Hooves and Trotters

[Some of the following images have been copied from ‘images of…’ on the internet, and are included with thanks to those who originally placed them].

To all my vegetarian eaters I say “get a proper diet, leave the poor weak vegetarians alone, other than giving others a fright with their pale and drawn complexions they didn’t do anything to you.” Personally, I and my species just don’t get it; I wasn’t born with these teeth just to go bringing down broccoli or cornering cabbages for the kill.

When I am contemplating what I fancy eating there is nothing I like more than to see the menu written all over my prey. What better way is there of supporting the great 21st century ethos of consumer choice and providing information through clear product labelling!

But I was even more delighted to see that my culinary psychopathic teachings were put into action just the other day, when my resident ‘flesh chomper‘ was joined by an ‘ex-pat carnivore‘ from the Philippines, as they scoured the local prairies for something to fill the time and space between beers. I strongly advised them to only eat things that recently carried a name… like Gertrude and Daisy, or Pinky and Perky. After all, you don’t know what kind of situation you’ve landed yourself in if the host is talking about ‘Florence the fennel’ or ‘Angelica the artichoke’.

First stop was The Wharf, where Cardiff’s version of Little Venice meets the toxic algae of the Bute East Dock:

Swans at lunch

Lily pads

 

 

 

 

 

A fine pint of the Brains SA was accompanied by freshly served portions of pig… succulent pork chops or the delicate arrangement of bangers and mash with onion gravy.

The Wharf

A pint in the City ArmsFurther pints of Brains SA and Oakham Citra in the City Arms made for a pleasurable interruption to the eating:

It seems that whenever these characters get together the film Groundhog Day gets a re-enactment… just as day follows night, so beer and eating follow, well, beer and eating! It’s another day, but enough of the samples from the sty, it was time for a few hooves to make the ultimate sacrifice; and where better for a beer interruption than a place called The Grazing Shed, where a multi-storey car park meets a multi-storey building site:

The Grazing Shed [5]

 

Cardiff’s tribute to a US classic meets locally sourced ingredients to produce Super Tidy BurgersThis is the part of Cardiff where John Wayne meets Spicy Pedro

 

The Grazing Shed [4]

Grazing Shed [1]

A great new idea in fast food arrives in Cardiff. This is no ordinary run-of-the-mill burger, these are the Ronseal of the burger world… ‘super tidy burgers‘ that do what they say on the cows backside. Even veggie varieties are available for those with enough energy to walk from the car (though you might want to ask the nice staff if they do a roadside delivery to conserve the stress on vital organs).

Grazing Shed [2]

 

This place is building its reputation on an all ingredients are locally sourced theme. One claim is that butchers supply their meat from Carmarthen… it certainly tasted fresh, and though we weren’t left spitting out hooves, you do get the impression that Daisy might just be out back succumbing to a vigorous crash diet!

So, for all of you poorer gastronomes, and those of you needing a respite between fillet steaks, I will continue to tutor my ‘resident food taster‘ in the delights of a varied budget. Until we eat again I intend to be Juno.

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Somebody has to…

Jesus Loves

My ‘religious correspondent‘ has identified a source of tremendous salvation for all of you out there on the eight-lane black top, the car-dominated cities of the world, the highways and the freeways, the motorways and the turnpikes, in your smog and exhaust fume riddled existence… Jesus Loves You!

If you are reading this while driving along a Los Angeles freeway, the likelihood is that you are infringing rather than breaking any laws… as vehicular movement is likely to be minimal. As you glance at the Hollywood sign on the hill you are probably blissfully unaware of Gabalfa. But, as a cat steeped in observation of my surroundings, I can assure you that Gabalfa is the Cardiff based equivalent of your present dilemma. It is a point on the planet where a four-lane flyover intersects with a moment that bridges across the world as a simple dual carriageway spans East and West (as Eastern Avenue becomes Western Avenue, or vice versa depending on your direction of travel). This could quite easily be the Istanbul of Wales if it wasn’t for the complete lack of any culture, intellectual interest or iconic imagery.

I am particularly taken by the other-wordly claws at the bottom of the picture. Either this is the devil’s representative encroaching on the ‘heavenly love‘ bestowed on a bunch of non-descript residences flanking a few hundred metres of boring blacktop; or could it be that a wizzened old Gabalfarian has been religiously press-ganged into making an appearance to support the generosity of the claim made of the bearded one.

The following images are gratefully downloaded from internet sources to illustrate Glorious Gabalfa, and leave you in no doubt or uncertainty about the task faced by the lordly one in his love-spreading endeavours:

Until we speak again I have been your worshipful Juno, forever baffled by the claims attributed to and by religious faiths.

Bring me my sword

In Cardiff it seems to play a minor role as a side to a mountain of chips, particularly on the infamous Caroline Street, so I take a rare trip back to my city of birth to satisfy my sophisticated taste for the tasty swimmy things… in short I need some quality fish! Ok, so my ‘fishmonger general‘ provides me with morsels of M&S poached salmon for a treat now and then, but I am talking serious consumption here.

Fish [6]Billingsgate Fish Market may have moved from the convenience of the river close by, to its location since 1982 at Canary Wharf, but there is a little known corner of Borough Market in south-east London that I trust sources nothing but quality goods, and not to be mistaken it is a restaurant conveniently called Fish!

Under cover of darkness I slink my way through the forever changing market architecture…

Fish [2]

and with the looming spectre of Southwark Cathedral in the background I anticipate nothing less than a religious experience. Even The Shard will have to take a back seat role on this canvasFish [1], as I and a trusty companion are cats on a mission… to celebrate christmas on the 22nd January!!! Not bad really, we have done it in June before now.

Thai fish cakes and a bruschetta offer tantalising starters, while a fabulous New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc demands to be savoured:

Fish [3]

But I didn’t come all of this way to be denied my prize. Whilst my compadre      shows interest in a delicate piece of halibut, I demand my sword… fish with some serious attitude. I have come for nothing less than the perfectly grilled swordfish, ok, and some delightfully arranged chips as a side dish (and more of that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc!):

Fish [4]

I can satisfyingly say I was not disappointed, and this was one fish that can be proud of its sacrifice. Even the accompanying pak choi and carrots were lightly cooked to add a little snap to the meal, all perfectly complemented by the light and fluffy chips.

Even with the possibility of trains    Fish [5]thundering overhead, I have been a satiated Juno, and until we speak again I can strongly recommend that you get yourselves along to Borough Market and check out a quiet little corner where your sword awaits you.

Cultural lowlights

Looking back on 2013 one of the main events in Cardiff came and went with little or no fanfare in the cultural media. A new outdoor venue opened and closed with the same event…

All girl group +1

 

Some say it was the reformed American rock band from the 1960’s The Byrds, particularly known for their most famous track Tern! Tern! Tern!

         Yet fewer of the locals were attracted by the rumoured reformation of the original Girls Aloud line-up being signed up to officially open the new venue… though it did seem to be good news in Swansea and a crowd excitedly flocked to Cardiff for the event.

Swan armada [2]

 

The missing masses managed to avoid the show’s highlight, as the new girl band attempted to recreate the iconic visuals of the former TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ track, where the band are seen standing on water…   

and subsequently disappear into it…  

Admittedly, it was a hard act to follow and the Cardiff rendition may have needed more work:

All girl group +1Then they were gone

 

 

 

 

 

It is safe to say that the unexpectedly poor attendance should have been seen, built as it was on no publicity:

Nou Camp 1

But the memory of the iconic Fillmore East venue in New York can continue to rest in peace, as there is no clear or present danger of the Bute Dock East entering the cannon of great music venues any time soon.

   v.   Bute Dock Company sign

 

Until we speak again I have been Juno trying to drop a few ideas to the local authorities about using their vast watery space around the corner from my pad.

 

Haggis hunting

My ‘deluded gastronome‘ has an occasional penchant for testing the powers of curiosity bestowed on my species. Just the other day I was issued with a food-related challenge, and being perpetually tired of a bland rocks & water diet I thoughtlessly accepted the challenge. “It’s haggis shooting season at the start of each new year” I was dubiously informed, and ““they taste at their best when cooked freshly caught.” Anything to get away from the vet’s Science Plan products, so off I went on a clueless trail in search of the mythical haggi.

Cardiff doesn’t seem to be over-supplied with haggis emporia, and after a brief sniff around the market and Wally’s Delicatessen Airport signin the Royal Arcade I realised this was going to require a serious adventure. Stowing away in the baggage compartment of what I can only describe as a flying shed (that’s the plane, not Cardiff Airport, or is it both?) the next stop was…

At least I understood that these creatures were quintessentially Scottish, so let’s go search the capital… but were in Edinburgh do you start, the World Heritage architecture is everywhere:

Princes Street [1]City centre view & gardens

 

Jenners department store and the Old Waverley Hotel provide an imposing backdrop to the Scott Memorial on Princes Street.

 

 

Historic buildings line the hillside from the castle at Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park all the way up to Edinburgh Castle.

Castle

 

If the castle is where the haggis hang out they seem to be well protected by gun emplacements. But all of these tourists ambling around would surely be aware if a gastronomic delicacy was hiding out in such a popular venue.

Writers Museum [3]

 

Then there are the myriads of old courtyards and alleyways to scurry about and hide away in:

Advocates Alley

 

 

To make things more difficult I spy one of those ubiquitous tourist buses on the Royal Mile… hopefully they are not all searching in packs for the same quarry as me?

Royal Mile [1]

 

 

 

 

One thing I am learning quick is that the haggis is difficult to catch; they are full of heart and lungs, and once sighted they are offal! I have to admit to being temporarily fooled by the sight of what I thought were haggis’s left out to dry, before sale along the Royal Mile:

Wigs

But I quickly realised there is a plethora of bald Scotsmen graciously giving up their Bagpiperpelts for the benefit of the older American tourist trade. In fact this one had donated so much of himself to tourism that he now needed an external stomach complete with a feeding tube… serious sacrifice man!

I certainly hope these haggis characters haven’t chosen the underneath of the kilt and sporran combination for warmth and a secure hiding place… I for one happen to be too much of a Camera Obscura [2]lady to check!

I was beginning to lose heart in my quest… was the haggis really just an illusionary character from fiction established to taunt the unwitting newcomer to these parts? But then I had a significant tip-off as to where I might satisfy my mission, and appetite. The haggis had recently been seen on Cockburn Street:

Cockburn Street

Following the lead I was surely closing in on my prey. The signs were promising indeed:

Arcade [4]

 

 

 

 

 

The Arcade on close inspection resembled nothing like an arcade. At least Cardiff had one over on the Scottish capital when it came to real arcades!  But in this context who cares… the sign says ‘Haggis and Whisky House‘; with any luck my prey might even be sozzled enough to make capture simple.

Arcade [3]
Haggis [2]The journey and challenge results in a most worthwhile prize, and the haggis comes with a whisky sauce to compliment the tatties and neeps layered beneath the gallant but vanquished foe.

As I recline, stroking satisfied whiskers after consuming the melt-in-the-mouth feast, I have to admit that the haggis may be claiming a late victory, as I am now what can only be described being close to the Royal Mile as regally stuffed. I have a choice… for some strange reason The Arcade seem to have anticipated the effect of haggis overload on certain customers, so they advertise breakfast on the ceiling for those who find the horizontal to be the most comfortable pose in the hours after the haggis has been consumed:

Arcade [2] If even more eating isn’t the ticket for you, why not try the remedy favoured by the fitter few locals, there are plenty of steps for exercise:

Cockburn Street steps [3]

Personally, I chose to look in on the famous Rose Street in the New Town part of the city… probably one of the most challenging pub crawls any cat could wish to attempt.

The Kenilworth

The Kenilworth offered a couple of Harviestoun Brewery’s finest… a ‘Blond Bombshell’ and the end of the seasonal ‘Sleigh Driver’. All that was left to say was bon voyage haggis, as it was carried away on a sea of fine lotion.

Writers Museum [1]

It was time for me to bid a fond farewell to the never less than dramatic city of Edinburgh and return to my ‘resident scribbler‘ to relate my triumphant response to the challenge… and to suggest a place where the old git could retire to:

Enough of the flying sheds, I think I have found an altogether more space crafty way of returning back to Cardiff. Well if Dr Who can do it!

Scott Memorial

Until we speak again I am Juno wishing you all an ‘och aye the noo’, and good luck in your haggis hunting.

Guns & Hammers

[A number of pictures have been retrieved from google images, and I offer my thanks to all the cool cats who have created and shared them]

After the recent visit of the Black Cats I am once again left conflicted with this football tribal allegiance thing… the arrival of West Ham United tugs on my coat. It’s a reminiscence thing taking me back to the kitten years, as I emerged this wonderful in the less than salubrious Republic of Newham in East London. My more recent elevation to Cardiff via a brief sojourn in Blackheath even began in a cat sanctuary down the road from West Ham’s Old Boleyn ground. I must admit I fell off my throne laughing when I heard that they are about to move into the Olympic Stadium… that’s a triumph of ambition over ability if I have ever heard of one.

Should I be supporting the ‘Hammers‘ on their brief trip into foreign territory? The question soon fades into obscurity when my ‘in-house sports correspondent‘ tells me the home team really did dispense with the Malky god-like character, but have replaced him with a Norwegian Gunnar.

Compatriots of my superior species are quick to remind me of the power of the gun over the hammer:

What’s more these hammers seem to be arriving in wilting rubber mallet mode, having lost 5-0 & 6-0 in the last week:

Sam Allardyce  My resident ‘wishful thinker‘ tells me that things come in 3’s. Yes, I say, you have had one very good manager sacked, only two to go! As long as Looney Tunes remains the dominant soundtrack at the Cardiff City Stadium it will be difficult for the home fans to build confidence through a triumph of hope over nut-job-ery.

It is 3.00p.m. on a sunny January Saturday afternoon, and the Ole’s armoury are setting their sights on any old East London iron (the hammers are also known as the ‘ironsiders). However, it seems that 11 home team players haven’t read the script, as they set about a recently familiar trait of not bothering to turn up for the first 45 minutes… a peculiarly Welsh trait shared with the national rugby team, only their illustrious rugby counterparts have a track record of barnstorming second half success not yet learned by these naive Purple Dragonbirds. After a long delay through serious injury to one of the bubble-blowers (West Ham fans never tire of singing I’m forever blowing bubbles’… though I am not aware of bubbles’s thoughts on the matter!), their average but dominating team score. The home team play a familiar laid-back game with slow passing and often beating an ignominious retreat when they should be pressing forward in attack.

Half-time arrives 10 minutes later than planned to resounding boos from home fans. Cardiff City 0 – 1 West Ham United. Surely the second half must see something of a response for the long-suffering home fans.

City v West Ham

True enough, the home side come out fighting, pushing for an equalising goal, and with 30 minutes still left to go they gain a dubious reward of seeing their opponents reduced to 10 men as their captain is sent off for a second yellow card (not a dubious decision, more a dubious idea of it being a reward). Over 30 minutes are played out with Cardiff almost entirely in the West Ham half and do at last get some shots on target, but nothing to trouble an average goal-keeper. Some urgency is injected by their oldest player on the pitch, but others still seem plagued by a need to play slow methodical passes around the pitch with little end product.

Those of you who know something about these types of matches will not be surprised to hear that West Ham had a solitary second half attempt on the Cardiff goal in time added on… and score! Cue a mass exodus by the home fans, with various comments along the line of ‘the ref is *&$%er’, ‘we was robbed’, and ‘it’s a mess’. In the words of the Coen Brothers (from No Country for Old Men) ‘if it isn’t a mess, it will do until the mess turns up‘.

For the record the final score is:

       0 – 2          

So, it transpires that the guns were largely silent, and the ‘iron‘ did enough to secure all the points without threatening to appear solid or imposing. As for my ‘heap of domestic despondency‘ there seems to be a triumph of reality over hope, as the local team have now managed to draw and then lose to a couple of the very few teams that were below them in the table. I dare to mention the ‘R’ word (relegation), but heads are bowed in dark contemplation.

    

Until we speak again I am probably going to be ‘suicide watch’ Juno, and all belts and laces have been removed!.

Tales from Dumbfuckistan [3]

“It’s colder than a well digger’s ass” or so Tom Waits once said. So, with recent news of record-breaking low temperatures my warm heart goes out to all Dumbfuckers (a.k.a. the residents of Dumbfuckistan). I was stunned to see all of those red states turning blue, in the climatological sense, that is… heaven forbid that a good shafting from a polar vortex would bring any political sense into play.

Here is a recent photograph taken in Michigan:

Entombed by the weather: This lighthouse in Michigan resembles a giant icicle after crashing waves were frozen around it by a severe winter storm

Anyone for a show, how about Chicago on ice?:

Ice builds up along Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach as temperatures dipped well below zero on January 6, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)

Views of the Ohio River bring memories of the Robbie Robertson song Somewhere Down the Crazy River (though apologies to frozen readers, as this track is altogether steamier):

Picture of a barge on the Ohio River surrounded by steam coming off the water.

But then my ‘resident ghoul‘ came up with the heart warming news that a new series of the US TV programme Criminal Minds had started. Nothing better for bringing some new year cheer than some gory tales of the work of sadistic serial killers. There must be enough raw material in Dumbfuckistan to keep a Behavioural Analysis Unit in business for eternity…

 

What with the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) franchises, the Law & Order franchises, NCIS, and practically the whole output of the Universal and FX Channels, my ‘in-house amateur sleuth‘ just can’t get enough mayhem and carnage for one lifetime. Just as well we cats are reported to have nine lives. However Dumbfuckers, I am sorry to poke your already frozen brain cell with an icicle, but by my calculations most of your population by 2020 will be divided into vics & perps… which will make sleuthing easier, because, by definition, anyone not yet croaked must be a serial killer! Good luck with the running and screaming vibe… just when you think you have escaped one serial killer there is another just around the corner.

In the meantime Michigan, and Ohio, and Nebraska, and Oklahoma, and y’all, if you think this is what I am looking like at the moment…

 … think again. I am sending you some virtual warmth, but until we speak again I am keeping the real stuff for me, a warm and cozy Juno.

     I’m watching you:

Full face