A few days ago, at lunch, my father suddenly jumped to his feet and launch into an enthusiastic discourse about a Victorian scythe. This was what that was used in his family farm before the advent of modern machinery. People used to work in groups of 3 or 4, cutting down tall grass to be made into hay. And then there was the shorter blade, for vertical chopping of the hay bale.
My eyes were starting to droop, as I have no interest in farming. But I sensed it meant a lot to his father, to transmit this small part of his family history to his next generations. And so I engaged him in conversation.
It reminded me a week back, that my father’s eyes gleamed and he sat up with great interest when my daughter told him, “I learned a new Welsh word.” (My parents are very Welsh).
“What’s that, my darling?” He asked, coming alive.
“Jellyfish is wibbly wobbly.”
My mum clapped her hands in delight. She told us that when television was first introduced in Wales, the council for Welsh language sat down to come up with a word for television in Welsh. “They came up with telly welly! Can you believe it!”
Two days ago, there were a few letters to The Editor of The Times about the Welsh language, a dying language. I wish I knew more Welsh because each time my daughter replies in Welsh to my parents, their eyes lit up. But it’s such a difficult language! Just watch this youtube clip:
So I send my children off to their relatives a couple of times each year when they were young, simply to immerse themselves in the family ways. Yes, to learn some Welsh. And learn about old farm equipment.
I think this is so important, in this age of modernisation and globalisation. Our past gives us our identity, in a world where we can find McDonalds and Starbucks wherever you are in the world. It’s something worth keeping, this little thread from a long time ago weaving its way down the generations.