Celebration day

It turns out that the president and vice president of my fan club celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary the other day. They even called in for a few minutes to offer me pats, strokes and unsolicited compliments, when it probably should have been me doing that for them… but why change the natural order of things! So momentous was this event that even the right royal Lizzie, queen of as far as she can walk, dispatched a member of her own staff (well it said HM Royal Mail on the side of the van) to deliver a card with congratulations on achieving what ‘ones husband and I’ also managed to do a few years back. It seems the Queen has even changed her dress in the picture on the card, following some televised complaints by some ton-up Tessa’s who live long enough to build a collection of these things.

So how do you celebrate such an event, and what kind of place would match up to the occasion? For all that Cardiff may have to offer the final decision (imaginary drum roll at this point…) goes to the Gwaelod-y-Garth Inn a few miles north of the city in the foothills of the Taff Gorge… a portal into the terrifying spectre of the place known as ‘The Valleys’, comparable only to ‘Mordor’ in the Lord of the Rings.

         The view from the Garth (the rocky outcrop visible from the A470) down the Taff valley towards Cardiff. The Bristol Channel is in the background and on clear days Weston Super Mare is visible

I digress, into territory where no cats played any roles of consequence, so lets get back to the more important subject, me.. oh ok, them. Despite 60 years of saying ‘eh… what?’ and more recently enjoying the divergent tracts of ‘coffee with the girls’ for her and ‘golf’ for him, it seems that there are still a significant enough number of blood relatives and close friends scattered about the regions of South Wales, and even back in my old haunt of London. So it was that a great celebration was organised to bring the tribal elders, the deluded young, and the real young together for a magnificent feast. ‘The Gwaelod’, as it is known by its locals, was tasked to meet the challenge:

Now don’t get me wrong, but my personal imbiber can go off on one occasionally… is it a pub, is it a restaurant, why are the campaign for real ale folks honouring a place that focuses so much on grub? There is a simple answer that I offer in these situations… ‘if the quality of everything is fabulous enough just do less thinking and more enjoying’! However, a point was well made when the range of beers available included London Pride as a guest… even I, as a cool cat formerly of that parish, have to wonder at the waste of a good hand-pump by presenting this particular number. Fortunately, I am told that the regular Wye Valley bitter was adequately complemented by a stellar cast that included the Dark Star Hophead (which my surrogate drinker won’t shut up about since discovering it in a few local hostelries). Apparently the red wines could have done with being served at a slightly cooler temperature, but the gluggers of the Sauvignon Blanc were too busy emptying bottles to offer any professional comment… but the New Zealand economy has sent its appreciation.

Downstairs bar

The real triumph of the evening seems to be the food (and I will try not to go on again about what I find in my perpetual bowl of blandness). I am reliably told, by someone who often appreciates the curves in a walked straight line, that a herd of the highest quality gave of their loins so that the multitude could stuff themselves to the point of synchronised satisfied grinning. The fillet steak at this place was superb, as were reports of the various parts of lambs and pigs consumed in honour of the newlyweds of 60 years previously. As in previous posts of mine, I can confidently report that no vegetarians were harmed at this event, but the vegetables and chips were also deliciously presented, should any meat-avoiders want to attend any similar such occasion (blindfolded of course).

In the interests of financial considerations, I count myself lucky that my paws and fine coat are designed for better things than messing in the murky world of money… yet the satisfied throng seem to be suggesting that ‘The Gwaelod’ is not only a place for fine dining and watering, but very reasonable in its prices. One word of warning though, I noticed on their own website that this place had recently hosted some of the stick-waving bell-jangling bearded types… just when I thought I had escaped the English embarrassment of Morris and his local yocal dancing troupe!

That aside, if you are looking for quality for any occasion I think you will be purring after a visit to this place. I need to do some purring of my own right now to try and get some attention out of my typing staff, and to find out how I get my teeth into some of that herd. To my personal fan club I am still Juno, see you again soon.

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Rio de J’Cardiff

Strolling northwards at the lower end of St Mary Street I pass under the railway bridge drawn by the magnificent site of the Victorian thoroughfare ahead. I try to ignore the modern overpowering hotels to my right and left because us cool cats have an appreciation of history and what it has brought to a place. Suddenly I feel a shimmying movement in my legs (four are always better than two, so I am told), as I involuntarily respond to the sounds and smells of Brazil.

I drift back in my memory to a previous life when I was a panther able to bring down and devour wild beasts, but fortunately for the afternoon shoppers and early city centre revellers, I come across a restaurant of infinite potential and delight… I am greeted by Viva Brazil.

Viva Brazil [2]I decide this is a must for my human carnivore and friends. On their return they are so full of the experience they don’t even stop to thank me for the tip off. I dive behind the sofa before they turn into a demented bunch of Samba cats themselves. All I hear about is ‘the meats’, ‘the non-stop skewers of freshly cooked meats’… and here am I looking into that bowl of rocks that is supposed to pass for cat food again.

‘Churrascaria’, I meow at them… don’t you people understand the cultural nuances when you go out to eat! The 15 or so meats are slow barbecued in this Portuguese/Brazilian style, and when you sit at your table they will be brought to you on skewers by the ‘passadores’ who will cut the meat at your table while you hold the slices with tiny tweezers provided on the table. This is known as a rodizio style of service, and you just eat as much as you like. The red and green sided beer mat on your table is not for standing drinks on, it is your signal to the meat-wielders whether your stomach is open for business, or you are just stuffed. I am told that one good tip is not to eat much at all earlier in the day, as this stuff is not just plentiful but beautifully cooked on the charcoal barbecue.

Load up as often as you like from a central salad bar with so many delicious Brazilian stews, with salads, fruit, breads, and rice dishes. Isn’t it nice when you can taste so many different flavours without generally having a clue what exactly you are eating… well, looking at my cat bowl I wouldn’t know about that. I also drink a lot of water so you don’t have to… and judging from my samba compatriots here, it doesn’t look like they drank much water either. But they are a bit fussy about their wines, and seem to be moaning on a little about how they could have made better choices for gargling considering the range of wines and cocktails the place had on offer.

They say another tip is to book, as this place gets busy, often. A good sign if I ever heard of one. But it is cheaper if you sit down to eat before 17.00. So, if you are there on a less busy early evening they are lenient about you staying beyond an allotted two hours, otherwise you might feel a little time-limited for such gastric wonders. Then again, you can always pay the evening price and go for broke.

Next time my personal food fascist leaves me with the delights of scientifically prepared cat crunch, and goes on another Latin American excursion around the corner, my suggestion is to ditch the much overused doggie-bag idea and get with the programme on cat-suitcase-sized take-outs. I’ve been Juno so you can be a little wiser… and I’m watching you.

Black Cat

The above image is from http://www.catimages.com/

Is Bruce an alien?

Some of you will recall that I recently outlined the evidence for Hurricane ‘Diff having caused some extremely strange sights around the city; but I also raised the possibility that it may be due to an alien invasion. I hope you didn’t lose too much sleep over those thoughts, while I was snuggly curled up on my velvet cushion gently twitching as I dreamed of the torment I could inflict on other animals (all in the best possible taste of course, or should the word ‘tasty’ fit in there somewhere?). Well, despite my regal demeanour, I am about to send another shock wave into your lives… there is growing evidence that an alien invasion has occurred in Cardiff; and, what’s more, Bruce Springsteen may in fact be an alien.

Some of you might be old enough to remember ‘Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds‘ (1978), and those of you old enough to be around at the the time of the H.G. Wells original story may have vivid memories of the radio event (1938), but you probably have no idea what you had for lunch a few hours ago. Key to the Martian invasion were the metal outer bodies that the aliens occupied, which came to represent broken shells when our bacterial life killed off the occupants. Forget Horsell Common, the Surrey location of the original invasion… we have one of them rotting away down at the Bute East Dock:

Derelict crane [2]In fact, the inhabitant may still be in the locality, as there have been occasional sightings of

what can only be described as the Bute-ness monster lurking in the depths of the dock close to its original metal shell:

Bute-ness monster

More contemporary evidence has emerged through the landing of the mothership right in the heart of the city centre, and clearly alien life still requires to be near to water, hence the chosen landing site.

Millenium Stadium

Rumours abound that Bruce Springsteen will be lighting it up and making noises out of it on 23rd July 2013 as a means of taking over the thoughts and minds of thousands of local residents, and even some people who will travel far and wide to view the spectacle of the mother-ship rocking to the sounds he makes with the E Street Band. If you stand near the site around 9.30pm on the evening of the 23rd you should get all the evidence you need.

However, if you are still not convinced, further evidence of his alien credentials can be gleaned from listening to some of the things he says, particularly repeating the phrase ‘Born in the USA‘. Have you ever met an American be so vague about their birthplace? Normally you get town, county, state, percentage breakdown of parental heritage, persecutions their grandparents were fleeing from, and the date the first ancestor set foot on Ellis Island. Someone who simply answers ‘Born in the USA’ can only be hiding something, or is other-worldly. He also claims to have a successful album called ‘The River’… well just look where the mothership landed, eh!

He calls himself ‘The Boss’… well I can relate to that, what with all the staff I employ. My personal music selector says that some of his best stuff was done by other people, which just sounds a little alien to me. But I do like ‘Blinded by the Light‘ which was written by Bruce but recorded most successfully by Manfred Mann’s Earthband back in 1976. But for all you fans click here for a review of the Cardiff gig that took place on the 23rd July 2013.

In the meantime, if any of you get the chance to take a tour of the mothership my surrogate sports fan says it is an awesome spectacle, whether occupied by aliens or not at the time you go. Check it out here. I am still being Juno, so see you again soon.

Hurricane ‘Diff

You might think it is cool that us cats spend around 20 hours a day sleeping, but I for one pride myself on being fully alert to all that is going on in my local environment. Personally, I like to sleep with one eye open, so I can be instantly aware of the slightest stirring of any nocturnal creatures. During the day I sleep with the other eye open, so I can be aware of any potential food sources that busy themselves around the crack of lunch.

Understanding your local territory becomes essential for us warrior types. So you can imagine my surprise when I recently toured my adopted home city, only to find the strangest of happenings had occurred. I was first alerted to a potential catastrophe when I found a giant javelin had pierced the paving stones just outside of the central library, miles away from any athletics stadium.

Javelin stuck in concrete

I wouldn’t want to tangle with whoever threw that! But wait, it is not just something that one person could have caused… a force of nature had even bent all of the lamp-posts over:

Even the lamposts bent

As I turned another corner a tragic sight presented itself, and reminded me of the golden rule: when the going gets tough, let go! Unfortunately, this poor soul couldn’t have had time to react to whatever had struck the city with awesome force:

Should have let goI realised that local industries must have been decimated by something other than greedy owners, politicians and economists, as bits of shovels, axles and buckets lay where they landed in the most incongruous of places:

ShovelAnyone under that

Buckets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But perhaps most surprising of all

was my thought that every anchor needs a boat (even though I am originally from East London that isn’t rhyming slang for anything)… was this the clue I was looking for as to what had happened, could it be something to do with the power of the sea, and if so what has become of the Cardiff Bay barrage?

Every anchor needs a boatIn Cardiff you don’t see boats like you used to, but when you do they seem to be in the strangest of places, or was this another result of whatever had befallen the city while everyone was asleep:

Woods Brasserie [3]

I can only explain these strange happenings around the streets as being caused by some freak meteorological event… it is my conclusion that we have unwittingly experienced Hurricane ‘Diff. But before we seek the twinning of this fine city with that of New Orleans lets keep a sense of proportion, and be wise to any other explanation… it could be the first wave of an alien invasion in search of intelligent life, which is why they arrived in Cardiff, not in Swansea!

The good people of Cardiff should be assured that, to my knowledge, the only casualty seems to be the one who forgot to let go of their rope. All you other less fortunate readers (who don’t live in Cardiff) should also be assured that no animals or children were consumed in this story (unfortunately), so you can come visit the city without any fears.

To see more images of Cardiff street sculpture click on the link. None of my staff were referred to in this post as I have given them an hour off. See you again soon. Juno

No Joking!

No joke!

http://www.cardiffcomedy.co.uk/festival/whats-on

Alternatively, my surrogate sports fan told me that this poster was a reference to Cardiff Rugby Club’s season 2012-13. I hear the locals have a lot to talk about with Welsh rugby on the international stage. Just as well, because it seems the local stage has great big holes in it, and the theatrical troupe are slowly losing all their talented actors.

Jamie Roberts is off to France to spend more time with his expanding wallet. Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny will soon form exhibits A & B in the great summer rugby auction, following rave reviews on the Aussie stage (where ‘Wales and a few others’ did rather well so I am told).

As for Cardiff Rugby Club fans in 2013-14, you always have a great history and tradition to look back on, as I’m not sure that competing with Newport Gwent Dragons to avoid being the lowest Welsh regional club in the league is an edifying spectacle… particularly when the football fans down the road are entertaining Premier League guests all season.

I’ve been Juno, but I’m not available to sign for the Cardiff Blues rugby team, as I have my standards to maintain.

Eat, drink and sizzle!!!

Food festival 1You humans don’t half like your food! Come to think of it, I quite like your food as well, particularly that dead animal type of stuff. You vegetarians out there like to beat yourself up about the cruelty to animals thing, whereas us cats look on it this way… if it moves eat it, and if it doesn’t, eat it with a little less effort. But not to worry, vegetarians are safe with me… you don’t taste of much, and tend to have little protein to offer. That said, there are a number of good reasons why I like your food (not necessarily you as food), but for the main one just take a look at what I have to look at every morning:

My food

My personal shopper likes to tell me it

says chicken on the packet. Well, kiss

my furry rump, it doesn’t look like the

chicken you all eat!

Staring at the bowl for a while got me interested in this idea of an International Food and Drink Festival, and so I took myself down ‘the Bay’ to see what was what.

Food festival 3

Firstly, I didn’t get the ‘international’ thing, until I saw the Indian food tent and the kebab tent. So, ok I admit the idea of kofte’s and curry’s aren’t exactly Welsh inventions. Then I really didn’t get the chocolate and cheese stalls in 30 degrees of heat thing, but they tell me around here it is usually closer to 30 F than 30 C, and wet. At least the locals seemed to be enjoying it.

Food festival 4Food festival 5Talking about wet… I see the beer and cider tents seem to be the busiest. The tea and coffee stop seems to be struggling on a day like this (probably got someone doing a rain dance around the back). But, suddenly a sight to gladden the heart of any a cool cat… a tent with a sign saying ‘Welsh Venison Centre’. I feel a need to sink my teeth into a venison burger, low on the greenery and thick with the juicy brown stuff, topped off with a little chilli sauce. Us sophisticated cats have taste you know; none of these pretend burgers that are all bun and no gertrude. Bless those ‘dear’ venisons (I know it is supposed to be ‘deer’, it’s called artistic license) for sacrificing their lives to a greater good… or even a cunning kamikaze plan towards eventually killing off people through obesity and high blood pressure.

What’s that noise I hear? My fabulous burger is coming to an end, so my attention wanders to the sounds intermingling around the Bay… a distorted jazz band plays enthusiastically, as they are being ignored by loads of people. The whole place seems to be buzzing, and if you want to know the full programme of stalls, music and events check out the following link: http://www.cardiff-festival.com/content.asp search for the food festival and download the following programme:

Food festival 2Time for me to stop basking in the hottest day of this year (so far), and get back to those bowls of so-called chicken flavoured cat biscuits and cold water. See you again soon. Juno

The City of Arcades

If there is one defining thing about us dames… it is that we do like to shop! Back in the wilds of East London I had to make do with scraps from street markets, and the bins of corner shops and local stores. I am not complaining, at times I had the choice of delicacies from many different parts of the world. It often felt like the United Nations emerged from the diversity of those very streets; and that got me excited about the idea of being near to Tiger Bay… the original United Nations-by-sea. But, that is not to be; I am near it, but the Tiger Bay I heard other cats talking about has long since gone.

It seems my local corner shop is now a great big John Lewis store, a bit more upmarket than I have been used to, but something I can easily adjust to as long as my personal banker keeps the taps running.

John Lewis 1

But wait… it seems this Cardiff place has something else to interest us discerning shoppers. It seems like the Victorians in this part of the world had an idea for building shopping ‘arcades’, and from the Royal Arcade in 1858 to the Dominions Arcade in 1921 Cardiff has become famous as ‘the’ city of arcades. As I slink along the shop fronts it can get quite confusing with all these different arcades with their fancy shops, and some not so fancy shops. High this and Morgan that, the odd Castle, and even a Duke, not to say a Wyndham (whatever that is).

Castle Arcade 1

High St Arcade 2

Duke St Arcade 1Dominions Arcade 1

Morgan Arcade 1

Wyndham Arcade 1

Then I hear there was a Queen Street Arcade, a Dickens Arcade, an Andrews Arcade, and an Oxford Arcade… all gone. It is enough to make your head spin, but at least there is one great industry thriving in all of these arcades… coffee! How much coffee do you think there is in Brazil… well most of it seems to have found its way to Cardiff from what I see as I mooch along these mini glass-rooved shopping cathedrals.

After a smooth cappuccino in the Morgan Arcade I am looking like this:

A few macchiato’s in the Castle Arcade and the world is beginning to look at bit like this [go see loads of brilliant images by my friend Fat-Freddies-Cat at http://www.panoramio.com/user/5357514]:

castle arcade cardiff - balcony panorama

Then an espresso in the Royal Arcade and I’m shimmying across the glass roof looking something like this:

Thank heavens for the dimly lit recesses of The Old Arcade… the more familiar territory of the alley cat, with its stretch of beer-soaked, cigarette-butt littered cobbles leading me directly into the culinary palace that is… the Central Market.

I will have many more tales to tell about my sojourns around these arcades (and the market), but in the meantime if I have sparked your interest in this unique feature of my city I suggest you go to http://cardiffarcadesproject.com/ for loads of stuff and things about each of the arcades. See you again soon. Juno