When NATO Comes To Wales, The Welsh Plan To Relish The Spotlight

Foreign leaders are descending on Wales for this week's NATO summit, and the influx is a big deal for the small country on the western edge of the UK. Roy Noble of BBC Radio Wales explains just what this means for the region.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

As foreign leaders descend on Wales for this week's NATO summit, some famous Welsh people are giving them a video welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

MATTHEW RHYS: Please enjoy your time here in God's chosen landscape. Croeso I cymru. No, I didn't just cough. It means welcome to Wales.

BLOCK: That's the actor Matthew Rhys - star of the TV show at "The Americans" and native son of Cardiff. The summit is a very big deal for a country of just 3 million people on the western edge of Great Britain. Just how big a deal? Well, Roy Noble is going to fill us in. He's a veteran broadcaster for BBC Radio Wales. And he joins me now from his home village - which, I should say, I'm not even going to try to pronounce, Mr. Noble. There are a lot of consonants and just a couple of vowels.

ROY NOBLE: Oh, well, Melissa, the address actually is pronounced (Welsh spoken) Llwydcoed and it's (Welsh spoken) Aberdare, which means noble court - beautiful place.

BLOCK: Fantastic.

NOBLE: And the place of the Grey Trees in Aberdare.

BLOCK: This must be a huge point of pride for Welsh people to have this summit this week.

NOBLE: Yes it is. And it follows not so long after the Ryder Cup which is a big deal for Newport as well. In the same place - the Celtic Manor hotel. So it is a big deal. We're only 3 million people as you say. But we've always been the quiet Celts behind the Irish and the Scots, although we've had a tremendous influence, I would say, because really and truly we were - for a while - the capitalists of the Industrial Revolution, and we exported the iron to Pennsylvania and the expertise to there and the coal as well. Lots of Welsh names in Pennsylvania like Blaina, Nantyglo, Brynmawr which is famous with its girl's school and so on.

BLOCK: Sure.

NOBLE: And we also did the same for Russia and Ukraine. There was a town there called Hughesovka after John Hughes, and now that town is Donetsk, which is much in the news these days.

BLOCK: Absolutely. Well let me tick through just a few more things that I've learned today about Wales from WalesOnline. The symbol for the mathematical constant pi - we invented it says WalesOnline.

NOBLE: Well, yes, indeed. There's some kind of uncertainty but it is there. But certainly, we invented the equal sign from Robert Recorde of the seaside town - a beautiful town of Tenby and Pembrokeshire to the far West.

BLOCK: The symbol for pi maybe not so clear. Heard that's in dispute?

NOBLE: Well, not really. I mean, we lay claim to that as well. But then again, we lay claim to whisky. We lay claim to stout, and also we invented the microphone and the radio which we're using at the moment.

BLOCK: Well, why not take credit for it?

NOBLE: Well, we lay claim to it. We're not overly pushy. That's our snag, you see. That's been our problem in history. But we're getting used to it now with all these people coming down.

BLOCK: Here's something else from WalesOnline - taking credit for the best food and drink on the planet. No small boast there. So what do you figure NATO delegates should make sure to eat?

NOBLE: You know, the Scots would have sort of Aberdeen Angus beef, for instance. We would have Welsh Black - Welsh Black cattle, and so on, beef. We also have something called laverbread. And laverbread comes out black on the plate. It's quite tasty, but it's made from seaweed and so on.

BLOCK: Lava bread? Lava like - like...

NOBLE: No, not lava as in Vesuvius but lava as in l, a, v, e, r - laverbread.

BLOCK: You know, I've noticed this, Mr. Noble, that the Welsh are laying claim to a number of United States Presidents.

NOBLE: Well, that's true, really. I could sort of list people like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and John Adams and John Quincy Adams, James Garfield, James Monroe.

BLOCK: I think you have just listed them, yes.

NOBLE: Do you know if you're in Washington, if you go up the Washington Monument stairway, about halfway up there's a stone inscribed in Welsh and it says fy iaith, fy ngwlad, fy nghenedl - my language, my country, my nation. Cymru - Wales. Now, Cymru is the Welsh word for Wales, you see. Thomas Jefferson possibly had that put in.

BLOCK: Possibly had that put in?

NOBLE: Yes, you have a little walk up there, Melissa.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I'll do that on my next trip down to the Mall. Well, Roy Noble, thank you so much for talking to us about all things Welsh today.

NOBLE: My pleasure. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Many thanks to you.

BLOCK: Roy Noble. He's a veteran broadcaster for BBC Radio Wales.

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