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“I’ve spent the last two Christmases with my flood bag packed in the car, on standby!” – Jen

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I joined Penarth lifeboat station as a trainee crew member in July 2008. I had recently moved to the area and wanted to get involved in the community somehow. A colleague who was already a helmsman at the lifeboat station suggested I became a crew member. I was told when I visited the lifeboat station that if I wanted to join it would be a serious hobby I was taking on and that I needed to give as much time as possible to the training. The appeal for me was the challenge of learning a new skill (actually a huge set of new skills!) and meeting and getting to know people in the area. I also had a draw to learn the skills as my aunt had sadly drowned whilst out on a yacht back in 1960, and I wanted to be part of a team who had the ability to go out and help people like her who get into difficulties.

Within two years I became a fully trained crew member and I am now training to be a helm myself. The excitement and discipline of a shout is immense. Putting into action the training you have been doing. In the first year when the pagers went off I’d find by the time I got in the water to launch the boat I’d have shaky legs and thought, god I’ve got to get fitter! But I soon realised it was the adrenaline giving me shaky legs! I’ve learnt to channel the adrenaline now to better use. It’s especially helpful using it to help wake me up properly before getting on the boat when we have our shouts in the middle of the night.

I joined the Flood Rescue team, West Division in 2012; learning how to stay safe in fast flowing water and how to execute different rescue scenarios.

I’ve spent the last two Christmases with my flood bag packed in the car, on standby! It’s like having a shout that you know is coming, you just don’t know when and you’re continually making adjustments in your life just in case the call comes in and you have to go. My family and boyfriend are extremely understanding and so is my work, which I am extremely grateful for. In fact some of my presents this year were items for my flood bag! Waterproof mobile phone holder and gadgets that will charge my mobile phone without a plug point.

This Christmas the West flood team were all on standby but to different areas. Seeing the support the RNLI Flood Rescue Team gave to those people in both North Wales and Aberystwyth who were either completely stranded or flooded out of their homes makes me very proud to be part of the team. Being one of those people who can put a smile on someone’s face who really has got a lot on their plate is a great feeling.

Life in Cardiff is great as the adventure facilities continue to expand. The white water rafting centre has been great for a bit of fun on the water as well as training days for the Flood Rescue Team – we’ve even put cars in there to train with. Indoor surfing at the centre is my next challenge! I’m so lucky to have adventure races right on my doorstep with the Cardiff Burn running in Cardiff giving me a chance to get my bike, kayak and running legs out. With talk of a real-snow indoor ski slope coming to Cardiff too it really is an exciting place to live!

Jen Payne is a Cardiff local who volunteers as a crew member at Penarth RNLI lifeboat station.

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its 24-hour rescue service. To find out more about the RNLI and how you can donate, click here: http://bit.ly/1f4Mlhd

Jen was photographed at Penarth lifeboat station by Ffion Matthews

If you’re interested in the history of the RNLI in Wales, Phil Carradice recently wrote an interesting piece on them for BBC Wales Blogs.

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“Cardiff Food Project has changed the way I think about food, photography and of course, Cardiff” – Lauren

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I grew up in the Vale of Glamorgan, Penarth to be exact, and although it was a great place to grow up in, as I got older I started to feel disconnected, and longed to live somewhere else. When I finished school at sixteen, I decided to skip sixth form and head straight to Coleg Glan Hafren. I still – to this day – believe this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It got me out into the world and gave me a chance to make new friends. In fact, it was at Glan Hafren that I made friends for life. All my friends there grew up and lived in Cardiff, and most of them still do.

After college, many of them went off to university and I stayed around to work, do some travelling and generally trying to figure out what I wanted to do. At some point, I needed to start making some decisions and one I really needed to make was the choice to go to university. I knew that economically it would make sense to study in Cardiff, I had job security and all my friends were here, so I moved to Roath and went back to college. Then at the grand old age of 23 (believe me, when the majority of your classmates are 18, 23 feels really old) I started university and never looked back.

Now, I am about to embark on my third and final year, I had one more decision to make – do I stay here after university? Or do I sail off into the sunset and see where the wind takes me? It was a tough decision, but I have spent my first 25 years of life here, so I think it is time to sail for a bit. However, I needed to remind myself of what Cardiff has given me over the years, and I wanted to create something that could represent that.

So this led me to creating a project that I could really connect with. I spent a few weeks going over ideas and came up with the Cardiff Food Project. I wanted this to be a blog that offered people a chance to find a new market or a new little corner of Cardiff they may have never knew existed. Through the blog, I have found new places and opportunities, and it has changed the way I think about food, photography and of course, Cardiff.

I’ve learned so much in the two months I’ve been running it, and I know I still have a lot more to learn. It has provided me with the confidence to try my hand at new things. I have set up a supper club, and am working on a new photography and travel website, and I hope to continue my writing. I have also become more aware of what is going in and around Cardiff and my local area. It has opened up my world to new possibilities and new connections, and really the only thing I have to thank for that is Cardiff.

I still have plans to head off in other directions, plans to work and live in different parts of the world. However, no matter where I go, Cardiff will always be home.

Lauren Mahoney is currently an event management student, often dodging the ‘typical’ students of the Roath area on her way to work. When she is not doing any of those three things, Lauren is working hard on her blog cffoodproject.blogspot.co.uk and her new travel and photography website (not yet launched) and getting involved in as many food, travel and photography projects as she can.

Lauren was photographed at Gelynis Farm by Ffion Matthews

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“Cardiff’s buildings may change, but the feel of the city never does” – Bazz

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That famous Thomas Wolfe quote – “you can’t go home again” – doesn’t really apply when you’re referring to Cardiff. Buildings may change, but the feel of the city never does.

When I was growing up, to take a trip down to Cardiff Bay seemed nothing short of ‘danger tourism’. It might just be my over-active imagination embellishing these memories, but the Docks were like the set of a post-apocalyptic film back then: derelict warehouses seemed to be everywhere. Now it’s one of the gems of South Wales: a hive of family-friendly activity as well as late-night revelry.

The Hayes, in the town centre, used to be where you went to get your bike fixed (Halfords), or your photos developed (Jessops, which had a little robotic man in its shop window that haunted my dreams for a worrying period of time). In late 2009, I came back from a long trip to Australia to discover the retail Mecca that is St David’s 2, built over that once-dreary site; a centre so impressive that people from as far afield as London prefer to come here to do their shopping.

The fear of missing out is a powerful one. If you’re coming back to this city after moving away, you’re not coming back to the small village where nothing ever changes; where everybody shops at the local petrol station. You’re coming back to a city where exciting things are happening, be it in sporting, cultural or business terms (or all three). I’m appreciative of the fact that I’m living in Cardiff at a time when it’s experiencing a renaissance.

Some people are quick to drop everything and leave for another city, or country, and in some cases that’s understandable. For me, I have cultivated many friendships over the years that I would find hard to turn my back on so easily. Many of these were formed at places such as the gym in Sophia Gardens, which hosts the richest tapestry of characters I’ve ever encountered. One of the more outlandish individuals is a Phil Collins lookalike who accessorises a skimpy leotard with a bumbag. I’ve made some great friends there (though not so much with Leotard Man, for obvious reasons), and the storylines that have emerged from within the four walls of a single weights room have convinced me that I will one day write a book on these people.

I went to Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr in Fairwater. It’s an amazing school. There were only three years there when I started because it had gone from being a lower school to a new, standalone institution. It meant that everyone knew each other, which was definitely not the case in the rest of Cardiff’s huge schools. My little brother goes there now, and to hear of all the developments it’s undergone since I left (including, to my eternal jealousy, an astroturf pitch and a new gym) reinforces my belief that the Welsh language continues to grow in the city.

Most of my friends in their mid-twenties are teachers, and I realise that my teachers in Plasmawr – back then, all around the same age that I am now – were still finding their way; their experiences as educators were just as new as ours were as pupils and, on reflection, they did an impressive job. English classes were a highlight, and my teacher Mr Jones was an inspirational presence who had a profound effect on the path I chose upon leaving school.

I wasn’t the perfect student by any stretch of the imagination, and my friends and I were prone to the odd displays of smartarsery. In history class one day, our new teacher immediately regretted asking our disruptive group if one of us wanted to take the lesson, because one of us stood up and did just that. But those are the good memories you take with you.

Studying for my undergraduate degree in Aberystwyth some years ago, I encountered certain Welsh people from outside of South Wales from whom I got the impression they thought people from Cardiff were somehow ‘less Welsh’ than them. Now most of them live here. A microcosm of North Wales can even be found in Canton, adding to the melting pot (or, better yet, fruit salad) already inherent in Cardiff’s DNA.

Three years ago, I was lucky to be accepted into Cardiff University’s International Journalism Masters programme. In a large group of students, I was the only Welshman (and one of only three Brits) on the course, and the UN-like environment of the ‘newsroom’ was incredible. It was interesting to see these foreigners’ perceptions of my hometown too. Maybe they were just being polite, but they seemed utterly sincere when they told me they loved Cardiff. It was a unique experience at the Bute Building in Cathays Park.

My favourite part of Cardiff is the sprawling Pontcanna Fields. There aren’t many cities that can boast a park where you are literally surrounded in all directions by greenery, and it’s one of the prime examples of why the city is one of the greenest in Europe. You can even see Castell Coch from the fields, which emphasises Cardiff’s accessibility to other distinctly non-cosmopolitan regions. Whether I’m there walking the dog or running with my friend, this place has a calming effect on my soul.

As a youngster, I had no reason to go to Cathays or Roath – now I’m there regularly. It is the bohemian heart of the city, and the elite unit of Cardiff’s intelligentsia that is my quiz team has often been known to storm the competition at the magnificent Pear Tree bar on a Sunday. (In the past, we’ve been affectionately referred to as the ‘Seal Team 6’ of quiz teams – mostly by ourselves.)

I want to be here when Cardiff reaches its tipping point and gets the global recognition it deserves as one of Europe’s finest capital cities. It won’t be long.

Bazz Barrett works in PR and lives in Pontcanna. He blogs for therugbycity.wordpress.com, tweets as @bazzbarrett and can sometimes be found avoiding leotard-wearing Phil Collins lookalikes in the gym – a workout in itself.

Bazz was photographed at the War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens by Ffion Matthews

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“I still have the ration book I used to buy sweets from the shop next door” – Jenny

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My memories of growing up in Cardiff are clearest from the age of around four to five years. We lived on North Road in the Maindy area of Cardiff with extended family, which consisted of my grandparents, an aunt and an uncle.  We had a front room, used for special events and which also housed the old piano which I would learn to play from the age of seven.  The middle room was where our family of four lived and it contained our table and chairs, easy chairs, the very large old radio, coal fireplace and gas cooker.  In an age where we want our space, I can only be amazed that we all fitted in there and never seemed to be aware of how small it must have been. The back room was where my grandparents lived. Upstairs, there were several bedrooms and this always seemed very big to me as a child. I used to love climbing the extra little set of stairs up to the attic room and from there we could see right into the Maindy stadium when sporting events took place.  Our little family had the front, very large bedroom for us all to sleep in and I do remember how cold it was in the winter, especially getting up in the morning.  It never took long to get dressed.

One of the first personal events that I can clearly recall is the birth of my sister who, less than a year later, burned her arm and was taken to hospital. Her physical scars remain to this day but while they have faded somewhat my recollection of that day has not. I also clearly remember my first day at school, at the age of five. As I had had to wait until the actual day of my birthday to be able to attend, I was very keen to start in Allensbank Primary School.  The faces of some staff and children who were at the school with me still remain in my memory.  By the age of seven I was allowed to walk to school on my own, a freedom that children would rarely be given now.  From there I went to Cathays High School, which was just literally just across the road.  One day, as I sat at my desk in school, I watched a small plane as it circled outside my window and then crashed down into the road just next to my family home. The thing I remember most was how concerned I was about my mother’s safety and I asked to go home. The plane had tried to avoid the Maindy Stadium where a sports day was being held, with many children there.  It did manage to do this thankfully but unfortunately the occupants of the plane did not survive.  As I lived so close to where the plane came down, I was interviewed by a reporter from the South Wales Echo and remember how strange it was to see my name and account in the paper not long afterwards.

As our family home was located on the main road, my parents refused my request to have a dog. My mum was afraid it would get run over by the closely passing traffic but compared to the traffic today it must have been fairly light as I was allowed to walk on my own to the library further up North Road on a Saturday morning.  I was also allowed to walk up to the Plaza cinema, now a block of flats, without adult supervision.  We only had a small back yard in which to play outdoors but there was a large covered area that served as a utility room, complete with mangle. I well remember being allowed to turn the handle and watched as the water was pressed out of the clothes on washday, which was always Monday, come rain or shine.  However, growing up in post-war Britain, the side-roads became an extended yard in which to play. They were not busy with vehicles, except for the occasional horse and cart selling fruit and vegetables.  We skipped and played marbles and hopscotch for hours on end.  Even though we did not live in an affluent area, I remember it as a happy and carefree time.  Front door keys were never needed as all I had to do was put my hand inside the letterbox to pull the string and gain entry.  In those times it was easy to close off a street for a street party and I clearly remember the one held for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I still have photos of that event, with myself and my sister dressed in costumes made by my mother for the occasion. The Diamond Jubilee has been a good excuse to get them out and show them to younger members of the family, creating amusement. As I looked at the photos, Cardiff seemed a much different and far away place as, indeed, our modern life-style does, compared to the one I knew as a child growing up in post-war conditions.  I still have the ration book that enabled me to buy sweets in the conveniently located shop next door to our house.

We often used to walk from North Road to Roath Park and I recollect walking there while holding onto the pram that held my baby sister.  We would walk up to Whitchurch Road, through to Allensbank Road and down Wedal Road.  I remember getting so excited as I realised we were almost there and our first stop was always to feed the ducks. The highlight of the visit was to sit in the little boats and pedal them around the small area reserved for children.  It is great to see so many people of all ages still enjoying the simple pleasures that Roath Park has to offer.

Cardiff City Football Club was another place I remember well, being taken there regularly by my father, who was also a keen football and baseball player.  He proudly told us how he had had trials for Cardiff City Football Club but this was curtailed when he was called up into the armed forces during the Second World War. My elderly mother still has an old suitcase full of medals and cups that he won playing locally in his youth.  Indeed when I began to knit, my father suggested that my first project should be to make a blue and white scarf. I remember this taking me some time but I proudly wore it to watch Cardiff City when it was finished.  I particularly thought of this when recent proposals to change their colour to red were announced.

We moved to the Whitchurch area when I was a young teenager and, while I remained at Cathays High School, my sister went to a Whitchurch school.  We now had a small garden and, it seemed to me at the time, a more affluent life style than before but I now realise that conditions were generally improving in the country as a whole as people settled back into civilian life.

My own working life was mainly spent in Cardiff too and, as an adult, I became a lecturer after studying in local colleges.  This chapter of my working life was the most interesting and even led me into Cardiff prison.  In case you are wondering, I was not an inmate but a teacher in the Education Department for five years.  Now, in retirement, we can enjoy Cardiff even more. The Bay, where once we used to go through the dock gates, at the end of Bute Terrace, to see the banana boats come in, has become a vibrant and interesting place to go and walk across the barrage, or sit and people watch.  The recent 2012 Olympic Torch relay was probably my earliest ever visit to the Bay, however, arriving in time to get a good viewing point, when Dr Who (Matt Smith) started the 6.30am run from the Norweigan Church.

My life in Cardiff has been a very enjoyable one with many fond memories and it has been good to see it develop over the years into the lively city that it now is.  There is even more to look forward to with the planned additions to the sports village, including the building of a Snow Dome, which has been promised for 2013 and we look forward to that.  I feel sure that Cardiff will remain a place where families can happily work and play, just as we have always done.

Jenny Criddle is a retired lecturer/ trainer and is actively involved in supporting voluntary work with young people. In April 2012, she went to South Africa with a large group to help build a Child Development Centre. Jenny and her husband also help with Spree Wales, an annual large youth camp as well as their local church events. Details can be found at www.bethesdacardiff.org / www.SpreeWales.com / www.rycsouthafrica.org

Jenny was photographed at Roath Park lake by Ffion Matthews. Next to that image is a photograph of Jenny taken at the same spot when she was four years old.

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“I need to be in a place where people are friendly and everything’s on your doorstep” – Jessica

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I have lived in Cardiff since I was born. I was never very adventurous in a travelling sense and stayed here to do my Foundation Course in Art & Design, and then for my degree in Graphic Communication. I can’t say I’ve ever regretted it. In fact I probably made the best decision. All through university we were told that London was the place to be for new designers. I frankly had a bit of a panic, because London is just so daunting to me.

I need to be in a place where people are friendly and everything’s on your doorstep. I know Cardiff like the back of my hand because I’ve lived in most areas. I was born in Pontcanna, lived in Ely for a bit, then in Grangetown, Llanishen, Llandaff, Thornhill, and when my mother decided to move out into the country I stayed and continued my tour, moving to Penarth, Cardiff Bay and finally Roath, where I mingled with my fellow students and loved every minute.

I met my partner not long after starting university and we’ve never moved from Roath. We now live in the heart of Roath and there’s so much to do. It’s amazing. The galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, awesome little independent quirky shops and funky bars are in abundance – not forgetting Roath Park. It’s just such a lively place to live and we’re lucky to have a number of friends all living in the same area.

We’re always popping to The Pear Tree on Wellfield Road for a cheeky drink, and mingling with the locals at The Claude or The Albany. We’re both also really lucky to work in the area and I count myself even luckier to be able to work for myself from home. I’ve worked in the design industry since graduating in 2009 and I’ve done everything from designing Christmas wrapping paper (all year round) to mobile application design for iPhones and iPads. Now I’m freelance and work from the comfort and convenience of my little studio under the name Jessica Draws. As I have the time, I’m getting involved in the community as best as I can. I’m in talks to supply some craft shops with my handmade greetings cards that I currently sell online and I am also involved in The Sho Gallery’s summer exhibition Art Flare (on Inverness Place), where I am displaying some illustrative prints and cards which are also for sale. My next stop hopefully is to be involved in the new St Mary’s Street Market and Roath’s Saturday Craft market. I’ve got lots of plans and I’m still getting in touch with local businesses to over my branding and marketing services.

It’s not just Cardiff that’s getting some Jessica Draws shoved in its face. I love to draw and it’s what keeps me cheerful, and so the illustrations I do aren’t always for clients. Some recent work I created for fun around the recent Marvel film releases was featured on some prominent online blogs (here and here), which triggered some awesome responses and a few commissions (now available in my etsy shop too).

Drawing is what I do and I like to think of myself as re-designing the world, one illustration at a time.

Jessica Donnan (also know as Jessica Draws) is a freelance designer and illustrator. Since graduating in 2009, she has worked in many areas of the design industry. Check out her online shop where you can find lots of goodies, and have a gander at her blog, where she posts giveaways, competitions and her latest news.

Jessica was photographed at The Pear Tree in Roath by Ffion Matthews

 

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