Is there something about us Welsh?

Do you get that same feeling as me? Whenever anybody anywhere mentions Wales I get that chill down my spine and get ready to defend my country’s honour.

When I first moved to England, my Welshness was something I took for granted. When you live in Wales, you do, don’t you? You’re Welsh. Your friends are Welsh. You don’t need to think about what your Welshness means, and you rarely need to explain it or justify yourself to anybody else.

I moved to Manchester - my dream being to become a stand-up comedian, and I lived with other comics. My housemate, Ben, was older than me and a circuit veteran. Over six feet tall, with long, flowing hair, a huge, bushy beard with small glasses perched on the end of his nose and a booming Bradford accent. 

MORE FROM LEIGH: 'Dishy doctor's holiday home video could be a Meibion Glyndŵr recruitment tool'

And he absolutely loved teasing the skinny little nineteen year old who’d just moved from Wales.

“It’s a dead language though, isn’t it?”, he’d laugh. His shoulders bouncing up and down as he began to go through the ever so familiar repertoire on the long drive home from a gig in another shithole town.

“But everyone speaks English.”

Until that point I thought there was a way of laughing at everything, but I had a total sense of humour failure whenever it came to Wales, Welshness and the language. I was young, and having never had any of these things challenged in my life, was completely unprepared for how to defend my culture and my language, getting frustrated and angry as he carried on.

Ben loved it. And looking back, I can see why.

I carried that for years, thinking that Wales was my “red button” when it came to making fun of things.

It’s really easy to feel this way. Historically, Wales and Welshness has always been attacked.

Whenever Wales is involved, whether it’s harmless teasing like Ben’s, state-sanctioned oppression or just being mentioned in passing in a joke, we can always rely on Welsh people to be upset regardless of the size of the transgression.

This week, Irish comedian Tadhg Hickey, who’s known for his videos on social media where he mocks the UK’s politics and constitution, posted a new video where he portrayed the constituent parts of the British Isles as annoying, noisy neighbours from Cork.

The video in question sees Wales as meek, passive, and only willing to do anything differently if Scotland does it first. 

Some people got really upset.

At the risk of being completely flipping obvious and talking about how sausages are made - though I worry some people need to hear it, having seen some reactions online - this isn’t a joke about Welsh people or Welshness, but about the lack of political power that Wales holds in the current constitutional settlement of the UK.

Is what we’re looking at on the teasing end of the scale or something else? Everything needs to be seen in context, and if somebody’s from Ireland and called William, maybe we need to unpack a few layers of subtext. But when their name is TADHG, I think it’s pretty easy to read between the lines. If you want to go further, the fact that Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts was a recent guest on his podcast should confirm where Tadhg’s loyalties lie.

MORE NEWS: 

There’s a deep irony that the kind of people who share maps of a fantasy political union of “Celtic nations” on Twitter can’t take a joke about our current political situation from our cousins on the other side of the Irish Sea.

The reason Ben got under my skin so easily when he was winding me up is because I saw my Welshness as something special and precious. It was to be looked after like some family heirloom, only brought out on special occasions.

Of course, any attack on something that feels fragile will make a person defensive.

But is Welshness so fragile?

It took me moving to another English city, to London, to really fall in love with my Welshness again. To see it through the prism of the diaspora, as one of thousands of smaller cultures mingling in pubs, forced face first into another’s armpit on the tube, as a valid cultural identity in its own right. I came to see parity between Welshness and anybody else’s culture who’d moved to the metropolis. 

As a nation, as a culture, Wales has never been stronger or more visible in the world. Farmers in the rural west of China know who Gareth Bale is, people from all corners of North America have heard the Welsh language thanks to Wrexham AFC’s unlikely new owners.

Can we stop taking ourselves so seriously for five minutes to enjoy the fact that Wales is on the ascendancy? We have nothing to be worried about if comedians mention us, and especially not if they’re actually on our side and drawing attention to the obstacles on the path ahead.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.