Heard in Wales
A couple of weeks ago I visited North Wales for the day and was reminded of a couple of anecdotes. The first one, unrelated to the area, I heard whilst on a previous visit in the 1990s, the second I read more recently on twitter (posted from a newspaper letters page).
Having visited Betws y Coed my (late) husband John and I were listening to the radio on the car journey home and I remember in particular an interview with singer songwriter Sting. He was related the reasons for writing If You Love Someone Set Them Free (1985) which includes the lines - You can’t control an independent heart – and - You want to hold on to your possessions, don’t even think of me. Sting’s motivation for these particular lyrics, he told the interviewer, was the reaction to an earlier composition Every Breath You Take (1983). Again a couple of lines - I’ll be watching you (repeated several times throughout the song) – and, perhaps even more chilling:
If you can’t see
You belong to me. . . .
Horrified by the numbers of people telling him that Every Breath.., which was written with possession and possessiveness in mind, was their ‘our song’, If You Love Someone… was written as an antidote.
The twitter tale (as noted above) relates to a newspaper letter written by a man recounting an interaction on a bus between, and with, two other passengers. A woman talking quietly to her young child is rudely interrupted by a man who leans over to her and in an aggressive tone says: ‘You’re in England now, speak English.’ At this point the letter writer joins in saying to the other man: ‘Actually she’s in Wales and she’s speaking Welsh.’
So what do these two stories have in common? Maybe not so much. Except; they both remind me yet again always to question, never to take a stereotype unquestioningly for granted; to be constantly curious and always, always, to try at least, to look at other explanations for what at first might seem obvious. And then there is the issue of love; for a partner, between parents and children, for humanity as a whole. I’ve often thought love (a little like another popular four-letter word) rather overused. Compare (for example) ‘I love strawberries’ to ‘I love my father’. What these two 'heard in Wales' stories highlight, for me at least, is the value for us all of focusing on the definition of love as ‘affectionate concern for the well-being of others’. Better, so much better, than using ‘I love’ (insert ‘you’ or ‘my country’ as appropriate) to justify holding (or attempting to hold) power over another or as a xenophobic badge of honour. So what do these two stories have in common? Quite a bit really.