“Oh Wales, my Wales, where soft rains fall upon cloud-dappled valleys, my heart is with you.”
Sir Michael Hughes, sighed, a tear appeared in his eye,
“And cut” said the director, “I’m sorry. Do you need a moment?”
The tears stopped immediately, “No, no my boy, just carry on filming, I’ll tell you when I’ve finished!”
“Oh Wales, land of deep pits and deep minds, big hopes and the dreams of ancient Druids! Wales! With full hearts and empty, empty pockets! Your song stays with me. Your curious eyes look to the world, your time is now, Pili Pala, Gwr ty! Oh lovely land of fathers, how do I miss you now!”
There was a long pause.
“Ok now you can stop filming” said the great knight of the theatre, before shuffling from the room aided by his walking frame.
At this point Sir Michael’s 48 year old, still surprisingly pneumatic, wife, Terri- Lynn came in clutching her favourite labradoodle and ushered the crew onto sunset pink California gravel.
“He needs to sleep now” she explained firmly.
But the celebrated actor wasn’t sleeping, he was sitting in a wicker chair, looking out at his vast sculpted golf course of a garden. Next time he’d say no. But they were always so grateful to anyone who had ever set foot in the accursed place. “Except fucking Rolf Harris!” he shouted at the terrified labradoodle who had hoped for what Sir Michael still called a cwtch.
He remembered the last time he’d visited, ten years ago now. Couldn’t wait to leave.
The dirty wet streets full of flying crisp bags, discarded plastic and vomit. The terrible food, the fat shrieking women. Further back he thought of his brutal father snoring, his doting mother, in her revolting knitwear. Cardigan! He hated that word and it’s rainy, hankie-sleeved, utterly Welsh, connotations. He thought of crooked local politicians, pathetic people with comb-overs, puffed with self-importance.
A small country in every way. When he heard that patches of rain forest the size of it were disappearing everyday he shouted “Why not keep the fucking rain forest and make Wales disappear!”
It was a good job he’d probably never go again. To glad-hand his few, surviving relatives and pretend he remembered them. The people he cared about had all departed, as had the street he was born and the chapel where he’d made his first performance, as Joseph.
Sir Michael looked at his beautiful lawns and swimming pool. He regarded his Oscar and Tony awards on the mantelpiece. If there was a heaven it was on Earth this was probably it. And by Christ it was fucking boring.
He felt a drowsy hollowness open inside him and slowly spread all over him until he was immersed in a slough of melancholy despond and longing. Longing for Megan Price behind the bikeshed in 1953, for Ifor and Terry and his teenage skiffle group, for his brother Dai dead these 45 years after a mining accident. For all the things he’d just said he hated, all those things that made him real, to be among them.
Terri-Lynn found him when she returned from Pilates and the following morning the world woke to the news that another giant of stage and screen had died peacefully in his sleep.