Eight and a half years ago, I got on a train to Tonfanau. It's a request stop so I dutifully asked the guard to stop at the station. She corrected my pronunciation. And thus, another anxiety was born.
It is the height of disrespect to mispronounce a place name simply because you're a boring old Englishman who speaks only one language. On the other hand, Wales, give us a break. My next destination was Tal-y-cafn station, and who even knows? I stood at the bus stop and ran pronunciations over in my head. Tallycafn. Tal-E-Cavn. Tellistdatnecag. When the bus arrived, I stood in front of the driver and strongly and confidently asked for a single to Llanrwrst. I could get off early.
The bus clattered around the back lanes from Glan Conwy. The quickest route is straight down the A470, but there are hamlets hidden in the hills so the bus went in search of them. The driver was only paying half-attention the whole time. He'd propped his phone up on the wheel and was playing a fruit machine game, idly tapping at the arm, watching the wheels spin, then tapping it again. It added a frisson of danger to every corner, every upcoming tree, every vertiginous drop off the side of the road. I hadn't really planned on plummeting to my death in a single decker but, hey, sometimes life throws these options at you. I was glad to ding the bell and jump off at Tal-y-Cafn station.