Gerry’s Diary 169: Welsh goats, a delay on the train, music in CH (26th February, 2016)

Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for Friday 26th February 2016. Easter comes early this year, so we already celebrated Shrove Tuesday [1] on February 9th. It’s the last day before Lent [2] starts. Our tradition on Shrove Tuesday is to eat pancakes, “crempogau” in Welsh. I was interested to hear from Isabelle on the new French podcast “Balades” that the French eat their pancakes, or “crêpes”, on Candlemas (la Chandeleur): that’s on 2nd February. It’s interesting that we both eat pancakes at about the same time. The story here is that it’s a last chance to eat butter, eggs, etc. before Lent, but I don’t know the French story.

But I’ve got other stories. On today’s show, I’ve got a dramatic story from the London train last month. But first let me go back to my last pub quiz and a question about goats.


My last pub quiz question was the following. Two old people, who are still working, have big birthdays this summer. The woman will have her 90th birthday and her husband will be 95. So who are these two famous old people? Well, congratulations to Sister Raphaela and Käthi, who posted their answers on the website, Armin, who used Twitter, and Andreas who sent an email. Well done, the four of you! The answers came quickly so I don’t think the question was too difficult. The old couple are the Queen and her husband Prince Philip. It’s possible that the Swiss know more about the British Royal Family than the British! It’s certainly true that popular newspapers and magazines in your part of the world [3] always seem to have plenty of [4] stories about our royal family. The Queen actually has two birthdays this year – she has two birthdays every year, in fact. Her real birthday is in April but she has an official birthday in June when her army marches [5] for her. But this year she’s going to have one party after the other from April to June. I’m not sure if she really wants this. Last year when she broke the record for the longest reign [6] she said “I don’t want any fuss [7].” My mother doesn’t like anybody to know how old she is. She went to a special fitness class for old people last week, and the young fitness instructor told the rest of the class how old she was, because I think she was older than anybody else there. My mother was not pleased. Perhaps the Queen’s the same but the problem for the Queen is that everybody knows her age anyway.


Royal Regiment Wales Goat (c) WikipediaKäthi, who was one of the people with the correct answer to my question, had another question – for me. She wants to know about a Welsh goat [8] that’s going to take part in the military parade [9] for the Queen’s birthday. What is this animal and why is it in the parade? The goat is a military mascot [10]. A lot of regiments in the British army have mascots. This kind of mascot is a pet [11], so for example the Irish regiments have dogs – Irish wolfhounds. Other regiments have horses, but the Welsh have goats. The story of the first goat goes back to the American War of Independence when the British were fighting the American terrorists – no, no, no I’m sorry, I mean freedom fighters. There was a Welsh regiment there fighting for the British king, and one day a wild [12] goat came into the camp. The Welsh soldiers liked the animal and kept it as a pet. Since then they have always had goats. The First Battalion of the Royal Welsh Regiment has a new Kashmir goat called Llywelyn. He’s a real member of the army. He has the rank of fusilier. And if he’s well behaved [13] on parade he can get promoted [14]. The last one was a lance corporal [15] when he retired and went to live in a zoo. His main job is to march at the front of the regiment, usually in front of the regimental band. If you go to an international rugby or football match in Cardiff you will often see the band and the goat. The Army chooses their goats from a herd [16] of wild goats that lives near where I live, on a local mountain. They belong to the Queen, and the first ones came from Iran. The Shah of Persia gave them to Queen Victoria in the 1840s. Käthi thinks that the story of the army goats is “really crazy”, and “so British”. Perhaps it is, but for the Welsh it’s quite normal!


I’ve got a new train story. I often seem to see funny things on trains and last time I went to London I watched the following little drama. My wife and I were in the so-called “quiet carriage [17]”. The quiet carriage is the carriage where you are supposed [18] not to talk on the phone, play music, watch films or make noise. But you never get 100% quiet. The carriage is quiet but there are usually one or two people who don’t want to be quiet, or who can’t be quiet (like small children), and so you really hear everything the noisy people say or do. On this day we got on the train at Bangor. There were just a few people in our carriage: a group of women. They were all sitting together and talking. I heard Irish accents so I guess they all came from Dublin on the ferry and got on the train at Holyhead, the stop [19] before ours. Perhaps they met in the bar on the ferry, because they were all talking rather loudly. This was the situation: three women were sitting together at one table, and on the other side of the carriage, two other women were sitting at another table. My story is about these two women: an older woman and a younger woman.

It takes about an hour to get from Bangor to Chester, and in this time I learnt a lot about these two women. I wanted to read but I couldn’t – I just had to listen to their conversation. They talked about Ireland and where they came from. They talked about their families and their jobs. They talked about football in Liverpool, and I learnt that the older woman lived in Liverpool so she had to change trains in Chester. The older woman’s voice got louder as we got nearer Chester. And she began to speak more slowly. She had difficulty speaking certain words. Was she ill? Or was she drunk? Afterwards, the younger woman said: “She had a big bottle of Coke. She was pouring the Coke into a plastic mug. But she also had a bottle of water, and every time she poured a mug of Coke she put some water in it. I thought, that’s funny,” the younger woman said. “Why put water in Coke? In the end I realised that it wasn’t water.”

When the train got to Chester, the older woman got up. She had two bags – one on her back, and one to carry – and a basket with a small dog in it. She said goodbye to her new friend and left the carriage. I didn’t see what happened next but this is what we later heard from the other woman. Let’s call the woman with the dog Rosie. Well, Rosie wanted to walk down the train before we got to Chester. Between the carriages on our trains there are two doors. You press a button, the two doors open, and you walk through to the next carriage. Well, Rosie pressed the button and began to walk through. Then nobody knows what happened exactly, but she fell over – between the two doors. Then the two doors closed, and Rosie was on her back between the doors. She couldn’t get up, and she was blocking the doors. Somebody shouted for help. The younger woman got up to go and see what was going on. When she saw Rosie, her first thought was “Where’s the dog?” Perhaps Rosie fell on top of the dog, but no: the dog was OK. The train manager arrived. She thought Rosie was ill, so she called for an ambulance. She asked the manager of the café on the train to make an announcement. The café manager didn’t speak very good English, so we heard the following: “We have an emergency. Is there a doctor on the train? Or a nurse? Or somebody who knows how to deal with humans? Please go to Carriage A at the end of the train.” The train manager managed to get the doors open. Rosie was crying. She wasn’t ill, of course, she was embarrassed [20]. She wanted to get up. She wanted to go home to Liverpool, but the train manager said: “You mustn’t get up. You must wait for the ambulance.” In the end, we had a 20-minute delay [21] in Chester. The rest of the journey was very boring – no more drama. Poor Rosie had to go to hospital, I guess, to be checked. I wonder when she got to Liverpool.

And now I’ve got some more information about the Swiss-Welsh music project [22]. Ensemble Cymru, the chamber music group from North Wales, are coming to Switzerland soon. Some of them will be at the British Embassy on March 1st, the Welsh national day (St David’s Day), and then they’re coming again in April. They’ll be in Chur between the 4th and 7th April doing projects, workshops and little concerts – I’m not sure what exactly. Then there’ll be a concert in St Paul’s Church (die Pauluskirche) in Davos on April 7th. After that a young Swiss harpist called Elisa Netzer is coming here to play with Ensemble Cymru. The Romansh Incantanti choir project will be this autumn.

Before I go, can I say thank you to some more of you who wrote to me last time. Thank you, Noëlle, for your message. It’s good to have a new member of our club, Podclub. And thanks also to Ruth for your nice message. She said that she ate something like haggis when she was young. In which part of Switzerland was that?

My next Diary will be out on March 25th, just before Easter. A month later and we’ll be at the end of April, so my pub quiz question for you this time is the following. What special thing are we going to celebrate on April 23rd this year? Why is April 23rd an extra-special date this year? Send your answers to the website or you can use Twitter. My Twitter address is @gerrypod. Or just write to me with your comments, ideas or questions. So until the next time, thanks for listening and take care!

[1] Shrove Tuesday: the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent (see below)
[2] Lent: the period (40 days) in the Church calendar before Easter
[3] your part of the world: where you live, your area (here: Switzerland – but it depends on the context)
[4] plenty of: a lot of, many
[5] to march: here: to walk in a group in the same rhythm (like soldiers)
[6] reign: here the number of years that somebody is queen or king
[7] fuss: a lot of unnecessary excitement or worry (here: The Queen didn’t want a big party or didn’t want people to worry about giving her big presents, etc.)
[8] goat: an animal like a sheep but it usually has longer legs and it’s not so woolly (NB We get cashmere from this animal.)
[9] military parade: a show when the army marches with music for people to see
[10] mascot: something (person, animal or thing) that an organisation has that a) is a symbol of the organisation and b) is expected to bring good luck
[11] pet: an animal that you keep in your house as a companion (for example a dog or a cat)
[12] wild: not from a farm
[13] to be well behaved: not make trouble, be good (here: not fight people, try to run away, etc.)
[14] to promote: to give somebody a better job (a higher position)
[15] lance corporal: the next rank higher from a private (=ordinary) soldier
[16] herd: a group of goats or cows (Compare: a flock of sheep)
[17] carriage: (British English) a part of a train that transports people (NB American English = car)
[18] to be supposed (to do something): to be expected (to do something) – a way of talking about something you should do
[19] stop: station where the train stops
[20] embarrassed: If you feel this you are worried about what other people think of you because you feel stupid or you feel that you have done the wrong thing.
[21] delay: wait (If you have one of these it means that something will be late.)
[22] See Diary 158


Florian 15-01-2017 12:12
Dear Gerry
Thanks for all this very interesting Diarys.
I liks to read it soo much!
By and take care
Noëlle 19-03-2016 17:18
April 23rd is the St George's Day and St George the patron saint of England!
All my wishes for a pleasant and sunny party at that day to all English people and people who live in England ;)

Ruth 10-03-2016 16:28
Dear Gerry
Thank you for your interesting Diary. The story about the quiet carriage was quite funny, except what had happened to Rosie. Unfortunately it’s always and everywhere the same, there are always people who are thinking the rules only apply to the others.
About your question in which part of Switzerland I’ve got something like haggis.
We lived in Iberg, it’s a small village which still belongs to Winterthur.
Best wishes
Käthi 29-02-2016 11:38
Hello Gerry!
Thanks for your answer about goats, members of the army. It seems for the Welsh this tradition is quite normal. Once again we can say: "Other countries, other customs!" Just imagine a "fusilier-goat" in the Swiss Army!!! Every body in Switzerland will say that has to be an April Fool.
Best wishes,
michele 27-02-2016 17:53
Hello Gerry !I'm still interested in reading and listening to your diaries . The story on the train was quite funny . In fact you can't prevent peolpe from talking either on their cell phones or to each other . The only problem is when they don't realize everybody else can hear them and that can't be changed . i have been a little surprised by your joke :"American terrorists ...well I mean freedom fighters . Can you explain it next time ? As for April 26th 2016 , I think it is an anniversary . Shakespeare died on April 26th 1616 , 400 years ago . I suppose lots of British theatres will perform some of his plays .
Well looking forward to your next diary ,bye and take care