Was it all just a dream?

This ‘Cat Mate‘ thing is hardly a mate of mine, as it usually Cat Matesignifies my turn to look after the flat while the ‘resident dreamer‘ goes off on some travelling escapade involving some culinary adventure.

This time I decide to curl up and go off on a dream of my own…

Chillout cat

 

 

 

 

 

I experience a scary start as I dream of my feral compatriots roaming a busy square in search of boiled sheep heads; brains, tongue, cheek and eyeballs are hardly the kind of adventure that this dreamer ascribes to…

Jemaa El Fnaa [1]A cat of my stature has standards, so in my slumbers I slink through the mad traffic and madder pedestrians in search of something less challenging and more salubrious. Local cuisine has to be the source of great food.

Jemaa El Fna [3]Then in a quiet corner of my imagination I spy potential…

Le Tanjia [7]

 

 

 

 

Le Tanjia, home of finest Moroccan Cuisine draws me in for further investigation. The cats around this area seem to meander more slowly and present themselves with a more satisfied look. But nothing in my dreams prepared me for the welcome:

Le Tanjia dancer [1]

Le Tanjia [3]

 

The decor is dimly lit, in a delightfully historic setting, so the scene is set up for a true feast to match. ‘Lamb Couscous with Seven Vegetables‘ and ‘Lamb with Prunes and Pine Nuts Tagine‘ sets the taste buds racing; but then the lamb simply melts in the mouth and brings involuntary ‘mmhs’ from everyone who tastes it…

Le Tanjia [4]

La Mamounia [13]

 

How do you top off a meal like that… a stylish Mojito seemed to be the solution to my dreams… then it is time for a deeper slumber.

Unfortunately, at this point I hear the key in the door, and it seems that ‘resident dreamer‘ is returning to disturb my routine. Oh well, until we speak again I will be a Juno continuing to dream of the delights of Marrakech… a long distance away from the ‘Cat Mate’ contraption.

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Bleak House

The ‘Beautiful Game Tour‘ (aka Liverpool FC) rolls into Cardiff today for a game at the Cardiff City Stadium, or Bleak House as I am now prone to calling it, as a tease to my long-suffering resident season ticket holder. “What the dickens is going on?” I ask, when the ‘delusional one‘ begins to extol something approaching ‘Great Expectations‘ regarding the fortunes of the home team. “This may well be A Tale of Two Cities I reply, but “if you believe in hope for your team today you must have lost yourself in The Old Curiosity Shop of dreams”. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, particularly for those who ultimately provide the basis of my laid back lifestyle, but… “your lot are falling on Hard Times I mutter under my breath. Local fans should take a lead from Oliver Twist, as the outcome from today is likely to be no more than a bowl of gruel.

In the tale of two cities theme, it is the challenge of the former docklands as the Pierhead Building takes on the Liver Building:

Pierhead Building     V.              

 

But for me, it is yet another lunch teaser… what is it with these football teams and bird mascots? You watch your match, I’m going to dream about a Bluebird starter followed by a roast Liver Bird.

It’s 3.00p.m. on a trepidatious Saturday afternoon for the local desperados…

City v Liverpool [1]

… but wait, some people have clearly not read the script. Rumour has it these days that Liverpool FC use their pace to overwhelm the opposition from the kick-off, then ease back as the match goes on. Eight minutes on the clock and up steps the aptly Dickensian named Jordan Mutch to put Cardiff City into a surprising but deserved 1-0 lead. Only a few pages into the book and the home fans are already sensing a happy ending. However, The Artful Dodger, (Louis Suarez), hits back with an equalising goal on 16 minutes. The home fans remain upbeat, and on 24 minutes are again aptly rewarded by a Dickensian double of Jordan Mutch passing to Frazier Campbell for the second goal.

Scrooge has clearly had no hand in the influencing of either teams defence, as later in the half Martin Skrtel equalises for Liverpool. The home fans turn their joy into a less than warm reception for their hated owner, the Uriah Heep type villain who makes Miss Havisham’s neglect and final destruction of her own home look like a blueprint for his ultimate intentions in CF11. “We’ll always be blue” is repeatedly chanted by the home fans, waving a mass of blue scarves in support of their team playing in red! It could easily have been a song that a young Charles Dickens sang while his father and other family members were incarcerated in Marshalsea Debtors Prison back in the early 19th century.

Half-time brings rapturous applause from all parts of the stadium… 2-2. It is looking like the Bob Cratchett’s and Joe Gargery’s of the world might just be getting some reward for their honest toil. As the second half begins someone in the crowd is making their views known across the pitch to the empty seat where the owner should have been sitting…

City v Liverpool [3]Rumour has it that Bill Sikes is trying out new disguises in order to camouflage his misdemeanours in the locality…

  

The Great Expectations of the first half soon begin to descend into a Bleak House of a second half, as The Artful Dodger (Louis Suarez) and his accomplice Fagin (Daniel Sturridge) pick the pockets of their hosts relentlessly. 2-3 quickly becomes 2-4. At 2-5 it is very clear that Pip, the fresh-faced young Cardiff manager is out of his depth, and his team have found themselves deep in a truly Dickensian workhouse scenario, finding it increasingly difficult to extricate themselves from a perilous position in the relegation places in the Premier LeagueJordan Mutch gets an unlikely third goal to give the largely silent home fans something to get passionate about. But, as the minutes of added on injury time ebb away another pocket is picked by The Artful Dodger. And the final score at ‘the beautiful game’…

     3  v  6   

My ‘perplexed companion‘ is left bewildered, as the home team rarely score 3 goals at home this season… now that they have achieved the feat it comes at the cost of double the number of goals conceded. Life can be strange, but for those that support Cardiff City FC football can be a kick in the teeth (frequently, it would seem). Until we speak again I am  going to be Edwin Drood Juno, walking the streets of Cardiff in search of material for the unfinished story that is this blog.

[With thanks to those who provided google images that helped to illustrate this story].

Disaster porn

Armadillo pose

My slumbers are being disturbed daily by the incredible on-going story of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH370. Not least by the ability of so many people to create so many stories out of so little information. As the scale of the search grows ever wider I decided I should add my own surveillance skills to the effort…

Plotting an escapeI was particularly distressed by the idea of suicide by pilot, with widespread reporting of two previous cases back in the late 1990’s. So much so, that I thought I would submit my own script of events before Hollywood churned out their inevitable take on the story. So, put aside all of your conspiracy theories, because this is how I think things have played out.

As a plot developer I am going with the idea that the pilot or co-pilot had decided on suicide by crashing the plane, and had over-powered their colleague in the cockpit shortly into the routine flight. It is widely reported that a ‘ping’ was being transmitted for about 6 hours after the communications systems had been disabled; and the plane is thought to have changed course to a northern or southern corridor taking it either towards India or into the Indian Ocean. My preferred theory is the southern route out over the ocean, until the plane runs out of fuel and plunges into the water.

However, there is a stranger twist to this altogether strange affair. How could the perpetrator have guessed that they would be plunging into a massive ocean at the exact position that Bruce Willis had rowed his fishing boat out to? What are the chances that the only man in the world who could single-handedly catch a jet plane and hold it completely intact as it entered the water and continued down into the murky depths would be in that exact same place?

But at this point in the story things start to get a little odd… as Bruce and the plane plumb knew depths (go on, you never thought he could did you?) a pinpoint of light appears on the distant ocean floor. Could it be the coin Bruce had recently flipped to see if he was going to have a successful day fishing? Probably not. There again, it could be a wedding ring tossed overboard from a passing cruise liner as the result of a domestic tiff. Probably not.

No, as it turns out there was a simpler explanation… much to Bruce’s amazement (go on, you never thought he could be amazed did you?) it was the glint in George Clooney‘s eye, as he stood on the threshold of the lost city of Atlantis.

In his own special way George extended a warm welcome and a cup of coffee to the bemused but somewhat relieved passengers. Bruce declined, as he preferred tea. George had personally discovered, at no cost to his reputation, an ethically sound and sustainably resourced new world… and as there was no wi fi, internet access or mobile phone signals everyone lived happily ever after. Well, that’s Hollywood for you.

X-ray eyes

I intend to donate all the proceeds from the film to the families of those who were on MH370. In the unlikely event that my vision of what happened doesn’t turn out to be completely accurate I advise you all to revisit your conspiracy theories. But don’t let your Bruce-induced nightmares keep you awake.

Until I discover a cure for dementia, and we speak again, I am going to be an extra vigilant Juno.

[With special thanks to those who placed Bruce & George pics on Google images that helped illustrate this tale (or should that be tail?)].

Older and bolder

For any cats around the world stowing away on boats, determined that Cardiff is their desired destination (and why not I say!), you will know when you have arrived. The magnificent Pierhead Building will be there to greet you. For all of the modern development of the former world famous docks into the Cardiff Bay ‘leisure and government administration zone’, the eye can’t help but be drawn in by the older building.

Across Bay [4]It was designed by a Welsh Englishman named William Frame (1848-1906), because nothing in Wales is that straightforward. But there is no doubt about the 100% Welsh materials making up the French-originated design… Ruabon in North Wales was apparently known as ‘Terracottapolis‘ for the Etruria marl clay that forms the base of the distinctive terra cotta materials. It was paid for by a Scotsman, John Crichton-Stuart (3rd Marquess of Bute); so all that were needed were Irish and Italian builders or visitors for the locally revered ‘Six-Nations Rugby’ to be represented in the one building! It took 3 years in construction, opened in 1897, and cost a mere £30,000… which would realistically only pay for the furniture for us cats to sharpen our claws on in today’s prices.

Cardiff Bay sweep 5As I stroll around the Bay area I can do nothing but purr contentedly at the framing of this building from different angles. The Gothic revivalist architecture contrasts with the modern buildings surrounding it, with its strong lines and attention to detail marking it out against the sweeping and blander images of some of its modern neighbours.

Pierhead Building [1]

Close inspection lets you know the original purpose of this Grade 1 listed Victorian gem, established as the home of the Bute Docks Company. It also sat at the gateway for seamen from the world over who settled in Tiger Bay to make it the first multicultural community in the UK. Early in the 20th century it transferred to accommodate the Cardiff Railway Company, and later on to offices of the Great Western Railway.

Bute Dock Company sign

As the docks declined and closed, this proud building that had in its days administered the Port of Cardiff and the railways necessary for transporting much of the freight, lost its way, a bit like a stray cat, and fell into the same disuse as most of the surrounding industrial waste land. As the 20th century entered its final couple of decades it recaptured its original splendour within the new commercial vision for the docklands redevelopment.

Pierhead BuildingIt is now a part of the neighbouring Welsh Assembly buildings, complete with its own smaller version of ‘Big Ben’, but too small to provide the Assembly with its debating chamber… now accommodated in the wooden stingray beached next door. At least this architectural treasure is spared the need to accommodate political hot air, unlike the original ‘Big Ben’ of London framing the Palace of Westminster.

Pierhead Building [2]The detail on all parts of the building is exquisite, and just like many iconic buildings you can spend a great deal of time actually reading the building itself, as a bold statement of its designers and its place in time. Even the well preserved gargoyles are enough to remind any self-respecting cat of the dangers posed by a pack of ugly dogs! Now the building houses a visitor attraction with a 5-minute visual montage of the history of the surrounding area every 20 minutes in the Main Hall, as well as space for other Welsh history exhibitions, events and conferences.

Pierhead Building [3]

 

For this cat it is very reassuring that at least some remnants of the once great industrial heritage of this area are preserved, even if it also manages to show up the relatively poor standard of architectural fare that passes as modern progress and development. The Victorian age may now form a diminishing legacy of the older stock in our built environment, but it still shows how bold they were in some of their grand statements.

Who says an ordinary cat can’t have interests beyond sleeping and eating? Cardiff may not be overly blessed with world class examples of architecture, but it has a number of gems of all ages. Until we speak again I will continue to promote the Juno Architectural Appreciation Society of Cardiff.

Battle of the basement

My resident ‘exaggerator general‘ is talking up the enormity of today’s encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium, but I can barely raise a paw from my eyes at the prospect of the Battle of the Basement, as the Premier League’s two worst teams go head-to-head in the rush to relegation. With the two worst defensive records, and two of the worst scoring records I await nothing short of a comedy of errors to be reported back to me after the match from the ‘gullible one‘, who has even gone as far as to renew a season ticket. I am secretly trying not to offer congratulations for grabbing a bargain, as relegation means 4 extra games for the same price… I must keep remembering it is so easy to mock the afflicted!

I hear they are extending the capacity of the stadium, yet one glimpse into my food bowl of fortune tells me that the crowds will be hard to come by…

If you are into gambling I suggest you should have more confidence in a four-month long Welsh heatwave starting today, with record temperatures in the upper 30 degrees, than the arrival of Fulham FC sparking any heat into this encounter. Even with their tradition of the comedian Tommy Trinder being a life long fan (and former club Chairman) there is nothing in their recent history to suggest Fulham are going to raise the spirits…

  One look at their line-up of managers so far this season does little to tempt me to roll over for a tummy tickle! I thought I heared something on the radio about ‘Felix the Cat’ being this week’s manager at Fulham Football Club, but my ‘fount of all things unnecessary‘ tells me it is a German guy called Felix Magath. Oh well, football is a strange game, so I am told. But, whoever came up with that one hasn’t watched cricket, I say!

City v Fulham [1]

It’s 3.00p.m. on a sunny Saturday at the Cardiff City Stadium, with all the home fans desperately hoping some of those rays inspire a long lost performance out of their team. Get strapped in, this could be a roller-coaster of a yawn; 90 minutes can be a long time when you are stuck in a seat watching loads of blades of grass grow.

Much running and sliding, and general kicking about goes on for 45 minutes. As expected of the two teams propping up all of the others, little resembling a chance of goal scoring is happening. 0-0 as the half-time whistle approaches, but one further minute of added time comes up on the stadium big screens. Many of the home fans are wondering what a goal is… it is reaching a point where they begin to claim to have heard about them but not seen their team score one for so long… “days of the dinosaurs” may even get muttered in the same sentance as the last Cardiff City goal. But then, with the last kick of the half (and many fans already queueing for their exorbitantly priced tat passing as refreshment beneath the stands) up steps Captain Caulker to slot home from a few yards out. The mystery of the Cardiff City Stadium goal is banished as the home team go off the pitch to the applause of their fans… Cardiff City 1 Fulham 0. A cat’s eye view of the goal (with thanks to Mail Online):

Back of the net: Caulker broke the deadlock for Cardiff in first-half injury time

Dare the locals dream… the second half is about to kick-off in this game where it is widely acknowledged that the loser is likely to be doomed to relegation.

City v Fulham [2]

The half begins with more of the same fare experienced for most of the earlier 45 minutes. Not exactly igniting the passions, and then the inevitable happens as the home team go on the retreat, against the demands of some of their baying fans, and Fulham score to level the match at 1-1. Deep from the inevitable footballing cliche machine comes the murmuring of the stadium sages… “a draw helps neither team”. But, uncharacteristically for this field of dreams, a 12 minute spell of productive activity ensues, and with the help of Captain Caulker again, and a comedy of errors in the Fulham defence, Cardiff City find themselves in uncharted Premier League waters at 3-1 to the good.

Anything could now be possible in the weirdly distorted mind of my ‘biased reporter‘; “don’t be so stupid, this is Cardiff City, not Barcelona” I suggest. And, with a cat’s level of footballing knowledge, I take a bow for my superiority in all matters. Whatever the fans shout, this is Cardiff in the Premier League, and they just can’t help themselves… they have this strange habit of running backwards, making even poor or mediocre teams like Fulham (or Sunderland, Norwich, and West Bromwich Albion) to temporarily look good! This is clearly a team that defy all logic. If playing an attacking style pressing forward puts you into a 3-1 lead, what genius has told them that they should now all run backwards and play just back in their own half? You don’t need a degree in mathematics or statistics to read the league table and see this is a team who manifestly fail at trying to defend a lead.

Mesmerising, majestic, out-of-this-world, scintillating… these are all words overly used in football descriptions, but today you will have to be somewhere else to find them. However short on superlatives, those rays of sunshine do manage to bathe the home crowd with something more than just luck… for today they are playing Fulham, a team even more inept at putting the ball in the back of the net than the home team. The final whistle arrives to bring the curtain down on a score to lift Welsh hearts… Cardiff City Bluebirds 3 Fulham Lame Ducks 1.

I guess I will have to listen to ‘exaggerator general‘ pontificating about hope, and a bright new horizon, while I resist the temptation to spike the balloon with a reality check. If Felix the Cat is still in a job next season, in a club that have taken the term ‘Manager of the Month‘ to a newly ridiculous level, will he be seen in these parts again? Until we speak again I am going to be a sun-seeking Juno, trying to avoid casting around the dark clouds that still engulf a team saddled with a clueless owner…

… with an over developed sense of self-importance.

[Most of the images are borrowed from Google images to illustrate the story, with thanks to those who posted them originally].

A saintly celebration

People around these parts always celebrate the 1st March… it’s St. David’s Day for all proud Welsh folk. So as I was ambling around the neighbourhood I wondered what local tradition might a cat take up in order to join in the celebrations. They are helpful people, they even signpost the way…

Its Brains you want

I decided I would follow a so-called cerebral journey to see what Brains is all about locally. As good a starting point as any would be the brewery, conveniently located in the centre of the city, with a backdrop of the Millenium Stadium…

2. Brains Brewery [2]

… and even adorning the national rugby shirt.  

You get a wide range of views on the product from the local beer aficionados, ranging from it’s one of the best beers around, to it used to be one of the best before the brewery lost their mojo, to “is it called brains or drains?” My ‘personal taster‘ tells me that the capital city of Wales needs a clearly defined brand of beer crafted to the highest standards… meanwhile I drift off into another snooze.

Getting back to the task at hand, I am led to believe that breweries require loads of water, so this one seems nicely positioned on the bank of the River Taff (so that’s where the locals get their nickname from!).

3. Brains Brewery [3]Ignoring what some say, that there is little difference between what you see in the river and what you taste in the pub, I decide a cat needs to visit the iconic City Arms pub (the landlord Chris scripted that bit!!) in the centre of the city to check out the quality…

City Arms [1]With my old friend ‘Fat Freddies Cat‘ already filling the tank with anything but Brains, I was suitably impressed by the visual elegance of this local brew…

4. Brains journey [1]

5. Brains journey [2]

 

And it seemed to slip down very easily…

My investigations identified that strangely beer is not something you buy, in reality it is a product you rent; and pubs even come with their own built-in recycling plants for keeping the rental process turning over…

6. Brains journey [3]

 

 

 

Being a cat of impeccable values, my next question was one of the importance of recycling and what happens when several pints of this local nectar have been consumed? 7. Brains journey [4]

Look away now if you are a lager drinker! My best guess is that the in-house recycling plant produces a keg style by-product. What doesn’t return into the Taff for the short journey back to the brewery seems to retain the straw-like colour of the previous waste products, emerging as it does through several taps on the bar serving up brands of what is more characteristically known as European style juice.

My journey was nearly over, but a final surprise awaited. It seems that these emporia of the country’s good working folk also cater for the tastes of the modern day fat cats, with a specific beer crafted for the bankers of the world…

8. Beer for fat cats

 

I hope you enjoy your saintly celebrations, wherever you are; but until we speak again I will be a staggering Juno, as  wind my way back on a journey to my usual water bowl.