It’s not often you’ll find someone who can say that a car park was instrumental in the biggest change of their life, but I can. Standing on the top level of the St David’s 2 shopping centre car park, dangling my camera over the edge to get what turned out to be a near perfect shot of the insane lines and shadows, I knew then that I really, really didn’t want to go home. That if I made the decision to move to the Welsh capital instead of London like I’d originally planned then it would be the best decision I ever made. Luckily for me it turned out to be right.
Can you guess the plot? It started when I was introduced to a lovely Welsh boy through a mutual friend, whilst I was back living at home with my parents after a break up and a break down in Cambridge. He was the nicest person I’d met in a long time, and everything started to click. We umm’ed and ahh’ed then fell in love and my god was it glorious. We sent letters back and forth, and took advantage of snatched weekends together during the summer. Wandering around, getting to know the people and the pace of the city and, of course, hanging out on the roof of the car park every now and again. It’s quiet up there. There are no cars, just empty spaces and amazing views of the city. Plans to move to London disintegrated – who needs a big wheel and a jam packed underground when you can have green space and as many hoagies from the New York Deli as you can manage?
It wasn’t just a courtship with the lovely Welsh boy – I felt like I was dating Cardiff as well and let me tell you, it’s a pretty great date. Delicate sparkling snow flakes in the winter, the biggest library I’ve ever seen, fresh flowers in the spring and as much sushi as I could get my grubby little paws on. I was smitten.
Although the LWB never gave me flowers he did bring me back a spherical panda (Hi Eric!) from a trip to Macau in October, so I quit my job in Cornwall and packed my bags in November. I’m not saying the two were related but it was a pretty sweet gesture, heh. November is probably not the best time of year to move; aren’t all cities cold, wet and dreary during winter? Cardiff felt like it was holding a warm spot for me though as a welcome party and I was grateful. I got a job working for the Council where I could (and do) walk to work, and moved into an apartment that couldn’t be more central if it tried – we live on top of the shopping centre (it’s amazing for location, killer on the wallet).
I’ve lived here for seven months now but it only took me about a fortnight to hand over the keys to my heart to this city (plus the boy who lives in it, of course…) I genuinely, unashamedly love Cardiff. As an English transplant, I love feeling like I’m living in an episode of Gavin and Stacey, being surrounded by Welsh people and laughing to myself at how bad my attempts to pronounce the place names are.
This place is amazing. I grew up in Cornwall, in a rural town by the sea. It’s idyllic but slow paced – nothing much happens there. Cardiff in comparison is like a smaller, friendlier version of London and that suits me just fine. Living where we do we’re right on top of the action. Fancy a takeaway? We’ll pop to the infamous chippy lane. A sudden need for chorizo, wheat free crackers or obscure flavours of pop-tarts? I can pop to Wally’s on my short walk home from work. (There is never a time in my life, by the way, where I don’t have a need for pop-tarts. After all eat every flavour of pop-tarts is on my Life List).
I wrote a Life List just before I moved. It now has a whopping 123 items on it, and the longer I live here the more I add. There are so many opportunities available to me it seems a crime to ignore them. I can tick off try a pole dancing class, take ice skating lessons and spend a day watching films in the cinema. I can work my way through try 100 cheeses and with the help of the friendly locals I’ve met through twitter I should be well on my way through my try 100 cocktails bid by the end of the summer (and probably pretty sozzled too).
There always seems to be something happening here that I want to be a part of. I barely meet anyone that wants to move away and I’m starting to understand why. Bands play here! And not just any old band but good bands, that people actually want to see! This was something of a revelation to me. Falmouth did not get good bands, just so you know. Of course, it’s not just the music. There are food festivals and exhibitions and twitter meet up events that I get to be involved in. There are Secret Supper Clubs and trampolining classes and a shop that only seems to sell olive oil and vinegar. There are walks to Cardiff Bay to stare at the slightly disturbing memorial to Ianto Jones and then a stop off at Eddie’s Burgers to load up on chilli cheese fries. God help me but I’ve even started watching Dr Who. (I’m actually starting to enjoy it too but don’t tell the other half, he’ll gloat for weeks). Living in Cardiff has made me a bit sad that I’m not a real Welshie – the sense of love and pride for their country that Welsh people exude is infectious.
It’s a cosy little life we’re building, here. Whenever I go back to Cornwall now I feel a bit displaced. The town I grew up in is so altered these days it could almost have been a different place completely. When the LWB proposed to me in February I couldn’t have been happier. Cardiff feels like a warm blanket, wrapping me up and keeping me safe. Planning our future together – where we want to live and what we want to do, who we’d like to be – has brought the most joy to my life. The fact that I can do it in a city that I actually feel like I can call home and mean it? The icing on the cake.
Sarah Hill is a 27 year old recent Welsh convert. She lives with her fiancé and pet panda in the city centre and spends her spare time making lists and reading a lot of books. You can find her on twittter (@miametro) or on her blog. She’s also the editor and creator of Télégramme Magazine – issue 3 of which is due out as soon as she stops hiding under the duvet. She currently lives in the city centre.
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