of other information. The teacher also wrote every new word that we learnt in the chat channel which I copied, translated and am committing to memory.
Through that exercise, I learnt the Welsh for leek and daffodil and reflected on the possible association of the very different plant species. While trimming the stems of a bunch of daffodils the other day I noticed their sinuous fibrosity bore a vague resemblance to the vegetable but to call one of the loveliest flowers in nature “Peter leeks” seemed atypical of a people who renowned for their prowess in verse and song. The French on the other hand call the flowers, trompettes d’or**emphasized text (“golden trumpets”) which is much more lyrical.
It was a very valuable 3 hours and I hope to take a slightly more difficult course next year.