I am having a bit of an identity struggle at the moment. I am an English woman, born in England, but living in the very Welsh part of Wales. This has not really been a problem before. I have learned a little Welsh, but it is a complex language and difficult to learn. I will never be fluent.
I thought that my children would help me to become part of the Welsh community. My children went to the Welsh playgroup, then the Welsh nursery and now they go to a category A Welsh school for a bilingual education. Yes, that is "bilingual", but I have discovered that what bilingual means to me, an English person is totally different to what it means to Welsh speakers.
In Wales bilingual means "Welsh" not Welsh and English, as I would interpret it.
On Friday we went to the school's annual Urdd Eisteddfod. My children joined in with the others to perform - individually - a song and a recitation in front of the Urdd Eisteddfod adjudicator with the aim of making it through to the county finals and then to the National Eisteddfod.
This is all a bit opaque to me. It is entirely in Welsh, so I don't really understand what it is my children are singing or reciting, save for the occasional word. I sit on a little hard chair watching child after child recite the same things over and over again in a language I cannot comprehend.
Then the headteacher stands up and says a few things. Welsh speaking members of the audience laugh. She must have said something funny. Then the children sing and then it seems we should be singing too, but I did not know and do not know the words anyway.
It is the same on sports day or at school meetings. All conducted in Welsh, perhaps with a little concession for English speaking parents.
And then there's the homework. "How do I say that word mummy?" How the hell should I know? We have a stab.
I ask: "What does that sentence mean?"
"I don't know," says H7.
It seems that H7 and R5 do not always understand what is going on at school, although I am assured that H7 is "doing really well" and "speaks Welsh like a native". Apparently, "you wouldn't know that she comes from an English family".
R5 is doing well too. "I don't know what we would do without her," said her teacher at the last parents' evening. Yes, maybe, but R5 says she doesn't know what is going on half of the time.
Is this tolerable, this opacity of school life?
Historically it was the other way around at school. Children who were overheard speaking Welsh had to wear a piece of wood, called the Welsh Not or Note, around their neck and were beaten for speaking their native language. Now the pendulum has swung far in the other direction, minus the beatings of course!
Every official document we get has to be bilingual. So we get two lots, sometimes of quite substantial documents. Half goes straight in the recycling. How much extra must that cost?
As far as I can see there is a separation in this area between Welsh and English. My children can be as fluent as a native, but they will always have English parents and will never be considered local.
The "bilingual" education my children have is almost entirely in Welsh. School productions pay lip service to the presence of English speaking parents with the occasional line, but the rest is Welsh.
It is an exclusive education; it excludes me.
On the wall in the school hall there is a poster which reads: "Siarad Cymraeg yn yr ysgol."
Speak Welsh in the school.
That, to me, is verging on an English Not.