Gary Brown: Proud feeling about 'peculiar' ancestry
As near as the genealogists in my family can discern, I'm English and Welsh, with enough Irish thrown in to make me personally embattled and internally unstable.
This ethnic background is not something I've ever made a big deal about over the years, especially not this close to the Fourth of July. I've always thought it was better not to brag about being English on Independence Day. Never taunt people with firecrackers and bottle rockets.
Besides, having a heritage based in the British Isles is sort of vague. Tell somebody you're Italian or German or Spanish and they'll raise their eyebrows and figure they've got a pretty good bead on you. Maybe they'll nod a little, too, and mumble, "Ah, THAT explains it," without explaining to you what odd thing it is about the way you act that they suddenly can justify.
But, mention you're English and people just stare at you. They seem to struggle for something to say.
"Oh, you must be pretty polite," I once was told.
"Do you drink tea?" I also was asked.
"Too bad," someone else said. "Your weddings probably are pretty boring."
Being Welsh can be even more difficult to comprehend, without being Welsh yourself.
"Is that English?" asked a guy who might not have passed high school geography.
"England, Scotland, Wales, they're all on the same island," someone sitting on the same couch summed up, sort of lumping me in with myself.
It's not that I've been embarrassed about being either English or Welsh. From everything I've read, British people are supposed to have a way with words, and that's what I work with, so it seems convenient.
But, British people don't brag a lot, either, unless it's about soccer. We're sort of staid. Quiet. We stand in lines easily.
Or, maybe we aren't so boring. At least the Welsh side of me might be more exciting.
According to a news release I got recently from the people at visitbritain.org, the Welsh have a wild side.
"In a country with four times as many sheep as people and more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe, the peculiar is commonplace in Wales," the release said. "Wales is the home to bog snorkeling, the Sheep Oscars, and a city with the longest name in Europe."
You'll have to trust me on the spelling. Pardon me for not giving you a phonetic version.
Wales also is a country where you can race a horse or race a train. You can also work in a coal mine for a day. Combine those experiences with the bog snorkeling and the sheep judging, and I think you've got some less-than-staid stories to tell about your vacation.
Certainly my background has gotten a lot more exciting.
I've always told people I'm English and Welsh.
Suddenly I feel Welsh-English.
Reach Repository Living Section Editor Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org