I was born in England, but because of my grandfather I’ll always be Welsh
People just don’t understand
My nationality and which country I support is always questioned when the Six Nations comes around. For some peculiar reason, whenever the words “I’m Welsh” leave my mouth, people in a 10 yard radius will turn to look and scowl as if I’ve spat in the Queen’s face, and should be sent to the dungeons immediately.
Yes, I was born in England. Yes I know I have an English accent, and my Welsh impression would insult many a Welshman. Yes I know my first name isn’t very “Welsh sounding”, but not everyone in Wales is called Bryn of Llewellyn. And no, I cant speak Welsh, which shouldn’t be very surprising, seeing as only around 19 per cent of the Welsh population can actually do so.
Despite all this, there are things that give away my Welsh-ness. I’m accustomed to the odd Welsh cake if I’m feeling rather devilish, despite my dad insisting his mum’s homemade batch were on another level compared to the packaged stuff. My last name is probably up there with the most welsh sounding you can get. I know all the words to the national anthem, almost, and with the amount of gruelling caravan holidays I spent on the wind-swept beaches of the Welsh coast, I think I’ve inhaled enough sand to class myself as a local.
But still, the accusations of treason and disloyalty fly around wherever I go. My question back is, why does it matter? I’ve hardly sworn a royal oath, pledging my life and all that I do to England, and then suddenly torn off my robes to reveal a tattoo of a leek on my left bum cheek. I’ve always classed myself as Welsh, and always will.
“So you’re basically a quarter Welsh? Figuratively speaking, is it true that your left leg represents the amount of Welsh-ness inside of you? Isn’t Wales just a principality? So it’s not even a country? Why would you choose to be a sheep-shagger?”
These kind of questions have been thrown at me throughout my upbringing, and I only have my dad to blame. He grew up with a strict and traditional Welsh father himself, and saw it right to bring his own kids up with a similar passion for Welsh heritage and sport, despite being based in Essex. And so it developed.
My early school days saw me looking a tad out of place, being one of the only kids not cheering on a remarkably average and inevitably disappointing England football side at the 2006 World Cup, with father tutting at the large amount of England flags propped on the ends of car bonnets and house guttering.
Don’t even ask me about the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, because I honestly can’t remember it. Either my dad refused to even let me and my two brothers watch it in the first place, or we sat and watched it in complete silence, clutching a handful of daffodils and belting out Bread of Heaven.
So growing up, it wasn’t as if I really had a choice. By pulling on a white England jersey, I may as well have scratched my name out of the family tree. If I hadn’t, I’m pretty sure my family would have, while packing my bags simultaneously.
Now it’s just the norm. I’ve enjoyed watching and supporting a very successful period of Welsh rugby, while the boys in red are finally in a European finals football competition this summer. Gone are the days of cheering on Ryan Giggs, unaware of his crazy lifestyle, and insistence on sleeping with any other woman apart from his wife.
Outside of sport, it doesn’t make any difference to who I am. I’m not a hard-core Welsh nationalist who insists that interacting with the English is like befriending the devil, but if you ask, I will answer in relation to the loyalty and respect I have for my grandfather’s heritage, no questions asked.
As a family, we all respect and admire the country we live in, despite the major differences between my birthplace and my grandfather’s homeland. Here, traffic jams are caused by cars and buses. In the winding country lanes of Aberystwyth, it’s sheep, and probably from my soon-to-be-inherited sheep farms in the Welsh mountains. Lucky me.
I’ve had the privilege of living alongside two completely different family and sporting cultures and I shouldn’t be judged for embracing one more than the other. If you still have doubts, I have a Welsh mug with my name on it. Enough said.