Thursday, March 08, 2007

Neighbours from Hell?

Neighbours from Hell? - Yes, it's a provocative title for a book written by Mike Parker, an Englishman who wrote the Rough Guide to Wales.

Mike's interest began in Wales from an early age as he lived in the English West Midlands, not far from the Welsh border. He was asked to write a Rough Guide book in the early 1990s that was meant to be for that mythical country so beloved by Welsh Labour politicians, Englandandwales. Parker made a stand and told the Rough Guide people to drop the Serbia & Montenegro, sorry, Englandandwales, idea and give him the chance to write about a proper country - Wales.

Since then he's learnt Welsh and lives in the Machynlleth area. One of his most interesting contributions was an article in Planet magazine in 2001 about the ambivalent, if not racist, attitude of some English people who'd moved into Wales towards the Welsh and the Welsh language. The type of white-flight people (left and right wing) who left the English cities to live their 'good life' in the (white) Welsh countryside... only to learn that people here also spoke another language, albeit not Punjabi but Welsh!

Parker came interested in the narrative of English attitudes towards the Welsh and learnt that the same 'jokes' about the language and society are regurgitated every generation. He's been attacked by some of his fellow English for the book and his other articles, despite the fact that he's proud to be English and supports an English parliament.

A good interesting read. Of course, it takes an Englishman to write this kind of stuff. To paraphrase the old Welsh saying, Gorau Cymro - Sais! (the best Welshman - an Englishman!).

As I said, it's not an anti-English book nor does it say all English people are hostile, but the book does give an insight into a collected memory and narrative which some wish to ignore.

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