To the uninitiated, cwtch does not sound like a pleasant word. For those whose heads swim with wandering rhyme, it bears – perhaps – too much similarity to words such as itch, witch and crotch. Yet despite the frightening absence of vowels, it is actually a word of love.
Not passionate, painful love. You know, the sort that leaves two teenagers dead in a tomb in Italy.
No, a warm, enveloping, safe love. One born of friendship, family and an open spirit towards mankind on one of the days when the milk of human kindness is fresh, frothy and white. Not spilled. Not sour. And not forgotten on the conveyor belt at the supermarket.
Cwtch – pronounced a little like “butch” – doesn’t have a direct English translation. It usually means a cuddle but others describe it as a kind of safe place, rather like its cheery cousin hygge in Denmark.
It’s also, as I found out last weekend, the name of a gastronomically sumptuous restaurant in Britain’s smallest city. (St David’s, since you ask. And yes, check it out if ever you get the chance. Especially the potted Solva crab. And have a Cwtch Sparkle for me. It’s prosecco with…wait. Why should I spoil the surprise? Head there and have one yourself!)
As I roamed around the raw and rugged cliffs of Britain’s only Coastal National Park, scrunching toes through sand and stone and straw-parched grass, I thought how perfect the word cwtch seemed to be.
Like much of the country, it doesn’t dazzle when read about from afar. But when you get up close. When you live it and know the reality…both its sentiment and ancestry hail from among the most beautiful things on earth.
Disclosure: tooty down for a cwtch means something like “bend your knees low enough so I can give you a hug.” It’s a phrase my grandmother used to say to me when I wore a younger girl’s clothes.
The other disclosure: I visited Pembrokeshire this time in association with Visit Wales. I’ll leave you to decide which relationship influenced me more…