A Brexit Apology

Where is that spider?Bella would no doubt have been looking on with bewilderment at the events of recent days.

Cats are most frequently known for a peaceful nature and openness to form trusting relationships with very different people. They are also known for an occasional sense of indifference to others, wholly wrapped up in the importance of their own world. Here in the UK the 48% of the former were insufficient to counter the will of the 52% of the latter. It would seem that a reflective look back at a sea-faring history has caused some to believe they can conquer the world through an ability to reclaim trading nation status, despite having little or no sea-faring and trading capability left. Welcome to the 19th century, but without the Empire status!

Once there were busy trading ports; but this is the 21st century, and European partners (soon to be ex-partners) share a sense of beauty where once there was busy commerce. The schisms in British society got me thinking more about similarities with European neighbours, and the portside beauty of Dubrovnik and Cardiff is as good an example as any of the importance of sharing. The Old Port of Dubrovnik provides a tranquil setting in which to reflect on a recent message highlighted through the tragic murder of Jo Cox (MP for Batley and Spen) that ‘we have more in common that what divides us’, a thought that has become even more meaningful within the newfound chaos that our nation wants to embrace…

Old Port [1]

But, if you don’t have the cash (in our newly plummeting market economy) or time to visit Dubrovnik, then Cardiff Bay can compete in the tranquility stakes…

Cardiff Bay sweep 6

Each has its own special atmosphere at night:

Old Port at night [2]

Busy day down the docks

Both are outward looking locations extending welcoming arms to travellers from far and wide:

Sea view [2]

Cardiff Bay view

So, as the sun sets on an era, and we embark on the challenge of a roller-coaster that will ultimately only benefit the ruling classes, I am sure if Juno and Bella were still with us they would be apologising to European friends for an outcome of a unnecessary referendum born out of right wing political panicking.

Old Port at night [3]

And a welcome will always be open from Cardiff (even if the majority in Wales wish to become the rump of a right wing England); as some of us search desperately for a place to pray:

Norwegian Church

Until we speak again, enjoy the chaos and keep the welcome genuine and open.

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Lessons from Dubrovnik

Cats just have that way about them that exudes majesty, as they survey all below them, by day or by night. Here is the Queen of Dubrovnik eyeing a late night inebriate on their way home after a particularly pleasant evening of wining and dining…

Going back to apartment [5] cat

Dubrovnik isn’t twinned with Cardiff… unfortunately. But if it was, we would have some very important lessons of history and culture to learn. As you are my one and only regular reader you will know I’ve recently had an issue about how the good burghers of Cardiff are lacking in their sense of civic pride and vision regarding some gems of historical architecture. Juno and Bella used to occasionally make reference to the ‘old git’, but history matters; it defines a place, it bestows a sense of uniqueness, it says something about the values of the people who live and work in a place.

Even by Juno and Bella’s standards of personal ridicule I was not around to capture historic Cardiff quite in the following way…

Old Cardiff pic [1]Old Cardiff pic [2]

But we do have our moments; take St John’s Church late on a summers evening…

St John's at night

Then take a look at the Old City of Dubrovnik, and we really can see why Game of Thrones executives identified it as the perfect location for King’s Landing. A breath-taking view awaits those who venture upward on the cable car to Mount Srd:

Old City from Mt Srd [1]

And a tour of the city walls takes in the complete circumference of the Old City, with stunning views at every turn:

City Walls [4]

Though rumour has it, possibly passed down by cats across time, that back in the 7th & 8th centuries the quirky meandering of the wall was determined by a need to accommodate the dominance of the car:

City Walls [3]

By day (Place Gate) or by night (Stradun), there is no doubting the beauty of the preservation of historical artifice, and the restoration of pride following the fierce bombardment of the city in the war of 1991-5:

Ploce Gate [7]Stradun at night [1]

But still those damn cars get in on the act!

Bell Tower at night

Whether it is the views from the city walls, the narrow streets, or the major civic buildings, Dubrovnik speaks loud and clear about valuing your heritage…

From City Wall [8]

Prijeko [5]

St Blaise Church [2]

And even a quiet walk back to the apartment at night manages to intrigue the imagination, on a stroll back in history:

Going back to apartment [1]Going back to apartment [2]

Rumour has it that cats don’t like water, so next time I will look at how Cardiff Bay and Dubrovnik Old Port stack up. Until we speak again, may all of your horizons be broad.

 

Butetown Beauty

It sounds like a horse entered into the Architectural Handicap at Chepstow races. There are certainly many runners and riders that should be restored to their formative days of being stallions and mares of great repute, only to have been left in the knackers yard by indifferent owners.

Butetown is a significant area of Cardiff locally known as ‘down the docks’; the part that also enclosed the famous Tiger Bay. In the last post I outlined the precarious existence of the area’s true jewel in the crown, the Coal Exchange. But what is left of this great industrial powerhouse of the early 20th century deserves to be seen as a crown, with many trinkets of architectural beauty crying out for Welsh visionaries (with more than a little cash in the back pocket).

As a nation, Wales is once again at a cross-roads challenged to define what it is. ‘Pride’ is a word that we locals like to frequently purloin when describing what it is to be Welsh. We have an opportunity in Butetown to put our rhetoric into practice; but on the surface it looks like we have been talking not walking for many years!

In developer-speak we have Merchant Place, a prime development opportunity… Aka: bring on a high enough wind to blow down the rotting carcusses that blight the sensibilities of the financial Masters of the Universe. In reality we are talking about the Cory Buildings and Old Post Office

Corys Buildings [3]

Corys Buildings [2]

Old Post Office

On nearby West Bute Street a classic old bank has stood idle for 20 years…

Old Bank entrance

Old Bank on West Bute Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

And how more welcoming can a sight be to a weary traveller, than the eponymous Cardiff Bay Station (see previous blog post comparing this landmark to the understated presence of St Pancras Station in London)!

Tumbleweed junction [4]

Tumbleweed Junction 9

Cadogan House [2]

 

Meanwhile, nearby Cadogan House seems trapped in a bygone era when air conditioning was in its more experimental phase!

Until we speak again, spare a thought for all of those poor buildings under threat of being ‘listed’… a blessing or a curse… discuss.

Architectural assault

Where was the first £1 million deal struck in the world? Threadneedle Street in London… think again. Wall Street in New York… nickels and dimes. It was right here in Cardiff, the Coal Exchange to be exact…

Interior [1]

From the fledgling years of the 20th century, when ‘coal was king’ and the Port of Cardiff dominated world trade, the floor of the Coal Exchange buzzed with the chaotic sounds of commerce. Even beyond the age of heavy industry in South Wales this iconic location was set to become the home of Welsh Government at the end of the 1970’s.

Interior [2]

Despite functioning as a home to a few small offices and a brief life as a concert venue, years of neglect and indifference took their toll:

Coal Exchange [1]

Coal Exchange [6]

References to the need to find a new purpose for an icon are difficult to accept as being anything more than a cynical cover for patient neglect to the point where the building could possibly be demolished…

Coal Exchange [2]

It appears that the City Planning Department lacked any vision for the jewel on their doorstep. A 15 storey residential block seemed to be the height of corporate ambition! We don’t need to look far around our city to see that money lies in throwing up blandly mediocre residential and office developments, whilst simultaneously allowing historic buildings oozing character to fall into disrepair. This serves to remind me of the good decision I made to abandon a career in Town Planning 33 years ago while it was still in its infancy!

Coal Exchange board sign

With huge acknowledgements to Nick Broomfield and BBC4 for the striking programme ‘Going, Going, Gone…’ (for the source of internal photographs used here), we know that parts of the building are far from dangerous, but those that are can be restored and put to good use…

Exterior Decay

Interior decay

In fact, large parts of the building appear in excellent condition, just calling out to be seen and used again…

Interior [3]

Interior [8]

With details to be loved as much now as they undoubtedly were by their creators…

Interior [5]

Interior [4]

Interior [7]

Civic pride from public authorities means nothing in these days of corporate greed and power. We have seceded architectural virtue and the values of beauty and historic appreciation, bowing to the whims of the money-tocracy, as the privileged few profit on the backs of the many.

Rumour has it that plans are being discussed to restore the Coal Exchange building on the basis of housing a boutique hotel. This would be a welcome development by the many who appreciate the importance of this building, provided some areas are opened for wider public access. Talk is one thing, but this is an icon that is in desperate need of action… NOW!

Until we speak again lets all hope that talking is matched by walking for this beauty. Then there is the issue of halting the local avalanche of historic building neglect that could then transform the city centre and bay areas of Cardiff into a mix of historic and contemporary pride (pigs are flying as I gaze out of my window across the aforementioned areas).