As I pulled my car into the main street, the steady drizzle turned into a more typical downpour as I navigated past stationary buses, roundabouts and the locals walking around with little or no protection against the elements. I hit the windscreen wipers to the maximum setting and cranked up the radio to drown out the dreary January scenery. Identical terrace houses run past the window as if it was a reusable side scrolling background in a Tom & Jerry cartoon with the occasional corner store and pub. This is Wales.
Having lived here for the past 13 years it is worth mentioning before I leave. Wales is a small country that makes up 1/4th of the United Kingdom with a modest population of 3 million inhabitants. Famous for it’s mountain ranges of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia, it is a scenic country with inspiring landscape. It has a temperate climate with its fair share of rainfall. It also boasts historic castles and a kick-ass dragon on its flag too!
There are quaint little Welsh villages dotted along the A48 corridor and I check my speed dial as I had recently been caught speeding around this very place. The road opens on to a double carriage-way and I am surrounded by serenity of the green hills. Sheep graze peacefully despite the conditions and it is standard that I have to overtake a tractor. This does not last for long as the cement plains of Bridgend pours over the horizon.
Bridgend is perhaps most famous in recent history for the suicide incidents that took place in 2008 where 24 young people took their own lives. Despite the UK being one of the wealthiest countries in the world there is still social unrest with a growing gap in the rich-poor divide. Many children live below the poverty line but there is an increase in stories of welfare fraud and politician embezzlement. The ongoing recession and youth riots of last year show the cracks in the British society. A mentality of “what the state can do for us” has been embedded into the young minds of today where some choose to become mothers and live off the taxpayers. Along with the other dole recipients they are quick to blame the foreigner for taking all the jobs who actually work hard to make a decent living. Why are we lacking the gumption to grab the opportunities laid out before us by those who strived and died to make this country great?
I zip up my coat, slip on the gloves and make sure my umbrella is at the ready and I stumble out of my car into the relentless rain. The car park is a five minute walk from the office building I work in so I begin on a slow trot past deserted industrial estates. With gale force winds I am only able to hold my umbrella at a near horizontal angle but it still isn’t good enough to prevent my trousers getting soaking wet. As I enter the building, a heavily accented, loud speaking colleague waits for me with a big grin on his face. “I bet you don’t get this crazy weather back home huh fella?”, while he holds the lift open for me. This is why I love Wales.
Despite their natural pessimistic approach on life, the Welsh are determined individuals with endless pride for their nation. Cardiff is one of the fastest growing capitals in Europe with huge investment. The constructions of the Millennium Stadium and the Wales Millennium Centre shows sign of intent in being a modern city. The best thing above all is the people with their big hearts and friendly banter. Strangers will not hesitate to give you their opinion or offer advice, I’ve known people in the last decade who would go out of their way to help me or make me feel welcome. Some of my Welsh friends are some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet. Sure, they’re a small country but there is such a fierce sense of patriotism in the air.