SHEEPISHLY TRASHING THE WELSH A RARE BIT
by Todd Hartley
I just left Wales this morning, and for those of you listening to this on an audiocolumn, that’s Wales as in the country, not the blubbery seafaring mammals. Legendary as I may be, I didn’t pull a Jonah. I did make it out of Wales alive, mind you, but at no time was I swallowed by anything.
Never mind the circumstances that brought me to Wales. Just suffice it to say that I was more or less obligated to go. Having said that, I found I was very happy to be there. It never would have occurred to me to think of it as a vacation destination before, but now that I’ve vacationed there, I don’t know why.
Wales, which most Americans who are aware of its existence probably think is a tiny little part of England, is actually some sort of country in its own right, and it’s quite lovely, to use the local parlance. It’s got mountains and beautiful coastline and ancient castles to explore. It is tiny, admittedly, but it’s actually a lot bigger than you might think; in three days there I only managed to explore a small portion of North Wales. And no, I was not on foot. I was actually traveling around in a car.
The people were lovely, too, in that polite Welsh way that I assume is similar to that polite English way I’ve always heard so much about. And the food, despite all the old jokes about the blandness of British cuisine, was edible. I won’t say it was terribly exciting, but as I was expecting kidneys and disgusting entrails masquerading as pudding, I was pleasantly surprised. (One note, though: black pudding is pig’s blood, not a dessert. You should warn people ahead of time.)
OK, now that I’ve dispensed with the pleasantries, I have a couple of bones to pick with you, Wales. Don’t worry: I won’t turn this into a typical American column on the subject of the U.K. I won’t make fun of anyone’s teeth, which all seemed just fine to me, and I won’t complain about the weather, which I just assume is perpetually rainy. I won’t even mention the fact that you all drive on the wrong side of the road, even though you do.
What I will bring up, however, is the trash. What’s going on there, Wales? You’ve been blessed with one of the most scenic Massachusetts-sized chunks of terrain to be found anywhere. Why are you all mucking it up so badly? As I mentioned to my wife, if the crying Indian from American public service announcements of the 1970’s were to visit Wales, he’d probably get so depressed he’d off himself.
I know you know what I’m talking about, Wales. Everywhere I went in the country, it was covered in rubbish. Seriously, if the people had better tans, I’d have sworn I was in Tijuana. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but throwing trash on the ground is not a proper way to dispose of it. You’re supposed to put it in a trash can. That goes for cigarette butts, too, which are so ubiquitous you can barely see the sidewalks. Clean up your act, Wales. I expect things to be much tidier upon my return.
And can we talk about the sheep, Wales? Wow. I know that wool and lamb are important, but you can’t possibly tell me that any country needs a sheep-to-humans ratio of 1,000 to 1. If one didn’t know better – and this one doesn’t – one might think your attachment to your woolly friends involves something more than just practicality. You can take that to mean whatever you want.
Sadly, your ovine infatuation has done untold environmental damage to the country over the years. Some of the most beautiful places I visited in Wales were the forests, which were exceedingly lush and spectacularly green. Unfortunately, those places were few and far between because all those millions have of sheep have denuded virtually every hillside. I know you don’t want to hear this, Wales, but you might want to consider cutting back on the sheep a little and planting some trees.
Lastly, Wales, there’s the matter of your language. No, I won’t begrudge you the right to have your own language, and I did appreciate the fact that you all spoke English, too, but I do have to say one thing: W is not a vowel. It just isn’t. I’ll thank you in advance for fixing that before my return, as well.
If Todd Hartley were Welsh he’d be Tom Jones … well, his chest hair, anyway.