Bluebirds 3 Blue Moon 2

I kind of forgot to comment last week when my local team went to my old haunt in East London and lost, but today I was amazed by the sight of a jubilant Cardiff City fan coming down the road:

Jubilant Cardiff City Fan

Seems that being the richest team in the world doesn’t count for much when you come up against a bunch of Bluebirds who haven’t had a home match in the top league to shout about for 51 years. And so it came to pass, that the collection of multi-millionaires (aka Manchester City) were the first to come to town for a stroll in the park against the newly promoted (Champions, may I add) minnows of Cardiff City.

City v Man City [1]And there was me thinking they were big men… it seems like Cardiff had a sneaky tactic of bringing in a supporter large enough to scoop up most of the Manchester City team.

After a tense first half, with Cardiff keeping their illustrious visitors to 0-0, the half-time buzz was all about daring to dream, whilst trying to suppress the thoughts of what the men from everywhere except Manchester could do (well at least we had one from Cardiff!).

City v Man City [2]The whistle blows for the second half… its all Manchester City. They take an early lead, but it only spurs on the locals to even greater noise, getting behind their team, transmitting the belief as only football can… a bunch of overweight folks sat on their arses telling a bunch of fit blokes how to play (strange how these humans think when they get passionate).

Without any help from a Hollywood make-over merchant the miraculous happens, the dreams are answered, Martin Scorsese need look no further for the plot of his next film. An equaliser, Cardiff take the lead, then go further into the lead.

Fraizer Campbell scores the third goal for Cardiff

The Cardiff fans are in dreamland, expecting the fourth and fifth to arrive like London buses. Then the officials add on 6 minutes of injury time… the old traditional Fergie-time has transferred across Manchester. Time for Manchester City to pull back a second; could they find a further finish to bring the local hopes and dreams crashing down? Kiss my furry rump could they. The final whistle blows… its time for many a Cardiff person to pinch themselves. Yes, it really did happen, the world is a changed place from what it was at the 4.00p.m. kick-off… and normal football cliches will resume on all sports channels and in pubs across the land. Just don’t interrupt a Cardiff fan at the moment with silly questions about ‘Bluebirds’ playing in red and black:

Bluebirds I have been Juno, your intrepid sports reporter, see you again the other side of disbelief!

Extreme Sailing

What have Muscat (Oman), Singapore (S.E. Asia), Qingdao (China), Istanbul (Turkey), Porto (Portugal), Nice (France), Rio (Brazil) and Cardiff all got in common? No, its nothing to do with eating cats or dogs… they are the eight venues for the World Series of Extreme Sailing. Yes, take that NY Yankees… a real World Series!

Lining up to start

 

In the interests of self preservation this cool cat considers a few planks of wood topped off with a tablecloth to be extreme enough, but these things are great big catamarans with sails up to sixty feet in height.

Mermaid Quay background

 

So it’s the August Bank Holiday, and a number of Olympic sailors have descended on Cardiff Bay, the largest bay in Europe, for the sixth leg of the 2013 World Series, with the Land Rover sponsored Team Wales representing the UK in the event. All the action is on the water, and us cats can watch water all day long, but I sure as hell am not getting too close to the stuff… in my world it is for drinking, so I am going to stick to the safety of dry land.

Action

 

At the final turn

 

On the subject of ‘extreme’, my surrogate daredevil started talking about their experiences with parachutes, gliders and motorbikes when they were young (a lot younger I must add). “Nothing“, I said, “try doing what I did with mice and other stupid creatures when I was allowed out!” There are all kinds of images of extreme sports around (though nothing involving my ideas about mice), but my favourite just has to be Extreme Ironing… what’s that all about? Didn’t you just know that such an idea had to originate in England!

On the subject of smooth… this fabulous coat of mine takes some looking after, but if my personal groomer was to come anywhere near me with an iron there would be some extreme consequences for their health and well-being. Here is a link to help those of you who don’t understand the joy of ironing, and another link to things you could do with a bicycle other than let a fish ride it (did I tell you about my ideas on things to do with fish…).

Coming to the finish

 

If only things happened at a more leisurely pace… perhaps I will establish the new sport of extreme sleeping:

Juno 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the meantime, to all those of you who believe in your extreme ways, may all of your injuries be minor and your rewards come with the maximum rush. I am still Juno, and I will speak with you again soon, but not until I have had a lie down and a good sleep.

Diplomatic incidents

It always starts with my staff being wrong and me being right, but each time I need to manage the situation as if we are trying to avert some full blown diplomatic incident. On this occasion it was simply triggered when I looked at my nearly full bowl of food and just happened to throw a glance of expectation to my personal chef, all the while thinking ‘are you seriously expecting me to eat this stuff?’ I usually start with the cute look, something like ‘look, no eyes’:

Look, no eyes!

Much to my amazement, on this occasion they say ‘your bowl is full and your not getting anything else until you are eating what is already there.’ Now, I don’t know about you, but for me the recipe for a stand-off has just been triggered… the question is: how to play these deluded humans along, so they think they have made a point, while I still win. At this stage cute is too easy  on them, it is time to try a bit of cunning, and also offer the threat of a right hook to show I mean business:

Right hook

The first tactic is what is commonly known as the snub… I deliberately brush against their legs, and just as they are bending down to stroke my head I walk away a few paces and throw the disgruntled look:

 

This is designed to deliver a psychological blow to the snubbee; but to my surprise they step back and look at me in some kind of accusing way… is this the counter-snub in play I wonder?
I could respond by walking further away, but that could easily be interpreted as the sulk, and sulking would be a surefire admission of defeat. How do I retaliate in this situation? I remind myself that inevitably there can only be one winner here, we can’t have humans thinking they are in control.
The second tactic, to escalate from the snub, is what we call the break from protocol; so I jump up onto the coffee table and deliberately sprawl out across the newspaper. This will show them who is boss around here. But once again, to my utter amazement they reply with the unprecedented break from protocol by trying to shoo me off the coffee table… shoo?… me? what’s going on?
By this stage I had calculated on receiving some gentle strokes, but instead I believe the situation has reached the level of an affront. However, the intensity of the atmosphere deepens as my accuser replies to my affront with their declaration of an outrage. I do what any self-respecting cool cat would do in this situation, and adopt the frosty look:
 

It seems that what started out as a difference of opinion has now become a full blown incident. I slump to the ground on my side and flex my claws, to which the now disgruntled human retrieves the claw-clippers from the dark mysterious cupboard that I am not allowed in… sabres are being rattled!
Clearly different tactics are required in order for me to regain the upper hand. If the first line of cute did’t work it is time to put the second level of cute into practice… I lie on my back with legs in the air as the offer of the olive branch.
Olive branch
At first, the indignant one seems to rebuff my olive branch; but once it is accepted with a tummy stroke it is time I went to the next tactic of putting out feelers. Perhaps if I dazzle them with my x-ray eyes it might just win them over:
X-ray eyes
At this stage I purr loudly for effect, and they respond with the suggestion that poached salmon is on their menu… and I might just get some for a treat. This is their way of making the necessary overtures.
At this delicate stage the diplomatic thaw is under way, and I resist from reminding them that I am clearly winning. It is necessary to maintain the thaw until the salmon has been delivered and consumed… at which point I will be ready to start the next snub!
[This post has been developed around a column in the Observer newspaper written by Raphael Behr on 11th August 2013].

Great place for a litter tray

Cardiff Beach 1

Ok, before the health and safety ayatollahs get onto me, I am not really going to use the sand of the new artificial beach down at Cardiff Bay as a litter tray (at least not during the day!). But it did come as surprise to me as I was strutting around the bay to suddenly be confronted by a mix of sand, water, funfair rides and the usual trappings of a bona fide beach where there used to be an open space in front of the Millenium Centre. It seems Cardiff is not the first, as European cities as well as London, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham have already stumbled upon similar ideas… though I never thought of a day by the beach when I was in East or South-East London.

Well, I suppose if the United Arab Emirates can build cities in the desert, then why shouldn’t Cardiff bring sand to the city? If I was being ungenerous, I might suggest a sand-pit has been placed next to a paddling pool. But judging from the crowds, and other good reviews, this seems like a great idea that should become an annual event:

Cardiff Beach 5Cardiff Beach 6Get those handkerchiefs knotted at the four corners, get the trouser legs rolled up, there is a deck chair with your name on it if you beat the crowds… well it isn’t quite St.Tropez yet. We even have another British summer quirk to set the right scene… a ‘scorchio’ of a July with temperatures into the 30’s bode well for a summer at the beach, but no sooner does the attraction open on 27th July (until 1st September) and we get clouds, lower temperatures and showers! Still, pack your shades and brollies, beachwear and plastic macs; its time to do what the Brits do best, and stoically hope that your few hours on the sand will be the few that get the sun.

Cardiff Beach 8

It doesn’t seem to have dampened too many spirits so far… and as I was strolling under the boardwalk I reflected back on days spent up the pool, to times spent on the dunes, and like a stranger on the shore there was nothing quite like being on the beach. I have been Juno your bayside DJ, see you again soon.

Tumbleweed Junction

As a sophisticated cat I have always had a liking for the dramatic entrance. So you will no doubt share my recent dismay as I was strolling around the iconic Cardiff Bay (or Bae Caerdydd for those of you who want to know nearly as much Welsh as me). People seemed very relaxed as they sipped their cappuccino’s and cool beers, gazing out over the sun-drenched waters where the waves form a shimmering dance only briefly interrupted by a passing pleasure boat. The Millenium Centre glistens in various shades of gold and bronze, and the Pierhead Building projects a bold gothic majesty in red, facing out towards the seven seas. The Senedd houses whatever it is that government does these days, as we all look up in wonder at the weird funnel shape on its roof, waiting for the puff of white smoke that will signify that something useful has been uttered inside.

The Bay 2:13

Such a mesmeric place deserves a grand entrance… but if you are arriving by train the only item that probably would escape the call of the council tip is the somewhat less than inviting welcome sign at the station:

Tumbleweed Junction 6

Now, originating from London I am used to the idea of run-down places looking to re-invent themselves. Everywhere you look is trying to become a new centre of leisure… the newest place to drink coffee and buy loads of stuff you don’t need. But, you at least need to make an effort at the front end of the business if you want to attract the punters in (that’s a free business tip I will pass on to you from Sean, who we met last time I spoke with you).

Let’s take the St. Pancras and Kings Cross area of London for example… it has a long way to go to catch up with the development of Cardiff Bay, but they are working on transforming the area behind the stations (previously known more for the pleasures of the night, available 24/7 so I am told, by sources who were told, by sources who might have been in the know, or not). As you approach St. Pancras you are greeted by a very imposing building:

St Pancras Station 1

Meanwhile, back at Cardiff Bay you could be forgiven for not feeling, well, imposed upon:

Tumbleweed junction [1]

The station entrance at St. Pancras radiates a sense of the opulence that might just be lurking within:

St Pancras Station 2

Whereas that at Cardiff Bay just lurks:

Tumbleweed junction [5]

Furthermore, gazing up at the roof structure tells a further story of the fine detail that goes into making a building that will inevitably dazzle all who come into it. For St. Pancras there is one of the world’s great iron roof arches:

St Pancras 2

Meanwhile, for Cardiff Bay there is a clear statement of being at one with nature, a place where conservation of the natural environment takes precedence over the demands of the built environment:

Tumbleweed junction [3]

And then there is the issue of time… where iconic clocks are designed to draw your attention and help to order your day. For St. Pancras there is no mistaking the clock above the platform entrances:

St Pancras 5As for Cardiff Bay you may be forgiven again for having to search around a bit (there is a working clock on the building across the road in the picture), or perhaps make sure you haven’t forgotten your watch!

Tumbleweed Junction 14Now, us cats may seem like we spend most of the day snoozing in between serious bouts of sleeping, but we still have a strong appreciation for irony. Perhaps there is a deliberate plan in Cardiff that travellers arriving for the first time to witness the delights of Mermaid Quay and the Bay, are invited to take a somewhat Narnia-like transition ‘from the ironic to the iconic’.

Even the modes of transport between our comparative sites have something to say about these two places… take St.Pancras for example, you always have a chance to be travelling on one of the country’s leading ‘iconic’ Javelin trains:

St Pancras 4Whereas, down at Cardiff Bay station, every 12 minutes you get the chance to see and travel on the ironic ‘bubble car’ train, as it is described on the Wikipedia page for our somewhat rusty and dilapidated ‘gateway’ to the Bay.

Tumbleweed Junction 12The history books tell us that this station down the Bay was the site of the first steam train in South Wales, and for that it has become a listed building. What we don’t need the history books for is the reason why, if you are coming from Cardiff Queen Street to the Bay (the only two stations on this line), the best thing to do on a dry day is… walk!

The Bay will never have or need a St. Pancras style station, but to a casual laid back cat, this is not a building I would seek shade under, for fear of the building itself being so laid back it might just collapse on me. An iconic station could be small scale and innovative in design, or probably even restoring the current pile to something reflecting its history. I have been Juno, sharing a little social comment with you until we meet again soon.

Sean’s World

When you spend half the week working at the pub, half the week touring the skate parks, half the week listening to good music, and half the week chilling out with other people, how many more halves of the week are you going to find to become one of Cardiff’s newest fashion entrepreneur’s? In order to find some answers to this conundrum we need to go in search of Sean. He is a member of the Partridge family… let’s say the David Cassidy of South Wales (though he is far too young to realise what an insult that might be).

Despite my credentials in the skating world…

being a cat of sophistication and subtle tastes, I wasn’t sure I would be welcomed at The City Arms, particularly as I would have to sit on the bar to eye-ball my prey. So I sent my own beer-taster along to sample a few pints of the renowned Brains SA and track down this intrepid multi-tasker. I say he is working at the pub, but I’m not sure that is a fair description as Sean seems to be having far too much fun to count it as work, and Chris (the landlord, as well as being Sean’s brother) might also question the accuracy of the description.

An interview seemed out of the question, as Sean is far more interested persuading anyone who comes to the bar to sample the vast array of lotions and potions on sale at any one time… all on personal recommendation of course (nice work if you can get it, so I am told). But he obliged my drinking minion with occasional insights into the mind of a business guru, in between dispensing tankards and goblets of liquid nectar to the baying hoards. So tell us Sean what gave you the idea to branch out into the world of sporting gentleman’s haberdashery?

“Well I just saw this t-shirt with a skating logo on it like, and I thought I can do that! Having fun and making money out of it can’t be that difficult can it.”

So that’s how to break into the impenetrably complex world of big business?

Well, you just need to keep it simple like… it’s about blading so I thought I would call it ‘The Blade’, keep it sharp and edgy like.”

I know you spend a lot of time listening to good music, well all this skating and business stuff got me thinking about Jethro Tull, but I digress. What were the early challenges you had to overcome?

“I had the name, and some ideas about t-shirts and hats… only good quality stuff, you know. Then it all went mental like… buying stock, designing logos, getting a video made for a website and launch. It started taking up loads of time when I should have been out there skating.”

I can understand the pressures of keeping at the top of your game as well as setting up an iconic new brand at the same time. What advice did David Beckham offer you?

“Who?”

What was the inspiration behind the design of the website, The Blade Clothing?

“I wanted to get something out there to promote the merchandise, but I also wanted to show people that skating is edgy like. Some have said the blog is a bit raunchy, but I just put together edgy images I come across that I like.”

It all sounds a bit of a scary venture to get involved in, how scary would you say it has been for you Sean?

Sean's world

And how big do you anticipate this venture is going to get over the next year?

Sean's world

 

 

 

And how much did you say I would get for endorsing this radical new clothing empire?

Sean's world

 

 

 

It is clear to me that you have the enthusiasm and determination to make a really good go of this adventure. I am also told that you have a friendly personality, engaging with everyone who comes into the pub, which can only be a tremendous asset for breaking into the business world. So how has it all progressed over the last 6 months?

“Well, one minute I am talking to a couple of local outlets to just take a few items to see how they will sell, and the next thing you know I have one of the world’s leading skaters wearing one of my t-shirts, and I am getting phone calls from Poland expressing interest. I don’t know how far this thing can go.”

Well, it seems like it can go at least as far as Poland. Sean, I can’t knock your enthusiasm and effort for getting the whole idea off the ground. I recommend your website and blog to my readers, and I will endorse the products, though I am waiting for the four-legged versions to come out before I wear any of them.

The Blade My AThe BladeDoes my bum look too big in this? We ladies have a certain modicum of decorum to maintain, you know.

As the Steve Miller Band once said, fly like an eagle, both in your skating and your business venture. I have been Juno, flirting with the FTSE100 until I see you again.

My religion

I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with food, but some of you regular readers might have drawn a different conclusion. As I was strolling along Churchill Way just the other day, contemplating just how much good food can be something of a religious experience, I was arrested by quite a sight:

Chapel [1]

Is it a church? Is it a restaurant? If there is such a thing as what you humans call a God, why is he mucking with my head in this way? I started to come over all confused between my flocks and my herds… this is a flock (or is it supposed to be a bunch of people blindly following each other in a shared faith, based in hope but little else?):

Picture of Flock of Sheep - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

Now a herd is something I put my hope and faith into, particularly one with a clear process that goes from a) to b):

a)  [image from my good friend Fat-Freddies-Cat]:

man gave numbers to all the animals

b) Image from Craig Farm Organic Beef site [or frequent image in my head that I associate with animals, farming, cattle… or just plain being awake]: 

Yes, it used to be a place of worship, but now Chapel 1877 is… well, a place of worship. Step inside and the confusion continues, the original chapel feel is still very much there, only now there is an inviting bar and a unique restaurant atmosphere around the place… no corporate chain decor here, even though this God idea seems to incorporate its own large-scale establishment with branches all over the place:

Chapel [3]

The pews have gone, replaced by comfortable chairs and tables of different shapes and sizes. Gone are the hymn sheets, now replaced by tempting menus for a range of budgets.  Gone is the vicar and the choir, to be replaced by a different kind of order of service (though my personal diners that I sent to experience the place for me were not overly impressed with the service… it was reported as rushed and confused at the outset, even though the place was busy without being full; but it improved after apologies for the mix up over wine ordered and failure to produce the bread and olives before the starter).

As a cool cat my priority though had to be the food, and on this there was no compromise. The reports back were excellent. My faith was soon restored when I saw the herd had arrived in a colourful display:

Chapel [4]

The beef carpaccio with capers, rocket, parmesan and a Worcester mayonnaise set the bar very high from the start; but the fillet steak was excellent, as was a special mention for the accompanying mushroom (cooked to perfection… not that us cats care much about that detail!). Following the earlier mix up over the wine there was no repeat with the later brandy order; and the macchiato was just right.

The collection plate at the end was reasonable for the quality of food served up… not cathedral-like overly expensive, but not your routine church hall affair either. My reporting restauranteurs tell me they would happily return to worship at another service. For me, thoughts of that herd remain something that would require a confessional, but I am still Juno blessing you all until I see you again.