RANDOM DEATHS AND CUSTARD

Sam Jones is a perfectly ordinary Valleys girl. Except for the random deaths, that is. Which she only just manages to avoid. Like the time she swallows a fish finger whole before answering the door to the catalogue salesman. That random death leads to love, mind, which is a relief to Sam: people on her street will stop thinking she’s a lesbian.

She has plenty of other crosses to bear: the custard factory where she works; Nanna’s farting and Anti Peg’s swearing; her Mam’s boyfriend; her squaddie brother. Not to mention the posh Welshies at the end of the road.

With its comic darkness, its write-as-she-speaks style and its recognition of how the ordinary and eccentric are two sides of the same coin, this is a novel that will have you laughing and crying into your custard.

 

CATRIN’S NEW CHAPTER:

Carmarthen writer Catrin Dafydd has publis hed her first English language novel.

Random Deaths and Custard is a black comedy about Sam Jones, an ordinary Valleys girl, and the random deaths she just manages to avoid. The book follows the success of Catrin’s previous Welsh language publications.

She is noted as one of a new generation of authors keen to bridge the gap between English and Welsh language cultures.

“I have Welsh friends and English friends and realise that both cultures are relevant and should be embraced,” she said. “There needs to be a bridge between them both.

“It is not a simple divide as there are also non-Welsh speaking Welsh people as well as Welsh speaking Welsh people. These ideas led me to thinking that I had a responsibility to write a novel in English.”

Her Welsh novel, Pili Pala reached the long list for Wales’s Book of the Year award in 2007, and she is in demand as a creative writing tutor in schools across Wales.

As well as a novelist and Carmarthen town councillor, Catrin is renowned for her poetry.

“As a writer you are a communicator and so you want to reach out to people.

“Poetry reaches out to some people, prose to others,” she said.
Catrin launched her new novel, published by Gomer, at Carmarthen’s Waterstones and also in their Cardiff branch.

[Erthygl o // Article from www.thisissouthwales.co.uk]

NOFEL SAESNEG GAN YMGYRCHYDD IAITH:

Mae awdur sy’n adnabyddus am ymgyrchu dros y Gymraeg wedi sgrifennu nofel Saesneg yn “deyrnged” i’r fagwraeth ddwyieithog a gafodd hi yng nghymoedd y de pan oedd hi’n ferch ysgol.

Random Deaths and Custard yw enw nofel gomig newydd Catrin Dafydd ac mae wedi’i sgrifennu o safbwynt merch ifanc sy’n gweithio mewn ffatri yn y Rhondda ar ôl bod drwy’r system addysg Gymraeg.

“Ro’n i’n teimlo cyfrifoldeb i sgrifennu o berspectif rhywun felly, sydd ddim yn defnyddio’r Gymraeg o ddydd i ddydd” meddai Catrin Dafydd, sy’n ymgyrchydd gyda Chymdeithas yr Iaith ac a fu’n arwain protestiadau iaith pan oedd yn y brifysgol yn Aberystwyth.

A hithau’n awdur a storiwraig llawn amser, fe gyrhaeddodd restr fer hir Llyfr y Flwyddyn y llynedd gyda’i nofel Pili Pala, ond dyma’i gwaith cynta’ yn Saesneg.

“Y realiti yw bod yna bobol fel hyn i gael, sydd ddim yn siarad yr iaith er bod y gallu ganddyn nhw i wneud.

“Be mae’r nofel yn ei feirniadu os rhywbeth yw bod sefyllfa fel hyn yn gallu bodoli; bod dim cymhelliad gyda nhw i siarad Cymraeg. Dw i’n edrych mlaen at yr ymateb.”

Mae yna dameidiau o Gymraeg yn y nofel, rhywbeth sy’n adlewyrchu “realiti” y sefyllfa yn y Cymoedd, yn enwedig i gynddisgyblion Ysgol Rhydfelen.

“Roedd e’n sicr yn gyfl e i dalu teyrnged i’r fagwraeth dw i wedi’i chael ym Mhontypridd,” meddai Catrin Dafydd. “Dw i’n credu bod angen dweud be’ sy’n cael ei ddweud – a gweld beth yw barn pobol Gymraeg am y math yma o berson yn y Cymoedd.

“R’yn ni’n rhy barod i ddweud, mae hyn a hyn o bobol yn siarad Cymraeg ac mae’n beth da – ond faint sy’n cael ei siarad bob dydd? “Mae’r ffaith fod y nofel yn Saesneg yn fwy Cymreig mewn ffordd, achos dim ond rhywun sy’n siarad Cymraeg fyddai’n deall y sefyllfa.”

Roedd hi’n gallu edrych yn ôl ar ei chyfnod hi yn yr ysgol ac ystyried beth oedd perspectif ei chyd-ddisgyblion o aelwydydd di-Gymraeg a’u barn ohoni hi fel rhywun a gafodd ei magu ar aelwyd Gymraeg.

“Mae sôn yn y nofel am y plant o deuluoedd Cymraeg,” meddai, “fel eu bod nhw’n fath o ffrîcs. Lle byddai rhywun Cymraeg yn y gogledd yn symud mewn i fro Gymraeg, chi yw’r person gwahanol yn Gaerdydd.. Dyna’r realiti.”

Comedi ddu yw’r nofel yn benna’, gyda’r prif gymeriad yn ceisio meddwl am wahanol ffyrdd o farw.

“I ryw raddau dw i’n sôn am ferch sy’n trio ffeindio’i ffordd trwy fywyd,” meddai, “yn delio â’i Chymreictod a’r Gymraeg, yn gweithio mewn ffatri yn y Cymoedd. Ro’n i’n teimlo’n gyffyrddus yn ei sgrifennu hi.”

Non Tudur

The blurb on the back of Catrin Dafydd’s Random Deaths and Custard describes the novel’s narrator Sam Jones, as a ‘perfectly ordinary Valleys girl.’ She is eighteen and lives in the Rhondda, where she works in the local custard factory. Her parents are in the process of splitting up and she is having trouble accepting ‘that-man-Terry,’ her Mam’s new boyfriend. While her squaddie brother completes a tour of Iraq, Sam spends her spare time in the company of her Nanna, who enjoys a good fart, and Auntie Peg, who enjoys the occasional swear word. It is when she is chaperoning these characters home from the bingo, on the bus, and her Auntie Peg asks the driver if he ‘wants some anal,’ I realised that the ‘ordinary’ moniker in the blurb is only a half truth. Sam is extraordinary, in that, she is an eighteen year old who has grown up in the Rhondda but who hasn’t yet worked out what ‘anal’ is. In fact, people in her street think she’s a ‘lezza’ because she doesn’t shag about.

Another thing which is somewhat unusual about Sam is that she went to a Welsh school and can still speak a bit of the language. Bilingualism and the reclamation of the Welsh language in south Wales is one of the themes of the novel which holds the story together. So, this isn’t the savage, English speaking, America inspired Rhondda of Ron Berry or Alun Richards. Neither is it the emotional and physical wasteland filled with decay, graffiti, rotting Comprehensives, crumbling terraces, sink estates and discarded syringes that I see around myself everyday, not immediately in any case. Sam is happy-go-lucky, gainfully employed and almost implausibly naïve. I say ‘almost’ because there are times when she doesn’t seem as immature as she’s supposed to be, for instance, at a union meeting at Custards, she comments on fellow employees, Ahmed, a Sikh, and Malcometh-the-Day, a local lay preacher, chatting to one another. ‘There was a lesson for all the world there, I think. In a custard factory in the Rhondda.’ Unlikely she would have contemplated the problems of the world when she chooses not to acknowledge those around her. But this is a very minor flaw.

There are times when Sam’s innocence is a wonderful device for giving readers a glimpse of the other Rhondda, going on just out of view. On a rare visit to the Legion where there happens to be a darts championship attended by the resident victor Daddy-o Walters, she goes to the toilet, only to see ‘… in the little room by the bar, this girl kneelin’ down, her face lost in Daddy-o’s lap. They didn’t see me, but I felt sick. Really sick.’ The random deaths from which the book takes its title, including a near fatal incident with a fish finger, succeed against all odds, mainly because Dafydd’s use of language is both shrewd and highly amusing. The Valleys dialogue is bang on, and there are even two band-names I wish I’d thought of myself, the latter, Death of the Sales, Man! a cunning hint at the outcome of the story. Overall, the novel is a sanguine and heart warming, coming of age tale, never more rewarding than when Sam’s brother, having suffered a break-down after his tour of Iraq, says he wants to become a chef. ‘Really clean and honest job, feedin’ people. Makin’ people stay alive.’ Although there are three real deaths in the book, and countless close-shaves, the novel is essentially about life and the mundane, yet often remarkable living of it.

Rachel Trezise