Nicky's Ongoing Eisteddfod Report (Part 1 of a few to come)
So the Eisteddfod has arrived finally!
With @LaraRobs arriving a day earlier with Siop y Pethe, I travelled down by car with my friend Ifor early on Saturday, making a quick stop in Llwyncelyn near Aberaeron to pick up an asthma pump one of the SYP girls forgot to bring! (Lifesaving, I would call that!)
I've not been to loads of Eisteddfods before, but I must say that it was quite a novelty to travel to the Eisteddfod by train, as in to the actual Maes by train - something that doesn't happen that often! We're usually talking about a field miles from a train station, but here we go!
First thing you notice with the Eisteddfod this year is the different shape of everything! Gone is the traditional "All the stands are in one bit, all the bars are in one bit, all of the food places are in one place", for those familiar with the Bay, the stands basically stretch from Craft in the Bay right down to the Norwegian Church, and even a little bit further with Caffi Maes B and Maes B sitting by the Doctor Who Experience.
The second thing you notice is that it is incredibly hot! I have just been walking around for two days looking like a sweaty mess, so apologies to anyone who has bumped into me over the last weekend. When I say "incredibly hot", I actually mean "silly hot".
So despite actually making the timetable, I've not been able to get to as much stuff as I was going to - because I've just been bumping into so many friends and ending up going somewhere or going to see something I'd not heard about.
The most popular freebie of this years Eisteddfod is definitely the free Dwr Cymru water bottles they are giving out.. unfortunately this makes me extremely jealous when I see people with one, as I haven't got one!
We had a bit of an SSIW meetup on Saturday, meeting outside Maes D and moving onto the steps in front of the Senedd building. It was great to put even more names to faces! Finally meeting @Karla in person was a highlight, also bit of a reunion with @Novem who stayed with us for a few nights last month and also seeing @philipmcmanamon for the first time since last week!
Whilst others moved onto Y Cwis Mawr, I hunted out some water and bumped into @neilrowlands, which was good timing because we were about to meet up for our event in Maes D anyway.
So 3.10 came and myself, Neil and a handful of others took our places on the Maes D stage to give a bit of a talk on paralle.cymru and how Welsh learners can contribute to Welsh life - a very interesting panel discussion - at one point I thought we were going to have a crowdsurfer, as one lady started to ask a question but turned it into a passionate speech to the crowd. It went really well, and we got some great feedback - just the one single complaint from someone who complained that the event didn't have more English in it.
So after this, most of us headed over to that pub down the Bay, I can't remember the name of it - but it will now be known as "The Hottest Place on Earth" where Neil kindly bought us all a drink for our work - I will owe you one!
After this, I went back to the place that I'm staying to check in, unpack the car and change my clothes that were now soaking through!
One of the highlights of my life comes when I bump into Huw Stephens while walking down the Norwegian Church and whilst I'm about to say hi and say how much of a fan I was, he takes a squinting look at me and says "Are you Nicky?" (but in Welsh). So I reply in Welsh "Shouldn't this conversation be the other way around? I'm supposed to recognise you!" He explains that he's been following all of the Eisteddfod social media channels for the last few weeks and recognised me from the competition - so this certainly goes down as one of the weirdest and coolest experiences of my life!
We chat for a few minutes, he introduces me to some of his friends and offers to buy a drink later in the week!
So back on the Maes, Aled the owner of SYP kindly offers to take us all for a well-needed pint down at the Syched, which I found hard to refuse. This pint becomes 3, before the girls head off back to their house and Aled and I are left to fend for ourselves - which we do by heading down to the Llwyfan and buying more pints.
I should mention that by this point we have in our posession a single ticket for the Bryn Fon gig at Clwb Ifor Bach thanks to the kindness of the aforementioned @philipmcmanamon who couldn't make it. Knowing Aled is BrynFonFanBoy#1, I give him the ticket and this makes not only his day, his night, but his year.
A friend of Aled's has tagged along, and bought even more pints - so many that I don't even remember his name - but a lovely bloke. We move onto another pub, called Salt - where even more pints are bought and its starting to get to the stage where I really should be heading to bed.
"I'll get you into Bryn Fon tonight! I know him well" says Aled.
"What about me?" says his mate.
"Don't worry, I know Bryn!" Aled proclaims.
The thing is, this gig has long sold out - if it was a case of paying on the door, I would've.
So half an hour later, my friend Rich sends me a message to say that Bryn has just started his set, so its time for us to finish our next pint and get Uber on the go! (Three men from Ceredigion all in an Uber!? Who would've thought it!
And there we are, so Aled gets in fine with his ticket, his mate gets in - it comes to me and I'm at that point where I'll be happy if I get in, and if they refuse me I'm more than happy to get in a taxi and get an early-ish night....
So - and I will never know how I came up with this idea... in my best Welsh I say to the guy on the door "Hello, I am Bryn Fon's cousin" - he shows doubt, I nod my head - and whether he takes pity on me, or whether its because the gigs half way through anyway - he waves me in!
I make the foolish decision to buy more pints, whilst Aled gets down to the front row - I hang around at the side with my friend Richard from work and his wife.
Bryn is great, I'm not a giant Bryn Fon fan to be honest, but I like the idea of Bryn Fon if that makes sense. He seems like a great guy and I know a lot of people who love him to bits. To be fair, he has the crowd in his hands and I'm surprised by how many songs I was familiar with.
So the set finishes, by which point I definitely need to be home and in bed as I am not recognisable as a human being anymore. I get into what I can only describe as one of the weirdest taxi journeys ever as I have to direct the taxi driver to exactly where I'm staying (middle of Cathays) as he doesn't seem to know anything about Cardiff roads! Every single street direction, every turn!!
Then the morning comes.... My keys are here, my wallet is still here, my Postman Pat bag is still here.... but it seems that overnight some builders have made their way into my head and have spent all night banging hammers all over it - nothing with do with the 10+ pints at all officer.....
So in what should be a brilliant moment, watching myself on S4C this morning - I miss the first 10 minutes of the show as I feel the need to be sick....
I later compose myself and pull my feeble excuse for a human body (because at present I am little more than a sack of skin carrying hungover bones around Cardiff) down to the Maes.
I am amazed to find that Aled managed to stay out until 4.30am somehow! Which makes my 1am arrival and pathetic hangover look amateur in comparison. We compare hangover notes.
The other thing about this years Eisteddfod is that because there is a different layout - you don't get that same feeling that you are walking around in circles, seeing the same people every 10 minutes. The other thing is that wherever you go this year, you will bump into Karla and Milla every 30 minutes, which is lovely. One of the many times I do so, was while watching Papur Wal in Shwmae Caerdydd. We're joined by Neil once again, who is another person you will see every half an hour without fail!
Did I mention the heat?
I meet up with some work friends in the afternoon. My previously mentioned mate Richard who is a first language Welsh speaker from Llanwennog and whilst I am his manager in work, he was definitely my mentor in terms of Welsh! Anyway, now I'm fluent - I've taken over the role of helping the rest of our team through the process, as they've all just started learning. So Rich and I give them a tour of the Maes, I introduce them to some SSIW'ers around the place, including Milla - who no-one can believe that she isn't Welsh born and bred!
The pride is too much when my work mate Chris, who himself has only been learning for 3 weeks or so - orders his food from the Meat and Greek stand in Welsh with only minimal help from me. We have one more Welsh speaker among us!!
3pm comes and it is time to head over to Maes D and watch most of the Duolingo presentation. Fair play to them, theres 6 of them doing it and they put in a lot of hard work. They also say a lot of nice things about SSIW on the stage. I unfortunately have to leave early as I have a 3.30 coffee meeting with Heulwen Davies, owner of Mam Cymru blog, ex-Atebol, ex-Welsh Books Council, ex-Siop y Pethe, current BBC - and she's already waiting at SYP.
So over to Norwegian Church we head for a coffee and a catch up, which is great - Heulwen's lovely and is always great company. An hour and a half flies by and we're heading back over to the Maes.
Lara goes on a break and we head in search of food, because for the first time today I can actually face the idea of eating something! After recovering from the shock of the famous Pizza stand not being present this year, we settle on some Quorn burgers from No Bones Jones, before I run into fellow DyF finalist Steve Dimmick, whilst my mouth is full of fake meat.... not a good look!
It's great to catch up with Steve in person, we've been messaging a bit over social media - but its always nice to have a real life chat.
So I make the journey back to the house where I sit down and re-watch the DyF semi final again, this time whilst not dying of a hangover.
Before preparing some supper, I get a text from Lara to say that Aled has gone out again!!! What a man.
More to follow during the week!