Sunday, June 24, 2007

There is nothing like a dame

Difficult as it may be to imagine the fantabulosa fantasy of Shirley Bassey against the mud, the blood and the beer of Glastonbury, that is where Tiger Bay's favourite daughter will be knocking them in the aisles later today.

I hereby officially elevate her to the pantheon of Welsh Born Icons. It is long overdue. Indeed with a Nigerian Dad and a Mum from Yorkshire, La Bassey epitomises my inclusive notions of Welsh identity.

I saw her perform years ago, when I took The Mother Of My Child to the Royal Festival Hall. We had seats at the side of the auditorium and I can vividly remember massed gays politely rushing the stage armed with bouquets and other tokens to present to Dame Shirley. I have an indelible image of them sitting cross legged in front of the stage, looking for all the world like a group of primary school children, after they had been asked to calm down, but were still too pumped to return to their seats.

If he was alive today, I feel sure that the excellent Welsh pirate Bartholomew Roberts would have had a front row seat.
If anyone deserves the title ‘the real pirate of the Caribbean’ it was the Welshman Bartholomew Roberts, who captured an astonishing 400 ships in a brief two-and-a-half-year career between 1719 and 1722 — a figure that dwarfs that of any of his contemporaries. Roberts was living proof that reality is always far, far more intriguing than fiction. He drank tea rather than rum. He organised his ships along strictly democratic, egalitarian lines. A third of his men were black. And he was probably gay.
I am press-ganging him into the icons as well, and I defy you to resist reading more.

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