What Wales wants

Even supporters of Welsh independence (and anyone who recognises the benefits of localised and better-tailored governance, for that matter) have been taken aback by a recent poll by YouGov that states that the number of people who wish to see Wales as an independent and sovereign state could be as much as 1 in 3 residents of this fine land. Considering only around 70% of Wales’ inhabitants were born in the country, this poll was nothing short of groundbreaking.

I, and many others, have made it our goal to share the benefits (and potential shortcomings) of Welsh independence to ensure the conversation, first and foremost, actually happens and to enlighten people to an alternative to the status quo which, no one can truly deny, has not brought Wales the prosperity of which it is capable.

Before the YesCymru campaign officially kicked off, the struggle for Welsh independence was always a subject of conversation for me. Some of the most interesting conversations happened when I would quiz politicians and those ‘clued up’ in law. I would often hear how both devolution and eventual independence would always be scuppered by three main hindrances:

  • Wales has no control over its energy,
  • Wales has no national bank,
  • Wales has no legal system of its own.

Concerns that Wales has no control over its energy and resources, in my view, are best (and only) rectified through gaining sovereignty in full.
Rather than linking up the vast potential of renewable resources Wales currently produces simply goes into the National Grid where multinational companies flog it off to consumers – including Welsh ones. No profits reach Welsh coffers.
And instead of selling off our water reserves (some of which created by drowning Welsh villages) at a modest and economical price (much like Switzerland currently does between its own cantons), we currently watch our water trickle away along with our national dignity.
As I said, for me the harnessing of our own energy and resources depends wholly on us gaining independence – rather than the other way around.

So what of a bank? Well, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not too well versed in economics but I’m pretty sure Wales would benefit from having its own bank.
North of Hadrian’s Wall, the Bank of Scotland (not to be confused with the Royal Bank of Scotland), has been long established with the aim of supporting the people of Scotland. As a comparison between that and the Bank of England (established mainly to finance defence spending by the English government), the Bank of Scotland was set up by the government in Scotland to aid and support Scottish businesses.
Wales could have this too. Imagine a bank with its own version of the pound (or whatever currency it would choose) that could support the interests of the Welsh economy. It boils down to similar reasons as to why I want Wales itself to be independent – better choices made by those who understand Welsh people’s needs best.

I guess this is something else that could be gained by becoming an independent nation, but even unionists wishing Wales to remain a part of the UK have to admit there are benefits to a Welsh national bank.
Finally, laws. Once again I have to admit that I have in no way passed the bar and law really ‘isn’t my thing.’ Here are simply my observations regarding law in Wales.
Essentially, the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 removed the Welsh laws of Hywel Dda seeing English Law extend its paws across Wales. Before that, Welsh Law was considered pioneering across Europe having drawn influences from well-travelled Cistercian monks etc until a legal system was established with the diverse needs of the Welsh people at its core. Some of the pioneering elements of Cyfraith Hywel were rights for women after divorce and inheritance. Since then, legalities in Wales have never been uttered unless preceded by the words ‘The Laws of England and….’! For all intents and purposes; English Common Law.
Without our own legal system, Wales will forever be at the whim of English law. Even devolved legislation has had to be (and will continue to require being) signed off by our friends in across the border.

In many ways, arguments can be had as to whether resources, banks and legal systems are required prior to securing independence or whether Welsh independence itself must be the catalyst in securing them. Whichever becomes apparent over the coming years, one thing is certain: the eventual success Welsh independence depends on how we see ourselves as a nation and how confident we our in ourselves as an unique collective of fantastic people to achieve what’s best for those who call Wales their home.

Yes Hyd Yma

Since becoming aware of politics I have held firm to the belief that Wales can and will be an independent nation.
I see an independent Wales as inclusive, welcoming, tolerant, dignified, friendly, progressive and, well, super cool! I see freedom to have our nation run FOR our people BY those lucky enough to call Wales their home.

I have enjoyed normalising the idea of Welsh independence around my local area (YesCymru Sir Fflint) via social media and face-to-face discussions. It has amazed me to see how much people are in support of the campaign in an area that has, in recent years, been a melting pot for non-Welsh-born residents. All it has taken is words.

I adore every opportunity to discuss Welsh independence and am looking forward to organising numerous events in the North East of Wales to ensure the hope of Welsh independence is normalised, discussed maturely and considered by all who call Wales their home.

Through healthy discussion, Welsh eyes opening. Right here, right now, Wales is the closest it has ever been to being an independent nation since Owain Glyndŵr. What’s more, tomorrow we’ll be a step closer again.

I look forward not only to seeing an inclusive, dignified and welcoming Wales, but I also look forward to giving Wales the worldwide stage it deserves to share such ideas which are unfortunately lacking in our modern world.

This is what’s so exciting about working towards an independent Wales and it’s why I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Geiriau / Words

In the 6th century, the people of our nation carved names into stone and lamented great battles in song. Towards the end of the first millennium AD, our chieftains and princes scribed globally-pioneering laws. The early part of the second millennium saw religious leaders finally put stories of ancient heroes onto the pages of great manuscripts. In the late 16th century, a band of learned people took advantage of the printing press and made Welsh one of first ever languages to be printed into books. In recent times, chairs and crowns are awarded to our finest deserving poets writing in our native language.
Our proud past is full of words. Words, so simple at a glance, are all-powerful to our very core. All you need to do to continue this tradition of words, is speak them. Speak to friends, family and, well, anyone…. use them to discuss how our nation not only has the potential to succeed as an independent and sovereign state, but can once again be a global pioneer when run by people who live here and who understand its diverse needs best. We will ensure Wales takes its place in a world of equals when it is run by people like you and me. By us.

YesCymru am byth.

Dim esgus / No excuse

First off, DIOLCH YN FAWR to all who took part in my survey. The total numbers of people taking the survey (at the time of sharing these results) was 43.

My main purpose behind the survey was to rubbish claims that people in Wales don’t speak Welsh. I’m fed up that the only statistic batted around is that 22% of the population identifying as fluent in Welsh has recently dropped to 19%.

I’m also fed up with those who claim that English-medium education is not producing Welsh speakers.
Should 5 years of French, Spanish or German not result in relative fluency? But Brits still go abroad expecting Europeans to be fluent in the language WE choose rather than the language of their land.
Should we not be more concerned with the fact that, despite educational devolution in Wales, our children still know more about Henry VIII’s chauvinism than his damning laws against Wales’ people, culture and language?

To those who bemoan English-medium Welsh classes in our schools I say this:
When you lower your expectations, everything around you becomes more miraculous and wonderful than you could ever have imagined. For now at least, lower your expectations of a bilingual populous and take pride in what we know.
No, the current situation in forging a truly bilingual nation is not perfect, far from it, but for now the fight is not in gaining a bilingual nation – the first step in this battle is normalising the language. And the best way to do that is by using it when we can.

Iawn, rant over. Here’s what I found:

****


No matter the level (or lack of) education in Welsh, every single one of the respondents knew how to say the word ‘thanks’ in Welsh.

And that’s it.

That’s all I wanted to know.

I mean, it didn’t even matter how long it had been since people had studied Welsh;

If you’re interested, in addition to the fact that 100% of people who completed the survey knew how to be polite in the Welsh language, only one person did not remember how to say ‘how are you?‘ (= sut wyt ti? + others).
Therefore if I told you that ‘iawn‘ means ‘ok,’ tell me you can’t work out the following conversation:

Sut wyt ti?
Iawn diolch. Sut wyt ti?
Iawn diolch.

Fine, so it’s no closer to moaning about the weather and asking how the kids are as it is to discussing the economic and cultural benefits of an independent Wales completely through the medium of Cymraeg but it works.

We can do it. We can ALL do it.

Hearing Cymraeg on the streets does not have to be reserved for Aberystwyth, Bala and Caernarfon.
Using our Cymraeg, however humbly and simply, tells people that we are different and are proud to be so. It tells people we care about the medium of conversation used by those who forged the land which today we call home. It normalises our heritage.

****

The main aim of the survey may have been to discover to what degree people have at least a basic proficiency in Welsh but there were many secondary results that grabbed my attention upon analysis too. Things like:

  • Despite a mere 43 responses, there we 4 different versions of the term ‘because it is’ offered – achos mae’n / oherwydd mae’n, am ei fod yn, gan ei fod yn.
  • 47% (20) of respondents said they use at least some Welsh EVERY DAY. Tidy!

  • Only 2 people were unsure on how to ask for something using ‘can I (have a)….?’ (= ga’ i….?) and 7 were unsure on how to say ‘I want (a)….’ (= dwi eisiau + others). 2 southerners managed to get ‘moyn’ in there. Well played, my southern friends.
  • 4 Gwyndodians (North West Walians) infiltrated question 4 proclaiming that good morning is ‘borA da’ and not ‘bore da.’ Cheek!
  • And finally, Respondent 18 decided to take his/her opportunity to show us all how to use ‘can I have’ and ‘I want’ in a fantastic sentence. Whack the kettle on then!

****

May I offer two recommendations?

1. In less than a day, I managed to ask 43 people with varying degrees of Welsh ability how to say ‘thank you‘ in the language of the heavens. Save for one typo saying ‘dioloch,’ every single one of the respondents knew it.

I promise you this; if you have the guts to say ‘diolch‘ instead of ‘thanks‘ to anyone, my money is on that they’ll understand you. You might even get a ‘croeso‘ in return – in which case I dare you to not smile to yourself when you hear it. Impossible!

2. Whoever you are, when asked whether you speak Welsh, saying ‘no’ is simply a lie. Perhaps you believe your abilities to be ‘limited’ (though some would still say that edges towards modesty), but you definitely do not speak zero Welsh.
One particular challenge faced when you upgrade your Welsh linguistic confidence is when you’re asked by others to speak some. ‘I can’t remember off hand’ is not an acceptable answer.
People would love to hear ‘bore/p’nawn/nos da!‘ They’d love to hear that our word for ‘thanks‘ has a sound that died out in English hundreds of years ago. And who wouldn’t want to tell someone their name and at the same time sound like you’re saying ‘[name] had a wee!‘?

Alternatively you could punt for the phrase I go for – ‘dwi ddim yn gwybod‘ (dwee thim un gubod). It means ‘I don’t know.‘ Doesn’t sound too fun but it gets hilarious when someone then asks you what it means.

You’re welcome…. I mean ‘croeso!’

Cymraeg am byth i bawb.

🙂

You can still take the survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D983W68

Or, alternatively, you can see all the results here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-PSR6NGBH

Stuff YesCymru

I’ve been working hard lately to share why I believe Wales will be better off as an independent nation.I’ve taken to social media, blogging, setting up groups, distributing leaflets and other visuals, talking to friends and family, making visuals and ordering stickers.
The last one was the most fun. I love stickers!

Becoming a part of such an exciting, progressive and fast-growing movement has opened my eyes to many things…. not least about Wales true position in this state often referred to as a union.


It’s great to find out that when you discuss YesCymru with others, most of them are fully supportive but one of the best things about spreading the word is hearing people’s fears. It’s good to talk as much about the challenges we will face as it is to discuss the vast benefits.

Becoming independent is a big ask and will require a lot of hard work….

Actually, wait. It will be hard work.

I mean REALLY hard.

What’s so bad about becoming England anyway? That’s how we’re referred to around the world as it is.

Let the Scots go and the Irish unite. If they want to work hard to have what Wales already gets England to do for us then fine.

It’s a bit like renting or buying a house. Yeah it’s nice to know you own the place but it’s way nicer to wake up to no hot water, phone up your landlord, get no answer, try again after a few days of cold showering, hear back from landlord, be told it’ll be fixed in a week, wait a week, plumber’s a day late, then tada! New shower for free.

Who wouldn’t want that? So much easier.
Anyway, what has Wales ever done? What have we given the world?

The equals sign and Gareth Bale? Great!

And think about it. Look at how Wales is currently sold off as a theme park for day-trippers. That’s all we have to offer anyhow.


Oh and free prescriptions – always handy for encouraging retirees from England with no clue of Wales’ heritage or culture to settle here. London doesn’t need to be clogged up zimmer frames and paracetamol. Bring them here. Yes they take affordable housing opportunities away from Wales’ young people but we need to encourage our youth to leave. Spread their wings. There’s bugger all here anyway!


It’s not like we can change anything, anyway. Scotland gets dragged into governments for whom England votes, Wales acually votes with England!

Actually, yeah….
Stuff YesCymru!

Think I might carry on being a sheep. Laying down and doing as I’m told. Waiting for handouts to keep me alive until I’m kebab meat.

Aye, let’s go with that.

Alpha Cambria

It is plain that the vaster the social unit, the less possible is true democracy.” – Alasdair Gray.

Recently I’ve been playing a game called Alpha Centauri by Sid Meier.

For those not familiar with the game, it’s essentially a sci-fi, extra terrestrial version of the Civilization series by the same creator. For those not familiar with the Civilzation series, it’s essentially a turn-based game where a player chooses a faction and attempts to govern lands as they see fit.
In Alpha Centauri, players choose from one of eight factions from Earth who have made planetfall on an earth-like planet. Each faction must establish itself and dictate its own levels of diplomacy, knowledge, exploration, militia and governance. The game can be eventually won by achieving out and out backing as the planet’s leader…. or by exterminating the other factions.

1

I always set up my new colony under the title of ‘Y Cymry Newydd’ – The New Welsh – and name all of my new settlements and lands after Wales great towns and villages. I’ve even got other faction leaders to refer to me as ‘Stephen Deg’ – the Fair! Cool, huh?

As a bit of a lefty, I always tread the path of diplomacy; working with others for all to prosper. As the game can be a volatile one, my settlements are amply defended but I will not use military force to win lands. Instead I spread out to untouched lands to establish my new settlements.

But as the game progresses, it learns your style and attempts to disrupt your chosen path. As is always the case in my experience(s), other factions begin military campaigns in border areas and take my settlements as their own.

As attacks begin on Y Cymry Newydd, I immediately take to communicating with the attacking faction. It is then they ask for payment to call off their advance. And because I may or may not have cheated and given myself loads of energy credits (the planet’s currency), I simply pay the minuscule fee and ward them off. Pacts and treaties are forged and diplomacy is restored.

3

But even the most pacifistic among us would get annoyed when you receive a popup saying that the faction with whom you’ve just forged a pact has launched a surprise attack on another of your settlements. There are only so many times you can pay off attacking factions until you realise they keep on getting away with taking land, then money, then more land, then more money, then more land, then more money….
You get the picture.

It is at this point I reach my breaking point and, seeing as it’s only a game, I opt for the stance of all-out militia against those who cross me on multiple occasions. I wage a campaign so mighty that I forget about my original settlements who are busy trying to construct new roads and new and effective methods of sustaining themselves. My mind turns whole-heartedly towards domination.

Each of the attackers’ settlements fall under my control and, instead of welcoming them into my faction by improving them, their production is set to ignore technological advances and to simply create more and more troops and machines to continue the retaliation.

As I hope you can imagine, as more and more new settlements are created, the task of governing them becomes difficult. You simply don’t have the time to concentrate on so many people and their needs as you wage war for new land. Add this to the additional flow of newly-plundered settlements that then need to be maintained by their new leader [me], and giving them your all-out attention becomes impossibly difficult.

When the day is won and all factions who cross me are under my control, I then get bored and turn it off. I leave the former arms-producing settlements to fend for themselves as their whole world becomes a save-game file in my recycle bin that I’ll never play again. It’s far too much fun to start again than it is to revisit an old game!

Before I end the game, I take a look at the lands I’ve colonised. I look at the map of the planet and see my faction’s colours clad across it, slightly tinged by the colours of the faction(s) who chose to remain small and not enter into any military dealings.

2

I found it interesting how, despite losing the odd settlement to plundering factions, the factions choosing to keep their territory small produced the most advanced settlements. These were the factions whose towns and cities were at the forefront of new technological advances and they grew this way. The links across their territories were littered with fast roads and efficient energy, nutrient and mineral sources.
They were trading with both their colonial neighbours next door as well as across the seas to distant factions who shared their view of sharing wealth for all to prosper.

They had chosen the path I had turned down.

So, once again, I chose to restart the game…. but this time to play as they did.

I kept the same name – Y Cymry Newydd – and kept myself to myself. I didn’t involve myself in fights and maintained better control over fewer settlements. I was amazed at how quickly they grew.
Instead of losing my temper, I continued to ward off invaders with payment (and by arming my settlements to the teeth by cheating and spawning a huge military presence there).

Knowing all attacks on me would fail, I was left to concentrate on my own settlements and their peoples. I gave more time to establishing and maintaining more efficient and easy-to-manage communities. Each producing the means to create sustainable energy, happiness and prosperity. Each with their own projects on which to work for the benefit of the rest of the faction and the planet as one community.

It was pretty cool to see how exchanging the war-mongering mentality in order to lead a small faction within a large planet of equals could be so progressive. I spent less time trying to wield my might and ideology over others and more time concentrating on matters closer to home.

And as much as I initially never came close to winning the game by becoming the planet’s leader, there was always a place and a voice for me on the council. Other factions’ plans of, for example, melting ice caps (which would be devastating for my coastal settlements), were scuppered simply by the fact I had a vote. That vote on a planetary level was enough for me.
My inclusive and non-colonial mentality really rubbed off on other factions too. As I progressed through the game making advances in technology, renewables and governance, other factions paid us to share the information – although I often disclosed it for free. I had cheated, after all!

I allowed other factions to use our resources – ensuring they paid a fair and economical price to the people of the lands from whence said resources came. Our settlements were provided with the monetary means to progress further, while others used their purchased resources to progress themselves.

Upon finally being elected as the planet’s leader (and after I had persuaded everyone to protect the environment on which we lived), I left the game victorious.
A cheat, but victorious none-the-less!

Then I wondered how it could be applied to real life.
No, on our earth there is no danger of being attacked by native-planet Mind Worms! Nor do Chairman Yang and Lady Deirdre of the Gains wish to plunder for world domination. And no, no one can simply press Shift+K to edit their energy credits to be super rich.

But the principles are there. By becoming an efficient and welcoming community, concentrating on a much smaller and more manageable area, there is far more chance of offering what we have for the benefit of the rest of the world. There is far more chance of progressive motivation rubbing off on others in order to live in a shared world community.

I believe this is why smaller nation-states are becoming more and more prominent in our world. No longer is wealth measured in how many square miles you control, but how happy, healthy and fairly treated the people are.

In Wales, we do not wish to take over the world. We simply wish to be a part of it. To give our share in exchange for the freedom to provide ourselves with the means and privilege to progress under our own guidance.

That’s what YesCymru strive for. That’s what an independent Wales will strive for. It’s what I believe all smaller nations wish to do.

The subconscious fear that is ‘divide and conquer’ needs not apply. We are taught to fear going it alone. Taught by those who have governed us. But giving more control to govern less is a method that will always win the day.

Now, back to the game.

Where are my jet fighters?

The unspoken ignorance around a Welsh Independence Referendum

Let me get something straight. I fully believe that an independent Welsh state, free to decide wholly its own destiny within a world community, festering hope and peace and inclusion, can function successfully as an independent nation.

I have no doubt that the mindset, often dictated to us with no factual evidence, that we are too small, too poor and too stupid to run our own affairs is merely fear mongering.

We can survive. We can prosper.

Yet despite figures placing support for Welsh independence from anywhere between 3% and 35%, the illusive 50% remains just that…. illusive.

I’m all for the ideology that one must take the first step on every journey – however long. With the emergence of the progressive, organised and myth-busting YesCymru campaign, those steps are being tread.

But in honesty it’s unlikely that were Welsh people to be granted a referendum on becoming an independent nation a Yes vote would win. Not yet, anyway.

And even though this fact pains me, I believe positivity can come from a vote.

A vote will show the rest of the world that there are numbers much larger than previously thought supporting Wales’ quest for home rule. It will bring new ideas to the fore and discussions will be had. It will, at the very least, prove many of the myths about being too poor etc as false. For the first time, the Anglo-centric media will take note of Wales. It will undoubtedly attempt to smear any campaign for independence but Wales will be mentioned.

A vote will ensure our neighbours understand that Wales is not a retirement home and entertainment park. It will show that the diverse needs of those who call Wales their home are understood and accounted for. We might even get a “pledge” from our Westminster guardians that will eventually become another optimistic bill tossed into a bin!

The Scottish independence referendum saw around an 85% voting turnout – the highest since the laws around suffrage were normalised. Visitors to and residents of Scotland supporting both sides of the referendum spoke of a nation invigorated with peaceful debate and friendly banter. The nation understood itself and listened to itself. It awoke.

Wales can awaken.

****

When you meet someone supporting Welsh independence, there’s always an elephant in the room…. for me, anyway.

We always talk of factual inaccuracies fed to our docile nation and discuss the vast benefits of running our own country – economic, social, cultural and otherwise. We speak of campaigning and raising the profile of YesCymru. We speak of getting the word out that discussion is key and that indy-curiosity is a natural and empowering state of mind to possess.

But we do not talk about losing a referendum.

Does ignoring this fact mean that we are victims of a positive mental attitude or that are we simply not prepared to accept what, in honesty, is the likely outcome?

Are we secretly hoping that going as far as a referendum on independence will render anything short of independence as fair and acceptable? More devolution perhaps? Our own legal system, bank and media? Are we bartering?

We might lose. These’s a decent chance of it, in fact. But it would set the wheels in motion to prove to our guardians that we are not too small, we are not too poor and we are not too stupid to put the vast and peculiar needs of our nation into the hands of those who live here. The people would awaken and see that striving for independence is not a nationalist dream but a nation’s deserved right.

Siambr Gladdu Abermorddu Burial Chamber?

There has been, some might say, a bit of a trend occurring with my articles and blogs of late. I mean, if anyone I know is still blissfully unaware that my free time has been given solely to spreading the idea of what an independent Wales can (and will) look like then, for you, ignorance most certainly is bliss.
I’ve even managed to get a plug into this blog – and Wales wasn’t even a country when the things I’m about to talk about were going on!

Angharad and I are (finally) moving house. We had previously agreed that if 152 people told us renting was “dead money,” we’d up sticks and get a place of our own!!
That’s a joke, by the way!

Searching for those bricks and mortar to call our own has been frustrating to say the least but our searching came to an end when we saw a beautiful house in Abermorddu (near Caergwrle, Sir y Fflint). After a few arguments regarding how to pronounce the name, we both agreed that this was the one.

Reading the surveyors’ report last week I found that, due to Flintshire’s mining past, a section in the report warned us of potential shafts around the house. For peace of mind, I dug out all the maps I could find of the area. A map from 1938 seemed to be the most informative – the closest shaft was a good way away. Phew!

Whilst searching the old maps, curiosity got the better of me and I started scanning for more shafts and other points of interest. In the immediate vicinity of our new house-to-be, I found a Bronze Age hill fort (Bryn/Caer Estyn), a castle (Caergwrle – my favourite) and a ‘burial chamber’?….

Since solidly declaring my interest in Neolithic (and early Bronze Age) sites about a year ago after visiting Capel Garmon, I have read books, watched documentaries, become an amateur cartographer and dragged Angharad to loads of sites across the British isles. As cool as this has been, I can’t put into words how frustrating it has been to know that the closest sites to me we ruined hill forts and flattened barrows. West Wales really is the place to be for neolithic activity.

But a burial chamber. Five minutes from my favourite castle and two minutes from my new house. This was too good to be true!

My spirits were dampened when I thought to myself about all the reading and map-searching I’d done and never heard of a site here. I thought of the über-ambiguous term; ‘Site of‘ from the map. I thought of how I’d pass this spot EVERY DAY on my way to and from work when I lived in the Ffrith and still noticed nothing. I thought of the new housing estate built there and what damage that may have done to any remains.

The only reference I have since found to a potential neolithic site in the area was from 1914 – and that doesn’t fill me with much enthusiasm.

In his Flintshire edition for ‘Cambridge County Geographies,’ Head Master of Holywell School, J. M. Edwards wrote;

“The cromlechs also belong to this period [“antiquities”], but there is no cromlech in the county now, as the one in Hope parish has been lost. This was known as the burial place of Gwrle Gawr [=Cwrle the Giant], who was supposed to have been connected to Caergwrle Castle.”

To be honest, Hope parish itself is a pretty big area – was he even referring to same spot as the burial site on my map?

It felt silly to attach my hopes of finding something onto the fact that an old story mentioned the burial of a giant, but don’t all legends and fairy tales contain at least some element of the truth?

On my more modern smartphone map I was able to locate the area described in the 1938 map. There appeared to be a raised area but absolutely no evidence of any obvious stone structures. I simply had to go.

First impressions on the site implored me to ask myself how I’d missed it until now. My second thought was one of thankfulness – the new estate had stopped a few hundred yards short of the site.

I jumped over the stile and was immediately confronted by a large stone.

In the hugely unlikely event it had anything at all to do with ancient activity in the area, it may have merely been a marker stone on a pre-Roman path. The moment I saw it, I felt like I’d been fishing for a day and caught nothing but a solitary minnow – at least I had (possibly) caught something!

The setting Sun didn’t help. It seemed every time I tried to set the scene of an ancient barrow tumulus, the Sun (that any ancients in this area would almost certainly have worshipped) blinded me.
I thought of how places like Tinkinswood in Cardiff (with the largest cromlech capstone in Europe) and Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey were aligned NE-SW to accept the Sun’s light at different parts of the year. This site was boring old N-S!

Towards the far (northern) side of the site I started to notice smaller stones dotted around. Stones notorious in size to many kerb stones I’ve seen surrounding neolithic sites across the British isles. Their size also gave rise to the possibility that they were cairn stones. Their presence, however, was still not evidence enough to claim the site is 4,000-6,000 years old.

Next to a couple more possible kerb / cairn stones there was a larger, more rounded stone.

It was different in colour and texture to the smaller stones but was largely covered by earth. I had a feel around and it was definitely iceberg-like in that most of its mass was out of sight. A capstone, perhaps? Unikely, of course, and once again I had proven nothing.

I remembered the time where Angharad and I went searching for Maen-y-bardd near Caerhun, Conwy (which, like this site in Abermorddu, lies on a N-S path and is located close to later Roman activity!)
After walking some distance with no sight of the cromlech, I was starting to desperately claim every farm’s gate post was a standing stone just so I could persuade myself (and Angharad) to keep walking.
The erratic stones were enough to keep my diminishing interest alive.

And then….

This was more like it…. even though it was nothing like I’d seen before!

Stones I had earlier hoped were ex situ kerb stones seemed, here at least, to form a C-shape. Too close together to be kerb stones, I considered that they may be cairn stones covering a plundered kist. The henge-like ditch and the circular shape were too man-made for me. This was not natural.

As I walked back I decided to walk over the mound. The sheer length of reminded me again of Tinkinswood and Maen-y-bardd and how cromlechs were often covered by a mound of earth and stone.

According to my maps, this site would have been around twice the size of Tinkinswood’s 130x60ft structure. Again, unlikely but then Flintshire does possess the Gop – an 823ft man-made neolithic structure which, as the second largest man-made mound in the British isles after Silbury Hill, contains many prehistoric burials….

Thinking again to Tinkinswood (and of the cromlech at Saint Lythans around a mile to the South of it), long barrows had small burial holes and kists dotted all over their sites – as can be seen as a stony-hole behind the capstone below;

I toyed with the idea that this site also once included a cromlech structure as an entrance with various mini-burials dotted across its barrow-mound.

A long ditch right at the summit excited this possibility but told me nothing conclusive.

Is this a man-made site containing prehistoric burials like the local Gop? Is it a huge long barrow rivalling the majesty of Tinkinswood? Is it perhaps just the site of a kist burial in a natural mound? Or is it simply none of the above?
Unless someone hands me a shovel and the phone number of someone who has the knowledge and equipment to obtain geophysical information about the site, we may never know.

The benefit of finding interest in sites so ancient as this means that I can throw around lavish and far-fetched ideas and only ever be proven 99% wrong.

To quote Rupert Soskin, writer and co-producer of the Standing with Stones documentary series; “Imagine it snows and somebody builds a snowman in the time-honoured way of a lovely carrot for his nose and two lumps of coal for his eyes. And then the warmer weather comes and the snowman melts. Then one day you’re walking across the field and you come across the two lumps of coal and the carrot but you have no knowledge of the tradition of making snowmen. What would be your interpretation? A messy coal man with a careless donkey? But then worse still, say, a sheep came along first and ate the carrot and you’re excavating the lumps of coal thousands of years later. That’s the problem with our distant past. Fragmented pieces from different jigsaw puzzles and we just don’t know what goes with what. It’s a nightmare but it’s so exciting.”

In truth, I left with perhaps more uncertainty as I had before I visited the site. The number of variables and questions and ideas in my head had multiplied and I felt no closer to (re-)discovering anything.

I just needed something. Something tangible and real to which I could cling. A ray of truth amidst the fabrication of giants and legends.

It seemed ironic, in a way, that leaving the site back to the main road would draw my attentions back to the new housing estate that was so close to obliterating the site entirely. And as much as I should have begun drafting a letter to Flintshire County Council in my head explaining how ‘leading to‘ is ‘yn arwain i‘ in Welsh, I think I’ll lay off this time.

Llys Cromlech…. Cromlech Court.

The Separatists

Since taking a lot more interest in the vast benefits on offer via an independent Wales, my eyes have opened to wondrous ideas, potentials and prosperous eventualities.

I must admit, a few years ago I’d have been at the front of the queue to question Wales’ potential flight as a sovereign state in its own right, but the myths of us being a nation that’s ultimately too poor, too small, Plaid-only led and inward-looking have been totally debunked by simply opening my mind and my discussions to the hard facts.

It’s clear to me now that, even though the path to independence will be long and difficult (and not without a Millenium Stadium full of elbow grease from all) our nation will emerge as a successful member of the world community.

As I’ve always said, discussion is the key; discussions that hold no patience for petty name-calling and bias; but discussions that pave the way to forming an equal society…. even before independence is won.

During these discussions I have heard of apprehensions and uncertainties that plague the minds of many who, in truth, would be proud to see Wales earn its own stripes in the world.

There are more closet fans of Welsh independence than one might think!

One such apprehension is the view that supporters of Welsh independence are simply “separatists” trying to disjoin the UK and the status quo. This could not be further from the truth.

Wales does not wish to be ‘separate.’ And, as lovely as the weather might be, no one wishes to take a giant angle grinder along Offa’s Dyke to float towards the Azores. We’re still too angry with Portugal’s 2-0 victory over us in Euro 2016 for that!!

An independent Wales does not seek passport control along the border. It doesn’t seek to stop people identifying as British (Wales and Cornwall are the original Britons after all!) if they wish. It doesn’t mean that people like me must suddenly accept my mother as ‘foreign’ just because she was born in Chester – we’re not all lucky enough to be born in God’s own country, after all!

I, like many, see an independent Wales sharing close links with the independent constituent nations of the British isles. Businesses, home buyers, day trippers and everyone in between can all continue to live, work and play freely in these islands.

So what’s the point then?

It’s about self rule. It’s about having people spend all their time working for Wales in government – rather than some people working some of the time in Westminster.

It’s about bringing all minor and major decisions regarding all the people who call Wales their home closer to that home.

It’s about voting for our own people to run our own services without the bureaucracy of Westminster’s red tape. I’d sooner moan at 60 politicians in Cardiff representing 3,600,000 people than 450 in Westminster attempting to serve 60 million.

It’s about a fairer society for all.

Much like the word ‘nationalist,’ ‘separatist‘ has been attached to many nations (like the Basque Country) who simply wish to do as many Welsh people wish to do – tread their own path as an independent nation. It’s a tactic employed by many a state attempting to maintain a colonial, imperial past and/or attempting to grab what they can from many a defeated people.

This stops with independence.

Too poor! (“Don’t answer back, child!”)

How many times have honest debates regarding Welsh independence been ground to a halt with the following statement….

Wales is too poor [to be independent]“?

Iesu mawr, if I had a penny for every time someone said that. Well, Wales would be pretty well off actually! Ironic, huh?

But it is a genuine concern and one which, in all honesty, I’m glad that people have. Economy is, whether one likes it or not, the lifeblood of a nation. People are correct to prioritise it in a debate about Welsh independence.

Unfortunately, and all too often, I find that debates grind to a halt with the above statement. It seems as though people are satisfied enough that (apparently) Wales is too poor and thus no more debate should be had.

I remember having disagreements with my mother when I was growing up – usually on the most trivial and pointless of subjects. Despite the fact that 99.99% of the time I was rightly proven incorrect, there were odd occasions when I knew my argument was justified – and my mother knew it!
And for all the wonderful and selfless things that woman has ever done for me, I can’t get over the response she’d offer when she knew that I had the upper hand in a debate;

Don’t answer back!

So I didn’t.

But using “Wales is too poor” as some sort of incontestable fact will not hold in mature debate. We must tackle (and retackle) every point made – points made both against AND for an independent Wales.
So here we go then.

First of all, why is Wales poor in the first place?

Imagine a school. Now imagine that school is failing. Year after year the students fail to reach their blatant potential and grades remain persistently below national averages.
Now there are many factors surrounding the successes and shortcomings of educational establishments but, for me, persistent shortcomings are definitely NOT the fault of the students who are obviously being undercut regarding reaching their potential.

In order to tackle a school as described above, one must look at the SLT (Senior Leadership Team), the Governors and the LEA (Local Education Authority). We must look at those charged with paving the way of the school and, if deemed necessary by external opinion, changes must be made.

The same can be said of Wales. To claim that we are poor without questioning those who run the country is like blaming thousands of students for failing despite a below-par education.

We must look at the Welsh Assembly Government – being wary of the common confusion between the establishment itself and those who have controlled it for the 18 years of its existence – and we must look at the folks who have ruled Wales for 800 years down in Westminster.

Being careful to avoid being perceived as many a modern politician and avoiding the main challenge, here are but a few reasons why I believe Wales will NOT be too poor to have its own people running its own future.

HS2.



HS2 is, in essence, a wonderful idea. Making transportation and logistics more efficient should be amongst the priorities of any government.

However, a problem is posed regarding who should pay for it. Should it be paid for by those who will benefit from the scheme or by those who live so far away from it that they’ll never come within 100 miles of it?

The closest HS2 will even come to the (largely-uninhabited) border between Wales and England is nearly 20 miles. It’s another 10 miles on top of that to reach the town of Wrecsam. Even a student in a failing school can work out that’s pretty far when the initial idea was to speed up connections.

And, let’s be honest, the vast majority of those who will use the new line will be for the benefit of Yorkshire/Lancashire – London commuters and businesses. Wales will probably gain as much benefit from HS2 as it would a high-speed train link between Galway and Dublin. Yes, people may use the link to reach Wales, but the vast benefit lies in the areas it touches.

Trident.

If your colonial and bullish past (and present) means that you have to persistently watch your back for fear that those you oppressed may fancy justification and reparation then fine. This is a past that Wales does not share with the state of Great Britain. Wales does not need to wield a sword in the faces of others to prove that it is peaceful. Wales does not need Trident.

Trident costs around £25bn to renew. If we say, with Wales making up 5% of UK population, that Wales can keep 5% of that figure, I strongly believe that Welsh people will find spectacular and wonderful ways of distributing the £1.25bn saving on the three-and-a-half million people living here.

Natural resources.

With regards to provision of water, Wales is to Great Britain as Switzerland is to Europe. The only difference is Switzerland makes profit to better the services provided and to reinvest for the future…. and Switzerland is already super rich!
This is done by charging for the water it exports – not just to other nations, but to other cantons of Switzerland too.

As a mini side note, Switzerland is twice the size of Wales with double the population. Even so it remains what many would describe as a ‘small nation’ but does pretty well economically. Add to this the fact that Wales also produces a surplus of electricity through tidal and wind power and we start to paint a picture of a potentially extremely prosperous land.

And paying tourists don’t seem to think our landscape and coastline are too shabby either.

#YesCymru