Category Archives: The People

“Layers of memories have grown around my life in Cardiff, like rings on a tree trunk” – Katrina

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My Cardiff.

Wet, black and red.

Growing up in London, that’s all I knew of Wales – constant rain, coal-black miners and dismissive comments by adults about red strikers.
And children like me being killed in Aberfan. Altogether a gloomy and dangerous place.

Then 30 years ago I had to come and live here, discovering Cardiff’s bus routes, libraries, supermarkets and DIY stores, its parks and people. Occasionally venturing into the even more threatening ‘valleys’.

The Cardiff NHS saw me through child-birth and the buggy pushed memories into my head as it navigated the streets, parks and shops. And babies brought friendships, but only to a point. My mum wasn’t around to babysit, I couldn’t go shopping with my sister, and my nan did not live round the corner. I shared no school-day memories with the swing-pushers beside me. And keeping up these crucial relationships kept the other mums too busy for an alien like me. We could thrive side by side, but we were different plants, growing from different stock, needing different nutrients.

Zoom past Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, the setting up of the Welsh Assembly and time working as a scientist, housewife, student and artist. Fast forward 30 Christmases, 10,950 days to meet people, four children, 1,560 weekly shops, and one broken marriage and I find Cardiff is my home. It’s the setting for most of my memories, the place I know best, the place I’m always glad to come back to, the place I’d never want to leave. The most constant factor in my life. I’m a fan.

Layers of memories have grown like tree rings. I walk its streets scanning each face, peering beneath the veils of age and discovering people I knew. Where did we meet? Was it…? Or was it….? Or were you…? But I’m sure I know you. And you’re sure that you know me. And one day our blurry memories may release the knowledge that eludes us now.

The streets are like the people – through the connections in my head, I see what my neighbours don’t see – my own good places and bad, my unique portfolio of connections.

But Cardiff doesn’t just hold the ghosts of the past. It constantly surprises me. Each time I walk down the hill, where I live, the light highlights something different. And I wonder how it’s taken me 30 years to see it. It’s familiar, yet unfamiliar. I can walk my local patch a different way each day.

It’s the same with people. Different circles suddenly reveal links I didn’t dream of, yet there are always new circles to explore. An unlimited source of new opportunities, new encounters, new possibilities for re-inventing yourself, new things to do. It’s big enough to vanish in, but small enough for cosiness.

I wouldn’t claim to be Cardiffian though. There are vast tranches of it where I never tread. Territorial, I fear to tiptoe beyond the boundary of my patch into the threatening unknown, as though I wore a label, “Alien, please target”. And after all, I haven’t read the Echo enough to be Cardiffian and I’ve worked in the valleys so much I’ve grown to love them too.

What am I then? Whatever my accent, I’m utterly, totally certain I’m not English. I don’t fit in over there. I’ve had 30 years without England and Wales has rooted in me, opening my mind, challenging my thinking, re-jigging my understanding, giving me a place to grow. I’d gladly be considered Welsh. Wet, black and red? How wrong can people be?

Katrina Kirkwood is now a digital and storytelling artist. She arrived here a very long time ago as a scientist working in medical research, turned into a mother, then an art student and now loves meeting an incredible variety of people throughout South Wales with her story-making work. You can find out more at her website, www.katrinakirkwood.org. Katrina lives in Penylan and makes a game of NOT having her photo taken.

Katrina was photographed in Roath recreation ground by Adam Chard

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“Penguin on a down slope” – Tim

Tim by Ffion Matthews

I am childish.

I have an early childhood memory that I can’t shake off. It is of a penguin racing game where the penguins go up some stairs and then slide serenely down the chute to the bottom and then start back up the stairs… again… once more… + 1… repeat…again.

At that young age, philosophically, my budding pea-brain didn’t consider those king penguins to be trapped in the Labours of King Sisyphus and neither did I consider them chipper-as-it-goes stoic penguins from the wildlife documentaries. Rather, I just liked them and thought of them as simple penguins getting on with life, with steady ups and exciting downs – enduring, definitely doing their thing as long as my batteries lasted.

Cardiff?

My thoughts about penguins date from when I lived in Kent the county you might know as the Garden of England and my penguin racing game was purchased at a garden centre on the outskirts of Maidstone called Notcutts.

It has been lost somewhere since…

What of Cardiff?

When I moved to Cardiff five years ago in my first week in the city I saw Gavin and Charlotte out (I would later see Gavin and Stacey) and in the shop down the road found Penguin Pile-Up (pictured). In actual fact I bought Penguin Pile-Up fully expecting it to be the penguin racing game – I was wrong. The penguins in Penguin Pile-Up shuffle on a shifting outcrop and risk toppling at any moment.

In 2005 there was a big march in London about climate change. I went up on the train.

Is London Cardiff?

Back in my Cardiff home the march and the news coverage changed the way I thought about my environment, so even more profoundly did the groups I joined and the Cardiff people I talked to about climate change…

Cardiff Transition Project is Cardiff.

I like Cardiff. I like it heading for a pub after work on a Friday, when I might get an occasional weightless feeling like it’s pushing back at me with less friction than normal.

Penguin on a down slope.

Tim Fisher is a community organiser for childrens’ rights charity Tros Gynnal. He also is a keen project planner for Cardiff Transition, having organised Octobers Feed Cardiff event and recently received nomination to the Wales Green list for work with Canton Carbon Cutters. Plus he is an amateur writer, blogger and furniture decoupage-ist … don’t you know. Tim currently lives in Splott.

Tim was photographed outside Shree Swaminarayan Temple on Mardy Street in Grangetown by Ffion Matthews

penguins on a down slopy by Ffion Matthews

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“We moved to Cardiff in 1971 – and have loved living here ever since” – John’s story

John Meredith Jones

Although I am a native Welshman, I had been working for the civil service in London for 30 years when I was relocated to Cardiff. Although apprehensive at first, my wife Mary and I bought a home in Whitchurch, and we moved permanently on St. David’s Day, 1st March 1971, and it has been our home ever since. It is good periodically to retrace and recall the path we have been privileged to tread. Retrospection often brings clarity to occurrences that have mystified us for a long time past. On reflection, it is good to be reminded that ‘our lives have fallen in pleasant places’ and that we have a most beautiful inheritance – in Cardiff – our happy home!

When we first came here from the metropolis of London, probably the most renowned cosmopolitan city in the world, Cardiff was a junior city, its status having been granted in 1905. It didn’t look or act like a city. Furthermore, it was only in 1955 that it was designated the capital of this small principality of Wales. In the early 1970s there was a general feeling that, although WWII had ended nearly three decades ago, Cardiff was still licking its wounds. There was a lot of demolishing and rebuilding evident. There was a lot to be done to justify Cardiff as a respectable city of stature, both nationally and internationally.

Regeneration has been the hallmark and the impetus throughout the last 30 years, in industry and commerce. White-collar employment has predominated, replacing big industries’ demands. Manufacturing is now directed mostly for home/domestic market. The building industry has generally been kept busy particularly with new construction and upgrading and modernising houses. Likewise the catering industry, due to the preference for spending holidays in the UK, rather than overseas, has benefited from the changed public decision.

Religion in the city has, of necessity, through falling number of adherents, undertaken a slimming exercise within traditional denominations. Congregations have united and many churches have been declared redundant. With the inward flux of new nationalities there has also been growth in new religions, and consequently, in the building of new meeting places and temples.

The siting of the new Wales Millennium Centre in the docks area in 2006 has attracted new clientele to the area. It is the venue for arts and cultural events, complementing the well-established St. David’s Hall. It is also the home of the Wales National Opera and Orchestra, and the headquarters of the National League for Welsh Children and Youth – the URDD. Coupled with the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales in 2006, the Senedd, all these new structures enhance the status of the waterfront and are a marvelous advertisement to spread the name of Cardiff abroad.

This city is well endowed by the Bute family (three generations), Lord Davies of Llandinam and his two spinster daughters, Roald Dahl and many other benefactors. Cardiff can boast of its Castle (as well as Castell Coch); its unique Civic Centre (arguably the best in Britain, if not in Europe); its post-war rebuilt Llandaff Cathedral (together with the remarkable statue of Jacob Epstein’s ‘Christ in Majesty’, and a completely rebuilt organ); and a greater acreage of parks and open spaces per head of population than, it is said, of any other UK city.

Cardiff has an enviable history for the excellence of its educational facilities, catering from the toddler to the oldest adults, ‘from the cradle to the grave’. The university has fostered a happy research relationship with Welsh industry and further afield. For centuries the educational system was geared towards producing professionals (teachers, solicitors etc) to satisfy English demands. With the comparatively recent legal equal validity of both the English and Welsh languages in Wales, it has undeniably caused recurring problems (in staffing and administrative matters), but also given marvelous opportunities denied to the Welsh language and speakers since – and including – the Tudor period.

Shopping in the city has been revolutionised during the time I have lived here. The establishment of large department stores in shopping precincts has resulted in the mass closure of the small-to-medium family retail stores. This has had an enormous social and economic effect on all the traditional villages and shopping areas. The old “corner shop” has virtually disappeared. It has also resulted in a plethora of charity shops as an alternative to a host of depressing empty shops – a Hobson’s choice for the shop owners.

I remember in earlier years there were only a few instances of violence or mass-misbehaviour in sporting events – an exception possibly was when Cardiff and Swansea were engaged in a football cup-tie! But recently, such bad behaviour has proliferated. Many reasons have been advanced for this, the foremost being as stated by our Prime Minister: “cheap alcohol is turning this country into the Wild West”! The majority would agree with him, I think; I certainly do, and like many others, now prefer to worship the sport from afar and watch the games that are televised. I would still visit live rugby matches though – they are civil and well regulated.

On reflection also, we have bidden farewell to all the street vendors who vocalised their wares in days gone by. The only daily visitor now is the postman and he is usually a silent dropper. The one I miss most is the daily milkman who delivered his “pinta milka day” invariably before breakfast and often before we were awake.

Perhaps one the greatest of all the changes during our 30 years in Cardiff (and indeed throughout the UK) is the change in attitudes, particularly in our personal relationships. The chords that bound together families, for example, are no longer as powerful as they once were. Economic demands were possibly the first to cause this rift – when mother had also got to seek paid work, often during antisocial hours.

One other constant irritation is the traffic congestion and parking facilities. The number of commercial and private vehicles on the roads has proliferated enormously and this is coupled with the poor state of road maintenance. This escalating problem will have to await another Solomon to resolve it. Meantime, I’m afraid, the holes in the roads, both the mains and the subsidiaries, will only get bigger and oftener.

Would I want to move from my present home in Cardiff? The answer is a loud and resounding NO! Thirty-nine years established here surely also qualifies me not to call myself a Cardiffian, and proud of this vibrant city.

I still remember about 25 years ago when crossing over in Niagara from the Canadian side to the United States, the caustic remark of the American officer who examined my passport – “Cardiff? where in heaven’s name is that?”

I recall also when we first arrived here we received a letter, properly addressed to Cardiff, which had been incredibly misdirected to the corresponding town in the USA. It was subsequently returned to us with the astonishing red ink addition on the envelope – “Try Wales”! Now I believe the whole world is aware of Cardiff, if only because of its international sporting connections with the Millennium Stadium.

It is also good to be reminded of our antecedents! To be reminded that it was a product of the 19th century industrial revolution. Were it not for the exploitation of iron ore and coal in the hinterland, Cardiff might still be a fishing village! Its remarkable wealth was the product of the extraction of those minerals from the earth’s belly at the vast human effort and sacrifices of the inhabitants of those three Welsh valleys. Yes, we should be proud of those men and women – and be grateful.

And to end, foremost in my mind is the old hymn –

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done”.

I find this profound in its simplicity. Yes, give thanks where it is due – including, for 39 years of happy living in this part of Cardiff, and for the friendships we’ve found here.

John Meredith Jones was born in Braichgarw, Tal-y-bont, and gave a lifetime’s service to the civil service. He currently lives in Whitchurch.

John was photographed with his wife Mary up a hill somewhere in Wales, sometime in the 1950s.

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“I packed my bags, without a job, without a place to stay, without any friends, and Cardiff embraced me” – Roopa

RoopaCheema small

Been there. Got the t-shirt.

I do not live in Cardiff. But I used to. I am from Canada and live in Toronto.

I hated to fly. I was not “afraid” to fly, meaning I was not afraid of terrorists or the plane crashing. I just hated the whole experience and so did my body. I would always find myself sick at the other end of my destination. I hated it so much, in fact, one summer I was willing to take the 36-hour train ride from Toronto, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada is really effin’ huge). I thought to myself, “Roopa, if you don’t get on the 2-hour flight to Halifax now, you may never fly again.” I got on that flight in the summer of 2002, victoriously.

The next summer I braved the 8-hour flight and went to Cardiff.

I ended up in Cardiff because I had a met a Welsh guy in university. He was in Toronto on exchange. He made me fall in love with all things Welsh. He was very patriotic, but in an endearing way. We became very good friends. Unfortunately, before I was to make my way to Wales we had a falling out and I ended up in Cardiff without knowing a soul. You know what, though? I would not have had it any other way. Cardiff became mine and mine alone. I did not have to share those memories with anyone.

I arrived at the train station and hailed a cab to the Cardiff Backpackers where I had paid for three nights. I was ready to meet Welsh people and delve into Welsh culture, only to be driven through a very East Indian part of town! WHAT??? I am Indian! I did not want to see Indian people! I wanted to meet Welsh people!

I found a place to stay in Cathays via the Cardiff Free Exchange. I met my future roommates outside Cardiff Castle and trotted back to their home. I could not believe how cold it was in Wales. It was late April and the nights were freezing! I know. A Canadian girl who cannot handle the cold? Canada cold and Wales cold are two different colds: Canada is dry and Wales is damp. The cold got into my bones like no other cold. And because heat is so expensive in Wales my roommates only turned it on for one hour in the morning and maybe two hours in the evening. I even had to buy a winter duvet for sleeping.

Next thing I needed was a job.

I went to St. David’s Centre and looked around. I went to shops I recognised and landed an interview at The Body Shop (we have those in Canada, too). I continued walking around and found myself on The Hayes and in front of MVC. I had many years of music and video retail experience from Canada and thought they might like a foreigner who is into music. I walked in and heard U2. I am a huge U2 fan and I took it as a sign. I knew I was going to get that job.

My days at MVC were so much fun. The staff was awesome, the customers were nice (especially when they found out I was Canadian and not American), and I have never been hit on by so many men in my entire life! White boys in Wales sure do like their brown girls.

Going to Clwb Ifor Bach, drinking at the Owain Glyndr, buying jewellery in the arcade, visiting Caerphilly Castle, trying to understand why everyone thought people from Merthyr Tydfil were weird, stumbling around drunk and taking pictures on the stairs of Marks & Spencer’s, walking to and from Tewkesbury Street in Cathays to MVC on The Hayes are just some of the memories I hold dear of Cardiff.

Cardiff, to me, means overcoming a fear of mine and finding out more about who I am. I packed my bags, without a job, without a place to stay, without any friends and Cardiff embraced me. I have nothing but fond memories. Everyone was so nice.

In 2006, my old friend from Wales (the one I had had a falling out with) and I rekindled our friendship. I was over the moon because he and I were meant to be lifelong friends. Two years later, in the summer of 2008, I returned to Cardiff and found it as lovely as ever.

I fell in love again.

Roopa Cheema is a high school geography and dance teacher in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She likes to rock out. She used to live in Cathays.

Roopa photographed herself wearing a Spiller’s Records t-shirt

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“Pontcanna Fields Forever” – Seren

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Pontcanna Fields Forever

City summer skies

The green lungs of Cardiff breathe

Urban heat shimmers

The air is fresh and gentle but the June heat beats like a slackened drum, a constant slow rhythm of warmth intensifying as the sun reaches midday. It is the most perfect summer’s day in the city. In the heart of the capital, the urban rat race is a distant hum.

A huge green lung like a refreshing sigh.

In the heart of the city, in a vast area of parkland running alongside the River Taff, we lay, entangled in shades of gold and symbols, sharing a kiss against a bronze background like a Fin de siècle Klimt painting.

Nothing moves.

The long line of lime trees are frozen in stillness, leaves caught in the flaring June sun, and the world around us swims in the shimmering golden haze.

The sky is limitless. Blue. Cloudless. No birds.

I have just awoken from a deep sleep wine fueled daze. Our picnic remnants scattered. He is asleep. His eye lids flicker and he stirs, moving to resettle on my shoulder. I wonder what he is dreaming.

I raise my arms and s-t-r-e-t-c-h, blinded by the whiteness of the sun. Like a synchronised dance he shadows my movements but does not wake.

Where the picnic blanket ends I feel the irritable itch of grass blades on the backs of my legs. I imagine the criss cross red pressured welts that tattoo my skin – a testimony to our first summer outing in the city this year.

My body pulses sensations, with being alive and lying here with him in the summer heat.

I turn and look at the dappled grass, shaded it looks cool and inviting. The sensations of lying under the trees where the grass is soft and damp would be soothing but the thought of moving is too much to contemplate.

This beautiful never ending summer’s day is almost unbearable. The sun moves slowly on through the listless blue of the sky. I watch it, totally aware of my,
our,
own insignificance.

I shut my eyes and the sun pulses ochre against my lids.

Seren Rhys was born in 1970, in Llandeilo, Wales, spent her childhood in Ibiza and her  adolescence in Penarth. She has always been obsessed with taking photographs and has spent much of her life behind and in front of the lens. “I have this compulsion to record every moment; love, hate, anger, jealousy, anguish. Fortunately for me Confessional Art in the last decade has become highly fashionable.” Check out her blog here and her Facebook fan page here. Seren lives in Pontcanna.

Seren was photographed in Bute Park by Simon Ayre

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“I’m proud to say that I’m in love with the city” – Tom

Tom Wentworth

I’m having an affair. I know what you must be thinking – but now I want to shout it from the very top of Capital Tower.

I have been indulging in my love affair with Cardiff since September last year. It began with an exclamation of recognition that you get when you meet an old friend, hurtling past the University of Glamorgan’s Cardiff campus the Atrium in Adamsdown, as I arrived on the train. After open days and visits to get my bearings, this was it. I was moving to Cardiff.

The Atrium building simply screams ‘buzzword’, with its glass frontage and the way it appears to rise from the ground. It symbolises my view of Cardiff – modern, fresh and exciting. The Atrium has become the centre of my personal map of the city. That map is growing all the time, adding in the restaurants, cafes and coffee houses where I guiltily eat chocolate cake and listen to city gossip. I hear candid reviews of the best places to eat; the new art collections at the National Museum and where to find peace in the city’s green spaces. I want to know who else I’m sharing my city with, so I drink in the chatter with my latte and head out to explore.

While I’m alone during these exquisite explorations I’m still surrounded by people who are not above waving or saying a cheery ‘Good morning!’. Of course, I’m never really on my own – the city is more than happy to act as the perfect guide, as I experience the new and old together; taking enjoyment from returning to familiar places, just as much as finding new ones.

Like in any relationship though, there are some days when one needs space. Then I head to Shropshire – the original focus of my affections – but I’m always pulled back, often to find that a new building or development has been erected in the time I was away. The city is ever changing and embraces so many cultures but it can sometimes seem rather apologetic of its status as the Welsh capital. However, its pull appears to remain unchallenged as students often seem to stay long after they’ve graduated.

In many ways I feel that I am writing my version of the city; the boulevards and streets have become places where an important part of my life is being played out. I feel a strong sense of ownership with a place I feel increasingly passionate about. I dread the day when I may have to break my bond with this place and relocate but it hasn’t happened yet.

So, I shall continue my love affair with Cardiff but it’s no longer a secret, and I’m proud to say that I’m in love with the city.

Tom Wentworth is a freelance writer and a student at the University of Glamorgan where he is studying Radio (BA Hons.) He openly admits to spending too much time in the cities cafes in the name of research when he should be writing or studying. Follow him on Twitter – @tomthetwit. He currently lives in Adamsdown.

Tom was photographed outside Atrium by Adam Chard

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“To me, Cardiff was just somewhere you had to pay to get to on the train” – Charlotte

charlotte_laing_web

My 16 year old self wasn’t very keen on Cardiff. I grew up in Newport and thought it was great. It had everything I needed at that time: a McDonald’s where I could buy a Big Mac meal every Saturday lunchtime; a Miss Selfridge where I could stock up on black kohl eye pencils; and a Hitman where I could pretend to be cool looking through the grunge CDs. There was a bar called The Griffin where everyone from school used to hang out (yes, when we were 16) and I could recite the bus time-table. I remember an argument with a girl at school who was from Cardiff about how much better Newport was. I can’t even remember what my argument consisted of but I think I mentioned Annie’s bead shop in Newport Market more than once. At the time I’d probably only actually been to Cardiff a handful of times, it wasn’t ‘my place’ and I didn’t know much about it, but I was sure it just wasn’t that good. To me it was just somewhere you had to pay to get to on the train.

Eight years later in 2004, after moving to England for university, I’d changed. I wasn’t so interested in McDonald’s, kohl eye pencils or grunge, and was more concerned about finding a Pizza Express, an arty cinema and proper department stores. When I decided to move back to Wales, Cardiff seemed to tick all the boxes. I thought about what that girl from school would have said if she’d seen me moving in to my Llandaff flat.

Over the past six years, Cardiff’s become my home. I know all the shortcuts through the backstreets to avoid traffic, I’ve tracked down the best coffee shops, restaurants and bars found myself a dentist, doctor, dry cleaner, car mechanic and all the other things that make you feel like you’re really settled somewhere. I love everything about this place, from the Bay to St David’s shopping centre, Chapter Arts Centre to the amazing Bute Park, and I now find myself telling people how much better Cardiff is than Newport. Not many people argue with me, though.

Charlotte Laing is a freelance journalist and editor of ‘notebook’ magazine for St David’s shopping centre. She also edits her own online magazine about online shopping, www.mrsmagpie.co.uk. She currently lives in Llandaff.

Charlotte was photographed outside Jaspers coffee shop in Llandaff by Adam Chard

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“Splott Road” – Darren Floyd

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Splott Road

It’s bad at night.

It gets quiet like.

You know, there’s – like- nothing happening. A few cars going by, but there’s not even anyone hanging round the Spar or the Christian Centre that used to be a Bingo Hall like. So you know it’s like boring you know. When I say it’s quiet, there is a noise – it’s like a fridge being on, there’s a… thing you know…a…what do you call it … a buzz. It’s never completely quiet like, but it’s dull, really dull. I don’t know why I’m telling you this or anything you can’t even bastard hear me can you? You can’t even bastard hear me.

I knows why I’m saying it really, it’s something to do isn’t it? Something to kill the seconds and hours and days and weeks. Though I don’t know just where any of it’s gone, do you? I mean, there’s like some clear stuff, like light and day and stuff- I’m not retarded – and like summer and winter. But like, do you know what month it is? It could be July or it could be September who knows? I don’t. I don’t think you do. Is it important? I don’t suppose it is, but – like – nothing’s important anymore, is it like?

It’d like to know what month it is, cause like if it is September that would mean that my birthday would be coming up, but I suppose it would be bad to know that wouldn’t it? Would be a killer to know that you should be going on the lash, but that all you can do is to is to stand in the doorway of a rubbish church, that smells of piss and has broken windows, no one comes here, ever. Terrible.

I knows you talks, cause I can see your lips move, do you thinks you can hear me? Do you pretend? I don’t bastard knows, who knows?

Do you remember that time we tried to make up our own talks like? Remember? It was soon after, you know, when … just after … we gave up … just … gave up. Didn’t seem much point did it? I mean if we had managed to sort something out, it would have been shit wouldn’t it? I remember you when you were alive and you weren’t exactly Peter bastard Kay then were you? Dull to be honest. The only thing I can ever remember you getting excited about were the cheap breakfasts they do in McDonalds on a Friday morning. So it would have been dull like – boring – like everything else.

There is something I’d like to know from you mind. I’d like to know if you can see them. Can you see the others? I can see two of them, dressed like something from the TV, or from a game you know, old stuff. One of them is dressed like out of the Hitler war, I can see him clearly, but he doesn’t do much anymore, and there’s another one, I can just about see him. He’s down by the Co-op on Splott road and I don’t know what he’s dressed like, but he’s always jumping up and down and doing stuff, gets on my tits a bit if I’m honest, but what else is there?

I lied. There is something else I’d like to know.

Do you think that any of the living can see you? I’ve seen you make a start, like you’ve sat on a spike or something. I think … I think someone saw me once. There was this jacked up Subaru coming round the corner like what we did. They got the speed wrong and skidded, and I saw this kid in the passenger seat, and I saw that he was shitting himself like. I knows that. I was shitting myself when we went in for the skid. Then I saw this look on his face, a shock and it jolted me, like the time I touched that dodgy plug like.

He saw me.

I swear on my mother’s life, he saw me. It was like just a second, it was there, and gone. The driver was sharper than ours and got control and shot on down the road, I saw him laughing, but honestly the kid in the passenger seat saw me.

I don’t know why, but I was thinking about that for ages like. Sometimes it made me feel good, it was the first time I can remember anyone seeing me, it was like – I don’t know – like there had been something to me other than this, what’s now. It was over so quickly but I haven’t stopped thinking about it, and how long ago was that?

There’s other times when I think about it and it makes me feel bad, terrible like worse than most of the time, you know what I mean?

Look at the flowers. Look at them, there’s nothing there anymore, even the dead bits have blown away, I don’t remember when. All that’s left is the elastic band, and that’ll be gone soon. I don’t know why but that…that scares me, no, you know, freaks me out. I remember when the elastic band…when it was new and red, now look at it, grey and just hanging on, like my Nan.

I looks over at there at them lot going into the Christian Centre that used to be a Bingo Hall like and I look at the piss heads going in and out of the Old Illtydian R.F.C Social Club and coming out for a fag and I can’t make up my mind which building is a bigger waste of time. I mean what’s the point like? You know? What’s the point? You can’t even bastard hear me. Look at you now, look at you, flapping your lips, and that’s not even the worse of it. I’ve seen you looking out like one of those Zombies like out of a game or something, doing nothing for ages with your mouth open and just looking like, then it’s like you wake up or something. The bad thing is that I knows that I does it too. Sometimes I’ll be looking out and the next thing I knows it’s like night or something and I don’t knows what happened. That should be good like, you knows, time going like that. It should be good. It should be good. Still it’s better than thinking about – you know – how this like, all happened, how we got here. You knows, I don’t want to think about it, but I can’t helps it. One minute I was in the car, and then … and then … I was watching, it was like something out of a game, no one told me why or like how, that made me mad at the start it’s like really unfair, you knows? I mean why? Why you knows? I want to know when will it end?

Darren Floyd is a writer/artist who lives and works in Cardiff. His novel “Match Day” was published recently, and is available from Spillers and online here. He will be doing a reading in the Wellfield Bookshop tomorrow (Saturday the 16th of October) at 12 noon as part of the Made in Roath festival. Some of his paintings and random mutterings can be seen here. He currently lives in Splott.

Darren was photographed on Splott Road by Adam Chard

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“it’s funny to remember world famous American DJ David Morales arriving for a four hour set at the Coal Exchange and demanding a Burger King before he went on stage, which meant heading back in to town” – Henry

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In many ways this is where it all began for me in Cardiff – the magnificent Coal Exchange building in Butetown Cardiff. I arrived in the city from Manchester in September 1992 to work in the University Union Entertainments department and within months was co-promoting a dance music night called Spice of Life with Gareth Evans and local DJ and house music pioneer Dave Jones. In January 1994 we secured the Coal Exchange to launch a brand new night.

We scratched our heads as to what to call the new project – it had to be something bloody good as the venue was out of this world for a clubbing event. If you look closely at the clock above my head in the photo there is a gold inscription, the motto of the Coal Exchange, that reads TEMPUS FUGIT. So there it was. Tempus Fugit was launched on Saturday 22nd January 1994 with Dave Jones and Craig Bartlett as resident DJs.

And the parties there took off overnight, so much so that we had to move after just three events to the bigger, equally impressive and more centrally located City Hall building. It was here that we changed the name of the night to the English translation of Tempus Fugit……….Time Flies – a name that has lasted the test of time, and still pulls in the crowds in Wales today. There were a few different reasons for the name change, the best one being that Pete Tong could never pronounce Tempus Fugit correctly on his Friday evening BBC Radio 1 Essential Selection show.

Looking back it’s funny to remember world famous American DJ David Morales arriving for a four hour set at the Coal Exchange and demanding a Burger King before he went on stage, which meant heading back in to town. The area of the city where the venue is has since undergone a complete transformation with the creation of Cardiff Bay and now boasts an array of fantastic restaurants and bars in the fashionable Mermaid Quay that Morales could choose from today. Plus the iconic Wales Millennium Centre is there now too.

Certainly in the two decades I have known Cardiff I have seen the city change beyond all recognition. The building of the Millennium Stadium put the Welsh capital on the global map permanently, particularly as the English Football Association contrived to make a complete balls-up of the redevelopment of Wembley and so handed Cardiff such prestigious sporting events as the FA Cup, the League Cup and Play-off finals for six years that were beamed around the world to massive audiences and so attracted visitors who would never have thought of coming here. Liverpool made so many appearances at the Stadium it’s rumoured the players and fans bought properties in the Bay.

Thirty minutes from gorgeous beaches, 30 minutes from the Brecon Beacons and 30 minutes from the nearest airport, Cardiff is in many ways unique and a fantastic city to be a part of.

Henry Blunt lives in Roath, has a 4 year old daughter and has been running Time Flies and staging shows in Wales for 18 years. You can find out more about his up-and-coming events by visiting the Time Flies website, and you can find both Henry and Time Flies on Facebook. Contact him here: henry@timefliesuk.com. Henry currently lives in Roath.

Henry was photographed outside the Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay by Adam Chard

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“On opening this letter, it will have been exactly three years since leaving London behind” – Kieran

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Dear Kieran,

On a break from city hall and working on the impending return of the students I have escaped to a café near the station to enjoy my usual herbal tea. I thought it would be a good idea to remind you of why you are in Cardiff and what your thoughts were between turning 29 and 30.

So, on opening this letter it will have been exactly three years since leaving London behind. Yes Cardiff might not have as much going on, but remember that’s a good thing, instead of running around trying to do everything listed in Time Out – from theatre to gig, to art show to three clubs in one night, wake up and repeat. There is that feeling of anticipation in Cardiff and an enjoyment in and of the moment rather than constantly charging on to next, next, next.

In hindsight the move and career change from working for an art collector to student liaison officer – private to public, although an initial shock, has taken you out of the comfort zone you were in danger of falling into, coming to Cardiff to be a bit more selfish; write, study and work.

Yes, frustrations underline your work, but don’t forget the freedom the post has allowed; working from your own initiative. Working with the three universities and the council as the Student Liaison Officer is a unique position across the UK. The post has helped make the city and its students safer, cleaner, and hopefully greener, more socially aware and responsible. It’s helped people to invest in their communities and become enveloped within the city outside of the student bubble. The work empowers the community and changes perceptions. Follow-ups to the Buy Nothing Day and the first ever Speed Dating litter picks should have come about, work progressed towards ‘Get it Out For Cardiff’ charity collections throughout the year, and ‘cardifference’, Go Green and ‘Lock it. Hide it. Keep it’ campaigns launched, and added onto your website cardiffdigs.co.uk, a website for all student housing and living needs.

If when you open this letter funding has run out, then you know that forces outside your control took possession. You have taken the job as far as it could go, perhaps it is time for that move into the charity sector or maybe into social marketing as you’ve been mulling over in your thoughts.

I wonder if you are still living in Grangetown? Remember not to take the ability to walk everywhere for granted. And look up more – you must have brought a second hand bike by now for further explorations.

Do you remember that man on a night out casually taking a poo against a wall in full public view on a less than salubrious street like it was normal behaviour? In Cardiff you constantly need to keep digging deeper to avoid the shit on the streets. Finding uniqueness stops you giving up on humanity and retains your optimism for the city. Don’t get blinded by selfish attitudes, the consumerist city clone, our throw-away society, bad manners/litter or underlying cliques – it’s finding the off-the-cuff parts, seeking out interesting people and places that make this city remarkable.

If you still haven’t dedicated time to writing then it’s time to put pen to paper again. You will have graduated with a certificate in higher education, subjects in philosophy, psychology and social marketing, by the time you open this but that’s no excuse to not have continued learning. You had thoughts of sociology and such like up your sleeve so I hope as much time this past year has been spent holed up in various libraries.

At the time you were listening to Steve Mason, Stevie Wonder, Laura Marling and the XX on repeat. This was the soundtrack to Cardiff.
You’d just finished reading Buy-ology, Master and Margarita and Wind In The Willows, and hope some headway was made on the stack of books by the bedside.

A weekend with the SWAT adventure group was impending – if you haven’t organised something this year, then why not? Remember how much fun things like the Llama trek, Go Ape, trips and walks to Snowdon and Brecon were.

Hopefully you’ve found an additional volunteer opportunity, been on another conservation holiday, got more involved in the Cardiff Rivers group, community radio and Radio Cardiff, and found a creative outlet.

The last week is fairly typical in that you’ve met up with close friends played squash, gone to the cinema, had a veggie dinner somewhere, gone for tea and cake, seen something random like Celtic wrestling, ice hockey, circus, theatre or gig and taken those dancing shoes for a good old shuffle around. You know who these people are that make this city into a bonanza, so pick up the phone now if it’s been more than a few weeks.

I leave you with this:
“At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.” – Albert Camus

So yes you are still nauseatingly cheesy but happy birthday, from me (nearly 29) to me (30).

Kieran McCann is slightly addicted to chocolate soya milk, loves having breakfast for his tea, gets guilty pleasures from reading comics, has only walked through the new St David’s 2 once, can’t pass an open charity shop without going in and is still fending off having a personal profile on facebook. He is the founder of cardiffdigs.co.uk ; you can follow his work on the blog: http://cardiffdigs.blogspot.com/

Kieran was photographed near the Taf at Tudor Street by Adam Chard.

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“To my nine-year-old self, Wally’s Deli was heaven. I still feel like that today” – Nicola

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I remember it quite clearly. I was nine years old, handing in my homework to my teacher, Mr. Basini, whilst my peers eagerly discussing what they’d written about. The assignment had been to write about your favourite place – some had picked holiday destinations (Disneyland being the clear winner in terms of “wow” factor), others had picked the home of their favourite football club. One of my friends was horse mad so her favourite place was a local stable where she was allowed to ride and groom the horses.

And me? I’d written about a small, rather unassuming shop located just over 30 miles from my home in Port Talbot. No toys were contained within its walls, no games and no fancy gadgets. Yet to my nine-year-old self, Wally’s Deli was heaven. I still feel like that today.

What you have to understand is I was no ordinary child, and this is no ordinary shop. Coming from an Italian family, my prime concern growing up was where my next meal was coming from. On the occasions when I was taken out for a meal, I would plan my pudding before I’d even eaten my starter. Like most children, Christmas was an amazing time of year. Unlike most children, I was more excited by a visit to Wally’s than the idea of a fat man arriving down my chimney. I’d watch my mother as she stood at the counter, pointing to strange cured sausages and pungent smelling cheeses, preparing for the feast.

The first thing that hits you, as you wander down the arcade, is the smell, that heady mix of spices that grabs you by your nostrils and forcibly pulls you into the shop. Once inside it’s a treasure trove of ingredients from all over the world – South Africa, Poland, Japan and Thailand, all considered very exotic to a child who’d not ventured further than the Mediterranean. It also highlighted Cardiff’s multicultural identity – a specialist shop for us immigrants at a time when pasta came in only a few principle shapes – noodles, bows, twists or tubes, and the only salami I had seen at a supermarket was of the bright pink Danish variety.

Over time the shop has grown, as have I. I took great delight in introducing my friends to the shop, especially those missing comforting tastes from curious lands across the sea. I still love shopping there, and can often be found just browsing the aisles and breathing in that heavy scent, feeling like I’m home.

Nicola Tudor is a Cardiff-based food blogger. She loves sushi, is slightly fanatical about felines and tweets far more than is necessary. For the past four years she has blogged under the name Cardiff Bites and has contributed to Your Cardiff and The Guardian. You can follow her on Twitter @cardiffbites. She currently lives in Canton.

Nicola was photographed in Wally’s Deli by Adam Chard.

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“all i needed was to come home” – ian

Ian England by Adam Chard

i had never truly seen cardiff before that christmas.

the ferris wheel was a beacon home.

plymouth’s lighthouse had warned ships not to come nearer, this now beckoned me into the crowds wearing knits and skating on a temporary fake frozen lake. i had spent four years away, i had changed my life; i didn’t expect to want to come back to cardiff.

cardiff had always been there, at the end of the train line, waiting to fill my bags with shopping. given my pocket money, i would ensure i would return with no change.

my parents would begin each new year by parking the car in frosty sophia gardens and walking my sister and i along the castle’s animal wall until we reached a restaurant to celebrate in.

as a teenager, cardiff was the place i went to see bands, smoking weed while leaning out of my friend’s bedroom window, drinking vodka and orange, my baggy jeans being stepped on and ripped in the mosh pits.

the lamplit streets became a blur, the crowds became my friends, i would wake up on my friend’s sofa and her mother would drive us to school.

i wasn’t comfortable living in the valleys, and enjoyed escaping into the crowds of cardiff.

when university came along, i couldn’t have been more excited, and relished a final farewell before a clean slate, surrounded by artists and country lanes. living in devon was a lovely way to spend four years, and i really should see more of the friends i made there. but uni finished and i remained recklessly independent.

it wasn’t until i was blinded by that massive neon ferris wheel that i realised that all i needed was to come home, where it was greener than i remembered, where i could walk the streets and find traces of my history converging with the places and things that were suddenly new, where my family were.

i find myself thinking of the ian that visited cardiff, before the move, as a different person from the ian i am now, living in cardiff, slightly settled, trying to surround myself with interesting people, and forcing myself to write a magic-realism story about curses and cockerels set in the pre-industrial welsh valleys.

i dream about moving again, finding another adventure and another lighthouse, and considering that now, i wonder whether i will return to cardiff yet again, to find another ian waiting to welcome me.

ian england (www.warmstrings.co.uk) lives in canton, cardiff, with his boyfriend and two neighbourhood cats he secretly feeds. he is a writer and a collector, and drinks vanilla lattes (remember that if you see him and fancy a chat).

ian was photographed in Thompson’s Park, Canton, by Adam Chard.

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