The sun has set on the eisteddfod at Llanelli. As if to show how sad the town is to see it go, the heavens opened on Sunday. I am sure those left to take down the site have their work cut out and there have been intermittent bursts of sunshine for them too. I am sure that this must have been one of the most successful eisteddfods of all time financially and that is testimony to the people of Llanelli and Wales in general as well as the many people who came from outside of Wales. Yesterday I started putting together a soundscape of the interviews and recordings I made over the week. Interestingly it was picked up by a blogger in St Louis, USA Mr. Swansea Jack, now there's an American name if ever there was. Swansea took it on himself to promote the blog as well as my photographs of the eisteddfod on my website and for that I am grateful. There are numerous Welsh societies dotted across America and Swansea belongs to one such society the St Louis Welsh Society . Many of the members are 2nd, 3rd or fourth generation Welsh but Swansea is a Jack through and through. He moved out there following a career and a beautiful Irish woman. Behind every great man eh? I would like to think the many people who have taken the time to read this blog and I hope it has given you a good impression of my home town Llanelli of which, I am very proud. In the rugby world there has alway been a friendly rivalry between the Swansea people (Jacks) and the Llanelli people (Turks). It is good to see that this continues even on blogs as can be seen on Swansea's blog Keep checking back here as I am editing more videos and sound to upload here as movies.
It is fascinating to see and hear so many different people in one place. The keen eared can hear many different accents. The Maes is big enough to accommodate a huge amount of people yet it is relatively easy to spot one's friends, family or neighbours along the way. Some of the highlights for me today were watching the children participating in the technology area. So many great ideas, experiments, construction kits, problems to solve and machines to operate. As I get older I am always on the look out for a comfy seat and the Maes did not disappoint. There are picnic tables, benches, deck chairs, sofas, comfy chairs, beanbags and even the odd piano if one is so inclined. There are of course some serious issues in the world today and the Eisteddfod does not shy away from them. There are a large number of organisations promoting peace and understanding as well as aid to many countries ravaged by war. As I was leaving today I watched a quiet group of people forming a line along one of the fences. They were unfurling what looked like a giant scarf and they were holding banners and flags promoting peace and raising an awareness of events in Gaza. I started the day watching young men clog dancing, jumping up over brooms and boxes.I ended the day with the sounds of a song for peace gently floating towards the crowds enjoying the sunshine. Heddwch? Yes, on the maes at least.
Today was a family day for me so not so many photos.We left Pontyates early and it looked like rain (now there's a thing). We stopped off at the post office and emptied the savings account. I overheard a conversation between Beti and Doris about pills and 15 mils and i'm still not right. Whatever could it mean? The best made plans are laid to waste so they say. We had no plan except to go and experience whatever came our way. Call it a social experiment in Wenglish. We did practice or at least try to speak some Welsh on the way down. On arrival my wife duly handed over £36 to get in KERCHING! Within a short period of time they wanted drinks so my wife handed over £6 KERCHING! I was under the misguided impression that all the activities were free. So it was we eagerly made our way to the climbing wall, we were the first and only family there. As the boys geared up we were asked for £3 each KERCHING! Things were getting bad. I had to dip into the stash in my sock. After a visit to a few of the tents and stages the children were hungry and thirsty again. We headed for the chip van and duly paid £2.50 for each of the three small portions of chips and an additional £1 for a tiny pot of curry KERCHING!
I am a past master at sourcing freebies as any of my friends will attest to. I was soon able to direct my children towards the bins containing FREE lollipops. The temptation to keep sending them to empty the bin and thereby set up a stall selling lollipops for £1 each was overpowering me. I resisted mainly because my wife highlighted the shame it would bring upon us if we got caught. Elkanah is 14 and sort of hormonal. Noah is 11 and interesting. Theia is 2 and full of life. The trouble is that you can't please all of them all of the time and while there is something for everyone, I could see that Elkanah was finding it a struggle to get excited about anything. Theia on the other hand was mugging most of the furry costumed people or else dancing along with the folk dancers. Noah likes science so he enjoyed the science area and the opportunity to fly a biplane simulator. It is a big place to get around and many of the paths are made up of stone so Angharad struggled a little pushing Theia around even though we brought her all terrain tricycle.
I said it was a family day for us but it is always difficult to stick to the plan when you see the First minister next to Sali Mali or Dewi Pus hitching a lift with a sign saying CRYMI. I usually stay the course and get around the Maes feeling slightly tired by the end of the day. Today felt like a major expedition and we were unable to get past 3 o'clock before the children started showing signs of Eisteddfodmaesyphobia. Put that in the Welsh dictionary. We headed off through the masses gathered to hear Rhys Meirion belting out a song. Back to normal tomorrow as I get back to the business of taking photographs.
There is a fair selection of places to eat and drink on the maes. If you are minted then it must be cafe pl@iad. If you are half minted then it will be the vast array of trailers selling everything from cockles to crepes. If you are like me and penniless then it will be the cafe just opposite the Graig school. Don't get me wrong, there isn't much difference between all three except for some plush surroundings and swanky looking folks in one and the n'er do wells in the other. So it was that I chose the plush surroundings and swanky company of Steff's Cafe opposite the Graig. A breakfast costs £4.25 and I have to say it was the nicest breakfast I have had in years. Beautiful bacon, sausages, mushrooms, egg, beans and toast and not a drop of grease on the plate. Lovely comfy wicker chairs and cafe tables outside or comfortable chairs and wooden tables inside. Service was quick and friendly and I even spotted the hoi poloi from the BBC there. I will give it Seren Pump!
I hobbled my way back to the maes and had a 5 minute nap on a bench just to allow the lovely food to do its work. Behold I heard trumpets playing and for a second I thought I had bought it. As I felt my limbs, opened my eyes and saw the familiar surroundings of families enjoying the sunshine, I realised that I was still Earth bound and that the trumpeting was coming from the pink tent or Y Pafiliwn. I hot footed it to a ringside seat for the beginning of the crowning ceremony. Not having been to one before apart from distant relatives in Windsor I duly knelt on the floor in front of the Welsh hoi poloi and waited. Out of the throngs came men and women dressed in robes of all colours bedecked in gold with fairy like girls walking behind them. More trumpeting and more people climbing the silver steps onto the stage. Then like the blitz, spot lights fanning the audience as if to find a single individual. The audience broke into a slow clap as the robed people walked around the seating area looking for someone until a loud cheer revealed that he had been found. It was Gutto Dafydd, one of the youngest winners of the Eistedfod crown.
Gutto was led down the steps and onto the stage where proclamations were made. Dancing flower girls circled and flew around the stage in front of two enormous wooden chairs seating Gutto and the Arch Druid Christine James. The crown was brought forward and placed on Gutto's head. More clapping and the robed masses left the stage to exit onto the maes. Meanwhile I managed to get off the floor, unclamp my knees and chase after the throngs to get some unique portraits of these mysterious people in white blue and green.
The last few days have been extremely hard work covering the Eisteddfod. The site is quite large to get around so there is lots of walking. I am struck by how calm and friendly the place is. Everyone is smiling or doing something. The children seem to be at play everywhere on the site. I do enjoy seeing and meeting people through the work. Each day reveals something lovely be it a child immersed in writing or an elderly person absorbed in conversation at a table full of cakes and tea cups. It really is the quintessential portrait of the Welsh.
Wherever you look there are the colours of the Welsh flag, dragons, political parties, educational institutions, children's groups, folk dancers, clog dancers, harpists, choirs, farmers and farming implements, church and chapel groups and so many more things we associate with Wales. I spent a little more time in the pavillion today and saw some wonderful performances by children and teenagers. Why then do they get such a bad press? One boy danced his way around an enormous stage filling it with his sheer energy. CHildren leapt high into the air with twists and turns to rival the Royal Ballet. Even though the choirs sang the same songs, each sounded different. The harpists were mesmerisingly beautiful both in appearance and sound. No weeping today just lots of observation of Welsh life at its best in a field in Pwll, Llanelli.