Today I was welcomed at the lovely Awen Meirion, a bookshop that sells both Welsh language books and English novels, in Bala. I’d never been to Bala before (shame on me…) but I found it to be a delightful town – particularly so as Welsh was to be heard everwhere – which, interestingly, wasn’t the case in Machynlleth yesterday.
Awen Meirion has been run by gentleman and bookseller extraordinaire Gwyn Sion Ifan since the late ’70s and is a little gem of a shop. Intelligently stocked by Gwyn, who clearly knows his town and the business he does there inside out, Awen Meirion offers children’s books, novels in both languages, guidebooks, maps, cards and gifts – I was lucky to come away with only two new books in my rucksack (one Welsh, one English – Optimist Absoliwt by Menna Elfyn and A Cotswold Family Life by thriller writer Clare Macintosh).
Ah yes, Clare Macintosh. Author of, amongst other books, I Let You Go, I See You and Let Me Lie. As she lives locally, she’s well known in Bala and she and Awen Meirion obviously enjoy a highly mutually supportive relationship. And – how kind is this – she popped in today to say hi to me. I was absolutely delighted to meet her as I’m a fan of her work and I was very grateful for her time. She’s an extremely busy best-seller and I’m- well, I’m not in that league, so I thought it was extremely nice of her to come and support #IndyBookTourCymru2019.
We talked about writing, moving families to Wales (as my parents did and as she and her husband have done) and learning Welsh. She’s making an impressive job of learning a language which, most people agree, is not easy to learn as an adult and she and Gwyn conversed in Welsh for the most part while I was there.
I enjoyed chatting in Welsh too. For those of you who don’t know, I was brought up in Ceredigion by English-speaking parents but learned Welsh as a four year old, in the playground as much as the classroom. Since moving away for university I’ve not lived in Wales and, until i moved back to the borders six years ago, decades had gone by without my uttering a word in the language. But a good friend has encouraged me to start using my Welsh again (diolch, Rhian Medi!) and with her encouragement and by listening to a lot of Radio Cymru and talking to myself on my daily walks (people must think I’m very peculiar) fluency has returned. So I was delighted to be able to spend an hour and more chatting to Gwyn and Rhian in the shop today in Welsh.
One of the things we discussed was the possibility of a Welsh langauge version of None So Blind which would be absolutely great.
What a lovely time I’m having on #IndyBookTourCymru2019! Many thanks to Gwyn and Rhian who were utterly delightful and took endless pains with me and my partner Edwina (who doesn’t speak Welsh) to make us very welcome indeed at Awen Meirion.
If ever you’re in the vicinity of Bala, do pop in and say hi. You won’t regret it. And you might come away with something unexpected…
Diolch o galon, Gwyn a Rhian!