Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Longing for home

Some years ago Sky Television invited me to a boxing match between Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno, which was held outdoors in the old Arms Park in October. The rain broke just long enough for Lewis to beat the crap out of a hapless Bruno and the fight was over in no time.

It was a strange set-up, with the curious Welsh locals in the cheap seats in the upper tiers, miles from the ring, and the proper boxing fans, mostly London eastenders, seated on the pitch. The mid-price lower stands were totally empty.

Before the kick-off (punch-off), they played Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (the Welsh national anthem). The upper stands erupted in song, while all around me, sat in the front row, was an uncomprehending silence. At that moment I just wanted to be up there with the boys in the stands.

Hiraeth is such a beautiful word, both in terms of its sound and its meaning. I know I’ve sworn an oath against sentimentality and cliché but, for me, hearing Richard Burton’s recording of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood brings on this uniquely Welsh emotion every time.

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