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On Being a Writer in Wales: Ben Wildsmith

26 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Ben Wildsmith and his book Flags and Bones which is published by Cambria Books

Ben Wildsmith

Oh no, I’m supposed to have a ‘process’, aren’t I? All writers have one of these to talk about in interviews. Some of them write whole books about how to rise at 6.00AM and capture the essence of the day before doing yoga or something.

I haven’t even got a desk. My laptop is balanced on the arm of my sofa in the little room I have upstairs with a telly and my guitars in it. I don’t like desks. When you’re at one of those it implies that you have to write. I can’t be doing with that.

When I’ve got my cuppa and vape, I might play something on guitar, or watch some YouTube videos or, put LBC on and absorb the news whilst scrolling through Facebook. When I switch to looking at Twitter/X, it usually means that I’m ready to consider the possibility of spending some time writing a few sentences.

Elon Musk’s business model works well for me. Since he took over the platform, he’s ensured that we are all presented with the rantings of people whose views are guaranteed to infuse us with the sort of impotent rage that is as addictive as it is psychologically harmful.

As you know, I’m all about impotent rage. Every week I’m here railing against something or other, nurturing grudges and otherwise projecting my personal dissatisfaction on to the world at large.

So, a few minutes spent in the company of Twitter commentators like Darren Grimes, Julia Hartley-Brewer, or Andrew ‘ReTweet’ Davies, serves to fire me up enough to get through the first few paragraphs.

Opinionated nobody

To begin with, I was writing about international rugby — the M4 at rush-hour of topics here in Wales. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know about this glorious, infuriating game, someone in the Post Office queue knows more.

If this were Germany, we would have a compound word for the dawning realisation that you have just offered your opinion on Saturday’s game to a man who played for Wales A in 1982.

Not that lived experience is a passport to respect, either. On Twitter (I know, I know. Can’t stop) the other week, I saw a row erupt between a legendary, two-code international and an opinionated nobody over league structures.

By the end of it, the international had been blocked by the keyboard warrior who was ‘tired of his childish grasp of the issue.’

According to lore, when Nye Bevan was asked about his brother running for election to the Welsh Rugby Union’s committee, he shook his head.

‘It’s not something I’d do.’


‘I’m not that interested in politics.’


When, after some pleading on my part, I was permitted to write a weekly political column, it carried none of the anxiety inherent to my rugby pieces.

The reason for this is that if you find yourself in disagreement with a well-known political figure nowadays, there is a better than evens chance that you’re in the right.

Whatever your political persuasion, we can all agree that the current lineup of ‘I’m An Otherwise Unemployable, Incompetent Narcissist Get Me Out Of Here And On To A GB News Sofa’ is the most dispiriting gang of social inadequates we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

The behaviour on display at PMQs would result in a clip were it to be tried anywhere that decent people gather.

Skirting ever closer and into criminality, our politicians conspire with the client media to act out a pantomime in which actual governance is barely attended to in favour of naked careerism and, not infrequently, personal enrichment.

So, facing a blank page every Saturday and looking for someone who deserves a booting is a pleasure, a privilege, and far easier than it should be.

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Philosophical wilderness

You can’t be angry all the time, though, not if you want to stay married.

I do occasional ‘what I did on my holidays’ pieces, some bits of whimsy, and the odd venture into the philosophical wilderness, from which I’m frequently rescued by readers arriving in the comments section like St Bernard dogs on the Matterhorn.

Nation Cymru has published them all, often to my astonishment, and with only the gentlest of editorial raised eyebrows.

That readers have given me their time is thrilling beyond my imagination.

Flags & Bones by Ben Wildsmith is available to order from Cambria Books

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David RJ Lloyd
David RJ Lloyd
6 months ago

as always a great piece of writing & a great take on the crazy world we inhabit,. thanks ben

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 months ago

I always look forward to your Sunday political pull apart Ben and I’m not alone in that so keep it up and even if you do veer off into what you did on your holiday territory, we’ll still be here. Yours sincerely, St Bernard.

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