Britain seems like a tiny island when viewed on a global map, although it’s still much larger than most of its near neighbours in Europe. You can forget how diverse it is, become blinkered by your own area of it, if you don’t tend to travel far, especially in recent pandemic-blighted times. Your vision of Britain can almost imperceptibly narrow, depending on how you experience it.
So it was refreshing to have my own perspective widened recently in two trips a couple of weeks apart in October and November 2022. One of those was spent driving around north-west Wales, visiting and casually photographing smaller communities and towns in the area, sensing their uniqueness and distinctness and character.
Sure, these places are connected to larger cities to the east by transport links: winding roads, bus routes and railway lines. But everything takes time and effort. Everything moves unapologetically slowly. So you can sense how it feels proudly separate and distinctively Welsh. I don’t know if this difference is effectively suggested in this street photography blog post, and didn’t go out of my way to try.
A couple of weeks later I was reunited with London, England, and it very much felt like a different country. No seas separate the two places, nothing by way of a significant border between Wales and England in most places. It would take a while, but you could freely walk it if you wanted. But it almost feels like a different world: the bustle, the swaggering sense of importance and busyness – justified or not, the sheer volume of people thronging everywhere, largely ignoring each other. Everything moves fast. The two cultures are not the same.
Like it or not, both places are in Britain, the UK. Both are British. This is a time when national identity is increasingly discussed. The Yes Cymru Welsh independence movement is louder than ever. Many people in Wales feel alienated, ignored and let down by the UK government in Westminster. That sentiment is the same, if not even stronger in Scotland. For now though, our Kingdom remains United, from the smallest north west Wales village to the City of London. Connection between the two may well feel like the most slender of threads. This too is exaggerated at a time of cuts and various trade union strikes. But even so, it is still just about connected.
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