I first lived in Cardiff when I was a student at University of Glamorgan. It was only a year and a half (I dropped out, you see, all the best people do) but it was a proper eye opener for a wide-eyed indie kid from West Wales.
I find it hard to describe what Cardiff means to me, it’s become such an important part of my life. I lost my virginity here, had my first poem published here (in The Yellow Crane); I’ve gigged, marched, lobbied and protested here; gigged, danced, sung, drank and fallen over here. I bought a house here last year. It’s my home.
I went to my first gay club in Cardiff. Nerys and I were both 18, and I went to Talybont Halls to get ready before going out. I cringe to think of what I was wearing. Skin-tight grey pinstripe trousers, a black shirt, knockoff Patrick Cox loafers and more eyeliner than Robert Smith. We drank vodka, pretended we were Poppy Z Brite vampires, kissed and got a taxi to Club X. I can’t remember much of the next six months, but I definitely can’t drink like that these days. Sadly, I think my bohemian vampire days are over. But shh, don’t tell anyone, I still like the eyeliner though.
I live in Splott, on a tiny street in a tiny block near Moorlands Park. When I had my offer accepted, I turned into a Time Team detective; spent hours on Ancestry.com and old-maps.co.uk. I discovered that in 1890 a lady called Ellen Rörstrum lived in my house, and was probably the first occupant. When my Dad and I removed the old suspended floor from under the stairs, we found a rusty old Victorian hatpin. Part of Ellen’s life was suddenly in my hands. I felt I knew her. I could see this woman bringing up the children who survived past infanthood, mourning the ones who didn’t. Many have remarked on the cheerful feeling in my house; I hope I’m making it as happy a home as Ellen.
I’ve written quite a lot about Cardiff, you can’t seem to help it, if you live here. Most of my main characters live in Cardiff for a while, and even though they all leave, they always return. I had a short story selected for publication in Peter Finch’s Big Book of Cardiff in 2005. Nothing much happens in the story, two friends say goodbye as one leaves to live in Australia; but I wrote is as if the city was a character. That’s pretty much how I actually see Cardiff. Every landmark, whether they are famous and well known, or (in)famous to me personally, is a facet of the City’s character; every person, every shopper, every landlord, waitress or singer is a thought that flits through the City’s mind. I have the same relationship to Cardiff as I do with the people I love. Sometimes they get on my nerves, sometimes they don’t; sometimes we argue, sometimes we kiss and make up; but I love and accept them, warts and all.
Cardiff and its people have shaped who I am today. I wasn’t the confident, shouty, positive person I am today back then when I moved here ten years ago. I had an awful job back then, working for a black-hearted financial institution that tried to ruin my life by keeping me back. When I turned thirty in 2007, I decided I wanted a whole change of career. I now work for RNIB Cymru, Wales’ main charity offering support and advice to blind and partially sighted people. Part of my job is to go out to schools and deliver assemblies on the importance of regular eye health checks, how to keep your eyes healthy, and how to guide a blind or partially sighted person. After working for various terrible employers for more than fifteen years, I now genuinely love my job. No two days are the same; I might be training Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, one day, and running a focus group in Rhondda Cynon Taf the next. We campaign for the rights of blind and partially sighted people across Wales, and I am lucky enough to work closely with Cardiff, Vales and Valleys, (formerly Cardiff Institute for the Blind), a fantastic member organisation that supports, motivates and exists for the blind and partially sighted people of Cardiff and the Vale. Not content with that, CVV also operates in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr.
I learned to knit in 2004. It started as a little hobby, and has turned into an obsession. I curated an art exhibition as part of Queer Cymru in 2005, and the entrance to my section of the exhibition space was hung with knitted jellyfish, that visitors had to duck under to access. The risk of being stung was minimal. I’m now busy designing four knitting and crochet patterns that will be on sale in a lovely new knitting shop in Canton called Calon Yarns. Lynne, the owner, not only has an amazing shop, she really wants to be part of the community. Calon Yarns runs workshops and events and all sorts of great community projects. Best of all, Lynne introduced me to a crowd of people as a ‘knitwear designer’.
Cardiff also holds another first for me. This is where I grew up. This is where I’ll stay.
Andrew Craig Williams was born in 1977 and is from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire. He has lived in Cardiff for ten years, where he is a writer, artist and music maker. His website is andrewcraigwilliams.com, where you can download his music, read some of his work and get his free knitting patterns. He suggest you also check out rnib.org.uk/cymru, cardiffinstitutefortheblind.org and calonyarns.co.uk. Andrew currently lives in Splott.
Andrew was photographed by Amy Davies outside Metros
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