Messing about on boats

“The owl and the pussy cat went to sea…” someone once said. But, whoever saw a cat taking a liking to water? This recent Bank Holiday weekend saw Cardiff Bay hosting an event that would cause most feline’s to high tail it straight to their favourite hiding place. Yet many cats of an adventurous disposition, into action and speed, were preening their whiskers in the balmy weekend weather. It seems like Cardiff City Council may even have got a grant from the Welsh Assembly Government to paint the water blue specially for the event!

Starting line [1]

Racing boat[2]

The architecturally challenged St David’s Hotel (this being about the best angle to wonder at it) has found a new function, as a starting line for the race.

Starting line [2]

The Grand Prix of the Seas comes to Cardiff Bay as part of its international tour, but does anyone know which way we are supposed to be going?

Racing boat [3]

If you don’t quite make it into the competition final, you can always pretend to assume some degree of speedster superiority by racing a pleasure boat…

Racing boat [8]

But look where you’re going, because those bouncy castles are just like shopping trolleys, they can suddenly appear anywhere…

Racing boat [9]

Phew, just missed it…

Racing boat [10]

If the thrill of semi-enclosed speed doesn’t float your boat, why not try standing on something resembling a high-tech plank of wood?

They're off [1]

Race turn [4]

Then again, if your preference is more of a sedentary dispensation, you don’t get to avoid a challenge… a nation awaits you!

Challenge Wales boat

Or, perhaps if it’s just the promenading that works for you, the terra firma of Mermaid Quay offers cool cats a modern day boardwalk…

Mermaid Quay [3]

Until we speak again, enjoy your water, however you take it.

And so to eat

Call this food!Here in Cardiff it is a weekend where the events just keep coming. After the triumphant return of the national football heroes it is time to eat.

Fortunately, for local culinary cats, the timing just happens to coincide with the annual International Food Festival in Cardiff Bay. Drizzle-like periods of rain are a staple of Cardiff weather, but does little to dampen the crowds or the atmosphere of eating, drinking and live music.

Stalls display their wares from far and wide, with vegetarian options for ethical cats, and a smorgasbord of flesh cooked in every which way for the Juno’s and Bella’s of the world.

If it’s beer you want then Cornwall and Ireland provide a range of Sharps and Guinness lotions and potions, for those who are not so pernickety about drinking out of plastic cups:

Beer [1]

Beer [2]For those who don’t wish to get wet on the outside while watering on the inside, there are a selection of appropriately stocked tents around the site.

But for your loquacious reporter, it was time to talk less and eat more, with some exquisitely tasting morsels to be sampled. Good Welsh fare is represented by Cambrian Organics meat, with the choice of Lamb Burger being one this cat couldn’t resist…

Cambrian Organics [2]Lamb Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile the Hand Made Scotch Egg Company tease the tastebuds with approximately 40 varieties (including vegetarian versions). Your able representative chose the Casablanca, flavoured with harrissa, chilli, paprika & red peppers.

Scotch eggs

To round off the culinary voyage of discovery, Blacks Cheese stall presented a range of previously undiscovered delights. As much as the Piri Piri taunted the tastebuds, it was the Jalapino & Lime that seized hold of the wallet for further indulgence.

Cheeses

The event was not short on entertainment, with a full line-up of musical diversity to provide a back-drop to the informality of the grand social occasion…

Music line-up

And on the occasion of a Saturday afternoon at 3.00pm it was the turn of Immigrant Swing to provide a lively set…

Music [3]

Until we speak again may your jalapeno’s and limes enjoy a cheesy coming together!

Wales Euro Stars!

Ready to eatCats all over Wales have had a month of excited bewilderment, as the focus of the nation’s passion for sport took a seismic shift from rugby to football. We could be forgiven for thinking after a 58-year wait, that turning up to make up the numbers was a great achievement. But this is Wales, a land with a passion for the spectacular.

Apart from Gareth Bale, who would have thought in the heady days of early June that we would go further than the former World Champions and current European Champions, Spain; and then equal the current World Champions, Germany? Along the way we managed to send home the hosts of the next World Cup, Russia; and magnificently dispatch the so-called World’s second ranked team, Belgium! We might have scrapped a win against Northern Ireland, and lets just forgive and forget the generosity we offered England (while thanking Iceland for the non-Wales highlight of the whole tournament). All great stories need to come to an end, and for us Portugal in the semi-finals is recognised as the game too far.

The City of Cardiff decorated itself with banners and flags to raise expectations…

Welsh football [2]

Brewery Quarter banner

St Mary Street waits

Then there was the reminder that we had a little matter of group games to negotiate…

Welsh football [1]

But fairy tales happen (not just shit, then); and they often begin with some kind of castle in the picture…

Castle [1]

… and just a few adoring fans lurking in wait for a glimpse of the heroes of the story…

Castle [2]

And who would have thought that over-paid young football players would forgo the expensive cars to travel anywhere on a bus?

On the bus [1]

On the bus [2]

On the bus [3]

On the bus [4]

This was a one-way ticket to adoration, destination Cardiff City Stadium, and a rousing rendition of the Manic Street Preachers Welsh football anthem. And this was a squad that didn’t win the competition! But, perhaps the salutary lesson of the great homecoming was a sign that even Solicitors have a heart… occasionally!

Solicitor

Until we speak again the great new footballing super power will be recuperating in time to stride towards the even bigger stage of the 2018 World Cup. Look out world, we are coming.

[With acknowledgement to BBC Wales for some of the images used in this post].

The Somme Remembered

Got my papers

Nobody is left to remember that surge of enthusiasm for signing up to go to war in the teenage years of the 20th century. Here was Bella not looking overly enthusiastic about her signing up papers.

Who would want to relive the experience of the morning of 1st July 1916, at the Somme, looking up over those trenches in readiness to run headlong into a field of bullets. Juno always had that look that suggested the trench was a safer place to be…

Batman

 

 

So, it is with great poignance that this historic anniversary of carnage is remembered in Cardiff Bay, with the establishment of a memorial entitled simply ‘Field‘. No other words can convey the intensity of meaning, the Welsh National Opera banner and the visual representation of the installation say it all…

The Field [3]

The Field [1]

The Field [4]

The Field [5]

 

 

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.

R.I.P. David Bowie Cat!

Farewell

It’s time for me to wish you my fond farewells, and send you the love for the last time. My recent trip to the dreaded vet, when my ‘in-house physician’ identified a lump on my rear right leg, was masking something I knew to be all the more sinister. It turns out that I have become a walking bag of tumours. No treatment could be offered, so it is with much gratitude that I say my all-too-shortlived home has been a comfortable place to continue feeding the dreaded Scary Monsters.

Here I am resting just before my final one-way trip to the vet. So, as you read this I have already journeyed to a new experience of Sound and Vision. But, as with David Bowie, I have the opportunity to offer you some of my reflections.

Juno was clearly the Blackstar, but as for this Lazarus, well I Can’t Give Everything Away. As for The Next Day, everything Changes in a Hunky Dory kind of way.

“What on earth am I going on about?” you ask. Well I’m no Ziggy but if any Spiders From Mars pass this way, I’ll be licking my lips and Loving the Alien. My apprentice Starman was perplexed the other week when I ate a sizeable spider crossing the carpet. Here I am supremely vigilant, always ready for more…

Where is that spider?

So, Where Are We Now? I’m off to A Better Future, as my Fame wanes. Little Wonder as I face the prospect of Ashes to Ashes, because the Fashion for John, I’m Only Dancing is finally Under Pressure.

Don’t be Low or experience Sorrow, but please don’t start Dancing in the Street, after all This Is Not America. I have left the Absolute Beginners with instructions and reflections to keep bringing you Modern Love through this blog. I have enjoyed my seven months talking with you, my Heroes, and I’m sure there will be another font of wisdom in the future to guide my resident Space Oddity.

Ready to eat

“Time to point that camera somewhere else!”

Bella (13/7/2009 ~ 8/4/2016).

 

Nadolig Llawen

It’s the time of year when Cardiff has to look deep inside itself… to find three wise men. But, if its wisdom you’re in search of just look up (no great discoveries emerged from looking on the floor all day, except unsolicited gifts from the rear end of dogs that is). Star Wars might be the ‘in thing’ at the cinema, but who would have thought that Cardiff will find a unique way of reminding you!

No 3 wise men!

It has become all the rage in recent years for German Christmas Markets. At least it provides something to do with all of those surplus sheds since the downturn in the economy; or is it a sign that the modern re-constructed man spends more time in the kitchen and in front of the bathroom mirror, and less time in the shed? The monotonous selection of wood winds its way around many parts of The Hayes, but try to find anything of use in any of them?

Festive Quarter [2]

 

The presence of a windmill does little to celebrate the German origin of the whole tradition…

Festive Quarter [1]

But fear not, when hunger bites the German sausage can be relied on to come to the rescue (or is this a convenient location to offload your badly behaved children?)…

Festive Quarter [3]Having dumped the minor irritants in the vicinity of a sausage making machine it’s time to catch up on some of that much-needed liquid refreshment. Why not try the Moose Head Bierkeller? Provided you can navigate the Canada and Germany cultural collision you might be surprised to find a full range of non-Canadian and non-German fayre. The ubiquitous Welsh flag and Union Jack are on hand to resolve any geographical cognitive dissonance at this point!

Festive Quater [4]So all that’s left to do is stagger home by the light of the understated seasonal illuminations…

The Hayes [1]

St Mary Street

Xmas is about?Which just leaves this home-based Bella time to reflect on the true meaning of this time of year. Is it something to do with the fairy tales that emerge from the dark tower at the heart of the pious city? Or should I just practice my look of utter surprise as Santa comes down the non-existent chimney?

X-ray eyes

 

 

 

 

Until we speak again have a merry christmas, or Nadolig Llawen as a few of the locals around here are occasionally heard to say.

Balls of bewilderment

Relaxed rugbyI’ve been hearing a lot about some Rugby World Cup just starting, and it seems to be invading my home city in very strange ways. It seems to me to be a weird game in more ways than one. Firstly there is that ball, it rolls where it wants to… hang on here, I’m the one in charge, I decide what goes where in this place.

I saw some of a match on the ‘couch potato’s’ TV last night, and from what I could see it was just a bunch of men jumping and diving all over the place, and throwing each other on the floor in a frenetic way. So I’ve decided to adopt a more relaxed approach to the game.

Meanwhile, after an early morning’s flick and a snooze I thought I would check out what is going on around Cardiff city centre on this first of eight Millennium Stadium match days. The in-house ‘domestic grump’ keeps going on about plastic glasses, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Apparently, this so-called gentleman’s game watched by supporters who mingle and banter in friendly style still invoke city centre pubs to adopt plastic glasses for beer all day on match days.

Anyway, the quality of the beer wasn’t uppermost in my mind as I strolled around town.

Try Inn [3]

Sanity was of greater imperative as I turned into Duke Street… it seems even the iconic Cardiff Castle is not immune to World Cup fever…

Castle rugby ball [1]

As the world arrives on the shores of the United Kingdom for these matches over the next 6 weeks I anticipated strange things would be happening involving balls, but a sight on Queen Street even had me somewhat dumbfounded…

People,balancing act

Until we speak again I am going to be bewildered Bella, but may all of your balls be baffle free.

Anatomy of a beach

BatmanJuno was often known to occupy her strategic position while she pondered the meaning of life in her adopted home of Cardiff. As summertime struggles to make itself known the reflection currently coming to mind is that ‘life is a beach‘, or so they say (I think that needs to be deciphered in some sort of southern European accent for the meaning to be realised!).

Opening day [2]

But a beach is surely a design of nature… or is it? Not for the first time, strange things are happening in the city of Cardiff! Beware men at work, particularly as the kids school holidays are arriving imminently:

Beach 2015 [2]Beach 2015 [3]

 

 

 

 

 

The phenomenon of the ‘pop-up shop’ or ‘pop-up street food gig’ now seems to have crossed the divide from the artificial world of commerce to the natural world.

Nature may have taken thousands of years to erode rock formations in order to create beaches along our shorelines, but in the commercial world what’s a week between glances at the balance sheet?

Beach 20 07 2015 [2]

As the bones of the beast begin to take shape it is time to add a little flesh…

23-7-15 [2]

Then as the sun rises on an opening day, no sooner can you utter the most fashionable of terms in the commercial lexicon… transformation… while adding that most crucial of money generating ingredients… people; hey presto, you have a playground for cats both local and from far away…Opening day [5]

Does the lapping of the shore against the beach make a noise if nobody is there to hear it? Who knows, or even cares! Where there is fun to be had, with the occasional tug on the purse strings, there will always be the sounds of the beach to be heard at strategic times of the year in the face of the old dockland.Opening day [6]

23-7-15 [3]

 

 

Transformation in action:

<<<<Before & After>>>>

 

 

 

 

23-7-15 [1]

 

Transformation in action:

<<<<Before

Opening day [4]

 

 

 

After>>>>

 

Until we speak again I’m sure Juno would wish that all of your beaches be bathed in sun and filled with smiles.

Opening day [1]

The power of food

Juno was an enlightened cat, but among all of the things she knew, the attraction of food was up there. So it was to be with the 2015 International Food Festival ‘down the bay’, as Cardiff once again plays cultural host to the wider world (who really cares about Ashes cricket a mile up the road?!).

What a difference a day makes in the world of eating, as the following pictures attempt to illustrate:

Before…

Food festival prep [1]

 

 

 

During…

Food festrival [1]

 

 

 

 

Before…

Food festival prep [2]

 

 

 

 

 

During…

Food festival [3]

 

 

 

 

Before…

Food festival prep [3]

 

 

 

 

 

During…

Food festival [2]

 

 

 

 

The imagination was truly exercised through mouth-watering choices. The range of Welsh home produce was fully complimented by some English regional fare covering all kinds of cheese, pies, and ice-creams from predominantly south-west border locations. But the real essence of the whole event was provided by a much wider range of exotic cuisines, from ‘Persia‘ and Turkey, the Caribbean to India, with stunning contributions from the Iberian peninsula, Italy and Greece to represent the European Mediterranean countries.

For our personal delectation, this Wales-Trinidad delegation settled for a pig & goat combination to satisfy the taste buds… nothing like a goat curry with rice & salad to set up the prospect of a long walk around the bay. This was shared with a Jerk Pork & Dumplings  combination. The home nations were not to be denied our patronage, as a completely unexpected take on the traditional sausage roll was to leave me never looking at this snack in quite the same way again! The thinnest of delicate pastry was to surround the thickest of tasty pork sausage and chilli, with an additional choice of pork and mushroom. These might have cost about double the standard sausage roll, but they say you get what you pay for… and more in this instance.

The packed crowd were continually entertained by a succession of musicians…

Food festival [4]

… but for us the heavy weight of the fabulous food, combined with the fire-breathing quality of the tiniest sip of the world’s strongest chilli vodka, required the little matter of a 5-mile stroll around the whole of Cardiff Bay, with a brief interruption provided by white-water rafting (but more of that in a later post)!

Until we speak again may your culinary encounters be sumptuous and exotic.