Cymru Aug 1st 1998
You will never believe this, but as I was penning my little article about Wilson and the Welsh, I thought to myself, “I hope to God Jan Morris doesn’t read this, as she’ll go on the warpath, and I’ll have to spend hours composing a conciliatory fax when I should be starting my first novel.” And now it has all come hideously true.
What you have got to remember is that I grew up in Wales and Scotland, not in England, so for most of my youth I was in a racial minority and an English one at that. Until I went to Oxford at 18 I had never lived in a place for any period where the English were in the majority. When I finally met them, I didn’t like most of them but that’s not the point – the point is that I have been left feeling deep down that the Welsh and Scots are the majority and I am in an English minority, so although I do from time to time make anti-Welsh and Scottish remarks, I am the only journalist who ever does so from the viewpoint that the English are getting their own back on the master races (Welsh and Scottish). I might even feel the same about the Irish, as I was born in Ireland, but this explains everything. I do from time to time say some rude things about the English, but they never notice insults. They cannot believe that anyone would want to insult them.
Incidentally, I wish your projected Welsh show business dinner well. I don’t think I could face it. Not because it’s so Welsh but because it is so show biz. So much for friendly small arms fire. I hope you are flourishing. I am about to go to the Edinburgh Festival under the artistic directions of my wife Caroline who, in her tax bracket as a theatre director, has persuaded me and another man to concoct a small fringe show called “The Death of Tchaikovsky - a Sherlock Holmes Mystery”. We discovered that Holmes’s absence after the Reichenbach Falls coincided exactly with Tchaikovsky’s still unexplained death in St Petersburg. At first we thought it would be nice to engineer Holmes’s investigation of the mystery, but now it seems that Holmes was more involved in the death than you could possibly imagine, or indeed, want to know.
Thanks for writing. I’d rather get a pained fax from you than an unpained one from most anyone.
PS I have just noticed your letter in today’s paper. You still don’t explain what the Welsh Academy is. Believe me, I don’t particularly want to know. I just don’t think anyone else does either. You are absolutely right about people laughing at the English. I am not sure how right you are about having to speak Welsh before you can comment on Wales. It would eliminate most of the population of Wales from contention. I did try to learn Welsh in my youth, in emulation of George Borrow, but in those days they had no very good language manuals and I failed.