Cardiff Alms – Jodie

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The Cabin

Roald Dahl referred to the sweet shop in Boy as ‘the very centre of our lives. To us, it was what a bar is to a drunk or a church is to a Bishop.’ And I would hasten to agree.

What The Cabin brought us, with her little round windows and moss-green roof tiles, was a haven. She was the communal grandmother, the saccharine reward to keep me still in church that became a Sunday ritual.

With my pocket money burning a hole through my ladybird purse, I would count out penny sweets into the paper bag, pondering over my selection. Kola Kubes, Millions, Sherbet Lemons, Milk Bottles, Flying Saucers, Lemon Bonbons; all were scrutinised and mulled over. Not just anyone got in.

Once, the man behind the counter informed me, to my horror, that I was one penny short. He winked at me and told me not to tell anyone, handing over the corrupted bag with its nefarious stash. I reached up and took it, awe-struck. I couldn’t believe he’d put his neck on the line just for me. There and then I made a solemn oath that to my dying day, I would not reveal this treacherous debt. As soon as I got home, I hid the incriminating sweet bag in the back of Noel, my zip up monkey, and took from it furtively.

She’s a chiropractic clinic now, the Cabin. They tore out her wooden shelves, shelves which used to hold jar upon jar of tooth-rotting bribes and sticky enticers, to make room for treatment couches. They lino’d over the wood and white-washed her walls. Now people go there to get their backs cracked and joints adjusted.

It just doesn’t seem as fun.

May she rest in peace.

The Monico

We are gathered here today in remembrance of a lady dear to all our hearts, who has now been demolished and turned into luxury flats.

I remember when it happened. After years of darkness she sat blinking in the sun, her back wall ripped out, exposing row up row of faded red seats. Through the lesion I could see her sleepy projector window clouded with glaucoma, and her set of centre steps which now just led to nothing.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t done with any kind of decorum. It was as if someone had bent her over, lifted up her brown and yellow skirt and showed her big granny knickers to the world.
And that was that, the heavy velvet curtains drawn on the days of Saturday cinema, the screechy Wurlitzer organ and the parade of birthday children. The credits had rolled on the excitement of seeing the stern-faced, Mr Monico in the foyer and the nomination of who was going to ring up the answer machine to get the timetable.

Her carpets were sticky with generations of ‘not to be sold separately’ cans of coke, kernel-heavy popcorn and overpriced Revels. “Keep the floor neat beneath your feet”, she’d say, “Refreshments are available in the lobby,” and then serenade us with the ‘Pearl and Dean’ theme tune.

She was a place of playdates, first dates and Beauty and the Beast. Not to mention burgeoning romances and first-time teenage fumblings. I distinctly remember a man smoking in there once, big puffs billowing up through the projector beam. My mum was too polite to say anything.

Mr Monico came through my brother’s till in Tesco a few years after, and he was surprised to learn that his name wasn’t Mr Monico at all, it was in fact, Mr Bull. He looked genuinely upset when he later informed me of this.

And so, with a heavy heart, we say goodbye to this Disney sympathiser, Titanic trader and Star Wars supplier.

We’ll miss you.

The Bandstand

A friend to the people of Cardiff and to Bon Jovi, the Bandstand was a man to be trusted and depended upon. He the meeting place for countless people over numerous generations. I myself used to wait for friends with him, in the days before mobile phones, when we just made solid plans. I also spent most of an afternoon with him once, queueing to meet the Super Furry Animals in Virgin Megastore. There was an awkward picture of me in the Echo the next day, clutching my newly signed copy of ‘Rings Around the World’ and looking like, as I did for about a year, the oldest one from Hanson.

“I’ll see you there at eleven”, we’d say, carefully timing our phone call to try to avoid the embarrassment of having to speak to one of our friend’s parents. I’d only had the five minute window of when my mum chucked my brother off the dial-up so I could use the phone. “You should get outside more”, she’d tell him, brushing back her perm and adjusting her massive glasses. So, bang on eleven we’d turn up in our peasant tops and Gwen Stefani bindis, skirting the Goths which congregated on him to smoke.

He supplied a familiar facade, a destination to aim for. He was reliable and stalwart, a permanent fixture. And then one day, he was gone. It happened so fast it was over before I’d even acknowledged it.

They paved over his uprooted foundations and twisted his ribs up through the concrete to make bike racks.

People walk over his grave every day and have no idea he was ever there.

Rhiwbina Infants
I am happy to see so many of her friends here today, and I’m sure many of you will remember her with the same fondness and affection as I do.

She had been my first teacher. She had stuck star stickers on my recorder and taught me how to write my name. She was there the time I forgot my vest and had to do PE with my dress tucked into my knickers, and when Sophie peed herself during assembly and I had to keep shuffling further and further back to escape the spread.

She had sympathised with me when I was sick all over her parquet floor (in my black and white stripy jumper) and the time I was caught drawing pencil stars on the desk (wearing the cursed flowery dress which I refused to wear ever again). I was made to wipe them off with the entire class stood around the table watching, my face hot and red.

“You missed a bit,” said Chloe, which was ludicrous, as she had drawn just as many stars as me. In fact, she had drawn the first. It was that moment that I realised that there was no justice in the world.

It was a sad time, the night she burnt down. I was there myself, watching her impromptu pyre from the fence, bundled up in my snowflake dressing gown and wellies. I remember feeling the heat on my face and the cold autumn air on my back, like ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.
We stood in silence, the whole street, the dead air punctured by a steady crackle and the occasional muffled crunch. Her immolation was hard to watch. I thought of all the ‘mummy and daddy’ crayon drawings and the painted hand prints that were now reduced to just spiralling embers.

But she lives on through us. I have many fond memories of her, which I’m sure you all do too. She was a teacher to us all.

Zeus

It is with great sadness that I stand in front of you to remember the life of Zeus. He was a brother, a father and a friend, not to mention a matchmaker and a pretty damn good dancer.
For me, he bridged the gap between childhood and adolescence, a neon lantern in the dark no-man’s land of the first few years of high school. Through his under-sixteen nights he taught me about boys, about wearing heels and the importance of keeping your head up during a foam party.

We’d queue round the block for an hour or so, girls on one side, boys on the other. The doormen would check our pockets for cigarettes and our bags for booze. I never tried to sneak anything in, I was far too much of a goody two shoes. One time, the woman on the door gave me an odd look when she reached into the pockets of my denim jacket and found them packed to the brim with sanitary towels. My mum said I only needed to take one, two at the most, but I always was paranoid about stuff like that.

Once inside, we’d totter up the stairs in our super cool wedged sandals and pedal pushers and immediately cluster in a corner. We couldn’t believe what some of the girls were wearing.

After scoping it out a bit, and getting the obligatory group photo taken (that’s three pounds each, you can pick it up on the way out), we’d make our way over to the dance floor. He’d always play the 90s favourite, ‘Livin’ la Vida Loca’, which was always, always followed up with ‘Mambo Number Five’. We’d always dance in a circle, not daring to put our handbags down after our parent’s stern warnings: there could be kids from Cantonian here.

Although someone now stands where he once stood, he’ll always be special to us. He was the platform for our first foray into adulthood, showed us what it was going to be like from there on in, taught us what it was to be big.

And for that, I thank him.

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Jodie Kay Ashdown was born in Rhiwbina in the golden days of 1985, but now walks her dog on the streets of Llandaff North. She places myself firmly in the ‘Cardiff born, Cardiff bred’ category. To top it off, she’s now studying an English and Creative Writing degree at Cardiff Met and plans to complete a Masters there after that. She spent just under four years travelling around the world experiencing such delights as snake feasting, being bitten by a monkey and contracting acute giardiasis. But no matter how far she travels, she always ends up back here, and it’s always a pleasure to come home. In Cardiff, you’ll usually find her in one of the proper pubs around Womanby Street, with a gin and tonic and probably a good book. 

She was photographed at Trout Books by Adam Chard

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One response to “Cardiff Alms – Jodie

  1. Pingback: Cardiff Alms – re-inventing the blue plaques writing workshop, Sunday 19 October 2014 | We Are Cardiff·

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