Yesterday, I wrote a post in which I made claims to be Welsh, so it would seem negligent not to acknowledge that today is St David’s Day, given that St David is the patron saint of Wales. I don’t know much about St David himself, but I’m not sure that’s really the point of a patron saint’s day. It’s much more about the celebrating all the good things about a particular country. Although Ireland’s patrons saint’s day seems to often be an excuse for lots of people of many different nationalities to get drunk. Preferably on Guinness but it’s the inebriation that matters more than the method of intoxication. St. Patrick’s Day does appear to be a national holiday in Ireland (although they might want to consider making the day after a national holiday too, so that everyone can recover). St David’s Day is not a bank holiday in Wales, so if it falls on a work day you still have to work, but I don’t remember it being heavily associated with drinking too much beer, so it was never a problem. Not that the Welsh are averse to excess beer consumption, indeed we’re pretty good at it as a general rule, but we never needed a special day as a reason to get drunk.
St David’s day was always more about eating Welsh cakes (which are rather nice), Bara brith (which is also delightful) and Laverbread (which is seaweed). And wearing a daffodil or a leek. Often small felt replicas of daffodils and leeks, or enamel pins, but when I was young it was not at all odd to go to school with a real daffodil pinned to your jumper. It was a bit weird to go to school with a real leek pinned to your jumper but I remember one kid did do this. We all laughed at him because children are mean, but to be fair to him, he wore it with pride and a surprising amount of dignity for the whole day regardless of our scorn.
Sometimes we were allowed to dress up on St David’s Day. The girls as ‘Welsh Ladies’, which meant wearing the traditional rural attire that Welsh women wore in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. It mainly consisted of a distinctive black hat and a shawl. There wasn’t really a ‘Welsh Man’ equivalent and, when I was a child in the eighties, the world was inherently more sexist. Or less aware that it was sexist. So it seemed perfectly reasonable to insist that all the girls wore ‘Welsh Lady’ costumes to school and that the boys could dress up however they liked. So we’d all go as superheroes. I usually went as Superman, but I was always jealous of my friends who had Batman and Spiderman costumes because they got to wear masks. These days I think boys wear an approximation of the rural attire that might have been prevalent all over the UK in the same era rather than running around dressed up like The Avengers, so there has been some progress.
Today I will be in school, but that school is in England. And I will be there because I work there so I definitely won’t be dressing up as a superhero. I’ll save that for World Book Day on Thursday, because nothing screams an appreciation of literature more than dressing up like The Incredible Hulk. But as schools are still closed to the majority of pupils until next week, there is no obligation for me to wear my usual ‘office attire’. I’ve been dressing fairly casually for the past few weeks. So I might well wear my Welsh rugby jersey to mark the occasion of St David’s Day. I just hope my English colleagues don’t misinterpret this gesture as an attempt to brag about the recent victory of the Welsh rugby team over their English counterparts.
Because I would never stoop so low…