Tag Archives: roath park

“I’ve become the most employed life model in the UK – the UK’s most naked man” – Andy

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My first ‘proper’ girlfriend was Sian. I used to visit her every now and then, catching the coach down from London. Back in the day, Sian would take me to Pillars for snacks, shopping in the arcades, to the ‘animal wall’, Spillers Records, a dusty old book shop… But this is now. Sian and I have swapped locations. She lives in London, and I, mostly, live in Cardiff. I don’t see Sian anymore, as that was then. That was 33 years ago.

And me? I’m 48, live in a van, and am, usually, as naked as the day I was born.

Cardiff has changed over the years. Cardiff has been spruced up. Cardiff has had a facelift. It’s a bit unfinished and tired in places, development land in the Bay is laying fallow, modern estates of twenty years past are so soon decaying… Cardiff’s heart is pumping, but its pimped up and requires feeding. The shops and pedestrian zones demand regular re-invention and a fatty, corporate growth. It’s as if Cardiff wasn’t ready, wasn’t right for the glitz and shimmer of town centre apartments, the footballers wives lifestyles. It’s limbs, it’s Roath’s, Cathays’, Canton’s and Grangetown’s, they are where Cardiff’s at.

I think I’ve aged better than Cardiff. You can see my history on my face. There’s no mask, no veneer, no lick of paint. I’ve grown craggy, I’ve grown brave, I’m wild now, a feral human… My eyes shine bright like the gleaming windows of the smart, dressed stone Victorian town houses that hem in Roath Park. There are lines gathering about them, lines of laughter, of sorrow, of astonishment and dismay. Those lines are as the rivers Taff, Ely and Rhymney that flow over the damp, dank creases of the cities weather beaten skin. My body is tighter, taughter. It’s straining to bursting. My body is the vehicle for my voice, the voice that it holds captive behind its sinew curtain, within its bone cage. And it creaks. And it’s slower to bend. And as I speak, I ache…

And Cardiff aches and snaps at times. It’s people spark at each other. It’s architecture has raised eyebrows. I see violence of fists and of the demolition ball against the backdrop of a screaming birthing of gleaming towers. I see it’s roads slow to a halt, but, always, there is movement over tarmac once more, an edging forwards, a traveling through time and space. There’s a fidgeting to the Bay, a trembling to Whitchurch, a lurching to Llanrumny. Cardiff breathes in and out a mass of humanity, several times a day. And the humans grow up, grow old. And the city changes. It’s forever changing…

And I’ve changed. I’m 48, live in a van, and am, usually, as naked as the day I was born. More so, in fact. Swaddling’s not my thing. I’m my partners muse, an artists muse, I can be your muse. I’ve become the most employed life model in the UK, the UK’s most naked man. I work for colleges, universities, artists, hen party’s, TV… I run drawing sessions in bars in the evenings… I’ve been filmed naked with Lacey Turner and Caroline Quentin… My bum’s been booked for theatre, appearing live, on stage, an avant-garde performance arse… I’ve been interviewed by the owner of the UK’s most famous bottom, for Radio Four…

I have Cardiff to thank for this. It’s the right size for a city. It’s easy to get stuff moving, to build on an idea, to drive a project to success. Cardiff enables personal re-invention as fluidly as it re-invents itself. Cardiff’s a city on a human scale. And when it gets me down, when the planners, politicians, businessmen and all their associates, that band of corporate bland, when they piss me off, I head to Roath Lake. I sit in my van. And I watch the duckies…

Originally from South East London Andrew has been in Wales for 25 years and has experienced living in the Valleys, Brecon, Talgarth and Cardiff. Since moving to Wales he has become, amongst other things, a mountaineer, a poet, youth inclusion specialist, an activist and of course, the most naked man in the UK! He currently lives in his van with his partner Becky and his dog, Rowan. They mostly park up near Roath Park and welcome visitors who often are treated to a cup of fresh mint tea. More info can be found at about.me.

Andy was photographed at Roath Park Lake by Lann Niziblian

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“I rode the streets of Cardiff, stopping fixed gear riders like some sort of weird bike stalker” – Tim

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My wife Hannah and I moved to Cardiff from the East End of London in January 2010. It was something that we had been planning for around six months having had enough of London living after spending over 10 years there.

I grew up in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire so the move for me seemed a little closer to home, especially as my parents are still there and my sister was in St Mellons. Hannah’s maternal family hailed from Cwmbran so there was a connection for her too.

Nonetheless, we were filled with trepidation as we followed the removals van down the M4 towards our new home. We were fortunate enough to have found a house to rent that overlooks Roath Park Lake and gives us the space we need – a far cry from our 2 bed flat in Whitechapel. Bibiche, our elderly, grumpy, overweight cat is still coming to terms with the notion of a garden though.

We had always planned to start a family once we had moved so we were overjoyed to find out that Hannah was pregnant after we’d been here just over a week. Everything was falling into place and we were beginning to feel that we couldn’t have made a better choice of city to move to.

In London, I had pretty much always commuted to work by bike and for the last years or so had got into fixed gear cycling. Riding fixed means riding a bike with only one gear and most importantly no freewheel – your legs drive the rear wheel forwards AND backwards and effectively act as a rear brake. When you’re riding, your legs can’t stop for a break, you just have to keep on pedalling.

A massive scene has grown up around this in London and is now incredibly popular with couriers, commuters and hipsters alike, but I was interested in whether there was a similar scene in Cardiff and if so, could I meet like-minded riders and drop myself in once I moved.

After a couple of weeks of investigation I didn’t really come up with much in Cardiff – the only group I could find was Fixed Gear Wales (now The Foot Down), run by a chap called Tyron out of Swansea. I saw that he was organising an alleycat (an unofficial urban bike race with checkpoints that riders have to hit on their way round the route) and decided that I should make the journey to Swansea, take part and see if I could get the lowdown on anything that might be happening in Cardiff.

I came a pitiful 17th, but had made myself known to the Fixed Gear Wales guys and some of the Trackdropouts lot from Bristol. However, the consensus was that although there were some riders in Cardiff, there wasn’t what you would call a cohesive scene. I got some names of the riders they knew about and headed back to London.

Once we’d moved to Cardiff I decided to harness the power of Facebook and set up the Fixed Gear Cardiff group. I then posted a few notices on other similar groups and contacted the guys whose names I’d been given. I even took to riding the streets of Cardiff, hunting, down and stopping fixed gear riders when I saw them like some sort of weird bike stalker!

Another great help was Martin from the Bike Shed in Pontcanna. Around the same time he was looking to get riders together to play bike polo in Cardiff. Luckily it’s a sport that attracts the fixed gear contingent, so there was a lot of crossover between the groups.

18 months on and Fixed Gear Cardiff is still going. We’ve put on a number of races, get together socially and the polo side of things has really taken off with the Cardiff boys entering and winning a number of tournaments. There’s also a close relationship with Swansea and we often ride together socially and competitively.

More importantly for me it’s been a great way of getting to know some people and making some great friends – from university students to university professors, couriers to hairdressers.

In addition to the impact cycling has had on our Cardiff life, we have found incredible friends and support through the many local baby, health and community groups that exist in the city.

Our son Austin is now nearly a year old and we’re really settling in as a family. Our London life seems a bit of a distant memory now. We truly feel at home in Cardiff, a city that can sometimes feel as small as a village, and wish we had made the move earlier.

We’ve bought a house here now and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Cardiff has given us more roots than we ever could have hoped for in London and I don’t think we could imagine being anywhere else right now. Things are moving pretty fast for us and the city and the people in it seem to be supporting us all the way.

Unfortunately I still work in London so have to be away more than I would like but on the brighter side I get to leave the big smoke and come back here at the end of the day.

Tim is 33 years old and is an technical consultant for Skinkers, a mobile app development firm in London. He has a passion for heavy metal, tattoos and bikes and lives with his wife Hannah and son Austin in Roath. Tim set up Fixed Gear Cardiff in 2010 and hopes to give the “scene” a little more attention over the coming months

Tim was photographed in the rose garden at Roath Park by Adam Chard

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