I am very lucky where I live: travel east and I arrive in Wales, travel north-east and there is the tongue of land called the Wirral and then Liverpool, travel due north and eventually I come to Manchester; west and I travel through Cheshire and eventually reach the Midlands, to the south is Shropshire. All of these places have completely different accents and culture. Chester has another accent of its own.
Wrexham is another border town - this time in Wales - and Grahame Davies takes up this theme in his introduction to his book about the town called REAL WREXHAM:
More than seven centuries after the conquest , the place names still clog with Celtic consonants the moment you cross the river Dee , gradients steepen, black-and-white half timber gives way to grey stone, grass becomes gorse, accents, like the landscape lose their flatness and start to dip and climb. It's subtle. Shaded not sudden. But in a short while the change becomes unmistakable.
Sometimes I read something and it seems to be so 'right' it is beautiful - and that is how this short passage seems to me. It is something that often struck me living where I do how exactly does one country (England) turn into another (Wales) - and this describes it exactly. Grahame Davies is an accomplished poet, journalist and critic and is also fascinated by his home town - and it shows. This book; which seems to be part history, part travelogue and part memoir, seems to be the ideal merging of his talents.
The book deals with the various regions of Wrexham and includes Llangollen. It describes the town's obsession with its football team, the two 'Ladies of Llangollen' who entertained eminent people of culture and lived unconventionally as a couple, the steel works and collieries, and the English Maelor to the east. It is illustrated throughout with the author's photographs.
I am looking forward to reading this but I think I shall have to wait a while. I asked Mr. Davies to sign the book to my father and I shall give it to him as a present. When I was a young child we used to live in Wrexham and my father used to teach in the technical college there: chemistry to baker boys, he told me once...which made me wonder.