By Ken Bradury
Somewhere out there in a galaxy far, far away Albert Einstein was smiling a few weeks ago as a team of scientists heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light years away. The event emitted a chirp that confirmed Albert’s theory of relativity. I have no idea what this means, but it sounded pretty darned impressive. I wish the scientists well, but I’ve got enough problems dealing with my own black holes … entire periods of my life that have somehow been lost in space. Like Wales.
I know where to find Wales on a map. It sticks out like sort of a goiter on the right hip of Great Britain and most of the inhabitants speak English when they’re not speaking the Welsh language. This particular tongue is supposed to be closely related to our English, but “Good morning, American,” comes out, “Bore da, Americanaidd.” The Welsh tend to string consonants together in a way that would drive an orthodontist wacky. There’s a town in Wales that’s spelled “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.” “Murrayville,” would have been easier.
But my black hole involves the fact that I’ve actually been to Wales and can remember almost nothing about this lovely little country. I can name every person who was in my tour group that summer, I know that we spent several days in England then traveled across Wales and spent the night, then traveled to the country’s west coast and took a ferry to Ireland. I can even tell you where I sat on the ferry and describe most of the seagulls that followed us across the Irish Sea. I remember seeing one of the dumbest ideas ever: a bowling alley on a rolling boat. I can remember exactly how many of my friends got sick on the lurching journey to Dublin, and I remember that I had a cheeseburger that thankfully stayed in place.
But Wales itself … a black hole in my memory. Okay, one tiny thing I remembered because it was rather hairy: Our hotel was sort of a chalet tucked in among the Welsh hills, but our bus couldn’t drive to it, so we had to grab our bags and walk across a spindly suspension bridge with our suitcases. The kids in my group thought this was terribly exciting. If I remember correctly, I was terrified. But for over two days we roamed the countryside of Wales and I can’t remember a single other thing about that part of our journey. I try to console myself with the fact that when you’re leading a group of teenagers across Europe you sometimes miss the Eiffel Tower while you’re counting heads, and that the joys of Westminster Abbey may be totally lost on you as you have your eye out for pickpockets. But still … darn … I wish I could remember Wales.
And being a theater instructor I should be more aware of this pleasant little country that’s brought us such greats as Sir Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Christian Bale, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Apparently there’s something in the Welsh water that produces great actors. So why can’t I remember anything else?
I’ve tried looking at YouTube videos of Wales but nothing rings a bell. I’ve eaten cockles, Welsh cakes, roast lamb, and speckled bread in an attempt to prod my sensory memory. Nada. Nothing. No Wales. I’ve downloaded pictures of the country’s scene Snowdonia National Forest, but they all look like Pike County. I come up Wale-less.
Unfortunately, on all my subsequent trips to Ireland we’ve taken a plane from London and totally skipped over this Little-Land-That-I’ve-Forgotten. Sadly, many people hop over Wales if they do an Irish-English tour. Of course, if they’re going to be like me and not remember a blasted thing, then it’s just as well they took the plane.
I recently ran into a fellow from Jacksonville who, along with his wife, accompanied me on this trip. I asked him what he remembered about Wales. He said, “We didn’t see any. Those were in Alaska.” I said, “No, the country of Wales . . . you know on our trip to Ireland.” He thought a moment, “Well, it was pretty.” I knew that. “Oh yeah,” he said, “I remember you chewing the butts of those three girls who were late getting to the bus when we stopped for a break.” I said, “That’s all?” He thought another moment. “Oh yeah. That swinging bridge we had to cross with our luggage. Scared the hell out of me.” Thanks a lot, Jim. Scientists in Louisiana and Washington were overjoyed to find the evidence of black holes. I’m still pondering mine. After all, I’m no Einstein.