Speaking of ‘Gingers’? A long-time ‘oppo’ of mine, a Welshman, known as Taff, recently returned from operating within the offshore oil industry. Having worked a routine of four months on, four weeks off, for the past twelve years, he deserves time at home to put his feet up. I only hope his ‘missus’ can cope? Taff is a stereotypical Welshman. It must be said that the Welsh in general are an affable lot. They play rugby to a high standard, soccer to a poor standard, and they can sing, by God can they sing, pitch perfect and in harmony. Men of Harlech The Welsh accent is also melodious. They are bone dry in their humour and pure in their honesty, to the point of providing squirming, embarrassing, personal details to the listener. I put this down to their teachings of ‘confessions of faith’ through the Presbyterian Church of Wales.
Taff served 12 years as a Marine, a relative ‘sprog’ when it comes to a man-sized career, some thing I remind him of often. Our friendship started in RM Commando training, where eighty young men were thrown together for the first time, all drawn from the corners of the UK as well as the British Commonwealth. It matters not that a Welshman has a Christian name, they are all affectionately referred to as ‘Taff’, unless you happen to find he has a stunning sister, then you seek his Christian name. We shared a common bed space throughout our whole time in training, his self-effacing sense of humour kept me laughing throughout the most torturous times.
Commando training during a sharp bitter cold winter suited Taff down to the ground, as he had the whitest skin that was almost too painful to view with the naked eye. A complexion not suited to a glorious Devonshire summer, which he was grateful for. Not only was he ultra blanca, his hair was a fierce ginger, as were his eyebrows. On completion of training our squad was scattered around the various commando units of the Corps, Taff went to 42 CDO RM, and I to 40 CDO RM several miles away. We often bumped into each other at weekends along the parallel line of Pubs of Union Street, Plymouth. His unique complexion and fiery ginger hair being a marker buoy among the wave of drunken humanity.
Yesterday I received a call from him, which started off well until there was an almighty “yaaAARRRGGGHHHH!!!” followed by the sound of a clattering phone, then much slapping, wailing and shouting. He was either being mugged, or he had caught sight of his reflection in a plate-glass window? Being a decent hand, I cut him off to save his phone bill, and waited patiently for a call back. “Sorry about that, a wasp went down the back of my shirt and stabbed me with its arse bayonet, I’m sunburnt, and the ‘missus’ was slapping my back trying to kill the bloody thing”! ~ “Did she kill it”? ~ “No, the bugger flew across my shoulder and out through the sleeve of my T-shirt!…
At this stage I was almost crying, as I imagined his predicament, my ribs were aching as he continued the story (his wife was in the same hysterical state as I was). Being fiery ginger haired, and incredibly fair-skinned, it follows that Taff is not ‘tanfantastic’, in fact he requires Sunscreen Protection Factor 50, just to stand close to a 100-watt light bulb. He went on to explain that he was badly sunburnt across his shoulders, through walking around his ‘in-laws’ garden, he then bit his tongue, hard; as I asked slyly, “Oh, and where is that then Taff, where about in Wales are you”?
He answered cautiously, knowing he had walked into a self presented trap “You know? Just over the Menai Straits in Anglesey” ~ I turned the thumbscrew slightly by saying “Yes, I know the area well, but where exactly are you, what village are you near” ~ “Oh boyo, you know what ‘flipping’ village it is” said he, exasperated. I asked him to name it, which he declined. Because after all of these years he has still not got his tongue around the name of the railway station close to the village from which his wife hails from, which was to be my next question to him. (Taff comes from Newport, South Wales, of which the North Welsh class as English, rather than Welsh, due to its close proximity to the border). It was down to me to say it, which really pissed him off. An Englishman would normally be incapable of doing so, due to it being spelled in Gaelic Welch. (but, I had a great geography teacher)!
“Taff, I can only presume your ‘in laws’ have not moved, so you must be in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, near to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch railway station “Yes I bloody well am, if you must know” came back his reply at which we both laughed. In English the station name means ‘St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel, near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio with a red cave’.
The village is famous for having the longest named railway station in the world, and for that reason alone it attracts Japanese tourists by the train load? They also hope to catch sight of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, as Prince William operates out of the RAF Mountain Rescue Centre some 15 miles away.
I would think a bonus for the tourists, would be to get a picture of the ‘Welsh ultra skinned white one, with volcanic hair’!