This is the place…
I’ve always thought there are two types of home: the one you have, and the one you want. Roath was definitely the latter for me. I moved here from Stoke in 2002 and straight away it felt right. In a short space of time I met an incredible group of friends, and this, together with my love of the city, gave me a sense of belonging. Aged 23 I thought this is the place I want to be.
Recently I’ve begin to question the choice I made 10 years ago. There are those friends who move away to bigger cities – some come back, some don’t. And there are those who never make the journey and ask themselves that meaningless question, what if? Big cities are naturally more conducive to creativity, offer more opportunities, and provide a bigger network to plug yourself into to find out what sparks, if any, may fly. Of course, you know this, but still, what if?
When I find myself thinking about this, I put on my running shoes and go to the one place I love more than any other in Cardiff – a home within a home – the Rec (aka the Roath Recreation Ground). I must have run, and walked, around this small park hundreds of times, and spent countless hours there lying under rare summer sun until my pale skin turns pink. It’s hard to convey why I love it – after all it’s just a park – bit if pressed I would say it’s a combination of the space and the skies above it. I’ve seen the most amazing sunsets, and formations of clouds and light, over the Rec. It may sound pretentious, but I feel like those skies have sheltered me over the years whenever I’ve been feeling low.
The final key ingredient that makes the Rec so great is the people who inhabit it. On any one night you can watch people playing rounders, rugby, football, cricket, or just reading, talking, and drinking until the sun goes down. It’s a reminder of how vibrant and eclectic this city is – I remember seeing one football game where each player wore the football top of their country of origin and no 2 shirts were alike. Having a garden is a luxury, but it’s not essential in Roath, as there is always the Rec.
When I’ve finished my run I always turn off my iPod and walk across the width of the Rec towards the Community Centre. I don’t think about work the next day, or what I’m going to do when I get home. I try not to think at all. Instead I just listen to the evening and look around me. It always gives me a sense of calm, and reminds me of how lucky I am to have this on my doorstep. Moments like this brush away all of my doubts and reaffirms that this is still the place I want to be.
James Nee works for The Festivals Company (where he directs the occasional promo and is the Director of ffresh) and is the creator of ernest – a collective of artists based in Roath who make short films and sketches. He currently lives in Roath.
James was photographed on Roath Recreation Ground by Jon Pountney
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