Category Archives: Wales

The best Algerian restaurant in the principality

Maghreb cuisine in Ceredigion

After an enjoyable day in the Cardiganshire coastal town of Aberystwyth, Dr and Dr (Mme) Dalrymple dine in

a Moroccan restaurant. Actually it was Algerian, but as the owner, an Algerian, pointed out, no one in Aberystwyth has heard of Algeria.

It was, says Dalrymple,

instructive to talk to someone such as he, for then you begin to realise how many remarkable people there are in the world.

How, the doctor-writer asks,

does one go from being a teacher of French and Arabic in Algeria to being the owner and chef of a restaurant in Aberystwyth? He had been in Wales for forty years, and on the wall of his restaurant were the flags of Algeria and Wales, by coincidence of the same colouration. He loved his adopted country, which speaks well of it.

The tajine

was as good as I had eaten anywhere.

Centripetal and centrifugal forces in doomed Europe

CONTINENTAL PARADOX

The centripetal forces, writes Dalrymple,

are those that would lead to the ever closer union proclaimed to be the purpose of the EU (eventual total union),

while the centrifugal forces are such as the following.

  • Flanders nationalists want independence from Belgium. The status and prestige of the French and Flemish languages created resentment: the Flanders aristocracy or haute bourgeoisie spoke French not Flemish; the educated Flemish speakers learnt French but the French-speakers did not learn Flemish. Many Flemings have neither forgotten nor forgiven that while Belgian army officers in the Great War were French-speaking, the Belgian infantrymen, the cannon-fodder, spoke Flemish and could neither understand the officers nor be understood by them. (Today the Flemings subsidise the Walloons.)
  • Scottish nationalists want independence from Britain. (Scotland receives subsidies from London.) Unlike the Irish, the Scots have little to complain of at the hands of the English, at least in the past two centuries. The Scots were among the greatest advocates and beneficiaries of the British Empire; and far from being an anti-imperialist movement, Scots nationalism is a consequence of the decline and fall of empire rather than a rejection of British imperialism.
  • Catalan nationalists want independence from Madrid. Catalonia is more prosperous than the rest of Spain, and its taxes subsidise other parts of the country. Catalans felt oppressed by the Franco regime.
  • Basque nationalists want independence from Spain.
  • In Wales within living memory, children could be punished for speaking Welsh on the playground. There were Welsh-speaking parents who did not want their children to grow up speaking Welsh (those of Dylan Thomas, for example) — they felt that speaking Welsh was not merely useless but harmful to the prospects of young Welshmen. The experience of being punished for speaking one’s native tongue in one’s native land is bound to create resentment. (Cardiff is a recipient of subsidies from London.)
  • Corsican nationalists recently won local elections. (Corsica receives subsidies from Paris.)
  • A northern Italian movement wants to disembarrass that prosperous part of the country of its perpetually impoverished south, which it must subsidise.
  • Many Bavarians want independence from Germany.

SEARCH FOR IDENTITY

Dalrymple points to factors in the rise of separatist movements.

  • People dislike their near-neighbours more than they dislike distant ones. Since hatred is by far the strongest political emotion, it is not surprising that people in search of an identity find it in distinguishing themselves, usually with dislike, from their nearest neighbours.
  • There is the search for identity in modern conditions, in which even in supposedly small countries, large cities make anonymity the normal daily experience of the majority. In such conditions nationalism, like tattooing and piercing, becomes a shortcut to personal identity.

MEGALOMANIA OF PETTY POTENTATES

Why are the separatist movements strongly pro-EU? (This appears strange in so far as the EU would destroy or replace national sovereignty.) Why are nationalist centrifugalists so eager to form an alliance with EU centripetalists, who wish to efface the very thing the nationalists claim to be seeking? Dalrymple examines three hypotheses.

  1. The nationalists might not be aware of the contradiction. Few of us are logical calculating machines who work out the full implications of our beliefs, let alone always act in our own best interests.
  2. Out of the frying-pan into the fire: nationalist dislike of immediate neighbours may loom so large that it overcomes thought.
  3. Leaders of the nationalist parties or separatist groups want there to be more places at the top table—vacancies that they would then fill. They might even rise to the dizzying heights of the former prime minister of Luxembourg, who has long bestridden the world, or Europe at any rate, like a colossus. This he could never have done without the existence of the EU. In other words, personal ambition and the megalomania of petty potentates.

EUROPE OF REGIONS

What should be the attitude of leaders of the EU towards the potential fracturing of the EU member states as they are at present constituted? Dalrymple explains.

In the short term, EU leaders have to pretend to support the current arrangements, because for the moment power is concentrated in the hands of the leaders of those member states. If the power in Madrid or London begins, however, to seep away, the path to a Europe not of the nations but of ‘the regions’ is cleared.

Closeted mummy

An essay on the case is to be found in Camps on Crime (1973). Dalrymple explains:

The mummy of Rhyl was found in 1960 in a cupboard at number 35 West Kimmel Street, whose owner had for many years ‘taken in paying guests’.

The atmosphere is conveyed thus by Francis Camps:

As the body was adherent to a piece of linoleum which covered the cupboard floor boards, a garden spade was used to lever it on the linoleum out of the cupboard and the position of the linoleum in relation to it was noted before they were separated with some difficulty.

Camps, Dalrymple writes,

was in this case acting for the defence, and it could not be proved that the mummy, a paying guest since 1940, had not died of natural causes. However, the landlady, a Mrs Harvey, pleaded guilty to obtaining £2 a week for 20 years from the Clerk to the Justices of Prestatyn (who paid the mummy’s pension) by pretending that the mummy was alive.

Dalrymple comments:

Even benefit fraud in those days seemed somehow more characterful.

Why some Welshmen prefer Siam

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-47The evil of fridges

R.S. Thomas, Dalrymple notes,

often appeared to prefer birdwatching to human company.

Observation of the beauties of the natural world, particularly the landscape, was for Thomas

a spiritual exercise, a reminder that God has given us all that we need for a fulfilled life. No one could say that he did not attempt to live by his creed.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-51-38Dalrymple says Thomas carried his hatred of the modern world

to seemingly absurd lengths.

His biographer records the poet’s son as saying:

I was obliged to attend church and to listen to him drone on about the evils of fridges. It was the Machine, you see. And washing machines. And televisions. This to a congregation that didn’t have any of these things and were longing for them.

Gwydion Thomas lives in Thailand with his wife Kanjana, who describes their house on the island of Phuket as ‘Sarn-y-Plas with elephants’.

Postcards from Laos

Dalrymple wishes to be sent to Luang Prabang to write, under a palm tree, about Henry Vaughan, whose Silex Scintillans came out in 1650

Dalrymple wishes to be sent, in luxurious conditions, to Luang Prabang to write, possibly under a palm tree, about the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan, whose Silex Scintillans came out in 1650

The Dalrympian Shangri-La

In the 13th century, writes Dalrymple,

when the world climate was much warmer than it is now, there were vineyards in the far north of England, a precedent that must give some hope of gainful employment to the chronically unemployed there.

He points out that

working oneself up into a fury of indignation is one of the great consolations of human existence, which is otherwise apt to be so tedious and unsatisfactory.

Hence the appeal of rioting to European spoilt-brat radicals who love the planet and its biosphere. But Dalrymple cannot work himself up into a state of righteous indignation over wastage and extravagance

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.52.10because I have in my time done a fair bit of travelling at other people’s expense to no very obvious benefit to anyone except myself. These days I don’t go anywhere only because I’m not asked, or not often. If someone tomorrow were to offer me a free trip in luxurious conditions to Laos (a country I have long wanted to visit, my Shangri-La) to discuss, say, the works of Henry Vaughan, the 17th-century religious poet of mid-Wales, I should of course at once accept, even if by doing so I added my mite to the downfall of the planet and the destruction of the coral reefs in the Pacific.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.44.24 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.45.32 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.47.18 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.48.17 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.49.30 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.50.27 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.54.52Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.48.17 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.45.56 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.55.51 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.50.00 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.46.53 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.42.55 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.43.15 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.53.55 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.54.13 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.53.09 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.43.35 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.54.30 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.55.38 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.41.11 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.45.13 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.56.14 Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.56.51

Postcards from North Wales

Madoc Books, Llandudno. The Welsh Buchmendel 'deals mainly in books of Welsh interest and in the Welsh language. Sometimes he has very rare books, of which only one or two other copies may exist in the world. He tries to interest Welsh universities and public libraries in them, but they always reply that the books are too obscure for anyone ever to want to look at them. The books, it turns out, end up on the shelves of American institutions'

Madoc Books, Llandudno. The Welsh Buchmendel ‘deals mainly in books of Welsh interest and in the Welsh language. Sometimes he has very rare books, of which only one or two other copies may exist in the world. He tries to interest Welsh universities and public libraries in them, but they always reply that the books are too obscure for anyone ever to want to look at them. The books, it turns out, end up on the shelves of American institutions’

'Elegant Victorian seaside resort'

‘Elegant Victorian seaside resort’

'Beautiful little town on the Menai Straits'

‘Beautiful little town on the Menai Straits’

'The chapels—Sinai, Bethel, Zion, and so on—are closing, converted into luxury homes or garden centers or even restaurants (I can recall when restaurants remained almost unknown in North Wales)'

‘The chapels—Sinai, Bethel, Zion, and so on—are closing, converted into luxury homes or garden centres or even restaurants (I can recall when restaurants remained almost unknown in North Wales)’

'It’s all too easy in the heartachingly beautiful landscapes of North Wales, and in the human warmth of its villages, to descend to dithy-rambs about the simple life. But the genuinely simple life here, before the advent of modernity and such amenities as hot water, was harsh and difficult. No doubt narrow-mindedness and bigotry abounded, too'

‘It’s all too easy in the heartachingly beautiful landscapes of North Wales, and in the human warmth of its villages, to descend to dithyrambs about the simple life. But the genuinely simple life here, before the advent of modernity and such amenities as hot water, was harsh and difficult. No doubt narrow-mindedness and bigotry abounded, too’

A civilisation founded on coal

Without it, writes Dalrymple,

we would have lived in unlit and unheated houses. The miners were like Atlases; upon their shoulders a whole world rested.

He gives his recollection of a typical European mining town:

everything begrimed with coal dust, the slate roofs of tiny terraced houses dull in the perpetual, dirty rain; black slag heaps lowering.

Thatcher the statist

Margaret Thatcher

extended the role of the state in the lives of millions….The de-industrialisation of large parts of Britain was almost certainly inevitable, short of what would have been disastrous protectionism; but the failure to replace the defunct industries by anything…meant there was no means of support for people other than the state. And this dependence (visible in South Wales and much of the North) has lasted for decades. It is a miserable state of affairs.