Proud and emotional – Gareth Thomas at Henley Literary Festival

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I’m not Welsh. I’m married to a Valleys boy, my girls are more Welsh than English (even more so when England are playing rugby against anyone), my surname is Welsh, my maiden name is half Welsh, my dog is Welsh and I go to Wales lots. But I’m not Welsh.

Gareth Thomas is. He’s also proud and emotional and is ever so funny and tall and kind and tidy.

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I went to see him on Saturday being interviewed by Michael Calvin at Henley Literary Festival sponsored by Gower Cottage Brownies and he was utterly utterly charming, gentle and honest. Before he came on stage I turned to Polly and said “I’m going to cry”. He spoke with searing honesty about his life and with every word I felt more proud and emotional, oh yeah and a little tear might have escaped, but only because he was so emotional. He did it first.

We heard about him growing up in South Wales (an area I’ve grown to love since meeting Big Welsh 25 years ago) and the great sense of community (which I’m big on, having spent 5 years in neighbourhood policing) and the fact that rugby runs through the blood of everyone in Wales. When he talked of taking a Welsh rugby shirt and laying it on the wartime captain’s grave I was in bits.

He talked about coming out which prompted a question from the audience from an older lady who said she didn’t like this phrase coming out and could he find a new phrase!

He was questioned about the English rugby team and the Rugby World Cup, he said that he thought England could win. What he didn’t say was whether he would be supporting them!!

He also talked about his work in schools. I would have loved to have delivered an assembly on bullying in my policing days and said “oh look here’s Gareth Thomas to chat to you”.

After the talk he signed his book Proud and I bought a number for him to sign for Christmas presents (organised). Conversation went like this “oh hi this is for my father in law Dai” and Gareth duly signed it. “This is for Dale from Aberystwyth” and again he signed it. “This one is for my husband Andy” to which my new best friend (as yet unconfirmed) said “oh you married a Welsh boy, what’s his surname, where from?”, “oh Merthyr Tydfil, not bang in the middle, no right out by the Mountain Railway, Pant” (standing joke Alan Williams) and he laughed and signed it. I then did that embarrassing mother thing and asked if he’d mind a photo with poorly Mook and he jumped up and put his arm around her and smiled.

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Seriously, if you get the chance to see him at any events then do! Go and see this Welsh rugby legend who served his country proud and shared his story with a captive and welcoming audience. I can’t wait for Big Welsh to open his present so I can read it!!

As I said I’m not Welsh but I’m proud of my Welsh ancestors, my almost Welsh children, those lovely Welsh associations and my Welsh dog.

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