Tag Archives: ely

Ode to Ely – Cath

Hoody

Ode to Ely

Hot summer days over Ely,

Smokin skunk getting touchy, touchy feely,

Cortina on bricks in the garden,

Wiv all my mates and their dogs,

Real ard ones.

Wha appen bruv, I godda rush to probation.

My officer got no fuckin patience,

We’es all ganged up outside,

Wiv our hands down our strides,

Til our names get called

We just fiddle wiv our balls,

They keep us waitin on the street

So we stroke our bits of meat finding comfort short and sweet,

I got aggro phobia see, anxiety and depression

I’m not allowed to work in case I kick the boss’s ed in

So now Ive been to my appointment and said Ive done no wrong,

I godda rush back to Ely to fix the fucking bong

Laters Bruv…safe.

 

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Cath – according to her friend, Lynne Hughes:
“My reclusive mate Cath is a very private person and far too modest to write about herself so (being her opposite!) I’m doing it for her. Cath lives in ‘New Butetown’ as the Old Butetown residents like to call it. New Butetown residents tend to call it Cardiff Bay (or just The Bay) but me and the Post Office still reckon it’s Butetown if you’re on the Police Station side of Clarence Bridge.

“Cath is a lady of paradoxes. Reclusive but an Alabama 3 groupie, private but very much engaged with the world and her family and friends. She has a sense of fairness which would probably make her deeply depressed if she didn’t have such a broad sense of humour (as her little poem demonstrates!).

“As she is my neighbour as well as my friend I get to share public and private moments with her and she’s a great conversationalist. Last weekend I got invited to help demolish a load of leftovers from a little soiree she’d had the night before – yom yom. We managed to discuss racism, sexism, suicide, homicide, psychopathology, gynaecology, oenology and haute cuisine and didn’t fall out once.

“Oh and she’s a really good amateur photographer too, which, allied to a healthy sense of curiosity, produces some amazing photos. Last year she spent a month alone driving around the furthest reaches of Scotland (personally I can’t think of a worse way of spending a holiday) and her digital photo record of the trip is wonderful.

“Cath is a Llantwit girl originally and still has deep roots there but she loves living in Cardiff and being close to good transport links and surrounded by entertainment, culture and events (not to mention fascinating neighbours like me……).

“She also dogsits for friends. The lovely Rita is a Scottish Terrier bitch and a bit like Cath really – reclusive, a bit private and a mind of her own. In fact, Rita is the reason Cath & I met. A few years ago I dogshared a Parson Jack Russell and Cath and I met in Hamadryad Park when walking the dogs. We exchanged admiring comments about the animals (as you do) and discovered we were neighbours. Dogs, like kids, are a great way to meet friends. And the rest is history.

“Cath loves that from Butetown she can walk to City Centre shops and events in one direction and around the Bay in the other direction and she is only 5 minutes walk from Mermaid Quay and Hamadryad Park.

“As Cath is a 9-5 working girl and I’m a retired 9-5 playing girl our encounters tend to be at weekends and Cath does like the occasional early doors drink in Mischief our local CafeBar, long walks around the barrage and a glass or two on Mermaid Quay in the summer. She will also confess to drinking far too much Prosecco with me one afternoon when we went to WMC to catch a poetry gig on the Tesco stage.

“I can’t say much more because she’s going to edit this and she’ll only cross out the most revealing and interesting bits but she’s a great mate and she looked after my cat once when I was away so I daren’t offend her! And she’s dead against any pics of herself so I’ve just put in pics of the animals..

“For a private recluse Cath has a very gregarious and social side, but then she is Welsh and at the moment anyway, she is Cardiff …”

 

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A-Z of Cardiff – E is for Ely …

Writer Katie Hamer is busily discovering parts of the city and revealing them through her We Are Cardiff series, the A-Z of what makes Cardiff special to her. She’ll be sharing the parts of the city she finds with you over the following weeks, so stay tuned! 

E is for Ely …

Hidden behind houses, and further concealed by a thicket of trees, you will find a treasure trove for archaeologists and historians alike. The magical place I’m referring to is the location of the hill fort, near the suburbs of Ely and Caerau. For the second year running, this site is being excavated by the CAER Heritage Project team, who are searching for evidence of its use during the Iron Age.

The existence of this hill fort is hardly a secret, as the naming of nearby Hillfort Close demonstrates. Even so, very little has been known about it, and there is almost no mention in history books.

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Archaeology students uncover evidence of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure

As I’ve always been fascinated by archaeology, I decided to make a visit, to see with my own eyes, what discoveries they are making. In this article, I’ll be telling you how I got on, but before I do so, I’ll also provide you with a few snippets of information on why this project is so significant within Wales.

The history of Ely is often overlooked, and it would be easy to assume that this suburb sprung into existence relatively recently. The great expansion of the area started after the First World War, when many houses were built to accommodate returning heroes. Although there is evidence of a Roman Villa in the area, what makes the hill fort so fascinating, is the hint that the occupation of the area extends back even further.

In fact, the hill fort at Ely and Caerau may well be to be one of Wales’s oldest settlements, and the largest of its kind. Its existence as an Iron Age hill fort would date it to approximately 600 BCE. Therefore, the newly found archaeological interest is not before time.

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Cardiff University student, Sarah, sifts through the soil for artefacts

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Liam, also an Archaeology student, digs for further evidence of the causewayed enclosure

For the second summer, the Caer Heritage team have planned a dig on site. As well setting up trenches, they have had temporary exhibits at St. Fagans, and Cardiff Bay. They have also gained UK wide recognition, by winning awards for their engagement with the public.

They extend an open invitation to the public to come and get involved in the dig. Last year, 1,000 volunteers got involved, and a similar number are expected this year. Visitors have included Welsh Assembly Members, such as Eluned Parrott, and it’s inspiring to see how many people have rallied behind this project. It has thrived on one of the suburb’s greatest strengths: community spirit.

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In another trench, Nick from Cardiff University, shows me evidence of the different layers which built up over time

Local schools have been encouraged to plan trips to help with the dig, sort through the ‘finds’ and also get stuck in with making clay pots. As a result of this project, these children may well know more about the history of the area than even their parents, or grandparents.

On the day of my visit, I found my way to the site fairly easily. I drove up to the fort, via a narrow uneven single-track lane, which winds through Caerau woods. I found a parking spot near to the abandoned St. Mary’s Church.

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The dig, with St. Mary’s Church in the background

On reaching the site, I initially felt daunted about introducing myself to the dig party. I quickly realised that there was no need to be, as they were all very welcoming and friendly.

As soon as I arrived, Lydia, an Archaeology student from Cardiff University, volunteered to show me around. She showed me the various trenches, and introduced me to a handful of people involved in the dig.

She explained to me that, although the fort is believed to be Iron Age, dating to around 600 BCE, there is also evidence of earlier Neolithic usage, and later Roman occupation. More recently, the land has been used as pasture for animals.

In one of the trenches, the dig members were particularly excited about the discovery of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure, marked out by a ditch. Causewayed enclosures date between 5,000 and 3,000 BCE. This one could well have functioned as a gathering place for performing rituals or burials.

They have also uncovered Neolithic flints from this trench. The soil in this area is heavy with clay, which allows for the preservation of flints, but isn’t so good for preserving organic material, such as bones, so they haven’t uncovered so many of these kinds of artefacts.

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A Neolithic flint

In another trench, they were uncovering the ramparts that would have been the ditches for the walls to the fort. They uncovered various layers, relating to different eras of history. Another of the archaeologists, Nick, explained the various different layers, and how the further down you dig, the further back in history you explore. Just after I visited, they successfully uncovered one of the most exciting finds so far: a green Iron Age rampart, which was concealed beneath several other layers of history, including a Roman midden deposit.

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A Roman pot, which would have been mass produced from a mold

After my tour of the trenches, I joined Vicky in their tented enclosure, and she showed me some of their most recent discoveries. She showed me examples of Roman pottery, and Neolithic flints. I was particularly fascinated to see a flint tool designed to make holes in leather, perhaps an early development of the sewing needle?

 

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A Neolithic tool for making holes in leather

I told Vicky of my own early forages into the field of archaeology. I recalled finding an old piece of very dense glass, shaped like a bowl, which was possibly the base of a large bottle. When I mentioned that it was covered in a thick crust of rainbow patterns, I could see her eyes widening with interest. Very enthusiastically, she informed me that rainbow patterns form when glass decays, and that what I had found could well be Roman glass. If true, this ties in nicely with the history of where I grew up; I lived on top of a Chiltern Hill, rumoured to have been a Roman lookout post.

The project is collaboration between Cardiff University, Action for Caerau and Ely, local residents and schools. If you’d like to visit, the site is open to the public until Friday 25 July. For further information, go to: the Facebook page or the website.

I’d like to thank everyone from the Cardiff University team, who showed me such a warm welcome, especially Lydia, Sarah, Liam, Nick, and Vicky.

 

 

Thanks Katie! Look forward to your next instalment of the Cardiff A-Z….

“An Ely Tale” – Mab

mab-jones-web

I am from Ely. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them this. They listen to my polite, merely Diff-tinged accent, and think – she can’t be an Elyite! Elyopian? No way! They think I am telling fibs. I would like to drag them by their slender wrists to the house I grew up in, a tiny dwelling the size of a tooth. It’s not a fairy tale, I’d like to say; this is the garden in which my father used to shoot cats; this is the kitchen with women instead of appliances…

I didn’t like Ely. Some people seem to have a Grand Avenue of a time but, as fairy tales go, I found it a bit Grimm. I escaped into books at an early age, then I escaped to private school – Howell’s, in Llandaff. I had an assisted place. Getting on the crowded bus in my Harry Potter-esque uniform, with its crest-chested blazer, pinstripe blouse, and straw boater in summer, attracted some attention. But I was glad to get away. As soon as I was over the bridge, I began feeling better. When I think back, now, I realise it isn’t Ely I dislike – it’s poverty. Ely is a large council estate, and the stain-glass windows and red-carpeted entrance of Howell’s School were a luxurious balm to the cracked glass and bare stairs of Home.

Ely had such a powerfully negative effect on me that, by extension, I also disliked Cardiff. Caroline Street, with its porn shops, chippies, and army surplus stores seemed to summarise life as far as I could see it. Sex, food, and death; the gutters full of misery and fag ends. My mother came from a long line of housewives, a slave to her husband, her ovaries, and the kitchen sink. She got pregnant with me when she was 17, and that was considered a late start. I wanted more, but Cardiff didn’t seem to have the thing I was looking for.

I was the first in my family not to have a kid in her teens, and the first to finish school. I even went so far as to do an MA. However, I was also very overweight, and very withdrawn. For a period of about 8 years, I hardly spoke, a condition that was only later diagnosed as Selective Mutism. Then, aged 23, I escaped to Japan… The rich pink cherry blossoms and deep red maple leaves were an even greater balm than the décor of high school. I lived in an artist house next to a mountain, and began speaking again. But by the end of three years, I felt like returning…

I went to London, with the intention of moving there, but came back to Wales after one day. Cardiff was as grey and dull as I remembered – but things were beginning to change. I remember the Arms Park being taken down, and I didn’t feel sorry. I took pictures of the Millennium Stadium being built up, and I was glad. This new building was bigger and brighter – it had ambition. I saw the Bay transform itself from grey sludge into sparkly shops, eateries, boat tours, and buildings. To me, it felt like the dingy city of my childhood was suddenly sparking into colour; as if the dowdy, drab-haired housewife was finally putting on her glad-rags, painting her nails, getting a perm… Monotomy and monogamy were set aside, as Cardiff became – well, a bit of a tart.

Cardiff began selling herself. The stadium drew in the visitors, more than ever before; the Bay was a draw, St David’s 2 was built… The people of the city have cashed in, with Cardifferent T-shirts, I Loves the Diff badges, those fab place name cards that were launched just the other day. I bloody love it. There’s more going on here, it seems: less of the boring Male Voice Choir stuff; more of the South Wales Gay Male Choir stuff. There’s spoken word, comedy, and burlesque. Cardiff Identity Festival. Cardiff Design Festival. The Cardiff Story. Cardiff has become the Diff – that long, moany ‘keaar’ sound dropped. Good riddance, say I.

The only problem with the flirty bird the city has become is the possibility of over-sell. Prostitution, instead of promotion. Casinos, strip bars, Hooters. Sometimes I worry the city is going to turn into a massive Caroline Street…

Not that much of this has spread into Ely. It’s still as poor as it ever was. My sister lives on Snowden Road, where the Ely Riots took place. The price of bread is what caused it. Now there is a Greggs. My nephews tuck into ring doughnuts as they walk home from school, mattresses springing from front gardens. The brightest thing in the grey suburb is, as it ever was, the orange bus – bendy instead of double decker, but still there, to take you – fortunately in my case, unfortunately for others – away.

Mab Jones is an award-winning comic and performance poet. She often uses the Diff dialect in her work, and is member of B.A.D. (British Accent & Dialect) Poets, who translate famous poems into their native tongue. She performs all over the UK, and has two anthologies forthcoming with Parthian Books. Please check out her website for details: http://www.mabjones.com/

Mab was photographed in Splott by Adam Chard

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