Simon Kelner: It's not tough to be a taff, says David (who's no saint)


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The Independent Online

Bore da, as they say in Merthyr Tydfil. Good morning to the rest of you. You may have noticed the Welsh in the ascendant recently and yesterday they had their day.

To celebrate the feast of St David, the PM kept a welcome at No 10 for Welsh MPs and famous faces. David Cameron told the gathering: "It's a good time to be Welsh," referring to its rugby success over England. It was, in the vernacular, a tidy night out, even though the patriotic TV presenter Steve Jones – sacked from the US X Factor when viewers couldn't understand his Rhondda accent – was irritated by the PM's remark, saying that he didn't recall there being a bad time to be Welsh. Mr Cameron paid homage to Gavin and Stacey actress Joanna Page, pictured, and expressed a hope there would be another series. The picture painted by this show of the warm-hearted Welsh, with their tight communities and family units, ready humour and touching ability to find joy in the simplest pleasures is, of course, exaggerated for dramatic effect. But what makes Gavin and Stacey work is the truth that underpins its narrative drive. I spent my formative years as a trainee journalist in south Wales, in Neath and, although that was more than three decades ago, I still recognise the qualities that James Corden and Ruth Jones – creators of G&S – have fictionalised. Even though the community was extremely close knit, they made an interloper so welcome that, even now, I feel such an affinity with the Welsh that I get a little emotional when I hear "Land of My Fathers" (next to the Marseillaise, the best national anthem in the world) strike up before a rugby match. And the cadence of conversation and humour in the show is one I easily recognise. I always remember going to interview the very taciturn coach of Neath rugby club and, frustrated by his barrage of no-comments, I told him he left me with no alternative but to make up some quotes. He was an imposing figure who bore down on me from a great height. He spoke slowly and with more than a touch of menace. "Simon," he said, "I wouldn't want you to do anything that might jeopardise the relationship we've not got." Mr Cameron told Joanna Page that he particularly enjoyed Gavin and Stacey because it represented "a bit of happy escapism" away from the cares of high office. And it's true: the show does not even attempt to show some of the social and economic problems that have blighted Wales. If it did, the PM might not find it quite such relaxing viewing. What's occurring? Disproportionate rates of youth unemployment in many areas, more health problems than other parts of Britain, an economy overly dependent on public sector spending.

Still, I find myself in the somewhat unusual position of agreeing wholeheartedly with David Cameron. Let's have more Gavin and Stacey: after all, to be fair, at the end of the day, I'm not going to lie to you, that's the Wales we recognise. Cael penwythnos braf! (Look it up).