My first ‘proper’ girlfriend was Sian. I used to visit her every now and then, catching the coach down from London. Back in the day, Sian would take me to Pillars for snacks, shopping in the arcades, to the ‘animal wall’, Spillers Records, a dusty old book shop… But this is now. Sian and I have swapped locations. She lives in London, and I, mostly, live in Cardiff. I don’t see Sian anymore, as that was then. That was 33 years ago.
And me? I’m 48, live in a van, and am, usually, as naked as the day I was born.
Cardiff has changed over the years. Cardiff has been spruced up. Cardiff has had a facelift. It’s a bit unfinished and tired in places, development land in the Bay is laying fallow, modern estates of twenty years past are so soon decaying… Cardiff’s heart is pumping, but its pimped up and requires feeding. The shops and pedestrian zones demand regular re-invention and a fatty, corporate growth. It’s as if Cardiff wasn’t ready, wasn’t right for the glitz and shimmer of town centre apartments, the footballers wives lifestyles. It’s limbs, it’s Roath’s, Cathays’, Canton’s and Grangetown’s, they are where Cardiff’s at.
I think I’ve aged better than Cardiff. You can see my history on my face. There’s no mask, no veneer, no lick of paint. I’ve grown craggy, I’ve grown brave, I’m wild now, a feral human… My eyes shine bright like the gleaming windows of the smart, dressed stone Victorian town houses that hem in Roath Park. There are lines gathering about them, lines of laughter, of sorrow, of astonishment and dismay. Those lines are as the rivers Taff, Ely and Rhymney that flow over the damp, dank creases of the cities weather beaten skin. My body is tighter, taughter. It’s straining to bursting. My body is the vehicle for my voice, the voice that it holds captive behind its sinew curtain, within its bone cage. And it creaks. And it’s slower to bend. And as I speak, I ache…
And Cardiff aches and snaps at times. It’s people spark at each other. It’s architecture has raised eyebrows. I see violence of fists and of the demolition ball against the backdrop of a screaming birthing of gleaming towers. I see it’s roads slow to a halt, but, always, there is movement over tarmac once more, an edging forwards, a traveling through time and space. There’s a fidgeting to the Bay, a trembling to Whitchurch, a lurching to Llanrumny. Cardiff breathes in and out a mass of humanity, several times a day. And the humans grow up, grow old. And the city changes. It’s forever changing…
And I’ve changed. I’m 48, live in a van, and am, usually, as naked as the day I was born. More so, in fact. Swaddling’s not my thing. I’m my partners muse, an artists muse, I can be your muse. I’ve become the most employed life model in the UK, the UK’s most naked man. I work for colleges, universities, artists, hen party’s, TV… I run drawing sessions in bars in the evenings… I’ve been filmed naked with Lacey Turner and Caroline Quentin… My bum’s been booked for theatre, appearing live, on stage, an avant-garde performance arse… I’ve been interviewed by the owner of the UK’s most famous bottom, for Radio Four…
I have Cardiff to thank for this. It’s the right size for a city. It’s easy to get stuff moving, to build on an idea, to drive a project to success. Cardiff enables personal re-invention as fluidly as it re-invents itself. Cardiff’s a city on a human scale. And when it gets me down, when the planners, politicians, businessmen and all their associates, that band of corporate bland, when they piss me off, I head to Roath Lake. I sit in my van. And I watch the duckies…
Originally from South East London Andrew has been in Wales for 25 years and has experienced living in the Valleys, Brecon, Talgarth and Cardiff. Since moving to Wales he has become, amongst other things, a mountaineer, a poet, youth inclusion specialist, an activist and of course, the most naked man in the UK! He currently lives in his van with his partner Becky and his dog, Rowan. They mostly park up near Roath Park and welcome visitors who often are treated to a cup of fresh mint tea. More info can be found at about.me.
Andy was photographed at Roath Park Lake by Lann Niziblian
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