I left the topic of nationality on the prickly question of Britishness. And prickly’s the word – not for nothing have our Celtic friends north of the border adopted the thistle as an emblem. Whether they ever secede remains to be seen, but they’ve got the message across: not all Brits are created equal.
When I say friends, I also mean cousins. Because my Mum was all Welsh (but would have preferred to be anything but) and my Dad was half Welsh (but didn’t seem to mind what he was). Which makes me 3/4. But then, shortly after becoming French, I annexed the remaining quarter. Think of it as a form of compensation.
Strictly speaking, it was probably more than a quarter. We lived in Powys, then called Radnorshire, a stone’s throw from the border. Practically on top of Offa’s Dyke. I went to school in England. Never spoke Welsh in my life. Still don’t know the words to Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Never been to an eisteddfod. Don’t like leeks. Got an accent as RP as they come. People say to me, ‘Welsh? You haven’t got an accent.’ And I answer, ‘No, I’ve lost it.’ Truth is, I never had it.
But as Tom Waits put it , ‘I never saw my home town till I stayed away too long.’ Or in my case, ‘Never found my Welshness till the French got it all wrong.’ Because after the millionth time you’ve heard all Brits referred to as ‘les anglais’, you start to feel the tug of those non-English roots, drawing you back where you came from. A windswept hill with clumps of fern and grass grazed bare by sheep. Might not be everyone’s bowl of broth but hey, to me it was home. Cymru am byth!