Category Archives: The People

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

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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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“In Cardiff they name roads as salutations to angels” – Nor’dzin

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My first impression of Cardiff was somewhat romantic. My dearest friend – later to become my husband – lived in ‘Hail Gabriel’. How fantastic I thought – in Cardiff they name roads as salutations to angels. I later learned that ‘hail’ was in fact ‘heol’ and simply meant ‘road’, but by that time I was already in love with Cardiff and it mattered not.

It was an interest in Buddhism that brought me to Cardiff. I had been attending weekend events at the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Raglan for two or three years and had developed friendships with people living in Cardiff. On first moving to Cardiff as a newly qualified teacher, I worked in many schools throughout the city providing supply cover. I struggled with the children’s names. Rhiannon, Angharad and Iwan were new names to me, and even familiar names were spelt strangely, such as Dafydd, Alun or Huw. I never did get used to children telling me that they had ‘been to England’ for their summer holiday. It had been quite usual for my family to go to Wales for a holiday, but it just sounded really odd to hear people saying the same about England. For me England had always been where I lived, not a place you went to for a vacation.

I have taught in Community Education since I first moved to Cardiff in 1983. At first I taught pottery as I had trained in art and design, particularly ceramics. The health problems of my children when they were little led me into studying homoeopathy and so I taught this for a while. Underlying all my experience and work is my life as a Buddhist practitioner and I am now ordained as a ngakma, and so in more recent years my community education teaching was meditation and Tibetan yoga. My second book has just been published which draws on my experience of these classes. Relaxing into Meditation offers a gentle and pragmatic approach to the practice of meditation through relaxation and breathing exercises. We also run a weekly meditation class in Whitchurch which anyone is welcome to attend.

Cardiff is both spacious and compact. It is spacious with the many wonderful areas of open parkland where you can cycle or walk and feel part of nature. It is compact in that the main shopping centre is easily covered in a single expedition whilst still offering a great range of shops. We call our local Whitchurch shopping area ‘the village’ and indeed there are many such areas surrounding the city centre and each has its own personality. I also love that I need only travel a few miles north from my home in Whitchurch and be in beautiful and scenic countryside.

My two sons are Welsh like their father, and I now feel rather more Welsh than English. Although the sound of a Brummy accent makes me feel warm inside and brings a smile to my face, Cardiff, and Wales are my home. I have tried to learn the Welsh language with some success – I can read and write simple Welsh, but I have never succeeded in tuning in my ear to hearing it. I pick up words here and there, but I cannot follow the flow of a conversation. I hope to get back to this soon and improve my understanding.

I revitalised a love of horse riding at Pontcanna riding stables and eventually, in my middle age, realised a childhood dream of owning my own horse by purchasing a mare from them. We now have two horses and livery them at the splendid Briwnant Riding Centre in Rhiwbina. It still amazes me that I can keep my horses five miles from the city centre and yet ride for hours on woodland trails, hardly needing to touch a road.

Ngakma Nor’dzin Pamo grew up in the Midlands of England and moved to Wales as an adult. Her training in meditation began in the early 1980s and in 1989 she was ordained and became the first Western woman to take ordination into the non-monastic tradition of Nyingma Tibetan Buddhism. Her first book, Spacious Passion, was published in 2006. Her most recent book, Relaxing into Meditation, is available now through Aro Books Worldwide. Follow her online through her blogs, ceffylau.blogspot.com, transport-of-delight.blogspot.com, ngakma-nordzin.blogspot.com or spacious-passion.org. She currently lives in Whitchurch with her husband and has two sons.

Nor’dzin was photographed with her mare, Dee, at Briwnant riding stables in Rhiwbina. She was photographed by her husband, ‘ö-Dzin Tridral

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“You’re never alone in Cardiff. It’s like Lost but with the warmth of Postman Pat” – Jonny

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On July 30th, 2008, at Estació de Sants in Barcelona, I got my heart broken. Shutting myself away from the world broken. Every song on my iPod relating to my failed relationship broken. Not getting dressed all weekend broken.

To get me through the trauma, I grew a beard. This proved utterly useless. After six months of moping alone, I moved to Grangetown.

Back home in the Merthyr valley, I was something of an outcast due to my aversion to drinking heavily and impregnating strangers. My parents were concerned at my choice of location. They live opposite a crack den. Their argument is invalid.

It wasn’t a snap decision. I wanted a change of scenery and to be within walking distance of work. Using High Fidelity’s ‘what really matters is what you like, not what you are like’ test, I scoured Gumtree and settled on one advert titled ‘Ace Room Seeks Good Person’.

My prospective housemates appeared to share my tastes and interests, but the clincher was the reason they gave for their other housemate leaving: ‘It’s because we like to stand outside the room at night dragging my nails down the door and whispering things like “Are you asleep?”, “I hate you”, “What are you doing?” and “Are you asleep now?”. Either that or because she got offered to move in with some of her bestest best friends ever.’

Reassuring though that was, packing up and moving to the big city is a pretty intimidating move.

Cardiff is not a big city.

In fact, I think Douglas Adams who once said “Cardiff is tiny. Really tiny. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly tiny it is. I mean you may think it’s a short way down the stairs to the kitchen, but that’s just peanuts to Cardiff.”

What might be claustrophobic is a disarming strength to living in Cardiff. Walks to town are frequently broken up with quick catch ups with passing friends. There are always familiar faces to be found at any event you choose to attend.

It’s like Lost but with the warmth of Postman Pat.

You’re never alone in Cardiff. And given my reasons for moving, it’s proved the perfect place to be. The beard continues to be utterly useless.

When not fixing computers for Cardiff University, Jonny Bull organises a Sunday afternoon kickabout for the unfit and untalented and co-runs a monthly quiz at Gwdihw. He curates the entire internet at http://dogscantlookup.com and documents his life in nauseating detail at http://twitter.com/jonnyathan. He believes ‘ear’, ‘here’ and ‘year’ are all pronounced the same and loathes compliments, photographs of his face and writing in the third person.

Jonny was photographed in Grangetown by Adam Chard

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“There is as much to get angry about in Cardiff, as there is to enjoy” – Peter

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Yes, I am still, frequently, asked the question by uncomprehending friends “why do you live in Cardiff?”.

As a south Londoner, I migrated here via the very beautiful countryside of north Warwickshire. My work as a consultant took me from the heart of England all over the UK, quite a bit of Europe and even North America. But I had a client in Cardiff that meant five years of staying almost every week at the Holiday Inn (now the Ramada); stays that included the delight of Michael Jackson’s suite. An artificial kind of “getting to know you Cardiff” maybe, but it planted a seed that led to me renting a flat for six months to work on a book.

Then, much later, the suggestion to my partner that we try a year in a rented flat in Llandaff to see if we really liked Cardiff. A year after when we were being kicked out we had to decide: to relocate permanently or return to leafy Warwickshire. The decision was taken out of our hands when the house there sold and, on the same day we found a home in Pontcanna, we bought it.

We didn’t know then that this was one of the most desirable parts of the city, and that we were surrounded by Welsh speakers and media personalities. As time went on, we met with like-minded immigrants, as well as delightful neighbours who had been in the area for 40 or 50 years. We tried, repeatedly, to improve our Welsh.

It took a while to get to know the extraordinary delights of the adjoining Pontcanna and Llandaff Fields and the way they form part of the Bute Parks. The arrival of Dryw – black, four legged and a terrier explorer – accelerated our learning. However, we quickly discovered that many of the things we most liked about Cardiff were under threat.

First it was Sophia Gardens – the city’s first public park – and the idea of giving a privately owned company a huge amount of public space in which to develop a commercial cricket ground. The “Hit it for Six” campaign successfully fought off two major applications for development in this grade 2* parkland, but the promise of a “test match” and of some fleeting international exposure saw the council roll over like lapdogs and agree to the desecration of the park. An action that can never be reversed.

It became clear, sadly, that this was part of an ongoing process of degradation and development, usually claimed to be for “worthy causes”. Each of these individual uses may have seemed to have some merit, but taken together they have added up to a 40% removal of public space from one of the country’s most important historic landmarks.

Sophia Gardens was effectively finally lost when the cricket stadium was built, but we all thought Bute Park itself was untouchable. The allure of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and weaselly words of support from them, enabled the council to build a new access road to enable it to undertake public events more easily. A 5000 people petition asking for a moratorium on development in the Bute Parks was dismissed in a council meeting in seconds. At this point anyone would question why they would still want to live here.

Now, there is as much to get angry about in Cardiff, as there is to enjoy. As chair of Cardiff Civic Society, a charity not a political or single-issue campaign, I have a responsibility, not to be angry (well, not just angry) but to try to ensure that Cardiff’s historic past, and just as importantly, its future, is in the ownership of its citizens. Not, as so often seems, taken for granted by its politicians as their right to propose and dispose of at will.

We are coming up to an important time for those who make bad decisions: it’s the Welsh Assembly elections next year, council elections in 2012. It’s a good time to reflect on what has happened, and what we might want for the city in twenty years’ time.

Cardiff has the potential to be a fitting capital for the country where many of us still want to live. Indeed, it can and should be a world exemplar of many of Wales’ policies for the environment, sustainable economic growth, high standards of built design and caring for a remarkable and complex history.

It won’t be that in 2020 unless we, the people who have grown to love the place, make it so.

Peter Cox moved his management consultancy business to Cardiff after emigrating here 15 years ago: it became a Wales Fast Growth 50 Company. He was a board member and trustee of Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre for seven years and its chair for two, putting in place its recent £3.5M RIBA award-winning refurbishment. He is now chair of Cardiff Civic Society, which has recently prepared a response to the Cardiff Council plans for a new Local Development Plan. He writes here in a personal capacity. Find him on his personal website or his Twitter @peterdcox. He lives in Pontcanna.

Picture: Peter was photographed by the new Bute Parks access road bridge by Adam Chard. Peter commented on the road: “Its presence allows the noise, traffic and pollution of an arterial roadway into what was once one of the most preciously tranquil areas of the heritage park. The massive, industrial strength bridge (for 40 tonne lorries) has the design footprint of a monster and less subtlety than the second Severn crossing. It destroys something given in trust. It’s an irrevocable act of vandalism that history will join those who campaigned against it and roundly condemn as a folly of 21st century politicians seeking civic aggrandisement above civic duty.”

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“far, far away of the forgotten welsh woods” – Steve

stevelucas_web

so you think you’ve had goose

bumps

all up your arms

or

the hairs stood tall and straight

like gunless young soldiers

maybe

your neck

the one you stuck out

when you held your perhaps

baby looking into those eyes or

life in your buttery hands

maybe

when the soft robes

of death brushed against you

like a black speeding motorcar

skidding

careering

tearing

across your out-of-control-heart

only then may you ask of the voice in the darkness:

have you

ever one (little) bird heard

wretch in the far, far away

of the forgotten welsh woods

and now those butterflies

that flapped in your middle turn

back, back to wing

less worms

crawling

blindly

mad larvae

through the star starved auto

mobile world of our city

yearning to writhe

and die in the bay.


Steve Lucas is a musician, writer and poet living in Cardiff. He is the creator of the underground rock icon Samba Lucas. You can listen to his music at: www.myspace.com/sambalucas

Steve was photographed in Cardiff Bay by Simon Ayre

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Joanne’s Cardiff: a tightrope-walking violin player, Doctor Who’s telephone box, a man in the town centre throwing a chainsaw around

joanne

After being accepted by The University of Wales Institute Cardiff I found myself moving into Plas Gwyn halls of residence ready to commence my studies on the BA (Hons) Graphic Communication course. For someone who had no intentions of ever leaving home and going to university it was a bewildering experience. Before I knew it my mother and grandparents were waving goodbye and I was left alone with no friends and no idea what to do with myself.

Having never lived in a city before, the whole experience took a lot of getting used to with busy, congested roads and people everywhere replacing the sleepy little village in Somerset where everyone sounds like a farmer that I had grown accustomed to.

Giving in to the temptation of this new city’s world full of shops, my bank card soon started to feel the strain! I have lots of great memories of shopping in Cardiff, including finding a few little treasures in the dainty little arcades. However I haven’t been able to find these shops since and it makes me wonder if I really did find them or just imagined them.

The one thing that I completely loathed about my time in Cardiff was the student housing. Myself and the people I lived with got more than a little stitched up with our first house. Upon viewing the property we discovered a square metre of thick mould growing on the wall in one room, a hole in the ceiling on the landing, mice exploring the kitchen, slugs, worms, and soil coming through the phone socket and a burglary just after Christmas. The burglary was very odd as there was money scattered around the house, an electric drum kit and a big TV yet they chose to steal the kettle which was a good five or so years old!

Thankfully our second house was a lot better and I had a great view of the army barracks from my bedroom window. I remember sitting at the my desk one day and peering out to see a military tank drive past with a little man poking out the top. I have seen a number of unusual things in my time at Cardiff but to name a few: A tightrope walking violin player, Doctor Who’s telephone box on the back of a van, a man in the town centre throwing a chainsaw around and a few famous people acting rather bizarrely.

Over my three short years in Cardiff I made some wonderful friends and gained valuable experience in both design and life. I recently moved away but I hope to visit again in the near future to see how things have changed (every time I returned from a holiday there was always a new shop), feed the ducks in the snow, and see a few friends.

Joanne Hawker is a Graphic Communication graduate who drinks too much tea and wants to own anything that has an owl or a bird on it. She would one day like a teashop and a pet owl. You can visit her website here: www.joannehawker.co.uk. Until very recently, she lived in Gabalfa.

Joanne was photographed in by the lake in Roath Park

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“What struck me is just how passionate people in Cardiff are” – Ed

ed walker

I’m sitting down to write this exactly six months since I moved to Cardiff. On January 7 2010, I loaded up my car, paid £5.50 to cross the bridge and decamped from England to Wales.

I was in a brand new city. The signs had two languages on them, rugby was the national game and everywhere I went there was Brains on tap. It might be part of the UK but Wales is most definitely a separate country.

Cardiff. What was I doing here? I’d been offered a job working for Media Wales as an ‘Online Communities Editor’ – read that as journalist, it’s much simpler. Job, get a community website going for Cardiff underneath the main WalesOnline website. Can’t just magic a community out of nowhere, got to build one.

So, I have had the pleasure of exploring the capital of Wales over the last six months. I’ve been wandering round Heath Park in the pouring rain with councillors pointing at where wooden bollards should be, I’ve sat in Council meetings waiting for a councillor to declare a national supermarket chain’s licensing application bollocks and gone rambling through the countryside just outside Cardiff with the local branch of the Ramblers Society.

What struck me is just how passionate people in this city are. Everywhere I’ve been there’s people willing to speak, to put it on the record, to lay it on the line and tell you what their dreams and hopes are. That’s refreshing. Welsh people are definitely more upfront with their views compared to the more reserved English (Note: This definitely helps a journalist, a lot).

This city is vibrant. I experienced my first Six Nations match day and will never forget being hugged by random people when Shane Williams popped that winning try over against Scotland.

For me though, the best way to describe my Cardiff story would be Saturday 5th June 2010. In that day everything I know about Cardiff was captured.

After a heavy Friday night on the beers watching Glamorgan in the blissful evening sunshine beating Worcestershire, I was up early and covering the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) march. Hundreds brought the city centre to a standstill, before finishing at the City Hall with a rally – where the day started to turn.

The Welsh (and English) Defence League arrived and made their feelings known, more protesters – perhaps not affiliated to the UAF – made their feelings known. And myself and the Police were in the middle. Political expression was alive and well in Cardiff.

Meanwhile, the Welsh national rugby team were battling South Africa in an epic over at the Millennium Stadium and the streets were filled with red, white, green and gold shirts.

In the evening, the Stereophonics played to some 20,000 people at the Cardiff City Stadium and I was lucky enough to be there filming. There was an air of celebration in the air as I ducked out before the end to go and frantically edit video so I could get some kip.

To me, this day showcased what Cardiff has become. A buzzing metropolis able to showcase the best sporting and musical events, while still welcoming political debate and not becoming completely commercialised.

It’s been a pleasure to tell the stories of Cardiff and its people. Here’s to another six months.

Ed Walker is a journalist working for Media Wales, running the yourCardiff community site and writing regularly for the South Wales Echo. When he gets chance, he also runs the fledgling City Centre Cardiff blog. His personal blog is edwalker.net and he is on twitter @ed_walker86. He lives in the city centre.

Ed was photographed on West Street by Geraint Griffiths.

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