Pant farm, hookers & horse skulls.
“Let the wind blow from the East,
let the storm roar from the sea,
let the lightning split the heavens,
and the thunder shout “encore!”
Let the tears of the faint-hearted flow,
and the servile lick the floor.
Despite the blackness around us,
we are ready for the breaking of the dawn!
We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything”
Wales has been described as a principality and a city of England. A country filled with dead language, sheep shaggers and bigots. Recently a historian (I shall name no names), has been under fire for insulting and calling into question the value of the Welsh Language. I’m not going to engage in this total buffoonery – but what it does make me think about is what is it to be part of a culture that is perceived to be this way by some people. We have shaped mountains, built industries and refined craft.
Perhaps the people of GB have forgotten us little wooly footed rascals from the mountains. But haven’t we always been a great people? Aren’t we, as a Nation, part of what makes Britain great? I’ve always thought so.. And who can blame me when I’ve grown up worshipping horses skulls, surrounded by ‘hookers’ and named after a farm?
Okay so It’s not to be taken literally, but there is a whole lot of love and a whole lot of truth behind that statement. I have been brought up to celebrate the Mari Llwyd, a gigantic horses skull thats paraded around the town to help bring in the new year, celebrate fertility and bless the hearth of each home. She is one of our most ancient Goddess, predating Chris himself, and she still lives today. HEATHEN? No, not at all. I think it’s fair to say that, for the most part, we as a people realise that this isn’t going to actually bless us and bring these things home – but the practice has
mutated so that we can celebrate our heritage. Celebrate a part of us that is ancient, whimsical and otherworldly. Our history runs so deep, that our patriotism shouldn’t be seen as nationalist, but proud. We are proud of the small part of this big wide Earth that we occupy, we love its adornment in folklore and tradition, its sense of community.
So I guess I should explain the ‘Hookers’ thing. My grandfather many moons ago was a very keen fisherman – my family actually built boats before settling at Pant Farm in the 1900’s. One day my grandfather decided to dress up as part of the parade and decided to juxtapose his love for fishing.. with well.. a play on words. The reason I’ve brought this up at such a critical juncture, is solely because the Welsh have a wicked keen sense of humour. It’s as Dark as its valleys and as fresh
as its air. And riddled amongst that is the language, the life force and key to our past. Our history, of being conquered and mistreated throughout the middle ages, to more current political arguments plagues and bitters our mouths when people tell us our language is dying, is unimportant. It may be, to you. To us it is the last living thing that connects us to a heritage almost abolished. It’s more than a jumble of words. It’s our heritage, birth right and link to who we are.
Words that cannot be translated, and in my opinion to dismiss this lessens your understanding of how to express yourself. We borrow from the french and have done continuously, why not
borrow a few words from the Welsh too?
Finally I’ve meandered to Pant, the family name. By all accounts, most people I know from Wales are generally named by what their fathers do, what their families do or an embarrassing incident… Long live Jamie Sosij. I’ve already mentioned that my family history is connected to the sea and so was my childhood. To paint a picture, imagine the smell of sea and salt on your nose mixed with petrol. Sat with sandy feet in the back of a beat up old Land Rover, with your mum, dad, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents and the family dogs heading to the beach to search for crabs, stick fingers in limpets, jump off break waters into crashing waves and soak up the sun. I bring this to light because we were a poor family, as money goes.
A lot of Wales is poor, but we are resilient. My grandparents would rent out the house in the summer and live with 6 people in the shed, all sharing camp beds, outdoor toilets and gas stoves… Memories that are fondly spoken about from time to time as we pick September apples off the trees.We are family. We are the best of bad situations and the humour that drives us through the bad times. At the beginning of this article I slapped a little quote to get you reading. It’s a translation from a song I sang as a child in school. To those who tell me my heritage is pointless I stick up two fingers and say ‘in spite of everyone and everything we are still here.’
Our history has seen us shape landscapes, build, revolt, become revolutionary, become politicians and provide and succeed processes and practices that have been handed down from generation to generation. To be looked at from the border line and be deemed stale is heartbreaking. Because we ain’t sheep shaggers. We’re bone worshipping, slate splitting, choir choruses that role over a landscape so ancient, that it precedes any known geological ages on this earth. Even if you
think we’re dying, we ain’t dead yet. Wales is, if you can’t tell, at the heart of my soul, culture and my very bones. My whole world and practice revolves around the mythical mabinogion, (welsh folklore), sacred places and secret spaces of my fathers. It’s true what the national anthem
for Wales says:
“Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi”.
(The land of my fathers is dearest to me).
Originally written & painted for OLT TAT MAG in 2018. No longer in publication.