Saturday, 23rd July, 2011.

“A Prophet Is Without Honour . . .

     . . . in his own land.”   Such is the Biblical reference to warnings of things to come.

I can hardly rate myself as a prophet!   However, five years ago when this column was in its infancy, I did pass on the opinions of realists regarding the worsening of the financial situation across the world and across Wales.

I shall not be tempted to say “And it came to pass . . .”   And yet the situation is getting very bad, and shows little sign of improving.   Indeed, the pundits proclaim that we are still going to suffer hard times for the next two years.

I try to shop locally, which keeps my money circulating in Wales.   Recently, I shopped at a major supermarket in one of Wales’ bigger towns..   And the price-rises there really shocked me.   It was not just one or two pence on individual, everyday commodities;  it was leaps in price on basic foodstuffs of five and more pence.

If that isn’t a dire warning to you, nothing is.

Back in 2006, I did advise readers to prepare their homes for unforeseen emergencies, unforeseen crises.   And, good people, it looks as if those emergencies are upon us.   Well, those of us who used to regard ourselves as “the working-class” – for it is us who feel the pinch most.

Should you need to find out more on how to prepare your home for those hard times, it is still not too late.   Send me a mail asking for details (put “Hard Times” as your subject), and I shall pass your enquiries on to a friend of mine who has lots of info on the subject.

A Sign Of The Times

     I sat with my friend Dai – he who prefers to be known as “Dai Llanaberbontfach” – in the cosy public-bar of a comfortable little pub not far from one of our larger Mid-Wales towns.

We’d met up for a day’s wandering in the local hills, but the weather had proved too inclement (by Dai’s standards).   So he insisted that we go into one of his favourite hostelries.

There are plenty such places all over Wales.   But for how much longer?

“This place’ll fold once Arnold retires,” my friend told me.   Arnold, the landlord, has kept the place for thirty years, taking it over from his father and, for all I know, his grand-father.   But now, mine host is pushing seventy and feels he needs to hand over the reins to a younger landlord.

“But he ain’t got no kids, see?” Dai went on, “and nobody wants to run a country pub any more.   There’s just no money in it, see?”

And that’s another part of our “economic downturn”.   Even if people could tear themselves away from their tellies for an evening or two a week, they couldn’t afford to go out, for they have no spare cash to spend.

So, alongside our closing schools, another key factor in the strength of our communities is disappearing.   Pubs were a place to sit and put the world to rights at the end of a day’s work.   They were not the drinking-dens which the twee and cool-named places which our younger people have been taught to enjoy.   They did not have loud, piped beat-music.   There may have been a pub-pianist occasionally.

They were our community centres.

Now we are losing our personal contact by having hundreds of Facebook Friends, none of whom we know personally.   Now we send texts instead of speaking to each other.

Now we are far more controllable.   And the warmth of our Welshness is being eroded.

And Now The Good News!

     With rain trickling down the back of my collar, I still enjoyed the atmosphere of The Royal Welsh Show.   It’s good each year to mingle with our farming community.

And, our farmers told me, the prices they’re getting for our good Welsh wool are creeping up slowly and steadily.   As farming is the only large-scale industry left in our land, that must be a good thing.

Even in these hard times, remember to try to buy at least a few locally produced and marketed Welsh products – those little purchases help Wales to ride the current currency storm.

(And you will note that I did not make the error of saying that the Show was at Builth Wells – it’s held at Llanelwedd these days.)

(And you will note – when you go there or look on your map – that Llanelwedd is what was once a suburb of Builth!)

A Word Of Thanks

     In case you missed it, Strata Florida Abbey in Ceredigion held an Open Day on Thursday.   I popped in for a while and enjoyed myself thoroughly.

There was much to see and much to do.   There’s been a lot of work to improve the facilities in and around the Abbey since last year.   You can even get a cuppa there now.

Visitors were entertained by several medieval folk (well, they looked authentic) who showed us how life went on in and around the Abbey before the Dissolution of the Monasteries.   I now know what an Awayman was . . .

Of course, the archeologists from Lampeter University were there to show us the practical side of historical discovery.   My congratulations to Professor David Austin and his team who explain things so well to slow-on-the-uptake people like me.

You can find out more at www.strataflorida.org – and it’s even better if you can go and visit the site.


achie.lowe@googlemail.com

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About Archie Lowe

Though not born in Wales, I have lived and worked here for many years now. I love the place and love that mercurial thing "Welshness". I have been accused of being "a Taffophile" - which is pretty near the truth. The question I ask whenever some idea comes up for the whole of the UK is: "What's in it for Wales". I believe in an independent Wales and am so pleased that our Assembly is a big step on that road.
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