This page by Jon Kennedy
A brief encounter with the Welsh Nanty Glo
It started kind of scary but turned out to be a highlight of my first visit to England.
I had caught the last Underground (“subway,” in America) from Piccadilly Circus, London, back toward my hotel on Russell Square on the last night of my vacation. There are about four stops between the two points. At the next station, two young men got on my sparsely peopled car, well dressed but acting rowdy; probably drunk. They separated, one heading the other direction, the other sprawling on the train bench that I had occupied alone till now.
He looked directly at me and prepared to speak. I tried to adapt my best urban defense posture; not ignoring him but not really looking at him, either.
“What is life?” he asked in a clear but heavy accent that didn’t seem Englishmaybe Australian? Now I fixed my gaze on him. He didn’t appear hostile, but looked like he’d just asked me a riddle, probably to engage me in conversation. I took the bait.
“A magazine?” I riddled back. He liked that, and said so, then asked, “Are you American?”
“Yes,” I replied, “And your accent doesn't quite sound English either?”
“I'm from Wales,” he answered, “You have a good ear. Where are you from in America?”
“Oh! I just did a tour of Wales,” I replied to his increasing pleasure. “I'm from CaliforniaSilicon Valley, San Jose, ” I continued. “But I'm originally from Pennsylvania and my home town has a Welsh name.”
“Oh? What is that?”
His smile broadened. “Oh, that is very Welsh,” he said.
“Can you translate it?”
I knew from his expression that he could. “Something like ‘Valley of Coal,’” he replied.
“The sign at the edge of town says it means ‘Streams of Coal,’” I offered.
“Yes, yes,” he said, “That's about right.” He seemed to be marvelling at meeting someone from a “Welsh” section of America.
The train was slowing now at the Russell Square station. I never did get to tell him that the county was Cambria (the Roman name for Wales) and that there was also a village of Cardiff (Wales' capitol) a mile or two from Nanty Glo.
It had been a vacation of slightly less than two weeks, seeing southern Britain, both North and South Wales, and much of Ireland mostly through the tinted windows of a tour bus. This was one of the few encounters with a real “native,” and it was indeed one of the most memorable highlights of the trip.
© Jon Kennedy 1997