Seasonal cheer

We Are Cardiff will be taking a break for Christmas and the New Year. Enjoy yourselves, be merry. If you’re really missing us have a look through the We Are Cardiff archives to see if there are any stories that you’ve missed.

We Are Cardiff is run by the good folks at hack/flash – find out who we are and read our latest posts over there, or follow us on Twitter.

See you on January 7th, 2011!

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“My Welsh grandmother did not approve of our Kaardiff accent” – Keith

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I was born just before the birth of the NHS, in what became St David’s Hospital, which I think means I was born in the workhouse! I moved into a new council house in Ely in 1952; I was one of the tiny percentage of children allowed to pass the 11+ from Trelai Primary, which was new then and has been rebuilt since. Seven years in Canton High School completed my transformation from an Ely boy into a middle-class student at Sussex University in 1966.

Curiously, it was only on moving to England that I realised that I was Welsh and not English. I only had one Welsh grandparent and my surname comes from Kent. Actually, my Welsh grandmother did not approve of our Kaardiff accent and started the move to the RP English I now use.

I married an English woman (though an Aberystwyth graduate) and we raised two children in England. We gave them both Welsh middle names. Holidays were often spent in Wales and I would tell the children something of the history and of the language. Before going to sixth-form college, our daughter decided to use her Welsh middle name, becoming Carys instead of Ruth. She went on to gain a First in Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth, which was followed by research into the development of aspects of Irish and Welsh at Cambridge. So if nothing else I have added a Welsh-speaker to the language gene-pool.

My wife and I returned to Cardiff almost seven years ago and we have been learning Welsh since we came back. So I want to write about my experience as a returning Cardiffian. In fact, I’m going to explore the old cliché “Thank the Lord we are a musical nation”, which was trotted out ad nauseam in the Ryder Cup coverage earlier this year. I have been a choral singer for around 30 years, but the biggest singing occasions I have experienced have all been since returning to Cardiff.

The first occasion was the Gala Opening of the Millennium Centre. I had watched the building being completed on my bike rides down to the Bay and absolutely loved the way the architecture reflected the landscapes of Wales. I was determined to be there for the opening celebrations, not with the big-wigs inside but with the people outside. A choir of at least 1000 people gathered on Roald Dahl Plass on a very unsettled November afternoon to rehearse the programme with Owain Arwel Hughes. He understood the occasion and helped the choir to generate huge amounts of hwyl.

We sang through the rain and wind and went to find refreshment before returning well after dark and with the weather worsening. The concert itself was exhilarating and we gathered a huge crowd, standing about 12 deep in a semi circle behind the choir and listening with rapt attention despite the rain. The climax was the singing of “Mae hen wlad fy nhadau”. Everybody sang with immense passion and it was at that moment I realised that post-referendum Wales was now not just a clichéd “musical nation” but a real nation with world standing.

This is an immense change. Cardiff is a world capital and most people are far more self-confident in their Welshness, even if it is an Anglophone Welshness.

I have also been involved in two major musical projects run by WNO-Max, the Opera Company’s outreach team. For me they were hugely emotional experiences with an enormous sense of community. The first, The Most Beautiful Man from the Sea, involved a choir of 500 that filled the big stage in the WMC. In over three months of rehearsals we became a huge family. It was the first time I had to interact with an audience without being able to hide behind the score and it was a huge boost to my-self-esteem.

Last year’s “On the Rim of the World” was a much smaller affair but involved moving around and acting, something I’ve not done since I was about 11. The sense of community was enhanced by the number of children and young people taking part. The opera was taken up by all the major opera companies in the U,K but only in Wales was it sung in four part harmony! In fact, in London the English National Opera had to stiffen the adults with professional singers even to get it done in unison!

Recently I was part of 2000 strong choir at the concert to mark the opening of the Ryder Cup. We were there to add hwyl to the singing of our National Anthem at the end of the concert. The three members of my choir, Canton Chorus, nearest me were a woman of Kent, just arrived in Cardiff, a French woman who has lived in Cardiff on and off for several years and a Californian woman of Welsh descent and married to a Welshman but who had only been in Cardiff for a couple of months. All took part with enthusiasm and a lack of self consciousness that spoke volumes for the way they had been made welcome in Cardiff. Julia, the Californian, was struck by the involvement of so many young people both on stage and in the many choirs around us.

For me, it was a milestone. Since school I have had a mental block about learning the Welsh words to “Mae hen wlad fy nhadau”, I never felt Welsh enough to be able to sing it properly. However, I’ve almost cracked; the last line of the verse still foxes me but I’m almost there.

Apart from that, the occasion was a bit of bust from where I was but it was interesting to watch the part played by Prince Charles and see how the performers and audience responded to him. In fact, there were some massive breaches of protocol: he followed Carwyn Jones on to the stage and spoke after him. Several times the compere forgot to include him in the salutations, relegating him to one of the “Distinguished Guests”. I don’t think these were deliberate slights but take them as evidence that we are no longer in awe to the power of London. In fact, the comment by the compere that got the biggest cheer was: “Here in Wales we think of ourselves primarily as Europeans!”

Thank the Lord I’m a Cymro and we are a nation – a musical one at that!

Keith Underdown is a retired enterprise information architect who returned to the city of his birth almost seven years ago. Keith wrote his first computer program in 1969. Follow him on Twitter – @KeithUnderdown. He is a committed Christian, choral singer, allotment holder and cancer survivor. He currently lives in Gabalfa.

Keith was photographed at the Wales Millennium Centre by Adam Chard

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A lifetime of supporting Cardiff City – Dan’s story

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Ninian Park. What a strange name. What a strangely alluring place. Its shabby terraces, corrugated iron and wooden seats had been my home-from-home for the past 20 years or so. My dad had first taken me down the City (as we call following the local association football team here) for a promotion party game against Crewe Alexandra in May 1988.

And from the moment I sat in the grandstand that day until the final whistle when grown men with bad 80s perms and tight stonewash jeans invaded a little piece of grass and danced around and hugged each and just looked so bloody happy, I was hooked. I wanted to be that happy. Every Saturday please. No more BMX rides around Splott or shopping trips to town with my mum for me. No way. I was going to the happiness factory to dance around, have a bit of a laugh and forget about my biology homework.

Turns out we didn’t get promoted every Saturday. Most Saturdays we lost and it rained and there was no dancing and very little hugging. I can only blame my father. Taking me to a promotion party for my first ever game was the equivalent of taking a girl to Paris on a first date. ‘Yes darling, I’m always this romantic’ you’d say as she gazed into your eyes at an intimate Michelin-starred restaurant on the banks of the Seine while a waiter brought over oysters and champagne and the band struck up Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, knowing full well next week she’d be lucky to get half a cider out of you at the Labour Club and she’d better keep quiet as there was a good singer from the Valleys on.

And then last year, after two decades of bad dates, the old place was no more. Knocked down flat to have houses built on it, while the City moved to a brand new state-of-the art piece of Meccano across the road in Leckwith. Like most Bluebirds fans, I had mixed feelings about the move. It was painfully obvious the club needed to move with the times and have a place to call home that was attractive to people other than sadistic football fans and which could ring the tills seven days a week through hosting everything from business breakfasts to Bar Mitzvahs.

But Ninian Park was home. Having moved around a hell of lot over the past ten years (student accommodation in Liverpool to shared house to failed house purchases with girlfriends to sofas) and with neither of my parents living in my childhood home, it was the place I felt most comfortable on Earth. And it was being taken away too.

Ninian Park saw some sights in its time. Crowds of 60,000. Pope John Paul II. Bob Marley. And me.

Dan Tyte is a PR Director at Working Word. He loves debut albums, tea and, as you probably guessed from the above, Cardiff City FC. He’s on Twitter @dantyte, writes a column about man stuff for the Western Mail, blogs for Wales Online Your Cardiff, wrote about music for the dearly departed Kruger Magazine and other stuff for other national mags. He’s currently writing his debut novel, which you’ll all be reading on Eastern European city breaks in 2015.

Dan was photographed at Ninian Park by Ffion Matthews

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“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

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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

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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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A blog about Cardiff, its people, and the alternative arts and cultural scene!

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