The first week of September, in historical terms, is memorable on several counts. On 1 September 1939, eighty years ago today, Nazi Germany and Slovakia invaded Poland which provoked the declaration of war by Great Britain and France two days later. In 1960, the Betting & Gaming Act was passed which permitted the opening of High Street betting shops. There are now over 8,000 shops, albeit, more recently, the number has been on the decline. And, in 1981, the first episode of Only Fools and Horses was screened on BBC television.
But, the historic event that has captured our attention most is the opening of the Severn Bridge on 8 September 1966. The ribbon was cut by HM The Queen. You may recall that she had already had a busy summer which included presenting the Jules Rimet Trophy to Bobby Moore at Wembley Stadium. The suspension bridge, which is now a Grade 1 listed structure, took three and a half years to construct at a cost of £8 million. Yes… really, £8 million. To put that in context, the ill-fated London Garden Bridge was expected to have cost over £200 million. The Queen hailed The Severn Bridge as ‘The dawn of a new economic era for South Wales’. The Weekly notes that Her Majesty didn’t commit herself as to whether the era would be better or worse! And for the sceptics, including Welsh poet, Harri Webb, the positioning of the toll booths, which charged half a crown, didn’t go unnoticed. He wrote:
‘’Two lands at last connected | Across the waters wide | And all the tolls collected | On the English side.’’
So, what about Wales today? On the down-side, despite the two bridges, GVA per head across the whole of Wales is still the worst of the four home nations at £19,899. In the Valleys, it is a depressing £15,062. Compare this with England's average of £28,096. But here are ten other more light-hearted facts about Wales:
Around 21% of the population speaks the Welsh language.
There is no letter K, Q, V or Z in the Welsh alphabet.
There are more castles in Wales per square mile than any other country in Europe.
There are four times as many sheep as there are humans.
There are still more than one hundred male voice choirs.
Welsh rarebit’s ingredients have never contained any rabbit and it may not even have originated in Wales either!
Blackadder Three said of Wales – "You need half a pint of phlegm in your throat just to pronounce the place names."
Despite having 58 letters, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is still only the second longest place name in the world.
The Welsh Rugby team has won the Home Nations/Five Nations/Six Nations Championship more times than any other nation (39 including 12 shared). England trail by one. Wales are currently ranked the Number One team in the world.
Cardiff is the wettest city in the UK with an average of 1,155.9 mm of rainfall each year.
But, despite its comparative sogginess, from a property standpoint, Cardiff is ranked sixteenth in St Bride’s Top 50 UK Key Cities. As it should be. After all, it is one of our four capital cities! Even so, prime office rents (£27 per sq ft), industrials (£6.50 per sq ft) and retail rents (£190 per sq ft Zone A) are all some way below those of Bristol, which is often considered to be its counterpart-city on the English side of the River Severn.
Why should The Weekly be so interested in this? Well, partly because the Editor recently discovered that his great grandfather (on his maternal side) was born in Wales! And with Scottish, Irish, New Zealand and English heritage too, he has further widened his chances of success at the upcoming Rugby World Cup which starts in Japan in three weeks’ time.
Today’s date (1.9.19) is special for another reason. It is a strabogrammatic number. In other words, when it is turned upside-down it spells a word… bibi. In Latin, bibi means active. In Swahili, Iranian and Spanish, it means a married woman/lady of the house. In case you didn’t know, the strabogrammatic series is 0=o, 1=i, 2=z, 3=e, 4=h,5=s, 6=g, 7=l and 9=b. The only number that doesn’t comply is 8. Having spent far too much time working on it, The Weekly reckons that the next compliant date is 7 March 2023 (7.3.23). Supposedly ezel is a Turkish TV crime series! Okay, so it’s slightly spurious, but what else are you going to do when you are lounging on the beach?
Enjoy your Sunday and remember, it’s your last strabogrammatic day for the next three and a half years. And for those of our readers who are fluent in Welsh: