An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh

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by Terry Breverton

Paperback 296 pages, ISBN 0 7154 0 734

Price 14.99

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COMMENTS UPON 'AN A-Z OF WALES AND THE WELSH' published by Christopher Davies Ltd., April 2000

This important book was featured on BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio Wales 'The World Today', Radio World Service, The World (USA), GMTV (two transmissions featuring the author, an Elvis Presly impersonator, the Haverfordwest Male Voice choir on 5/6/2000, with articles in The Daily Mail and The Guardian, and interviews on many radio shows including Capital Gold with Dave Lee Travis (6th June), Radio 1, Radio 2 Richard Allinson Show (6th June), BBC Radio Ulster (8th June), radio 4, Radio Wales (Roy Noble and Owen Money) and the BBC World Service. The piece about Elvis was even picked upby the Sidney Morning Herald, French television and radio flashed across the web overnight, including Elvis sites and Reuters, ITN and BBC News online sites. (The book has also been featured in the News of the World, National Enquirer, New York Times, Daily Express, Times, Sunday Times and upon French radio and TV).

South Wales Echo, April 14th, 2000, by Penny Taylor

The author wants the world to know what Wales has to offer alongside the Cool Cymru actors and pop stars, there is a wealth of information on more traditional Welsh culture, history, legend, art, literature and so on.

All Things Welsh to the Letter in A-Z. If it takes you more than a song by Catatonia to feel proud of being Welsh, then maybe you should take a peek into a new book by Cardiff lecturer Terry Breverton. 'An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh' is the author's personal contribution to his country. And within its covers, alongside rugby, choirs and coal, are entries as diverse as Assassination, Atlantis, Crachach, Bogs, Heroes and Inward Investment. The book was a labour of love for Terry, 53, and took four years to compile, plus another two to get published. He fitted the work into his evenings and weekends, around his full-time job at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

But the man who specialises in marketing, corporate strategies and writing about multinational tax avoidance, sees the A-Z as far more than an interesting bed-time read - he wants the world to know about what Wales has to offer. His reasons for writing the book, he says, have become something of an obsession. "I have worked all over the world from America to the Middle East," he said, "And I was really fed up with telling people that Wales was not a subset of England. When I came back to Cardiff three years ago, I could find nothing about the totality of Wales to show my children, who were born in England." "Then I realised that even the people of Wales did not know much about Wales. I felt that this book filled a gap in the market."
Unfortunately the publishers did not agree, and Terry wrote to 80 or 90 firms before any (Christopher Davies from Swansea) took an interest. "I suggested they do it as one of four, with an A-Z of Ireland, England and Scotland, but they weren't interested, they saw it as a niche market," he said. Undeterred, Terry is also getting 1000 copies of his book printed in America, where he says there are about two million Americans who describe themselves as Welsh-Americans. And he hopes to update the book every two or three years. Terry had no problem with subject matter for the book - he reckons he is interested in just about every subject there is, from the Manic Street Preachers to Merlin (the wizard, not another pop group). "I have an attic and a garage full of books, you can never stop learning," he said. And there is a fair amount of humour in his selections, as well as political comment, which sees Prince Charles referred to as "Prince of Anywhere-but-Wales", and Wales seven wetlands of international importance listed under 'Bogs'. But alongside the Cool Cymru actors and pop stars, there is a wealth of information on more traditional Welsh culture, history, legend, art, literature and so on.
"Wales is an absolutely fascinating country, I don't think there is another country of its size with so much to offer, we are almost up there with Italy and Greece. We also have almost a pacifist, socialist tradition which is very attractive," says Terry. "I think that schoolchildren in Wales should have a one-hour slot every fortnight to learn about their culture and history, and another hour about healthy eating and dieting, we are not a healthy nation."
Returning to Wales after many years, he says, was like coming home to a warm blanket. But seeing the country with such travelled eyes also meant that Terry was deeply angered by the gap between the Welsh standard of living and that in England and elsewhere. "Cardiff is an absolutely fabulous Capital City, and I have been to 50 or 60 of them. There is a buzz about Cardiff. But then you go to places like Barry, Builth or Conwy. Cardiff seems to suck in all the resources and there is a shabbiness about the rest of Wales. The country is suffering economically and hurting really badly. There is almost a semi-depression about it, there are parents who know their children will never get jobs, at least not in Wales."
Part of the problem, believes Terry, is that Wales has been badly served by a London government. But he is also concerned that politicians do not live in the real world and do not really know how to bring about economic success. "How can you run an economy when you can't even run a chip shop - or a whelk stall?" he asks. It may be no alphabetical coincidence that the entries for "Inward investment" and "invasion" appear on the same page in his book. Rather than call centres or assembly jobs for companies based outside Wales, Terry sees the answer to Welsh economic problems in indigenous industry.
And that brings us back to the book. The entries on food, say, or festivals, are more than curiosities, they are to his way of thinking opportunities for tourism and industry to thrive. "It is disgusting that there are so many Irish theme pubs in Cardiff, but no Welsh theme pub. Why don't we have a Welsh pub with Welsh beers and Welsh food? We could have cawl, and laver bread curry, for example. Did you know Southern Comfort is based on a Welsh recipe?"
Similarly, Wales ancient holy wells, each of which is said to cure a different disease, could be opened up for tourism, instead of filling with litter. Or saints' weeks could be reinstated for at least some of Wales 800 saints - who incidentally are the subject of Terry's next book - again with huge potential for tourism.

 

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WALES BOOKS (Glyndwr Publishing)
Porth Glyndwr, Higher End, St Tathan, Vale of Glamorgan, CF62 4LW
Tel/Fax: 01446 751693
e-mail:
Terry@breverton.eclipse.co.uk

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