Oct/Nov 2004  •   Spotlight

Fucking Tragic

by Alex Keegan

This guy Aeschylus, one cool geezer. Now imagine this. His dad sends him out to watch grapes ripening. I mean what kind of piss-take is that? "Hey Aishy, gorra job for you. Go sit in that field. Which one? The one with all the unripe grapes, of course. Come back when they are big and fleshy and purple. Yeah, four-five months, why, is that a problem?"

So the lad, well he's a good boy. He goes and sits and waits. And falls asleep. (Hang on a mo', if he's there a few months, doesn't he eat and crap and stuff, too?) And Dionysus comes down to him.

"Aish, you are such a tosser," Dio says. "Pappy saying go and watch for the grapes ripening, that's a joke, see. It's like when you send someone down to stores and get them to say 'My boss asked me to come here for a long stand...' Yer bloody tragic, Aish, you know that?"

And Aish, polite, obedient (but not that quick), he says, "What's tragic?" And Dio explains, and Aish thinks, "Oh, cool, I could do tragic."

Now this is where tragedy comes from. Can you believe that? If Aeschylus's old man hadn't been pissed as a fart and in a funny mood, and if his nipper hadn't been a can short of a six-pack, we might never have had tragedy. Just think, only happy endings. Can you imagine all those women reading their magazines and thinking, if only there was more? It would be like they really did have orgasms and secretly, desperately wished they could be unfulfilled (I could have helped there).

Now I am Welsh (yes, I'm aware this is a bad start). I come from a country famous for holes in the ground. I come from a country that took a round ball that rolled and stuff, and made it pointy so it wouldn't roll. I come from a place where the ladyfolk once wore 239 lace petticoats and extremely tall black hats. You wanna fuckin' talk about tragic?

Wales. We got coal. Correction, we done got coal. Now we got flooded coalmines and rows of miner's cottages with broken windows, syringes, dog-turds, and Men from the Ministry. "We're here to help you." Yeah, fucking right.

We got slate. Correction, we had slate. Now we have places like Blaennau Ffestinniog, miles of terraces, more broken windows, no slate, just slag heaps, and nothing to do Saturday night except take a swing at a copper.

Pride. Did we got pride? We did got pride. Once was a time when they could shout down the pit-shaft for a scrum-half, bring 'im up early off shift, scrub him down, get him to the Cardiff Arms Park and let him open up the English defence like a Bute Street slapper's thighs. We had.

A lot of us got dead, you know. You know those English Archers at Agincourt? Most of 'em didn't speak English, and when young Henry cried, "For England and St George," it was Valleys Boys who turned to each other and said, "What the fuck's he saying?" before they went in and slaughtered half of French nobility.

Welsh Bowmen. Right? And Henry was born in Monmouth right? And the most Victoria crosses in one day? Rorke's Drift? Welshman almost all of 'em, blokes called Jones, Griffiths, Williams and Evans.

We died in our hundreds for you. The worst mining disaster on our island? October 14th 1913, Senghennydd, Glamorgan. Sure it was sad, it was tragic but fer fuck's sake, that it was only ten years after we lost another 150, same place, same mine, same fucking madness.

So here's tragedy for you. Men with black faces, eyes staring, men with rotten, gasping lungs, valleys poets with no future, boys on drugs, no future, rugby no future.

Aeschylus, you want to hear how he died? He was bald, right? There was this fucking eagle, a tortoise in his claws. The eagle, he sees this rock, Aeschylus's head, so he drops a fucking tortoise from a fucking great height on this boulder, Aeschylus's head, to get himself some tortoise meat. Instead he gets brain, and this is the fucking father of tragedy's brain.

That's not tragedy. That's irony. That's comedy.

What you did to my country? That's tragedy.