Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pobol Y Cwm Wallpaper

It was just another "drive everyone over the age of 12 to the next bus stop in dressing gown" day for hubby. Fortunately, my call wasn't until 11.30 a.m. in Cardiff, so I had time.

"So where are you going?" Asks Tinkerbell Mushroom.

"I'm going to be in Pobol y Cwm for the day." I say. "It's a Welsh t.v. programme."

"So will I be able to see you?"

"Hopefully" I say.

"So, I can watch you on telly, today?"

"No, not today" I say. "In a few weeks."

A look of disappointment crosses her face as, being not far removed from the age when you still think that the actors are inside the box in your living room, she had clearly thought that she was going to be watching me live on TV when she came in from school.

It makes me nervous having to be somewhere 50 miles away at a certain time. My driving, never very good, becomes erratic and, despite being a persistently late person, I allow so much time, leaving just as I dispatch the youngest two to school, that I arrive an hour early.
As I walk into the BBC Cardiff studios, I get the distinct impression of dèja vu. Remembering though that Torchwood and Dr. Who are made here, I feel slightly relieved.

That's why I think.

I sign in and explain why I am here.

"Do you know where to go?" Says the security guard?

"No", I say.

So they get a runner who runs me through a rabbit warren of corridors. I stare like a tourist at the in built street set, and then realise that I am supposed to look professional, and try not to look to obvious. Too late for that really.

Being an hour early I ask if there is anywhere I can get a coffee or tea while waiting. The runner directs me back to the restaurant. By reception. It is seriously touch and go finding my way back there, and on my way back to the green room I am even more at a loss, so I look pathetically at a couple of seemingly helpful types and get redirected back to the right place.

Not being a Welsh speaker of course, I couldn't actually say any lines even if the opportunity were there and so I am background, which in acting terms is sort of equivalent to being wallpaper. Of course, on actual paper you are referred to as an artist... A serious exagggeration!

In truth you are a tool that the artists use. Essential, but no more significant that a piece of moving wallpaper.

A few more wallpapers arrive and we all chat.

Then we get bussed out to a location.

Then we chat some more.

Then it's lunch time.

They haven't got to our bit yet. So, we are bussed back to BBC Cardiff, taken to the restaurant to eat lunch.

Then we get bussed back to the location again.

In the bus are some of the main characters. They all speak Welsh to one another, but if you ask them a question in English, they switch so easily that you feel highly inferior. In this little Principality are a whole nation of bilingual speakers, who over the years have occasionally got a little cross with the way we manage things here over the border, and we in turn have sometimes previously treated their Welsh speaking habits as a little bit of a joke. But in truth I am in awe. My O'level French is pretty poor and my German worse, so to hear people converse completely naturally in two languages is sickeningly admirable. Here, these people get directed by the director in one language, act in another, and speak quite happily in either.

I ask another Welsh speaking wallpaper, who has just asked a question in Welsh to someone else who was previously speaking English, how they know that that person speaks Welsh. I think it must have been by some form of telepathic communication, because there was nothing else to suggest otherwise.

"Of course, you understand that we switch to Welsh, so that we can talk about you, don't you?" he says. We all laugh, and it is funny, but the biggest laugh is on we English of course.

At about 3 in the afternoon, they say that they need someone to walk across the room in a dressing gown, this being a hospital location.

Practically gagging by now to do something, I volunteer to make myself look especially unsexy and do said job.

"Ooh very sexy" says one of the other wallpapers.

Very not of course. But I do my bit and am quite happy.

The strange thing about doing a job like this, is that for a whole day you are put in incredibly close proximity to people that you have never met before, and in a short space of time you get to know their entire life stories, warts and all.

I also discover that Pobol y Cwm means "People of the Valley". So at least I have learnt some Welsh for my day's efforts.

At the end of the day, like true luvvies, everyone kisses everyone else goodbye. Of course, we will probably never meet again, but it's sort of the way its done, so we do it before wending our way back up the motorway, avoiding the Heddlu with any erratic driving and back home again.

As we leave, one of the actors thanks us.

I have done a few bits of wallpaper work over the years, but I have never ever been thanked before by one of the main artists. It may seem a little thing, but bear in mind that these people are making this half hour show day in day out from 9 til 7 , 8 , 9 every week day of the year.

They see hundreds of wallpapers.

It was a small and unexpected gesture.

So nice and so charming...

It made my day.


Lisa said...

Isn't it crazy that when someone is actually polite it shocks us?
I grew up working in a Chinese restaurant my friends parents owned (yes, I can now swear in Chinese!) You could just tell when they were talking about you by the tone of their voices! A little unsettling.

Jayne said...

Fascinating post! It sounded good fun.

Beccy said...

So as well as a talented chef, nurse, mother, cleaner, accountant, protestor, voice over, actress, etc, etc you are also a wallpaper. I'm very impressed and it sounds like a novel way to pass a day.

john.g. said...

What sort of paste did you use?

Good post, or is it paste?

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Lisa

Yes indeed, but in fact these were genuinely nice guys I feel.

Hi Jayne

It was!


It is! You can all try it.


Size is the theatrical tradition I believe - lol!

ED said...

hehe pobol y cym is now the "funny word" amongst our family...
but I suppose "people of the valley" is better than "wee wee poo poo head " isn't it!
pobol y cym pobol y cym la la la pobol y cym!

Karmyn R said...

Great post - and fascinating. I've always wondered what it was like to be an "extra" -

I've heard that when the background people are suppose to be looking like they are talking (but not really) they just murmur the words "Walla Walla" over and over and over again.

Alice Band said...

Ok Sally, lesson number one - as a Welsh speaking person is that it is Pobl Y Cwm, not Cym! Cwm meaning valley. Next time you go call me first and I'll cramm you!!!

Sally Lomax said...

ED - Yes indeed!
Karmyn -Walla walla then!!
Apologies Alice!! Now corrected as you can see. Misread it!

Sally Lomax said...

p.s. Have found though that with Sky, you can watch it with English subtitles, so I can now understand what's going on!

Alice Band said...

It holds a dear spot in my heart does old Pobl Y Cwm! I grew up with it and knew many of the cast! I could watch it on Sky but when the hell have I got time and the family would protest too much!

Ignorminious said...

Wow, nice one!

Now that you've found your way to Cardiff, perhaps you should volenteer to be the Doctor's next companion, given how unpopular Catherine Tate is? I'm sure they'd snatch you up :)

Once again it is strange hearing someone IO've never met talk of places so close to my current location. Tis a very small world at times!

Pamela said...

I tried to learn spanish -- as so many in our valley speak it. But I couldn't get dedicated or find someone to speak it with me without laughing.

I hope that our schools will eventually require a 2nd language -- and have the kids actually learn it.

I don't understand the term wallpaper ? ? ? ? ?


Pamela said...

okay if I'd read the other comments I would have figured that out!!

Sally Lomax said...

Alice - You could watch just occasionally perhaps, for nostalgia's sake...
Ig - My home location is probably even closer to Bristol. Well, just, according to Google maps.
Pamela - They are finally introducing French into primary schools nationwide here. About time!

Asha said...

Hi Sally,you are all in one,aren't you and do a very good job at everything too!:))
I lived in LLandudno in N.Wales,love the Welsh people.The names are so funny there,'LL' is always pronounced as 'Cla',so Clandudno!:D
There is a longest named city too,I forgotten now and they call it in one word.I think it's Rhyll ,I am not sure.

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Asha, I think that Rhyl ( must be quite near Meredic!

Lucky you living there!

meredic said...

Spooky! I was thinking about Pobl y Cwm only the other day. You dont need to feel too inadequate, some of the accents are very dodgy.
Hwyl fawr.

Keith said...

Feddaist'ch ddiwrnod i maes am 'r studion?

(Me old Gran was Welsh. One of the REAL people of the valleys, look you! There's interesting for you!)

Sally Lomax said...

Ok Keith and Merdic, the translator tools talk about dogs and sails, but I am struggling slightly.........

Please help! Alice?!

ChrisB said...

Sally that sounds like a fascinating day and will we be able to see it? Ah have just seen your comment about sub-titles so let me know when you will be featured.

enidd said...

how nice it is when something like that happens sally. enidd wishes she could see you on the telly!

elena jane said...

that was nice :)
and you are amazing, doing ALL of these things....
i talked about you the other week to the librarian who is a huge katie fforde fan. i sent her online to find your interview. :)

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Enidd/ Chris and EJ

Yes it was great fun!

Thanks Eniid. So do I!

Chris - it's episodes 96 and 97......I think it's on next week some time..

EJ - I'm very honoured that you talked about me to you librarian!