a'r cyffiniau, 2001
sun 5 aug -
Today is packing day. Although were only going for a
week, it nevertheless takes a lot of packing to prepare adequately,
especially as were camping and Im on as tight
a budget as I can manage. Of course, soon as I get to the
beer tent, that ideal will be out of the window. So
Tent: new, unused
and a replacement for my ancient one which, due to its
leaky nature, has prejudiced me against camping forever.
Sleeping bag: trusty,
cosy 3-seasons bag, plus really old 0.5-seasons bag to sleep
on, and for any spur-of-the-moment visitors.
Food: dried, canned
or otherwise imperishable, i.e. Mini Cheddars.
Clothes: more than
strictly necessary, but you just dont know what the
weathers going to be like. Thus, have selection ranging
from skimpy sarong to polo-neck jumper.
Kite: just in case.
After all you never know when a nice storms going to
whip up out of nowhere and allow you to rip your arms from
their sockets. Always fun.
had a torch round here somewhere, I know I did
to self: must buy torch. Second note to self: try not to turn
into Bridget Jones its not big and its
Last item: loved-up
piss-head guitarist (i.e. Eifion).
mon 6 aug -
The journey from Reading to Dinbych goes without a hitch and,
suprisingly, no wrong turns. Not unless you count having to
go round roundabouts twice, which personally I dont.
Bwlch yr Oernant
is suitably impressive, very windy, very steep, and very much
my first intravenous hit of mountains. Car makes
it up without too much complaint, which is impressive seeing
as Car often decides to simply stop, for no readily apparent
reason. Going anywhere in Car is an adventure, and both Eifion
and I are somewhat relieved to hear nary a whimper from him
in the whole six hour journey.
only when we come to the sign for Sir Ddinbych that
Eifion asks Is it actually in Dinbych, or just
somewhere in Sir Ddinbych?
loved-up piss-head guitarist
And sure enough,
soon as we get to within a couple of miles of the aforementioned
town there are heaps of AA signs pointing to the steddfod
which, had we actually followed them, would have taken us
several miles out of our way on a scenic route along the other
side of the valley.
Easily we find
Maes Ieuenctid (the Youth Field), although it cant be
strictly ieuenctid because they let me in without
arguing. The steddfod is sited in the valley below Dinbych,
with mountains to the east that promise to be beautiful when
the low cloud that currently smothers them finally lifts.
The Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru logo is painted onto the
side of one of the mountains, looking oddly cheerful despite
the grey clouds.
Whilst the weathers
not been fantastic all day, it stays dry whilst we pitch our
tents in the top right-hand corner of the maes pebyll (tent
field), which allows us to use the fences for navigation should
we get lost in the sea of domes. We pick spaces next to Ceri
and Gai Anweledig, and Marc Ffarout - always nice to be surrounded
by familiar tents! Soon as we finish, though, it merrily pisses
down and we are thankful that weve at least got all
our stuff in out of the wet.
As Eifion and I
sit cosily in his tent, discussing the forthcoming weeks
potential, we hear a disembodied voice from outside. Its
a steddfod steward telling us that our tents are too close
together and that we must move one. We decide initially to
ignore him, but he returns to nag again, even though its
raining. We wonder why hes picking on us and eventually,
when the rain pauses, we give in and shift my tent a couple
of feet, shortening the guy ropes so that theyre the
correct 2m apart.
Nerys turns up, and we decide to make our way over to the
main Maes, where all the action is. Or rather where all the
action will be - its 6pm by now and almost everything
is shut. We meet up with Glenys, my Welsh teacher from London,
and together we all get very, very wet and very, very muddy.
trenchfoot yn y Gymraeg, te?
Food on the
Maes isnt cheap, but at least its edible
and we are sheltered from the lashing rain. Someones
camera flashes and for a moment we think its lightening,
but its not. With all the tent poles and sticky-up
things kicking around, thats probably a blessing.
Would hate to see the pavilion fried.
off up to Dinbych town, to Y Tarw to see Meic Stevens. Rain
is still lashing down, and its hot and humid in the
pub. I bump into Ceri Anweledig, who is already happily ensconced
- having been in Dinbych since Saturday, hes already
well into the swing of things. Eventually, the rain stops
for long enough for us to go stand outside, where its
cooler and fresher and theres more room to drink without
getting constantly elbowed in the ribs.
is provided by a red car which keeps driving round, and round,
and round. Eight times at the last count. The occupants must
be very, very easily pleased if thats their idea of
a fun way to spend the evening.
Eventually we pile
on into the Night Owl, the night club at the back of the pub,
and await the legendary Meic Stevens. Its a gamble,
going to any Meic Stevens gigs, apparently. You never know
if hes going to be amazing, or if hes going to
stumble onstage, play one song badly, then bugger off. Luckily
for us, he plays a full set, but unluckily, the clientele
seems to be there just to talk and from the back you cant
hear a damn thing. Everyone goes mental for the classic Brawd
Houdini, then its all over, and we make our way back
to the maes pebyll.
tues 7 aug -
Glenys has to leave early in order to go sheep dipping, which
does not strike me as an attractive proposition in the continuing
foul weather. My first night camping hasnt been a fantastic
success. Im cold, the ground is hard, and the maes pebyll
is noisy. But at least everything I own is dry - Im
thankful for small mercies.
Nerys, Eifion and
I go for a wander round the Maes, ducking into a tent every
time it rains. I manage to pluck up the courage to go into
the Pabell i Ddysgwyr and have a chat to Einir from Bwrdd
Yr Iaith, who takes some of my flyers and leaves them on her
table. Its covered with other flyers and leaflets, so
I manage a good harvest of paperwork. When Einir finds out
that its Clwb Malu Cachu that I run, she grabs a hold
of her own booklet, All you need to know about learning
Welsh (but were too afraid to ask), and points to page
5, saying There you are!, and sure enough, theres
Clwb Malu Cachu! Im chuffed as a small horse!
I also talk to
Padi from CYD, who insists on talking Welsh (a good thing
- I resort to English far too easily for my own good), and
I have my first extended conversation in my second language.
I feel very proud of myself as I leave the pabell - not only
have I actually spoken to a stranger in Welsh, but Ive
also coped easily with two surprise attacks of Welsh already.
As Eifion points out, though, this is the Eisteddfod and to
have people talk to me in Welsh is hardly a surprise
per se, but thats not the point. The point is that people
said stuff to me in Welsh that I wasnt expecting, and
not only did I understand, I responded intelligibly. Ish.
Nerys leaves, Eifion and I go into Rhyl in search of a
camping shop, so that he can buy waterproofs and walking
boots, (his trainers and his docs are sopping wet), and
so that I can buy a fleece (Ive been freezing my
butt off) and a torch so that I can at least see which
guy ropes Im tripping over. Rhyl is not a place
Id recommend, frankly. It is seaside ickiness at
its worst, but at least we find hot food at a pub there.
We take the scenic
route back to the Maes Ieuenctid, via Abergele, then up through
the mountains to Betws-y-Coed and Swallow Falls. We toy with
the idea of paying our quid and walking down the falls, but
Im not rightly sure my thighs can handle the walk back
up again, so instead we peer over the wall and through the
trees to see a few rocks and some gushing water. Im
sure it must be very picturesque from the other side of the
gate, but its drizzling again so we return to Dinbych
over the moors. Its all amazingly beautiful and it feels
like home to me. I cant wait to move here.
That evening, after
an anonymous meal of something that was obviously edible but
which has made no impact on me at all (I think it may have
been soup), Eifion and I wander over to Maes B, and I bump
into some familiar faces - its really nice to meet up
with friends that Ive made on previous visits to North
Wales. We all go watch Alcatraz, Estella and Melys
drink a few drinks, natch.
weds 8 aug -
Im starting to get used to this camping business. Not
that the ground seems any softer, or my sleeping bags any
warmer, but my brain is refusing to take any notice now.
The maes pebyll
is starting to fill up a bit, and we worry for Mr 2m. He must
be very busy nagging everyone for their 2m-between-guy-ropes
transgressions. From the looks of it, though, everyone has
ignored his demands for tents to be moved.
The weather clears
up a bit today - ysbeidiau heulog, to quote SFA - but the
site is still a quagmire.
Llew Aur. Eifion
wins, 2-1, although I feel that I held my ground quite respectably,
even if it was more through luck than judgement.
ydy quagmire yn y Gymraeg?
dw in meddwl.
We have a lazy
morning, nipping up to Dinbych leisure centre for a shower
- there are showers on site, but we figure the ones at
the leisure centre might be nicer. Im not convinced
thats the case, but there is at least less of a
queue. Then we go up to Dinbych proper and have a pint
and a few games of pool in Y
Back on Maes B
that afternoon, we see some acoustic sets by a number of bands
including Anweledig. They have a bit of a rough time of it
- Gai breaks a guitar string and has to go off to restring,
Rhys demolishes a drumstick and has to go off to find another,
Ceri just goes off for no readily apparent reason, then the
sound engineer accidentally starts playing Lowe Alpine whilst
theyre playing the intro to another song. Wps. Despite
the hiccoughs, we-the-punters enjoy the gig, and Anweledig
have at least had a bit of a laugh.
We skulk around
Maes B, drinking and celebrity spotting - Rhys Ifans is here,
it would seem - and wondering why on earth they shut the bar
at 7 and dont open it again until 9. What are we going
to do? Its like someones stolen a good couple
of hours drinking from us. Eifion fills in the time
by going to Rhyl to pick up his friend Lesley from the station
(an event that comes none too soon as hes not been able
to drink, and is feeling somewhat deprived - Maes B sans alcohol
is just not natural) and I go off to find food, realising
thats probably why they kicked us out - to sober us
up a bit. When Eifion returns with Lesley, we all walk up
to Y Tarw in Dinbych for another gig.
and Estella are playing. Again. To be brutal, I never used
to like Estella, but with constant aversion-therapy they seem
to be growing on me in much the same way athletes foot does
on a barefooted steddfodwr. By the end of the evening I have
Dwisho Byw Yn Y Saithdegau firmly implanted in
my brain and have been humming it incessantly ever since.
thurs 9 aug
- day 4
Ok, lets be honest. Things start to blur into one at
about this point. Ive been sleeping, at the most, six
hours a night but usually more like four (Im usually
an eight or nine hour girl); Ive spoken more Welsh in
these few days than in the previous year; Ive drunk
more than I thought possible without actually yakking up;
Ive eaten more anonymously uninteresting (yet filling!)
food than I thought possible; and so far I have not ended
up face-first in the dirt. Good going, I feel. However, Ive
never been a good diary keeper, and at about this point I
gave up, so well just have to rely on my hazy memory
gone for a burton in so far as my memory goes. I think it
might have been spent skulking round the tents, or perhaps
on the Maes, or possibly in Dinbych. Whatever, that afternoon
was spent in the comfortable familiarity of Maes B where we
see Estella for the gazillionth time, and Meic Stevens playing
enthusiastically to a more receptive crowd. I find myself
actually really liking Estellas acoustic set, despite
the fact that, chatting to Asa (Estellas guitarist)
afterwards, I find that hes not really too keen on it.
Not sure why that should be - it was a good noise, and having
heard many bad noises over the years, I feel well placed to
tell the difference.
good friend and CMC cohort Debs turns up somewhat later
than expected due to her partner, Dewi, leaving his wallet
in the house. Wps. However, they manage to find our little
knot of tents and pitch theirs right in the clearing in
the middle which we had, of course, deliberately left
for them. Ahem.
The only reasonable
course of action for the evening is to go over to Rhuthun
to see Pep Le Pew and MC Mabon. We manage to find a bus stop,
only to discover that wed walked much further than strictly
necessary to catch the bus. Actually, the steddfod shuttle
bus service has been somewhat of a mythical thing for us until
now. We had heard that there was a bus running, and that there
was a bus stop, but no one seemed to know quite where it actually
was. When we asked at the office, they just waved vaguely
in the direction of the exit and muttered unintelligible things
at us. Eventually, though, a bus is located and we climb upon
Y Venue in Rhuthun
is a bizarre little place, stuck in the middle of an industrial
estate and decorated in the most lurid shade of purple known
to man. When we turn up, its virtually empty, except
for Pep Le Pew and a few other people that I dont know.
It seems that theres been a bit of a cock up with the
PA and sound checks have yet to even happen.
Despite this untoward
start, the place soon starts to fill up, and eventually Pep
Le Pew take the stage and play a purty darn good set. They
manage to get lots of people dancing madly - in fact, its
the first really good boogie of the steddfod for me. Much
In between bands,
Debs introduces me to loads of people, and I have to deal
with talking in Welsh again. It seems to be getting easier
though, or maybe thats the alcohol. I am used now to
my little patter about myself, and its nice to be complemented
on the standard of my Welsh, especially when I admit that
I havent really had any lessons, and that its
been all learnt from books and very patient friends. Im
starting to think that fluency is an actual possibility.
Dau Cefn are a
tad dull for my tastes, and its a real shame that MC
Mabon comes on so late. He has Rocket Goldstar as his band
tonight, and they rock out like gooduns. They make lots of
noise, and I like it. There seems to be a slight difference
of opinion about when the gig ends, though, and whilst Rocket
Goldstar carry on playing, MC Mabon wanders off. To our relief
though, he returns and the gig carries on a little longer.
The trip back to
the maes pebyll isnt without problem, though, as when
the 1.30am bus turns up there are way too many people to get
on it. Its something like eight miles back to the maes
and Im buggered if Im going to walk. Instead I
wait half an hour for the next bus, but its dry, the
sky is star-speckled and I have some extraordinarily good
company for the wait, so I dont mind.
When we get back
to the maes pebyll, we make a detour into the Gorlan, where
tea and coffee and, in my case, hot water can be had. Its
not too crowded, but the floor (there are no seats so everyone
sits on the floor) is hard and its getting late so I
retire for my first really cosy night of the steddfod. Maybe
Im getting used to the cold.
fri 10 aug -
Eifion and I are now seriously worried about the mental health
of Mr 2m - he must have been having conniptions, seeing the
maes pebyll fill up with so many tents so close together and
so flagrantly flaunting the 2m rule. Some are even entrance-to-entrance
with hardly a foot between guy ropes. We sincerely hope that
Mr 2m is now receiving adequate therapy for the terrible trauma
he must have experienced here. Poor lad.
Dewi, Eifion and I head into Dinbych for lunch at Y Tarw.
Then, whilst those three go chill out in their tents,
I bugger off to the Maes again. Im addicted to it.
Even though Ive seen most of the stalls at least
twice I just feel that, having bought a weekly ticket,
I need to get as much out of it as possible.
Indeed, I will
confess now that, as I write this, I still have the wristband
on. I cant quite force myself to cut if off just yet
Anyway, I meet
up with Glenys again, and we spend time just mooching about.
Wandering round the Maes, it seems that Glenys knows almost
everyone there. She says hello to many people, always introducing
me, but sadly my brain isnt quite lubricated enough
to respond to their Welsh, which frustrates me no end. Its
so much easier to talk in Welsh when its just me and
someone else. When there is a full-speed conversation going
on between two Welsh speakers, I find myself suffering from
an insurmountable time-lag - by the time my brain has processed
the sounds that its heard, theyve moved the conversation
on. Oh well.
Glenys has her
nephew with her, so in an attempt to keep him entertained,
we pop into Dinistr, the rock tent, to discover
that Estella are about to play again. They really are being
worked hard!! I suspect poor Asas fingers will be worn
down to stumps by the time theyve finished the steddfod.
We have to get back to the Pabell i Ddysgwyr so that Glenys
can meet up with her family, so unfortunately we miss both
Estella and, later on, Anweledig. Shame - from the outside
it sounded really good.
All the bards seem
very eager to congratulate her with a kiss - bet thats
an historic first too.
and some of her family are going to the Cadeirior
Bardd, in the main pavilion. Ive not been in there
yet, so its quite cool to go and watch this, the
main event of the more up-market part of the steddfod.
Whilst I dont understand whats said, I do
at least get the gist of the proceedings. It is an historic
Chairing - for the first time, a woman has won. She has
only been writing cynghanedd (a type of poetry) for six
After the Chairing,
I pootle on back to Maes Ieuenctid to meet back up with everyone
else. We eat - possibly pizza, possibly not - then its
back to Maes B for Pep Le Pew, a set by DJ Dafis and Deffiniads
last gig. Pep Le Pew are astoundingly good - they seem very
much at home on such a big stage, especially considering that
this is only their 11th gig. They are destined for greatness,
Im sure. As in Rhuthun, the crowd dance like lunatics,
which is frankly the best way to enjoy Pep Le Pew.
The rest of the
night trickles slowly downhill from there. I never was much
of a DJ set person myself, and it feels like a big interruption
to the entertainment, but when Deffiniad start playing, I
suddenly realise why DJ Dafis was on in the middle of the
evening. Deffiniad would have died on their arses had they
gone on stage directly after Pep Le Pew. As it was, it was
like watching bad karaoke, and I end up going back to my tent.
Its not often I skip out of a gig early - I usually
stay until the bitter end just in case, but I just couldnt
handle any more bad 80s pop.
sat 11 aug
- day 6
Im due to meet up with a friend in the Pabell i Ddysgwyr,
but sadly she cant make it, so instead I wander round
the Maes for one last time. Wandering past the BBC Radio Cymru
stage, who should be playing but Estella. Its starting
to feel like Groundhog Day.
Radio Cymru stage, home to Estella
weather had been glorious on Friday - mountain to mountain
sunshine. Did I take my photos for the web site then?
Did I eck. Nah, I waited until a nice, drizzly day so
that you could get the full effect of what a steddfod
really is. Thoughtful, arent I?
After several days
of looking, I finally find Y Lolfas tent, and pop in
to say hello to Garmon, whos helped out a lot with stuff
for the site. We have a nice chat, although in my sleep-deprived
state I think I may have babbled a little. Sorry Garmon. I
had originally intended to be a lot more forceful about going
round all the tents and introducing myself to people who might
have any sort of interest in Clwb Malu Cachu at all, but Im
not really very good at that sort of thing, and I end up speaking
only to Garmon, Einir from Bwrdd Yr Iaith and Padi from CYD.
Well, theres always next year, and perhaps Ill
be more organised by then.
I spend the afternoon
on Maes B - oh surprise of surprises - with Eifion, Debs,
Dewi et al, watching a bunch of bands including Big Leaves.
Despite the fact that most of the people I know arent
too keen on them, I really like Big Leaves live. Their album
is a little flat, but live theyre great - kind of easy
indie that requires no real thought or effort. Debs and I
stand at the barrier and pretend were 12 again. Great
our last meal on the Maes Ieuenctid, and our last evenings
entertainment. I cant believe that it could all be over
so quickly. As a hard-core steddfodwr, whos been here
almost from the start (Mondays pretty damn near the
start, Id say), I feel like this is my festival, my
steddfod. When wed arrived the maes pebyll was only
sparsely inhabited, and by the Saturday they had had to move
the fences back to allow for more tents. (And my, didnt
that confuse those of use whod been relying on the fences
to navigate whilst intoxicated!) Now its nearly all
Anweledig are headlining
the last night, and sadly the other bands on the bill arent
much cop. As Im only waiting for Anweledig anyway, that
doesnt really matter too much. Eventually Anweledig
take the stage, Ceri in costume as Elvis, Joe as a policemen,
Gai in a two-tone suit complete with porkpie hat, Oz as a
belly dancer, the brass section possibly as Bill and Ben and
that character in blue pyjamas whose name escapes me right
now, with the others also in varying fancy dresses. They also
have a steel band in the wings, mainly cos the stage is so
full you couldnt fit another person on it. Unless they
were standing in the huge fridge thats parked to one
The gig is fantastic
- the crowd dance like loonies, the band are storming and
the only down point is the, er, interlude before Ieithydd
Cyfrwys, which kinda interrupts the flow more than a little.
Getting a stripper in might have seemed like a good idea at
the time, but it sadly has the effect of replacing all the
music fans at the front with a bunch of pre-pubescent drooling
It takes a while
to get back into the swing of things but eventually the gig
picks itself up off the floor, dusts itself down and carries
on dancing. The highlight for me is Dwin Gwybod Sut
Tin Licio Dy De, which is fantastic as ever, especially
with the extra percussion provided by the steel band.
All too soon, Anweledig
wrap up their set and, probably thinking that theyve
finished for the night, go off to change out of their costumes.
But the clamour for their return is just too loud to be ignored
and we are treated to the rare sight of Anweledig returning
to the stage, in their boxers, having failed to get any more
clothes on before they are dragged back to entertain us further.
The encore includes Eisteddfod, which for me is just perfect
- it being my first Eisteddfod and all.
Then, once the
stage is dark again, the strains of Catatonias International
Velvet drift over the PA, a closing anthem for the week. Standing
there, in Maes B, in a field in the middle of North Wales,
having spent time with old friends and having made many new
ones, singing along in both Welsh and English, I really do
feel Welsh. Maybe some might think thats a little trite,
coming from a Dorset-born lass whos only claim to Celticity
is a Cornish great-grandma, but for this moment, singing these
words, I feel legitimately and completely Welsh.