Yes, there were some drawbacks to our trip to – and from – The Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport on Monday, 1st June. I’ve mentioned them on my Facebook
But the good things about that day outweigh, I realise, those drawbacks. Particularly, I think, the last good thing I’ll mention here.
For instance, starting out from home at 5 a.m. gave us virtually clear roads all the way. And, as we drove, the early morning sun peeped out from time to time, highlighting how green everything was at the coming of Summer. Those greens were most noticeable on the trees, which have been so beautiful in their Spring colours, but are now changing into their Summer attire.
So many trees, so many shades and tints of green.
It was easy to drive through Tregaron and, from there on, the countryside is less mountainous and more open than in dear old Bont.
Then, after Lampeter, we entered Carmarthenshire: gently rolling countryside with distant hills and mountains framing the views. Carmarthen itself will always remain in my mind at “The Town Surrounded By Moon-Daisies”, for those profuse white gems stretched all round the place and all along the dual-carriageway – hedgerows and centre-reservations – for many miles.
Seeing those flowers and enjoying that scenery seemed to make the journey to the M4 shorter than it was. And the joy of wild-flowers, of so many varieties, did not stop along that motorway.
The very sight of Merthyr Tydfil on a road-sign set my mind a-racing. Back it went to the days when Wales had a coal-mining industry and “The Valleys” were far-famed; the poem – and song – “The Bells of Rhymney” came to me; and I recalled hearing the Treorchy Male Voice Choir on the wireless when I was young. Of course, the history of the Merthyr Riots joined those thoughts.
The rows of houses we saw on both the way there and back lining the hillsides were reminders of the tight-knit mining communities.
I had been nervous of finding my way driving through a big city. In the end, though, it was a simple enough thing to do. And the big, late-Georgian houses which still stand along Newport’s streets tell of its one-time well-off residents and the city’s former wealth. Wonder who lives in those houses now?
The Royal Gwent is a massive place. It’s like a vast maze, all seven storeys of it – and a place where it isn’t difficult to get lost.
And this is where I tell of “the last good thing” of our trip. And I tell it with a pride in the land in which I live.
Despite the signs within the hospital clearly stating where each department is, I managed to get lost – or at least mislaid – a few times.
But it was easy to approach the locally recruited staff for help. That is the great thing about the whole of Wales: we seem to have an inborn spirit of community. Everyone I spoke with – both inside and outside of the enormous building – was part of that community, that spirit. The Valley’s accent was clear, as was the natural Welshness. Indeed, I held quite a conversation in Welsh with someone who is, like me, a learner. As a born-again Welshman, everywhere I go in this special nation is home.
Many people who come to live in Wales feel as I do. There is a magic which comes up from our Welsh soil. There is a magic which flows through each of our communities.
Yet many others who come to dwell in our land – I refer mainly to those from our Eastern neighbour – cannot or will not feel that magic. For whatever reason they come here – work, the lack of work, cheap houses to buy, etcetera – they are not uplifted by what I can only call “The Spirit of Welshness” engendered by that gently flowing magic which is everywhere here, uniting our communities, different in many ways as those communities may seem.
That Spirit of Welshness uplifted me on that day, despite the difficult journey home in gale-force winds and torrential rainstorms. That Spirit holds me up when I am feeling low. I live where I know I should live, and I am part of a nation of which I know I should be a part.