(Elska x Maison Galles)

I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Maison Galles, or rather my expectations were far exceeded. In my mind, it was going to be a typical apartment rental, something you’d expect from Airbnb, but the place had so much style and grandeur. When I arrived I expected to be ushered into my bedroom, handed a key, and left alone… but as the owner toured me around I discovered that I had the full run of the house rather than just a bedroom. There was a sumptuous living room and dining area, a full kitchen, massive modern bathroom, and even a garden to enjoy. And although the house is imposing at first, it has just four bedrooms, making it still feel rather intimate – perfect for Elska.
Most impressive was the character of the place, with a strong a French sensibiity that was apparent throughout the property – (‘Pays de Galles’ is the French name for ‘Wales’). Various pieces of furniture are French antiques, there’s a big ‘bienvenue’ word sculpture in the lounge, and little pieces of francophilia could be found everywhere. But there’s also Welsh flavour in the art (my favourite being some sheep-themed pop art in one of the bedrooms.
I had planned to do a shoot outside in the area (it’s right opposite the wonderful Danish Café Brød by the way), but so special was Maison Galles, that I had to do some shots inside too. So I invited Joejoe F over. There were some lovely images created, but frankly a lot of wonky ones too… something about the atmosphere of the property ‘forced’ us to get a bottle of French wine, which somewhat impaired our photographing and modelling abilities. But then I suppose the images at least were authentic, ‘cos Maison Galles just made us feel so relaxed, too much in a holiday mood to do actual work… so I guess it was a good thing that I only spent two nights here, even if I could have stayed forever.



(Ég elska velsku…with Ceri V)

‘Velska’ – that’s the Icelandic word for Welsh, which is coincidentally so close to the name ‘elska’, which is the Icelandic word for ‘love’.  And I do love Welsh. The accent has always been my favourite of the accents of Britain, but when I got to Wales and actually heard people speak Welsh, I was truly smitten.

Ceri V was the first guy I met during the search for Cardiff boys who was a native Welsh speaker. I secretly hoped I’d find at least one guy for the Cardiff issue who spoke Welsh and would write their story in Welsh, but of course I wouldn’t force it. It’s important to me that Elska be spontaneous rather than curated, so I wasn’t going to do a “Welsh Speakers Wanted” advert no matter how cool I thought it would be to have an issue full of Welsh stories.  

In South Wales, English is by far the main language and you rarely hear Welsh spoken on the streets. In Cardiff only around 20% speak Welsh. Still, even at those levels, that adds up tens of thousands of Welsh speakers in Cardiff plus more in the rest of the country, particularly in the north and west of the country. That makes the Welsh language the strongest of all the Celtic languages. Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx, Cornish… these aren’t doing so well at all. While some of those languages indeed have many speakers, only Welsh and Breton have a very high number of NATIVE speakers. Even if over a million people can speak Irish, only around 50,000 were raised with it as their mother tongue. For Welsh, the number of native speakers is over half a million. 

Anyway, when I arrived at Ceri’s place, he was actually sitting in the living room writing his story on paper. He apologised for not having written it yet, and quickly scrawled it down as I set up for the shoot. When he finished he tore off the paper and handed it to me. Later when I got home I tried to type it up it but I couldn’t make out his writing at all, especially difficult because the Welsh words just looked like jumbles of random consonants. So I got one of our Twitter followers, Jack Murphy, to help out. He deciphered the writing, fixed the spelling mistakes (sorry, Ceri, you’re not the best speller), and did a translation. Thanks Jack!

In the end we got three guys who wrote in Welsh. Out of sixteen guys, that represents almost 20%, so the statistics about Welsh in Cardiff are correct, at least in our Elska ‘research’. By the way, if anyone in London fancies giving me some private Welsh lessons, let me know. I’m up for it. I just love how it sounds.

See more of Ceri V and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff.