See, you thought I'd forgotten all about this blog, didn't you? But instead I've just been away, to a place where the BT Openzone wifi is shakey, probably because of all those time-space disturbances and people constantly having sex with aliens: Cardiff.
I was in Cardiff on Thursday and Friday to give a talk about online storytelling and digital stuffs at the National Theatre Wales - who are literally the loveliest bunch of people you'll ever meet, and who talk about the arts as if they are serious, proper and important things. Which I did not realise was something I'd missed so much. It is a strange experience to have a book published: people start talking about your creative work as if it is a commodity, there's a lot of talk about covers and publicity and not so much about what the book means or how one responds to it. Which I suppose is as it should be: it'd be terrible to have a publisher who spoke movingly about the meaning of one's work but failed to think about how to sell it. But it's still very nourishing to spend time with people who just think that the arts are the most important thing in the world. Novelists get editors, but we don't get directors, I suppose that's the difference.
Anyway, Cardiff was surprisingly pretty and pleasant. Why do I say surprising? Because I realised while I was there that I am ever-so-slightly prejudiced against Wales. I suppose it's because of history, because of how early England conquered Wales and installed our own Prince there, that English people tend to regard Wales as 'not a real separate country' in a way that we don't feel about Scotland. Scotland, because of geography, was harder to conquer and hold; the eventual union was a grudging mutual acceptance of James I/VI, rather than a full-on conquest. So, basically, English people have a slight prejudice that Wales is more 'ours', and maybe a bit more 'wussy' than Scotland. Scottish people eat haggis and allow us to take their lives but never their FREEDOM. Welsh people eat leeks and organise charming male-voice choirs.
It's quite surprising, even shocking, to find prejudices like this lurking in one's mind. I was thinking about how I've heard Dr Who fans be quite scathing about the fact that Torchwood is set in Cardiff (after all the capital city of one of the four countries in the union) - I can't imagine they'd complain if it were set in Edinburgh, or even Manchester or Liverpool or somewhere pretty and historical like Oxford. Having noticed this, I feel I want to apologise to the Welsh for a lifetime of unconsciously thinking they were slightly marginal. Sorry. I'll try to do better in future.
Cardiff, anyway, is worth a visit. Not only for the Torchwood-hub above, which really does hang in the sky like an alien spacecraft, but also for its bustling streets, lively nightlife and really gorgeous hilly landscape all around. Here is a statue to Ivor Novello, another son of Cardiff:
And here is the light, airy Castle Arcade where the offices of the National Theatre Wales are. I loved visiting, I hope they invite me back.