What did a Welsh class of 7 million look like from the teacher’s seat?

[Part 1 of 3 from ‘behind the scenes’]

It’s been a strange and topsy-turvy few weeks in our usually peaceful world of running an online Welsh course – and last Thursday, I found myself on a train from Bangor to London, knowing that I had less than 24 hours before I’d have to try and teach some Welsh to Jeremy Vine live on Radio 2.

I was regretting having Googled the audience figures – they’d been 7.42 million at some point last year.

I was tweeting from time to time on the train, looking for some company, a little normality to keep my mind off the panic-inducing thought of sorry-HOW-many-million people listening to me. Or being-able-to-hear-me, at least.

It was working quite well, until I got a private message from Jeremy:

>>Regarding tomorrow … you know I do a show on Channel 5 in the morning? You’d be welcome to come see … sit in audience … I can say hello to you and can wish the audience Happy St David’s Day! But it will spoil your lie-in (it means being at ITN from 0800 to 1030; they are at Gray’s Inn Road)<<

My first thought was: the horror. Getting up at WHAT time in the morning? I’m a naturally lazy person – saying hello to people is all well and good, but it’s more of an afternoon pastime if you ask me.

But then my brain started working, and it put Channel 5 and ITV together and said ALERT: THAT IS A TELEVISION THING.

So I said yes (well, I may have grumbled a bit first, like an ungrateful teenager) and sat back to focus on a new challenge – not thinking about a radio audience of 7.42 million, AND not thinking about being anywhere near a television camera.

Still, I thought, at least he’s just going to say hello to me, and I can nod back, looking calm, and maybe even debonair – no, okay, let’s just go for calm – as if it’s all normal.

Damn it, I should have had a haircut, said my brain.

It would have been a fretful evening, if it hadn’t been for Kate and the London Welsh Centre in Gray’s Inn Road. When I asked on Facebook if there was anything interesting going on in London (I mean, it’s not Caernarfon, after all – I didn’t know if they had anything like the Galeri, or the Black Boy), Kate quite superbly offered to buy me a drink in the Centre.

And that turned into the whole of the evening – meeting a range of different learners, and Rhiannon behind the bar who was a third generation Londoner but spoke Welsh that sounded as if she’d just stepped off the train from Llanelli, and Ceri Wyn the Chief Exec at the Centre – just such a warm welcome from everyone, I didn’t have time to worry.

In fact, by the time I left to walk back to my AirBnB I was worrying so very little that I didn’t even settle my bar tab, and left my credit card there as well.

As Catrin said, not really fit to be out on my own.

I was back at the AirBnB a bit before 11, knowing that I had to set the alarm for ten to 7 in the morning to leave time to walk back to Gray’s Inn Road – so of course I went straight to bed.

And my brain refused to come with me.

My brain wanted to practise every possible combination of words it might need the following day, it wanted to double-check how exactly we had ended up in this situation, and it STILL wanted to do something about that haircut.

Eventually, reluctantly, it decided to join me in sleep sometime after one in the morning – and just to be on the safe side, it thought it should get me up at about a quarter to six.

It’s not the best of brains, to be honest, and I am now actively looking for a replacement.


I bought myself a large energy drink on the walk over in the morning.

No, of course I didn’t, because I’d left my bloody credit card at the London Welsh Centre, so I had to settle for gazing longingly at every single energy drink I went past.

My brain was keeping very quiet, because it knew this was all its fault.

The ITV building at 200 Gray’s Inn Road doesn’t have anything helpful on the outside – you know, like ‘ITV’, or even ‘200 Gray’s Inn Road’, so I walked up and down past it a few times, warily, until I remembered all the announcements on the train telling me to report any suspicious behaviour.

Inside, it felt like the intro to an episode of ‘Black Mirror’. Just. So. Clean. I was neatly corralled with the other audience members, and then we were all lead through glass doors and security checks and down into the bowels of the beast.

‘Is this your first time?’ asked a stern-looking older woman, a fellow member of the audience. It hadn’t occurred to me that people might get up so early in the morning more than once. She seemed reasonably friendly. ‘I think he’s a spoiled brat, actually,’ she continued, and I re-assigned her from ‘friendly’ to ‘puzzling’.

We were waiting in a corridor, and some of the audience members who knew each other from previous visits – we’re not just talking plural here, we’re talking multiple – were keeping up a light chat – but it was clearly very much JEREMY we were waiting for.

And then he was arriving, and ah, yes, appearing to be looking specifically for someone, so that might in fact be me, and we’re saying hello and shaking hands and I’m getting some curious stares from the other audience members, and then he’s asking if he can fetch me tea or coffee and those stares are getting colder – in fact, we’re pretty much into gimlet territory here – so I say no fairly urgently and telepathically order him to keep moving and act normally.

I hadn’t been able to buy an energy drink.

I really, REALLY needed that coffee.

But at a pinch, to my own surprise, I wasn’t actually willing to die for it – particularly not somewhere underneath London at the hands of a mob driven mad by love.

[Part 2 of 3 from ‘behind the scenes’ tomorrow 🙂 ]


http://www.SaySomethinginWelsh.com/6min (if you’d like to learn Welsh in the same way Jeremy did, but with fewer distractions, and in just 6 minutes a day)


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