It’s only natural… Or how the world around you has good points and bad

Coming from Northern Ireland (via Scotland), I’ve got an array of cultural references which, frankly would make no sense to the average Welsh person.

Such Norn Irish folk heroes as May McFettridge or Julian Simmons may fill me with memories, or Scottish presenters like Dougie Vipond and Sally Magnusson, who are household names north of the border.

iolo
Credit: Keith Morris

It was only when I moved to Wales that I realised the fame of Iolo Williams. A nature expert and wildlife presenter, he’s a regular go-to for the BBC Wales and S4C nature output – a safe pair of hands with the expertise to back up his TV chops.

Aside from admitting that his love for animals didn’t stress to all of the natural world – “If I was a dictator, I’d just do away with all cats” – Iolo was chatting about his love of the sea and the coastline of Wales.

Having never lived further than 40 minutes from the sea at the most, I’m inclined to agree with him when he says, “I was always fascinated by the sea”.

Those raised paddling in rock pools, swimming in inclement waters and generally messing about in the salt water understand when they grow up exactly how closely related to the marine world we are, how it’s simply an extension of land under there.

That didn’t stop me from developing a pathological fear of sharks which has stayed with me throughout my days – but then, as nature lover Iolo shows, even if you love one part of Mother Nature’s bounty, you don’t have to love it all.

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Positive role models… Or how a politician learned from his inspirational parents

Some stories have so much humanity and bravery it seems like they must be a fiction.

I felt that way when I spoke to Peter Hain and his mother.

The Labour minister was well known for his activism in his youth, campaigning against apartheid in his birth country of South Africa, but his awareness and bravery is traceable back to the actions of his parents Ad and Wal Hain.

Ad and Wal by Peter Hain, Biteback Publishing
Ad and Wal by Peter Hain, Biteback Publishing

In his book, Peter details the fight they had with the powers that be in a country where people were judged to be lesser because of the colour of their skin.

To us, it defies logic that the couple were banned from speaking to groups of people, a practice which saw Ad miss a daughter’s birthday party.

We cannot imagine a world where Ad resolved to be in attendance in court to help young black men gain justice after being picked up without their family’s knowledge.

But we are all too aware of the demonisation of people who are different to ourselves, and the book struck me as a real warning of that sort of thinking.

The book is subtitled ‘Values, duty, sacrifice in apartheid South Africa’, but when I spoke to Ad about her experiences, it struck me that there was little in the struggle that Ad and Wal spearheaded that should be seen as ‘duty’, simply because there were many South Africans at the time who didn’t do their ‘duty’ to fight for freedom, merely toeing the party line.

Ad also went to the Nelson Mandela trial which saw him sent to Robben Island, and was proud to mention the affection that the former South African president had expressed for Ad and Wal and their family.

One more piece of the story that’s almost impossible for us to imagine, but to Ad and Wal, it was just part of real life.

Read the piece here