Chapter 7

It seems that it was on Friday night that I arrived in Future Wales. Saturday morning was wonderfully fine, and I rose early, having decided to enjoy my adventure, come what may, and trusting Llywarch to send me back to my own day when the time came. I looked through the bedroom window, and saw Llywarch working in the garden. I called to him, and he raised his hand.

“Breakfast in ten minutes,” he said.

I washed in a great hurry, shaved with the electric shaver (old-fashioned by now) that Llywarch had put ready for me over the washbasin, and went down into the house. Llywarch came after a little while, and the four of us sat round the table in the dining alcove. After a breakfast of splendid porridge, eggs and toasted sandwiches, Llywarch took the family devotions[1].

“Forgive me, Powell,” he said. “I see you’re in the suit that you were wearing last night. You’ll need to change before going out. It’s not warm enough yet to wear a night suit during the day.”

After changing, I felt pretty odd in my day suit. The jacket was long, and the trousers were like knee-breeches with long, warm socks. Llywarch passed me a wide-brimmed hat. I stared at myself in the mirror.

“Hmm,” I said. “A cross between a Quaker and a Cavalier.”

‘Everyone will be staring at me,’ I said to myself, once I’d gone out, since I looked so odd. But Llywarch was dressed similiarly, and once I was out in the street I saw that all the men were wearing similar clothes. Welsh national dress for men, perhaps? Very possible. The men’s clothes were colourful, too. The men of the twenty-first century have no fear or shame from wearing green and yellow and red and blue. And there was no doubt about how warm the materials were.

Cardiff was a beautiful city on a morning like this, and Llywarch decided to walk with me to the College. The first things that struck me were the Welsh names over the shops: Siôn Meirion, Outfitters; Harri Tawe, Photographer; The Welsh Electricity Board; Jenkins’ Shop. Llywarch explained that shop names and street names were entirely in Welsh, but the directions in the railway station and the airport were in Welsh and English, as well as the directions for traffic and visitors.

“Does everyone have a Welsh surname?”

“No, you still get the occasional Jones, Williams or Davies. But the great majority by now bear the names of the county or district of their ancestors, or some other Welsh name. You saw Siôn Meirion and Harri Tawe earlier. There are scores of Arfons and Ceiriogs and Tegids and Aerons and Flints and Dewis and Dyfris – Welsh surnames have risen from their old obscurity by now.

The city streets were full of cars being driven by radio, their drivers sitting and chatting or looking around.

“Tell me,” I said to Llywarch, “why these cars go so slowly? The cars of my time went furiously compared to these.”

“They did, I know. But thirty miles an hour is the maximum for cars being driven by radio. It’s impossible to go faster than that through the city streets. But no time is lost in traffic jams. The system is almost failsafe. And accident-free. It’s three years since anyone was injured on the streets of Cardiff”

I applauded that.

“Of course,” said Llywarch after that, “you probably think life is slower now than it was in your day. Well, the speed of traffic and the pace of life became such an obsession in the 80s and 90s of your century that the authorities decided to do something very definite about it. The possible speed of every vehicle was reduced. A strict limit was put upon everybody’s speed on every railway and every road.”

“I’m disappointed,” I said. “I was expecting that cars these days would go at the speed of light.”

“And the world destroyed? Yes, Powell, there are vehicles that go four or five times the speed of sound. But only for experimentation. And only where it’s deserted. The whole trend today is towards slowing down the pace of life. And we’re only just getting used to the slowness. It’s a slowness by choice, not the forced slowness of when our ancestors travelled by horse and trap.”

Llywarch and I walked onwards along the colourful streets. It was obvious to me that people were cheerful. I listened to them speaking. The great majority of them were speaking in English.

“Oh yes,” said Llywarch. “You’ll hear English mainly in Cardiff, in much of Glamorgan and in most of Monmouthshire and Radnorshire. But try an experiment. Stop someone in the street and ask them in Welsh how to get to the Castle.”

I stood in front of two young men in brightly-coloured waistcoats who were arguing furiously in English, and I asked them in Welsh. Neither of them showed any surprise. They immediately switched into Welsh, and directed me. Their Welsh was correct and fairly fluent, but it was a bit whiny and had an English accent. The two smiled at me and wished me well on my visit to the city, and went on their way.

“But why don’t they speak Welsh to each other?” I asked Llywarch.

“Well,” he said, “there’s no law to force people to speak Welsh. Everyone learns Welsh in school, and almost every job in Wales requires a knowledge of Welsh. But English is these people’s first language and, well, everyone prefers to speak their first language whenever they can.”

The University was still in Cathays Park. As we went towards it, Llywarch showed me the Senate building through the trees. We turned, passed a statue of Saunders Lewis and entered the college. When we sat down in Llywarch’s private office, a girl came in with coffee for us. I noticed that Llywarch spoke with her as an equal, and not as a maid. She was respectful towards him, but there was nothing servile about her.

After she had left, Llywarch showed me his books. One cupboard contained only Welsh books, all on scientific subjects. Some of them were his own work.

“Yes,” he said, “I write a bit. I write only in Welsh, and some of my students translate them into whatever language may have be a demand for them.”

“You lecture in Welsh as well?”

“Oh yes, entirely. Two of my lecturers lecture in English, and the students can choose to study the subject in whichever language they like.”

“You need double the staff, then, to provide courses in every subject in both languages?”

“Wales doesn’t see that as being a burden,” said Llywarch, smiling. “That happens in many countries nowadays. Bangor, of course, is a Welsh-only college, but in the other three both languages are used… But come now, I’m sure I must be boring you.”

We went back out of the college and into the peerless gardens. Llywarch took me for a walk past the embassies. The flags of many nations were fluttering above the trees in the May breeze. I read the names on the doors: Finland, Portugal, Ghana, Venezuela, Nigeria, New Zealand, Austria…

Suddenly I heard the sound of a band, and turned my head. A batallion of soldiers was coming along the road, about five hundred men with purple shirts and rifles on their shoulders, and the band in front of them. A few people stood on the pavement watching them, but the rest walked past without taking any notice. Llywarch started off impatiently, but I held him back.

“The Welsh Army, I suppose?” I said.

“No,” he said curtly. “I’d rather you hadn’t seen them. They are one of the black marks  on Free Wales.”

I asked him to explain.

“Well,” he said, “many countries have abolished their armed forces by now. Wales is one of them. They call us ‘the pacifist countries’. All we do is to contribute a battalion to the international police. But the military urge is very difficult to lay to rest. You’re now looking at a battalion of the Welsh Military Society.”

“Don’t they belong to the government?”

“No, they’re a voluntary society. Since we’re a free country, the government doesn’t ban it. But it doesn’t contribute towards its upkeep. The only condition is that the Society has to open up all of its facilities to inspection once a year.”

“But they could overthrow the government.”

“Fortunately, public opinion is against them. They’re quite unpopular, and few new recruits join them. If they paid wages and made soldiering a full-time occupation, they’d grow, I’m sure. But since they’re volunteers, depending wholly upon gifts and subscriptions, paying a salary to each member is beyond them. They drill and march at night, and all day on a Saturday.”

“But they must have some purpose,” I said, as I watched them melt round the street corner.

“Defending Wales, they say. But the question is, from whom? The truth is that they’re part of the United Britain League – the U.B.L. that you heard about last night. There’s a Military Society in Scotland as well. England bans them, just like it bans many societies. But with good reason, since England has its official armed forces.”

For the first time, I felt fear overshadowing me. Not everything was perfect in this lovely Wales. And yet, besides the purple shirts, I had liked almost everything that I had seen so far.

[1] That is to say, the daily family prayers.


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