Trefan Morys is the name of my house in Wales, and I'll tell
you frankly, to me much the most interesting thing about it is the
fact that it is in Wales. I am emotionally in thrall to Welshness,
and for me Trefan Morys is a summation, a metaphor, a paradigm, a
microcosm, an exemplar, a multum in parvo, a demonstration, a
solidification, an essence, a regular epitome of all that I love
about my country. Whatever becomes of Wales, however its character
is whittled away down the generations, I hope my small house will
always stand in tribute to what has been best in it.
Do you know where Wales is? Most people in the world have no idea.
It is a peninsula standing at the heart of the British Isles, on
the western flank of England facing Ireland. It is some 200 miles
long from north to south and never more than seventy miles wide,
and it is known in its own language as Cymru, signifying a
comradeship or comity. Wales is part of the United Kingdom, all too
often thought by foreigners to be synonymous with England itself,
but its people form one of those ancient minority nations, from the
powerful Catalans to the infinitesimal Karims, who have
miraculously contrived to maintain their identities, to one degree
or another, through the infinite convolutions of European history.
They are all subject to the political domination of some greater
State, but they remain determinedly themselves, and generally hope
to stay that way within the framework of a uniting Europe.
Such quixotic survivals suit me. I want no pomp or circumstance,
and would much rather be a poet than a President (unless, like
Abraham Lincoln, I could be both at the same time). Small may not
always be Beautiful, as a mantra of the 1970s used to claim, but
for my tastes it is usually more interesting than Large, and little
nations are more appealing than great powers. In 1981 the titular
Prince of Wales, who has almost nothing to do with the country, and
possesses no house in Wales, was married amidst worldwide
sycophancy to the future Princess Diana, at Westminster Abbey in
London. It was to be a vast display of traditional ostentation,
with horses, trumpets, coped ecclesiastics, armed guards, royal
standards and all the paraphernalia of consequence, the whole to be
transmitted by television throughout the world. I thought it
exceedingly vulgar (besides being romantically unconvincing), and
with a small band of like-minded patriots decided to celebrate
instead an anniversary of our own that fell on the same day.
Exactly 900 years before, the Welsh princes Trahaearn ap Caradog
and Rhys ap Tewdwr had fought a battle on a mountain called Mynydd
Carn, and that's what we chose to commemorate -- an obscure
substitute perhaps for a televised royal wedding at Westminster,
but at least an occasion of our own. We stumbled up that very
mountain in a persistent drizzle, and while the entire universe
gaped at the splendors in the abbey far away, we huddled there in
our raincoats congratulating ourselves upon celebrating a private
passion rather than a public exhibition.
Excerpted from A WRITER'S HOUSE IN WALES © Copyright 2001
by Jan Morris. Reprinted with permission from National Geographic
Directions. All rights reserved.