Right of Reply: Tony Heath

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The Independent Culture
The writer and Welsh patriot replies to Joanna Briscoe's rude remarks about his home country

HOW BRAVE of Joanna Briscoe to venture into Wales which she scorns as a land of coal and funny accents on a par with Poland and Uzbekistan and Tasmania. It was all in the line of duty to interview Charlotte Church, a 12-year-old Cardiff protegee who sings so brilliantly that she's the youngest female singer ever to reach the Top 40 album charts.

Metropolitan misconceptions of Wales are piled high. But Wales is no longer the land of coal. There's only one deep mine. Fewer than 500 people hew coal, more than 20,000 now work in electronics plants, and overseas and British firms are rushing to set up shop in the Welsh capital's bustling new docklands.

Anyone with half an ear knows that Welsh choirs do not yodel. The lilting accents that upset the occasional explorer who crosses the Severn bearing a full house of prejudices are no more offensive than a sharp estuary- speak or Geordie twang.

You don't have to be a nationalist - and I'm not one - to feel affronted by cliches about chimney-pot hats and a plethora of council estates. The headgear is mainly confined to the Eisteddfod and what's wrong with municipal housing anyway?

By all means think Wales. But think culturally - Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas. Think politically - Lloyd George, Aneurin Bevan who gave the country the National Health Service patterned on the Workman's Medical Aid Society established 120 years ago in my home town Tredegar.

The Welsh XV did rather well against the Springboks. Sports commentators like The Independent's Chris Hewett recognise that, in Wales, we play the game on and off the pitch with intelligence as well as muscle. Even with that annoying accent.

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