Cyfarchion o dde Cymru,
Milly Molly Mandy is alive and well. She has grown up and is working behind the bar at the Garskell Arms Hotel in Much Wenlock , Shropshire.
Much Wenlock is your quintessential English village; quaint and evocative of a time long gone. We ambled through the nearby wood, half expecting to see stoats and weasels scurrying across the track in front of us. Instead we heard rooks and grouse and saw the occasional sign of human habitation.
The village itself has narrow streets, a dozen shops such as butcher (and pie maker), book shop, pharmacy and dress shops. Perhaps the function of the sole police officer is more in the line of social cohesion rather than crime detection. * The pace of life is slower and everybody seems to care about everybody else in the village.
Ironically, this is the county in which the industrial revolution began. The surge in population, the growth in urbanisation and the environmental damage which are all concomitant with industrial revolutions are not friends to places like Much Wenlock. Urbanisation ruins the sense of community that is inherent in such places. Many of the residents of Much Wenlock are in fact refugees from South London, where urbanisation has killed off community almost altogether. They come here to recapture the spirit as best they can. They live an enviable lifestyle.
the Olympian Games
Much Wenlock holds a unique place in world history for another reason. During the 19th century the local physician, a Dr. William Penny Brookes, instigated an event he called the Olympian Games. From 1850 onwards the locals contested events like sprints, hurdles, lifting, throwing and other athletic tests “for every grade of man”.
Following a visit to Much Wenlock, Pierre de Coubertin – founder of the modern Olympics – wrote in the 1890 edition of La Review Athletique: “If the Olympic Games which Modern Greece did not know how to establish again is revived today, it is not to a Greek that one is indebted but to Dr. W.P. Brookes”. The Much Wenlock event goes on today and is on now, as I write.
We were in South Wales to witness another big sporting event: the Ashes test. The weather didn’t look at all promising in the three or four days prior to the start of the match. I asked Welshman Russell if we could expect a sunny day at the cricket. With a straight face and not even an iota of irony, Russell said, “there’s no such thing as a sunny day in this country”.
allocated seats at the cricket
The day turned out to be perfect for cricket. We had allocated seats (allocated seats!) in the Really Welsh Stand, which was the same one from the players emerged on to the immaculate arena. Linda – whose cricket education in her formative years was seriously neglected – was tolerating the experience for my benefit, I’m sure. It was a cricket experience like no other I’ve ever seen.
The Glamorgan Cricket Club left no stone unturned in their quest to host a successful test – only their second ever Ashes test. They had a band playing at luncheon interval, a big lawn out the back where match goers could imbibe Pym’s, wine and Foster’s beer, blokes on stilts wearing larger-than-life cricket apparel. And they sold hampers which included caviar, mushrooms and champers (no cucumber sandwiches, though). We luxuriated on the lawn for a while, listening to the accents and enjoying the sun, sharing a massive Cornish pasty about the size of a discus along with some cider. During play, the bugler was in attendance with his fantastic repertoire. This adds a terrific new dimension to the cricket. (I believe the bugler is banned at stodgy old Lord’s.)
By the end of the play, Linda was no longer asking where to look to see the next goal scored and no longer routinely missing the fall of wickets. Rather, she was musing about the appeal of going to another cricket test; next venue perhaps Capetown or Kingston? I think she actually enjoyed the outing! As for the cricket score, the best interpretation is that the Australians are foxing.
The village life and the quaint English (and Welsh) attitude to cricket are worth saving. It’s the reason we like “Postman Pat” and Milly Molly Mandy stories, don’t you think? Linda says she would live in such a place “in a heartbeat”. Problem is: what about the winters? In summer, they are absolutely beautiful.
Iechyd da (This means, ‘Good health’ in Welsh but the word processor wants to convert it to ‘Itchy Dad’)
* Apart from the odd unusual event