Today is Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant – St. David’s Day – the National Day of Wales. As usual there is much celebration ongoing of all kinds; there are the big crowds in Cardiff singing the National Anthem, there are the eisteddfoddau in schools where the children will sing, recite poems and perform pieces on their musical instruments. I remember those school days well, with the fondness that distance now provides.
I wish I could find the old photographs of myself and primary school friends in our Welsh costumes, two of us wearing home-made Welsh hats that my mother had painstakingly crafted from cardboard, newspaper and glue the day before. I don’t think they were quite dry in time because they stuck to our heads, but we had to wear them, all day, despite mine leaning rather precipitously like the tower of Pisa, as the day wore on.
We were photographed, of course. My mother and I collected the photos from the chemist shop a week later before attending the doctor’s surgery. Whilst waiting for our turn, we opened the packet and began laughing at the pictures of those wonky hats and we couldn’t stop. We made so much noise the doctor came out of his room and told us off. A lovely memory of my late mother, who was unwell for much of her life, but who always made sure I was kitted out, no matter how ill she was feeling.
For those of us who are truly Welsh, today is a reminder of what it is to be away from Wales and suffer its loss. It means to have a longing for Wales in your soul, to know that there is no substitute for being in God’s own country and having all things Welsh around you. That is Hiraeth.