Welsh Word of The Week

Nearly a month ago by now, I had the idea for a weekly feature on my blog. On my former blog, I had an ‘Italian word of the week’ feature; where I would introduce an Italian word, connected to something that had happened to me, or something I’d seen over the past week. My idea for this blog was to a similar thing, but with my first language – Welsh.

Not everyone will know that I’m a native Welsh speaker. I grew up in the Welsh heartland of rural Carmarthenshire, in a Welsh-speaking family, and went to a Welsh-medium secondary school. When I was 18 I left Wales to study at an English university, and at 22 left the UK completely to start a new life in Italy. Because I’ve lived away from Wales for so many years my Welsh has become somewhat… Rusty. Well, no, rusty isn’t the right word for it. Not as accurate? A lack of confidence and fluidity? People who have lived abroad for a long time will understand where I’m coming from. In my case, it means too much dialect, anglicisms and borrowed English words. I lived in a country for many years where the general population didn’t understand that the country was born and grew up in existed, never mind that I was brought up bilingual, and that switching from one language to another was one of the most natural things in the world for me. All that has contributed to a lack of confidence in what should be my mother tongue. I’m scared of tweeting in Welsh, because language policing is a real thing within the Welsh-speaking community online.

But I’ve decided to battle this lack of confidence. So onto my Welsh word of the week – Gair yr wythnos!

Gwyrdd

Gwyrdd – green

One thing that’s really struck me recently is just how gwyrdd the area I grew up in is. I hadn’t been in Wales in late May/June for 10 years, and I’d never realised how beautiful the countryside I’d lived in throughout my childhood was. It’s a kind of green I didn’t see in Italy. A lush, vivid green, a kind of green you only get in a country where it rains a lot. All it takes it stepping out of my hometown, and I’m surrounded by green fields, trees, and hedges. Out in the wilds in the north of the county, along tiny back roads, the hedges are overgrown and full of ferns, bluebells and wildflowers. For someone who lived in a city for nearly 8 years, it’s a beautiful sight.

Gwyrdd is the masculine version of the adjective. Welsh has genders, masculine and feminine; and the feminine version of the word is gwerdd. The word for white, gwyn, also follows the same pattern, becoming gwen in the feminine. Well, that’s before we get into mutations… As the word for tree, coeden, is feminine, in the photo you see a coeden werdd. Notice how the ‘g’ has been dropped at the beginning of gwerdd? I was never good with mutations, treigliadau, even as a native speaker…

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening to – May 29th – June 4th

I think everyone will understand why I didn’t want to write such a frivolous post on Sunday. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the attack on London on Saturday night.

Yes, I know it’s now Tuesday, but I wasn’t in the right state of mind to write yesterday. Some days are just rubbish. So, I’m catching up!

What I’m reading – Stasiland by Anna Funder

Stasiland

In a former life, this book lived in a hospital. Yeah, I’d love to know how a proof copy ended up there, too. Having been unemployed since January, all of my paperback books over the last few months have come from the Free Books store in my hometown, and I’m so grateful that it exists. I wrote a post about it a few days after moving back to Carmarthen, and I’ve seen their collection of donated books grow and grow over the last few months. Unfortunately their home is under threat, with talk of another business taking over the building, and they are looking for a new location. I can only hope that a positive conclusion is found.

I’m very interested in Cold War-era history, for some reason it fascinates me. This book was one I found through recommendations on Goodreads, and I was so happy to find a copy at the Free Books. I haven’t got very far yet, but so far I’ve read the story of a 16 year old from East Germany who nearly started World War III. I’m still very much in a reading slump, with other things (podcasts*cough*podcasts) taking over the time I previously used to dedicate to my reading.

What I’ve been listening to – Spirits

The premise behind Spirits is inspired, two drunken women discuss legends, myths, urban legends and everything in between. Isn’t it the best idea ever?? I’ve listened to Amanda and Julia talk about Greek gods, Norse mythology, and North American urban legends; as well as many other myths from across the world. Julia has degrees in history and religious studies, so she really knows her stuff. Not only is it funny hearing their drink-fueled tangents and shenanigans, but it’s also educational! Last week I listened to an episode about Stonehenge, which was the first one to cover anything from the UK. They had also had a guest, Lauren Shippen who’s behind The Bright Sessions; and I lost my mind when she mentioned Merlin! There’s a legend that Merlin was involved in moving the stones from the Preseli hills (which aren’t far from the area I grew up), and I was so happy to hear a group of Americans talk about a figure who is so closely linked to my hometown of Carmarthen!

 

Tenby

Yes, I know, I disappeared for a bit again, didn’t I? It was a very busy week with little sleep up until Wednesday, and I needed a couple of days to recharge my batteries a bit. Now things are back to the old routine, and I’ve got some time to write again.

Tenby

Last Friday (May 26th) I went to Tenby for the afternoon. We had a few days of really quite unseasonably warm weather for about half of last week, and I was very glad of a chance to make the most of it. For those who haven’t had a chance in life to spend some time on the Pembrokeshire coast, Tenby is a town on the south-eastern side of the county, about a 40 minute drive down on the dual carriageway from Carmarthen.

Houses

I love Tenby. I love being by the sea and lakes in general, I find it so peaceful, but Tenby as a town is so pretty. I’ve heard the colourful houses being described as being Mediterranean in feel, which I agree with to a certain extent – it’s not necessarily what comes to mind when you think of a typical Welsh or British seaside resort. It’s a walled town, and during the summer season the roads in the town centre are closed off to traffic, and the tables of pubs and restaurants spread out into the street – adding to the continental feel.

Beach

There’s a beautiful view from the castle, which is also the most easternly point of the town, so you can see out towards the sea and also back into the town itself. There are plenty of benches where you can sit down and relax.

Tenby is also known for its nightlife in this part of the world. The place is full of pubs! When I was there this time, I saw a group of women going into a pub, dressed as cops and robbers, at about 4pm. Standard Tenby, I thought. One of my oldest schoolfriends who got married in 2013, had her hen party in Tenby. It was a great weekend, we danced, we chilled on the beach, we drank in a beer garden – the only downside was getting woken up by seagulls screaming at about 4 in the morning!

Ice cream

Having lived in Italy, there’s something particularly interesting about Tenby for me – namely the presence of the Fecci family. No trip to Tenby is complete without a trip to one of their vintage ice cream parlours! They do these ginormous sundaes, loads of ice cream and all kind of toppings – as delicious as it was, I couldn’t finish mine this time! There’s also the D. Fecci And Sons chippy, which I highly recommend if you find yourself in that part of the world. The chips are delicious, and the portions are very generous. My Google-fu tells me that the chip shop was established in 1935; and it’s always made me smile that an Italian family came over to Wales, settled on the coast, and became such a huge part of a quintessentially British seaside. Unfortunately this time, I didn’t have any chips, I had a light lunch (at Caffè Vista, which I’d also recommend for great coffee, and the view over North Beach) to make sure I had enough room for all the ice cream – which didn’t even happen!

On a personal level, that little afternoon out was a very proud moment for me. The last time I’d been to Tenby was last August, a week after I’d started my diet. I’d had my photo taken overlooking North Beach, and in the following months it was something I’d looked back on to remind me how far I’d got, and also to not let my weight balloon up so much again. This time I re-created the photo, and the result was staggering.

So, I went home happy and full of ice cream. I hope the summer will give me at least one beautiful day where I’m able to go back for another visit!

Aloneness and The Long Term Single Woman

I know what you’re thinking, here she goes again!

Very late last night (no, I wasn’t out, I’m far too old for such shenanigans!) I was listening to an episode of a daily podcast I listen to. The man behind the podcast was chatting with his Lyft driver about, among other things, how important ‘alone time’ was for her. The driver was a single mum, and she told the story of how she had twins at the age of 26, who were now 6 years old. I only realised when I was in the process of writing this post that she was only a year older than me – due to the hour last night, that particular detail flew straight over my head. I hadn’t even had my first relationship at 26 (I was nearly there, but not quite). This American woman’s life is on one extreme of a scale, while I’m at the other.

After my initial surprise at what she said had passed, I started thinking about how one person’s definition of being ‘alone’ can just be another person’s standard day. This woman made a big thing about having lunch alone, or going for 10 minute walks alone; and I my initial thought was along the lines of, you’re joking right? But then I thought, no, she has a completely different life to mine. She has primary school age twins, a house full of noise, a life that’s just generally much busier than mine has probably ever been. I’ve been having lunch alone every day for years, even at my job in Italy. After a couple of years at the job, I felt like I needed a complete break during the day from my work environment, and I really appreciated being able to walk home at lunch and basically not speak to anyone for an hour. Never mind 10 minute walks, I used to go on short breaks alone; to places like Rome, or even a beach holiday on the Adriatic coast once. I once caught an overnight train to Munich, and even went to Paris for a long weekend alone once. I wasn’t going to let the lack of a boyfriend feel like it was a barrier stopping me from doing certain things. Different people deal with being alone in a very different way – and there’s a big difference between being alone and being lonely, take it from someone who’s spent most of their life single.

One thing I’ve seen a lot over the years is the panic people in relationships (especially long term relationships, or married couples) have at the prospect of spending a night alone. I’ve seen it in person, and on social media (it’s one of the reasons I abandoned Facebook at one point past, to be honest). I spent many many years of my 20s living alone, in a studio flat. In a country I didn’t grow up in. I heard so many stories of people in long-term relationships freaking out before spending the night alone, and telling the tale of how they had a terrible night at home on their own the day after. How they were scared of noises that they heard, of not having the presence of another person in the flat, unable to sleep because they felt unsafe. And honestly, I partly felt really unnerved by it all, because it made me feel really aware and uncomfortable about my own living arrangement; and partly I found it just really funny, because I was living on my own and had never once felt in danger. Maybe it was naive of me, but even though I was on my own, I felt safe behind my locked door. I slept peacefully at night. In the whole time I lived alone I never had any problems. I never felt unsafe or at risk because there wasn’t anyone else in the house. Of course, I felt lonely at times, but that’s part and parcel of having been single forever, or for an increasing amount of time – depending on what exact period of my time in Italy you’re looking at… But mostly, I loved it. Being able to live by my own rules. Stay up late reading, drinking all the wine. I was happy with the sense of freedom it gave me – well, most of the time, anyway. And I just couldn’t understand why people were making such a fuss about spending one night on their own, when I went to bed alone every night.

I’ve always been somewhat of a loner. I’m an introvert who has solitary hobbies. I can spend entire weekends without leaving the house, with just myself for company. My ideal Friday night, especially now that I’m in my early 30s, would be spent with a good book and a glass (or two, or three…) of wine. I’ve been single for so long that being alone has become, in some way, like a natural state of being for me. The problem then is the difficulty of leaving your single state behind, and sharing your life with someone. That’s something I only had the opportunity of doing at a very late age, and failed at spectacularly. It’s also one reason why I don’t even bother with dating anymore – I think I’m finally getting to the point where I’m fulfilled enough by my own life.

When I was younger, being alone bothered me much less than it does now. But when you get to a certain age, people expect you to be one of a pair, to be attached at the hip to someone, to be uncomfortable at the prospect of spending a night without them – to say the least. It would be nice not to feel as judged as I am for not having a problem with doing certain things on my own. After all, the other extreme is the people who are unable to be on their own, and go from partner to partner like monkeys swinging from branch to branch. With all the thinking I’ve been doing about my long-term single status recently, it’s given me something new to add to the discussion. Being able to be alone is a strength, but I know all too well that at a point that strength turns into something negative. You can’t just depend on yourself your entire life. But neither can you go through life not knowing who you really are. There’s a careful balance, which I know I have yet to truly find.

Manchester

I’ve written a lot recently, but yesterday words completely failed me. I was completely shaken, unable to function properly. What could I possibly say in the face of such a heartless atrocity? I didn’t want my silence to be seen as a mark of disrespect. I couldn’t just pick up my blog a day or two after, without a mention of the bombing in Manchester, pretending that everything was OK. Because I’m certainly not OK. I’m heartbroken. So, after much thought, I’ve decided to put my thoughts and feelings on paper, as insignificant in the face of such a tragedy as they are.

I went to sleep on Monday night before the news broke. I slept all night without knowing about it, and thinking about that now makes me feel sick. So many people had been killed, and I had no idea. I woke up yesterday to the news all over Twitter, not fully understanding what had happened from people’s tweets. When I read an actual headline, it was as if time froze. 22 people dead. 59 people injured. At the Manchester Arena, after an Ariana Grande concert.

I felt shattered when I saw who the bomber had targeted, after I’d read vague tweets – concert goers. And not only that, young concert goers, mostly female, and parents with their children. Children and teenagers who would have been looking forward to this concert for months – maybe their first concert ever – who would’ve been so excited when the date was announced, and who so tragically lost their lives. Parents who took their children to see an artist they loved, but never came home.

For me, concerts meant leaving the real world at the door and being able to unleash my true personality, and to just have a great time with friends. And that’s something you’ll read from music lovers the world over. Things have changed for me since the time I went to 10 concerts by the same artist in 6 months in 6 different countries in Western Europe, but that period will remain one of the happiest ones of my life. I felt truly free to express who I was, and I loved being able to travel to different countries and meet new people. That was 7 years ago, by now, but I never gave a thought to how safe I was at concerts. I was surrounded by like-minded people, all there to have fun and share our love for the artist, and I knew that there was staff there looking out for our safety. Over the years I’ve been to concerts in London, Milan, Nice, Munich, as well as several other cities and festivals. And I always felt safe. They were places were I felt invincible, where the outside world couldn’t touch me for those few hours that I was in the venue. I write all this to express my anger and disbelief at such a cowardly attack. How is it even possible that people went to a concert and then didn’t come home afterwards? I still can’t believe it.

In November I’ll be going to another concert, this time in Cardiff, which I bought tickets for at the beginning of March. But I can’t let myself be worried about it, because, as everyone rightly says, that would mean that the terrorists have won.

Words can not express how deeply saddened I have felt since yesterday morning. Anything I say can not make the victims’ friends and families feel any better, it will not bring their loved ones back, but my thoughts are with them. My heart is broken for them. We all stand together.

What I’ve been Reading and Listening to – May 15th-21st

Following on from the idea I had last Sunday, here is what I’ve been reading and listening to over the past week.

What I’ve been reading – Sword of God by Chris Kuzneski

Sword of God

This is one of my Free Books finds, and the third of Kuzneski’s books for me. They’re very much in a Dan Brown vein (and I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, I love me some Dan Brown!), expert characters travelling the world to solve mysterious mysteries going back centuries. Kuzneski’s main characters give his books a slightly different twist, they’re two former elite soldiers, so there’s a bit more violence and gore (especially in this book) than in Brown’s novels. I’m still going very slowly with this book (Goodreads now tells me I’m 8 books behind my target, if I want to reach 100 books this year, eek!), I’m 120 pages in after having started it on Monday – which is just shocking for my standards. I’m still having trouble sitting down and focusing on reading. I’m still at a point in the book where I’m trying to figure out how everything’s connected – the protagonists are in South Korea, but there are also other characters in Saudi Arabia on a seemingly unrelated archaeological mission. I chose this out of the pile I’ve accumulated from the Free Books, because how easy the other two were to read; I found them gripping, and with all the cliffhangers at the end of chapters, I wanted to carry on reading to find out what happened next. Hopefully by next week I’ll be able to say that I’ve finished it!

What I’ve been listening to – The Bright Sessions

So, out of the pile of audio drama podcasts I’m subscribed to, this week I’ve mostly been listening to The Bright Sessions. Again, without giving too much away, the show’s description is ‘therapy for the strange and unusual’. Doctor Bright has a list of patients who have extraordinary abilities. There’s Sam, the time traveller; Caleb the empath who can feel other people’s emotions; Chloe the mind-reader; and Damien, who… Well, you’ll see. The episodes revolve around Doctor Bright’s therapy sessions with these young people, and their relationships with the world around them. Without being too spoilery, I’ve got to a very interesting point towards in season 2, which has made me appreciate the podcast on a whole other level – and that means I’ve been listening to it much more this week than I have done before. The Bright Sessions is on its third season, and I currently have 24 episodes to get through to catch up!

Wedding Season and The Long Term Single Woman

I had originally only planned one post about my sad state as a long-term single woman in her early 30s, but apparently this is turning out to be a series…

On Thursday, a friend who I have known for my entire life posted on Facebook that she had now been married for five years. I stopped and did some mental maths for a minute. May 2012. I honestly hadn’t realised it had already been five years since her wedding day. Back then I’d never even had a boyfriend. I mean, can you imagine? One of your oldest friends gets married when you’re both 26, and you’ve never even experienced what it’s like to be in a relationship? It’s just so completely beyond ‘normal’ people’s experiences. You see photos of her in her white dress, smiling with her new husband, holding her bouquet; knowing that the odds of you being able to do the same thing, to have that magical wonderful day, the best day of your life, are very much stacked against you. Nobody even wants to go for a drink with you, never mind marry you. I’ve been a bridesmaid twice, and yes, they were beautiful experiences; but on both days I was fighting the black cloud that was lurking in the back of my mind – the persistent voice of doom, the ‘I’ll never have all this’. The thought that I’ll always be the bridesmaid in blue, never the bride in white. People assume that they’ll get married at some point in their lives, or at least find someone to spend the rest of their days with. I don’t remember ever being convinced about it, and certainly not in my teens. As my friends made steps forward with the opposite sex, I stayed in the exact same place until a couple of months before my A Level exams. My two oldest schoolfriends are now both married, and I’m just as single as ever.

This morning, I woke up to coverage on two different news channels of a wedding. A wedding that didn’t mean anything to me. I’m anything but a royalist, but that’s a discussion for another day. It’s the cult of celebrity I suppose, people who are famous not because of anything they’ve actually done, but simply because they’re there, who they know or who they’re related to. I had been starting to think recently when wedding season was going to start again, and I got my answer this morning when I was having breakfast. There’s a hashtag for it which is already trending on Twitter. This is an exaggerated example of what happens during the summer, I wake up in the morning, and if I’m stupid enough to think that going on Facebook is a good idea, I’m met with wedding photos and statuses of friends congratulating people on getting married, or excited about their own wedding.

I was so embarrassed by showing up as a single 29 year old to my younger brother’s wedding, and the conversations I had during the course of the day about my single status only made me feel worse about myself. I was one of four women in the bride’s party, and the oldest by far. The two teenage bridesmaids had their boyfriends join them for the reception. It feels like it’s taboo to talk about this, single people aren’t supposed to feel sad at weddings, and especially not talk about it. It’s a day for everyone to be happy, regardless of any issues they’re dealing with internally. And I genuinely say this without any bitterness, it’s a day where anyone apart from the bride and groom don’t really count. It’s their special day, and if that makes you sad, you just have to bottle it up and deal with it another day.

This past week, I didn’t watch an episode of my guilty pleasure TV show (Scorpion, in case anyone’s wondering) because two of the characters were getting married. It’s a show that I enjoy watching because I can turn my brain off and let myself get carried away with the over-the-top ridiculousness. I was so disappointed when the wedding storyline started to unfold, because I knew it would ruin the show for me to a certain extent. I tried to watch the episode, and I did get a few minutes in, but with wedding preparations right from the beginning, I was forcing myself to watch something I really didn’t want to.

Society, drugged up on reality TV and titillating celebrity headlines, doesn’t deem someone like me to be of interest. I know that can sound incredibly bitter, but I completely agree. I read a lot, I obsessively love audio drama podcasts, I spend a lot of my free time learning languages, and I listen to K-pop for crying out loud. I behave like someone who is at least 10 years younger than I actually am. Because everyone tells single people to find hobbies. The problem is, I found the wrong ones. I am a perfect example of a woman who is anything but girlfriend/wife material. And that’s not necessarily even a bad thing. I’m the first person to criticise myself, but I speak three languages fluently, can read another two, and I’m learning another; I’ve lived abroad, I read a lot, I enjoy writing. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I’m talented, but as people told me on Thursday night, I’m interesting and unique. But the problem with men is that there’s interesting, and there’s interesting.

I’m aware of how ridiculous all this can sound to people who are married, or are in relationships, but this time of year can be very damaging to lonely people like me. I said I was going through a phase of acceptance of my long-term single state, I never said I was happy with it. Last August, I stopped posting on Facebook, and deleted the app, because seeing so many weddings every single weekend was detrimental to me. There are people like me who have stopped going on Facebook, have stopped communicating with people through that site, because there are too many images and words on there that wound us. Waking up on a Saturday morning and faffing about on social media because you’re not quite ready to leave the warm cocoon of your bed, and seeing wedding photos can be harmful. If you’re not careful, if you don’t have the right state of mind, it will chip away at you. I’m fully aware that I’ve become bitter. I say that I hate weddings, but that’s only half the story. I hate being reminded that I’ve never had that special day, especially now that I’m in my 30s; and that more than likely I never will. I’d love to be a bride, to wear a beautiful white dress. I’ve got a fairly clear idea of what kind of dress I’d like to have – maybe in another lifetime where things will go right for me – as counterproductive as such thoughts are for someone who’s spent nearly their entire life alone; there still always seems to be that vague glimmer of hope in the back of my mind, that one day, I’ll get that too. To be as happy as all of the people I’ve seen in photos on Facebook over the years. I would suggest that couples spare a thought for the single people of the world when they post photo after photo on social media, but who am I to tell them to not be happy? They got lucky, and I shouldn’t begrudge that. It’s just, I wish I had that too.

An Italian Evening

Last night I had the pleasure of being part of a night out organised for two classes of Italian learners, at an Italian restaurant in Llanelli – about half an hour east of Carmarthen. Long story short, my aunt is one of the teacher’s neighbours, and she had been invited to join the group, and in turn my aunt invited me.

I went over to Llanelli not quite knowing what to expect. I must admit, groups of people who I don’t know intimidate me a fair bit. I’m very introverted, and do much better with one-to-one conversations. But it turned out to be a very enjoyable evening.

Fueled by a very nice (no really, this was a particularly good one) glass of Prosecco, I got talking to the teacher, and her other half. And the conversations I had over the course of the evening were, honestly, energising. I spoke with the teacher in Italian, and I was very aware of how fast I was speaking. I overheard her saying in Italian to one of her students later on, ‘She speaks Italian in a phenomenal way’. I was so flattered. After 10 months of lying mostly dormant, only appearing on rare occasions, my full-blown speedy Milanese-inflicted Italian was back. It was like a part of my personality had returned. I’d been thinking a lot recently about how being constantly called inglese (English) during my years in Italy had erased part of my personality; but last night I realised how I’d lost another part of my personality by not speaking Italian. I’ve read so many times about how people have different personalities for each of the languages they speak, when they speak more than one fluently; and it’s something I’ve started to become aware of since moving back to Wales last summer – as Welsh is my first language. What I noticed with my Italian last night was something I hadn’t really thought about before – it was like my personality became more outgoing; and with the gestures I was making, I was occupying more space with my body. Switching from Italian to English was something I’d taken for granted in Italy; at work I almost always spoke English, and outside almost exclusively Italian. But this was a context where I was speaking three languages in the space of about three hours. Italian’s seen as much more of a ‘flamboyant’ language, where people speak faster, and louder. If you don’t speak the language, it can often seem that people are arguing, when they’re just having a lively, friendly, discussion. When I was living in Italy I unconsciously adapted how I spoke the language to reflect how my friends spoke, and what I heard and saw around me on a daily basis. On the way home last night, I started thinking about how my spoken Italian reflects my written English – very wordy, long sentences. Italian loves going off on tangents, which I did brilliantly last night. When explaining that one of my flatmates during my year abroad in Italy had studied at the same university as the Italian teacher, I went off on a tangent about how my university sent students out to Italy in their second year as opposed to their third year, if they had started learning Italian from scratch in their first year – as I had done. As I went off down that road, I was fully aware of of how, had I had the same discussion in English, I would’ve been much more concise. I’m sure people who speak more than one language will understand where I’m coming from, even though it’s difficult to put into words the transformation a person goes through when they switch from one language they speak fluently to another.

The teacher, as it turned out, had also lived in Trieste for a period of time. I visited Trieste at Easter in 2015, and I really enjoyed talking about how interesting the city was from a historical and architectural point of view, and also about the train journey over from Milan. Her boyfriend – and this was a MASSIVE case of Small World Syndrome – had been to the Expo which was held in Milan two years ago! I was sitting in a restaurant in Llanelli, in the county I grew up in, talking to a Scottish man, about a huge event that had taken place in Milan a couple of years ago, that very few people outside of Italy would realise the significance of. We talked about the infamous Japanese pavilion and its’ 10 hour queues, a few of the pavilions one or both of us managed to see, the food, the impact that Expo had had on the city… It was a very enjoyable, and quite surreal experience!

I’ve only been out at night a few times since moving back to my hometown. Walking the short distance from the car back to the house, I noticed the stars in the sky. I hadn’t seen the stars since living in the town itself. In my still slightly wine-induced state, and after some inspiring conversation which made me think about my place in the world and how I could use my skills for good, it was somewhat of a Dantesque moment – when Dante and Virgil leave Hell, and the end of Inferno, and see the stars again.

Oh, and if anyone in or around Llanelli would like to go for an Italian meal, I highly recommend Marzano’s. It’s tucked away on Cowell Street, a couple of minutes from the shops in the town centre. I had a lovely vegetarian lasagna; I must admit there were a couple of peppers too many for my personal taste, but it was still delicious. I’m a bit wary of ordering vegetarian lasagna in the UK, because some places have the bad habit of throwing in everything apart from the kitchen sink. But this worked very well. Yes, they have an amazing Prosecco (honestly), and the staff is very friendly. And bonus points for the huge photo of Venice on the wall!

 

 

Dating Apps and The Long Term Single Woman

First thing this morning, before I’d even had my coffee, I heard someone talk about how they’d stopped going on dating sites as a means of being more productive and getting more done in life. It was actually quite an interesting concept for me, not only because of who it was coming from (a very interesting and, in my opinion, very attractive man in his late 20s); but because I’d been made to believe that my problems with dating sites were fairly isolated. I’ve been told when talking about current or past experiences with all the different dating apps and sites that exist, that I’m too negative or that I’m complaining too much about what I’ve experienced. Today I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my own experience with them over the years, which to me is just analogous with the rest of my life.

I’ve been on and off dating sites for just over six years, if memory serves correctly. So I was 24 back then, as it was before my birthday; and living in a large European city – namely Milan. Population, about one and a half million. Since then I’ve tried pretty much everything out there, the big names such as OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, and Tinder – because which self-respecting single isn’t on Tinder? I’ve had accounts on Match.com, and Meetic. I’ve tried Zoosk, Lovoo, Bumble, Happn, and even Badoo for my sins back in the day (shudder). And probably more that (For my own sanity, I deleted any emails I got from those sites once I deleted my account). And I’ve never got a date (or anything else, for that matter!) from any of them. Ever. Not even met anyone who I got talking to, because I’ve never ‘got talking to’ anyone. I’ve received very few messages, mostly from men who I deemed unsuitable due to their age (I’ve had both far too young and far too old, especially since hitting my 30s), or lived too far away – like 100s of miles away. And you might call me fussy, but aren’t women supposed to be bombarded with messages on those things?

Since moving back to Wales, I’ve tried various different sites over three different periods. The memory that most stands out from these experiments is the two separate times I tried Tinder again, when it got to a point where I got the message – both times – saying that there were no more people in my area. Of course, at that point I hadn’t had any matches. Just last month I went back on OkCupid, which had been my favourite dating site – as much of an oxymoron as that sounds. The feature that made me like it the most was the test it has in your profile, a series of questions to suss out your personality. It is then able to compare you to other people; so when viewing the profile of someone you think is interesting, you’re able to see whether they’re more or less adventurous, or outgoing, or creative, or countless other personality traits. It was an easy thing to get through when I just wanted to kill some time. I only deleted my profile this past Sunday. I’d initially deleted the app and kept my profile, because I thought, what harm would it do to use it as a passive thing? Something running in the background whilst I got on with my life. Something to maybe give me a slight glimmer of hope that one day, my single status would change. But the emails I got about new ‘matches’ (what they call people with an apparently similar personality to mine, from the results of that test) annoyed me. I know there was probably a way of unsubscribing, but at that point I’d had enough. It was like that old school game show where, on losing out on winning the main prize, the contestant was shown ‘what they could’ve won’. In the month and a half I spent registered on that site since the beginning of last month, I didn’t get a single message. So these emails where somewhat like rubbing salt in the wound.

My complete lack of luck on dating sites is also a sign of a wider – well, it’s not really a problem. But I basically don’t get any attention from men on any kind of social media. I don’t have random men sliding into my DMs on anywhere, and I have never – shock horror – received a dick pick (TMI, I know). Not even one. According to something I read on Twitter not so long ago, that saying this apparently makes me ‘fake’. Well, sorry to disappoint the girls who said and agreed with this, I’m most certainly not fake. Just unattractive.

So, basically I’ve got bored with sitting around for a fish to take the bait. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, why don’t I initialise? Why don’t I send the first message? Because I know I’ll get rejected. Because it’s happened every single time I’ve tried to ask someone out in person. Because my self-esteem and self-confidence are so low, that I’d rather sit around and wait, and not put myself in a position where it’s highly likely I’ll get hurt again. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and reflection on my status as a 30-something woman who’s been single for nearly all of her life; and I’ve – hopefully – realised for the last time that dating sites just don’t work for me. As far as I see it, they’re a complete waste of time unless you fall into a very strict series of criteria. And that might sound bitter, but honestly, it isn’t – or mostly. It’s a point of realising that something just doesn’t work for you, and moving on from that. It isn’t something accessible like society likes to think it is, it requires hours of work – it needs to be treated like a job hunt. And seeing as I’m actually looking for a job at the moment, I have no desire to spend hours on dating sites too – especially when I’d more than likely not get anywhere with it. I really do have better things to do with my time. Things that will be productive, things that will make me happy. Hell, at this point, even staring at paint drying is more constructive.

So, for people in relationships saying, ‘Just go on a dating app!’, it isn’t that easy. Success means having to put in a lot of hard work, and even with that, a simple date still isn’t achievable for some of us. And it’s not necessarily our problem, due to the superficial nature of these apps. I mean, Tinder is its own beast, but many many apps and sites now incorporate swiping as a feature. A quick way of establishing who you’re interested in. As someone who spent all of their teens, and nearly all of their twenties, and yes all of their thirties so far, single; dating hasn’t become more accessible thanks to these apps – it’s become more superficial. Where a swipe is enough to decide whether that person is worth getting to know or having sex with. Yes, of course, afterwards you message or whatever, but that person’s looks alone are purely enough to initiate communication. It’s taken me a long time to realise that I shouldn’t be forced to comply with what society thinks is acceptable, and to do what is more beneficial for me. People think that singles shouldn’t not try, they have to put themselves out there somehow, and dating apps are by far the easiest way to do that. But I know I’m not going to get anything out of those apps, I know that all too well now, so it’s actually better for my well-being to not try. These apps can get so addictive, if you have the right mindset they’re almost like a game. Or like shopping, seeing what’s on offer. But when you’re unable to get what’s on offer, it can be very detrimental. Very often you can just be left feeling that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.

I suppose that’s my two cents on dating apps and how they’ve influenced modern-day society. Again, it’s been more personal than what my blog had initially set out to be; but I hope it goes some way to piecing together who I am, and where I am in life right now.

The Rain

Rain

It rained all day yesterday. And I don’t mean miserable, half-arsed drizzle, but proper full-blown tipping it down rain. This morning when I woke up around 7.30 I was nudged into consciousness by the rain pattering on my window. Didn’t the weather forecast say that today was supposed to be a bit better?

I had inititally planned to go into town yesterday to pick up a couple of things, but once I saw just how heavily it was raining when I got out of bed, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I’m not exactly keen on going outside to just get rained on today, either. My trusted weather site is claiming that there’s going to be ‘a bit of rain this morning’, and I’m just looking out the window and thinking, this isn’t ‘a bit’, mate.

We’ve been really lucky with the weather recently. The news was reporting a few days ago that the past April had been the driest one since records began. At the beginning of last week we got into the high teens (!), and I was actually on the beach in nothing more than a T-shirt and cardigan on Wednesday! It was on Thursday that the weather decided to turn. I had to go to the Royal Mail sorting office to pick up a parcel I’d missed from being at the beach on Wednesday, and decided to call into the Free Books store as it was just down the road from there. As I was browsing around, the heavens opened. The rain was hammering down on the building’s metal roof. It was quite an alarming sound! By the time I’d chosen my three books for the day, the cloudburst had moved on, even though it did start raining lightly when I was about halfway home. Luckily for me, I always carry an umbrella in my bag, it was a habit that I had a hard time shifting even in Italy, but some people got caught out. At a crossroads not far from my house, I was amused at the sight of two very contrasting outfits – a woman in a denim dress, bare legs and flip flops; and another in a heavy raincoat. To me, it perfectly summed up the British mentality towards the weather; the contrast between what we should really be wearing, and the Welsh and British mentality of rushing to wear flip flops, dresses and shorts once we get the slightest bit of sun.

I don’t mind the rain, I mean, I’m Welsh, rain is in our blood. I’d much rather prefer it to the searing heat of the Italian summer, where you sweat pints just from sitting down and not moving even a milimetre. Yesterday I actually spent most of the afternoon reading (hopefully I’m getting back into the groove!), and it felt very cosy to be tucked up in the warmth inside, with the wind and rain lashing outside. We’ll see what today brings. I’m trying to get out of the house every day, even if it’s just for a 15 minute walk around the block; it does me good having a break from staring at the same four walls all day every day. After doing this every day last week except for Saturday, I’m already starting to feel a little bit stir crazy. But for now, I’m going to carry on watching the raindrops racing down my window, and listen to the soft pattering of the water against the windowpane.