Dear William Hague

The Welsh Secretary has made a fact-finding tour of his fiefdom, at the taxpayer's expense. A Welshman has some tips on getting to know the real Wales, for free
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The Independent Online
First of all, if you're going to be Welsh, your name's Gwilym from here on in. Croeso i Cymru, Land of my Fathers, but not yours. Still, let's not harp on about your roots, even if they are closer to St George than the Dragon. Your newfound, bright-eyed enthusiasm for the principality is welcome, provided it means plenty of grants, etc, for the Welsh and an instant reversal in our sporting fortunes.

Apparently, you're full of the place after your summer hols - sorry, fact-finding mission - which by all accounts consisted of a stroll along the Pembrokeshire coast, a visit to the Plas Menai outdoor pursuit centre and a trip on the Ffestiniog Railway. All that you missed were a world- famous Cadwallader ice-cream at Criccieth and a splash in the sea off Rhyl (although I don't blame you for passing up on the latter).

I know there's a bit of fuss over your hotel bills being footed by the taxpayer, but if it means you get a better sense of the place beyond the conventional stereotype - ie, we are people whose idea of a good time is sitting down to the latest episode of Pobol y Cym with a large leek (to go with the chip), a pint of Allbright bitter and Max Boyce singing Sospan Fach in the background - then all well and good. I'm currently trying to arrange a similar jaunt to the Maldives.

I read that you can already say "hello", "how are you?" and "goodbye" in Welsh, which means you are practically fluent compared with your immediate predecessor and, in fact, the majority of the population. Say bore da in parts of Cardiff or Wrexham and you'll draw a look more vacant than a Towyn boarding house in January.

I also gather you've developed a taste for - what was it you said to David Frost on telly at the weekend? - "fantastic scenery, staying around pubs and farmhouse B&Bs, eating a lot of very good breakfasts, meeting a lot of very fierce landladies." So you've got an idea of the place, but perhaps not the whole picture.

We're a welcoming lot, so to help you to settle in further, might I suggest the following - and don't worry, they're all free to the taxpayer:

n Save time by not learning how to say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch properly, partly because you're highly unlikely to go there (unless you break down), but mainly because we all call it Llanfair PG;

n Instead, save embarrassment during future leadership campaigns by learning the words to the national anthem. You don't want to be caught out like John Redwood, who was captured on TV at a party conference miming ludicrously like someone in a dubbed B-movie;

n Accept my Mum's invitation to drop in for tea and a slice of bara brith (she thinks you look a very nice young man);

n Dig up an appropriate ancestor and, like Vinnie Jones, you too could play football for Wales;

n Pass a law to prevent all our best Rugby Union players being poached by rich, northern English Rugby League clubs like Wigan and Widnes;

n Better still, find an elderly lady in the Swansea area with the surname Lomu and a passing resemblance to an All Black so that we can claim Jonah as one of our own;

n Do not buy a holiday home as only the spirit of Rorke's Drift burns brighter.

Good luck and remember, Cymru am byth.

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