“To my nine-year-old self, Wally’s Deli was heaven. I still feel like that today” – Nicola

nicola tudor cardiff bites

I remember it quite clearly. I was nine years old, handing in my homework to my teacher, Mr. Basini, whilst my peers eagerly discussing what they’d written about. The assignment had been to write about your favourite place – some had picked holiday destinations (Disneyland being the clear winner in terms of “wow” factor), others had picked the home of their favourite football club. One of my friends was horse mad so her favourite place was a local stable where she was allowed to ride and groom the horses.

And me? I’d written about a small, rather unassuming shop located just over 30 miles from my home in Port Talbot. No toys were contained within its walls, no games and no fancy gadgets. Yet to my nine-year-old self, Wally’s Deli was heaven. I still feel like that today.

What you have to understand is I was no ordinary child, and this is no ordinary shop. Coming from an Italian family, my prime concern growing up was where my next meal was coming from. On the occasions when I was taken out for a meal, I would plan my pudding before I’d even eaten my starter. Like most children, Christmas was an amazing time of year. Unlike most children, I was more excited by a visit to Wally’s than the idea of a fat man arriving down my chimney. I’d watch my mother as she stood at the counter, pointing to strange cured sausages and pungent smelling cheeses, preparing for the feast.

The first thing that hits you, as you wander down the arcade, is the smell, that heady mix of spices that grabs you by your nostrils and forcibly pulls you into the shop. Once inside it’s a treasure trove of ingredients from all over the world – South Africa, Poland, Japan and Thailand, all considered very exotic to a child who’d not ventured further than the Mediterranean. It also highlighted Cardiff’s multicultural identity – a specialist shop for us immigrants at a time when pasta came in only a few principle shapes – noodles, bows, twists or tubes, and the only salami I had seen at a supermarket was of the bright pink Danish variety.

Over time the shop has grown, as have I. I took great delight in introducing my friends to the shop, especially those missing comforting tastes from curious lands across the sea. I still love shopping there, and can often be found just browsing the aisles and breathing in that heavy scent, feeling like I’m home.

Nicola Tudor is a Cardiff-based food blogger. She loves sushi, is slightly fanatical about felines and tweets far more than is necessary. For the past four years she has blogged under the name Cardiff Bites and has contributed to Your Cardiff and The Guardian. You can follow her on Twitter @cardiffbites. She currently lives in Canton.

Nicola was photographed in Wally’s Deli by Adam Chard.

***

“all i needed was to come home” – ian

Ian England by Adam Chard

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.

***

“In Cardiff they name roads as salutations to angels” – Nor’dzin

Nordzin

My first impression of Cardiff was somewhat romantic. My dearest friend – later to become my husband – lived in ‘Hail Gabriel’. How fantastic I thought – in Cardiff they name roads as salutations to angels. I later learned that ‘hail’ was in fact ‘heol’ and simply meant ‘road’, but by that time I was already in love with Cardiff and it mattered not.

It was an interest in Buddhism that brought me to Cardiff. I had been attending weekend events at the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Raglan for two or three years and had developed friendships with people living in Cardiff. On first moving to Cardiff as a newly qualified teacher, I worked in many schools throughout the city providing supply cover. I struggled with the children’s names. Rhiannon, Angharad and Iwan were new names to me, and even familiar names were spelt strangely, such as Dafydd, Alun or Huw. I never did get used to children telling me that they had ‘been to England’ for their summer holiday. It had been quite usual for my family to go to Wales for a holiday, but it just sounded really odd to hear people saying the same about England. For me England had always been where I lived, not a place you went to for a vacation.

I have taught in Community Education since I first moved to Cardiff in 1983. At first I taught pottery as I had trained in art and design, particularly ceramics. The health problems of my children when they were little led me into studying homoeopathy and so I taught this for a while. Underlying all my experience and work is my life as a Buddhist practitioner and I am now ordained as a ngakma, and so in more recent years my community education teaching was meditation and Tibetan yoga. My second book has just been published which draws on my experience of these classes. Relaxing into Meditation offers a gentle and pragmatic approach to the practice of meditation through relaxation and breathing exercises. We also run a weekly meditation class in Whitchurch which anyone is welcome to attend.

Cardiff is both spacious and compact. It is spacious with the many wonderful areas of open parkland where you can cycle or walk and feel part of nature. It is compact in that the main shopping centre is easily covered in a single expedition whilst still offering a great range of shops. We call our local Whitchurch shopping area ‘the village’ and indeed there are many such areas surrounding the city centre and each has its own personality. I also love that I need only travel a few miles north from my home in Whitchurch and be in beautiful and scenic countryside.

My two sons are Welsh like their father, and I now feel rather more Welsh than English. Although the sound of a Brummy accent makes me feel warm inside and brings a smile to my face, Cardiff, and Wales are my home. I have tried to learn the Welsh language with some success – I can read and write simple Welsh, but I have never succeeded in tuning in my ear to hearing it. I pick up words here and there, but I cannot follow the flow of a conversation. I hope to get back to this soon and improve my understanding.

I revitalised a love of horse riding at Pontcanna riding stables and eventually, in my middle age, realised a childhood dream of owning my own horse by purchasing a mare from them. We now have two horses and livery them at the splendid Briwnant Riding Centre in Rhiwbina. It still amazes me that I can keep my horses five miles from the city centre and yet ride for hours on woodland trails, hardly needing to touch a road.

Ngakma Nor’dzin Pamo grew up in the Midlands of England and moved to Wales as an adult. Her training in meditation began in the early 1980s and in 1989 she was ordained and became the first Western woman to take ordination into the non-monastic tradition of Nyingma Tibetan Buddhism. Her first book, Spacious Passion, was published in 2006. Her most recent book, Relaxing into Meditation, is available now through Aro Books Worldwide. Follow her online through her blogs, ceffylau.blogspot.com, transport-of-delight.blogspot.com, ngakma-nordzin.blogspot.com or spacious-passion.org. She currently lives in Whitchurch with her husband and has two sons.

Nor’dzin was photographed with her mare, Dee, at Briwnant riding stables in Rhiwbina. She was photographed by her husband, ‘ö-Dzin Tridral

***

“You’re never alone in Cardiff. It’s like Lost but with the warmth of Postman Pat” – Jonny

jonny_bull_web

On July 30th, 2008, at Estació de Sants in Barcelona, I got my heart broken. Shutting myself away from the world broken. Every song on my iPod relating to my failed relationship broken. Not getting dressed all weekend broken.

To get me through the trauma, I grew a beard. This proved utterly useless. After six months of moping alone, I moved to Grangetown.

Back home in the Merthyr valley, I was something of an outcast due to my aversion to drinking heavily and impregnating strangers. My parents were concerned at my choice of location. They live opposite a crack den. Their argument is invalid.

It wasn’t a snap decision. I wanted a change of scenery and to be within walking distance of work. Using High Fidelity’s ‘what really matters is what you like, not what you are like’ test, I scoured Gumtree and settled on one advert titled ‘Ace Room Seeks Good Person’.

My prospective housemates appeared to share my tastes and interests, but the clincher was the reason they gave for their other housemate leaving: ‘It’s because we like to stand outside the room at night dragging my nails down the door and whispering things like “Are you asleep?”, “I hate you”, “What are you doing?” and “Are you asleep now?”. Either that or because she got offered to move in with some of her bestest best friends ever.’

Reassuring though that was, packing up and moving to the big city is a pretty intimidating move.

Cardiff is not a big city.

In fact, I think Douglas Adams who once said “Cardiff is tiny. Really tiny. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly tiny it is. I mean you may think it’s a short way down the stairs to the kitchen, but that’s just peanuts to Cardiff.”

What might be claustrophobic is a disarming strength to living in Cardiff. Walks to town are frequently broken up with quick catch ups with passing friends. There are always familiar faces to be found at any event you choose to attend.

It’s like Lost but with the warmth of Postman Pat.

You’re never alone in Cardiff. And given my reasons for moving, it’s proved the perfect place to be. The beard continues to be utterly useless.

When not fixing computers for Cardiff University, Jonny Bull organises a Sunday afternoon kickabout for the unfit and untalented and co-runs a monthly quiz at Gwdihw. He curates the entire internet at http://dogscantlookup.com and documents his life in nauseating detail at http://twitter.com/jonnyathan. He believes ‘ear’, ‘here’ and ‘year’ are all pronounced the same and loathes compliments, photographs of his face and writing in the third person.

Jonny was photographed in Grangetown by Adam Chard

***