i had never truly seen cardiff before that christmas.
the ferris wheel was a beacon home.
plymouth’s lighthouse had warned ships not to come nearer, this now beckoned me into the crowds wearing knits and skating on a temporary fake frozen lake. i had spent four years away, i had changed my life; i didn’t expect to want to come back to cardiff.
cardiff had always been there, at the end of the train line, waiting to fill my bags with shopping. given my pocket money, i would ensure i would return with no change.
my parents would begin each new year by parking the car in frosty sophia gardens and walking my sister and i along the castle’s animal wall until we reached a restaurant to celebrate in.
as a teenager, cardiff was the place i went to see bands, smoking weed while leaning out of my friend’s bedroom window, drinking vodka and orange, my baggy jeans being stepped on and ripped in the mosh pits.
the lamplit streets became a blur, the crowds became my friends, i would wake up on my friend’s sofa and her mother would drive us to school.
i wasn’t comfortable living in the valleys, and enjoyed escaping into the crowds of cardiff.
when university came along, i couldn’t have been more excited, and relished a final farewell before a clean slate, surrounded by artists and country lanes. living in devon was a lovely way to spend four years, and i really should see more of the friends i made there. but uni finished and i remained recklessly independent.
it wasn’t until i was blinded by that massive neon ferris wheel that i realised that all i needed was to come home, where it was greener than i remembered, where i could walk the streets and find traces of my history converging with the places and things that were suddenly new, where my family were.
i find myself thinking of the ian that visited cardiff, before the move, as a different person from the ian i am now, living in cardiff, slightly settled, trying to surround myself with interesting people, and forcing myself to write a magic-realism story about curses and cockerels set in the pre-industrial welsh valleys.
i dream about moving again, finding another adventure and another lighthouse, and considering that now, i wonder whether i will return to cardiff yet again, to find another ian waiting to welcome me.
ian england (www.warmstrings.co.uk) lives in canton, cardiff, with his boyfriend and two neighbourhood cats he secretly feeds. he is a writer and a collector, and drinks vanilla lattes (remember that if you see him and fancy a chat).
ian was photographed in Thompson’s Park, Canton, by Adam Chard.