A White Afternoon

Stephens, Meic ed.

 (Additional review on this important collection)

The collection’s title story by Sonia Edwards is as intense and artistic as one would expect from this exceptional author, relating a girl’s view of her mother’s (second) wedding day, probably not such an unusual mixed-feelings sort of experience these days. Similarly ‘Linda’s Story’ by Aled Islwyn cleverly explores some less-travelled aspects of married life, in this case a woman discovering her husband is gay or bisexual. The focus is on the domestic again in ‘Mothers’ by Meleri Roberts, a short, sharp shock of a piece that ought to be further anthologised for its perfectly artful dive from the sentimental to the bleak. Aled Lewis Evans’ ‘Dean and Debs’ are a couple of happy Chavs living on ‘the Wern estate’. Dear old Debs is only eighteen and about to have her first child. Will Dean stick around? Read here to find out… Martin Davis’ ‘Water’ is a graphic, powerfully written story of civilians inside a civil war, perhaps the Yugoslav one but in any case bringing the sense of localised disaster very close to us. ‘The Librarian’ (Dyfed Edwards), ‘I’m Sorry Joe Rees’ (Eleri Llewelyn Morris) and ‘Farewell Frank’ by Elin Llwyd Morgan all deal with the rougher edges of humanity: madness and alcoholism and how those who live near these scourges cope.

Goronwy Jones’ ‘Down and Out’ is a mini-saga of working-class hedonism but with a very funny interlude of male proletarian and middle-class female Welsh-speakers interacting (or not). The material here is both interesting and amusing. While in an altogether more wistful tone John Emyr’s ‘Waters of Babylon’ demonstrates rather well how a person’s cultural inheritance — especially if they’re from a minority nation — can so easily be dissipated if not nurtured, the result being a particular kind of sadness and loss.

The stories by Lowri Angharad Evans and Mared Lewis, although set in locales far-away from each other, display a similar mainstream patness alongside their technical accomplishment.

Meleri Wyn James, ‘Striptease’ is a clever little story with an acute bit of role-reversal.

Twm Miall’s ever-so-brief ‘Gerald’ says as much about the place of culture and language as some very long books indeed. Owain Meredith’s ‘The Pizza Man’ should be marked ‘don’t read this in a library’ as it’s irresistibly funny with a wonderfully truthful vulgarity and honesty. God bless him.

The book ends with Siân Prydderch Huws’ feminist satire ‘Mr. and Mrs. Tiresias’ and Wiliam Owen Roberts’ ‘Foreign Investments’, a warming tale for lonely-hearts and internet-daters everywhere… There are also stories here from Dafydd Arthur Jones, Esyllt Nest Roberts, Eirug Wyn, Alun Ffred Jones, Gwenan M. Roberts, Meg Elis, Angharad Price and Robin Llywelyn.  RK


Everyone’s laughing at me and Gwenan’s saying, ‘And two of us run an evening-class for Welsh-learners, don’t we, girls? And Siân’s Secretary of the local branch of Plaid Cymru*, aren’t you, Siân?’

Siân says nothing but smiles shyly and dgets with her handbag. No need for her to be nervous, ’cos what about me having to listen to a gang of clever birds like this telling me how they’re keeping Welsh alive in Cardiff? Made me feel hellish queasy, they did, ’cos I haven’t got a talent for anything apart from playing a fair game of darts or round of snooker, aye, and what’s the use of that?

‘Christ, girls,’ I says, ‘I thought I’d done quite well to nd a gang of Welsh lads for a bit of fun in Cardiff just like I was home in Caernarfon. I’m just not good enough for the places you go, like’.

‘Come on now, Gronw,’ says the auburn one, Luned. Gronw? Why the hell’s she calling me that? ‘Anyone can go to the Urdd**!’

The Urdd, like hell! I’ve never belonged to the Urdd. But I don’t want to say anything ’cos I know Martha Morris has been a member from when she was so high. But she lived up in St. David’s Road with the crachach***, and that’s who the Urdd types were in Caernarfon. Children of deacons and teachers and the like. They went in for folk-dancing and daft things like that. Cissies. Can you see the Sgubor Goch lads putting up with that? I remember Miss Jones Welsh giving out some comics to the class. ‘Only for the Urdd children,’ she said, and John Tŷ Nain and me make faces at each other. And I remember a busload of them leaving the Maes in town for camp in Llangadog and singing songs as they set off ‘Down by the riverside’, aye? John Tŷ Nain and me chucked stones at the bus as it left but I don’t want to upset these birds so I keep my mouth shut. Goronwy Jones ‘Down and Out’ 108–9