Look through any window

It may be a famous old Hollies track, but the instruction also offers a taste of nostalgia. Here is a bygone age, when Brains were truly great beers to challenge the best around…

look-through-any-window

But this scene in a Cardiff Coffee#1 shop just got me reflecting back on a recent trip to Llanelli in west Wales. This was once a boom town built on heavy industries with a specialist focus on tinplate, but now it’s a faded shadow of itself. Perhaps it might still look like a big place to someone steeped in the rural ways of life, but to the average urban dweller Llanelli leaves you asking “what’s the fuss?” If you look closely enough you might find something resembling a modern welcome…

thomas-arms-hotel

But then again, as the first image implies, Brains used to be something once, but what’s the fuss? Better to settle for a smooth New Zealand Pinot Noir when the beer offering is the range of modern day corporate Brains!

fire-and-wine

Come to think of it log fires were something once, but now they have succumbed to a strange elevated form of designer chic as a centrepiece of a room…

fireplace

Then again, pork chops were something once, but what’s the fuss? Now they have to be Harissa spiced with a side of creamy slaw!

harissa-pork-chops

It’s good to know that a hearty cooked breakfast still is something, even if beans now have to come in a gravy pot!

Full Welsh breakfast.jpg

If you find yourself in the time warp, aka Llanelli, The Thomas Arms should provide that comfortable reality check that the 21st century is soon to make an appearance. Meanwhile, looking through any window provides me with a nostalgic remembrance that it was a favourite pastime of Juno

sunshine-at-14-3

Until we speak again, remember that nostalgia is a thing of the past. Spare yourself a moment or two, and look through any window

 

Lunar confusion

It’s getting late… You looking at me?a pint or two too many at the City Arms kind of late. These days I miss out on Juno’s quiet air of indignation as I return home later than promised; though I wasn’t sure whether she knew the time, or simply presented in the same way whatever time I got home.

It’s the time of night when sailor’s come into their own, as they navigate a way home by the location of the moon. But such a skill seems to become more difficult than expected in an inebriated downtown central Cardiff. Where is that moon when you need it? In the early hours of a Spring night Cardiff seems particularly blessed by many moons.

Moonlight [1]

Who says that alcohol marinated logic makes no sense? A walk through a local wooded copse will surely be the solution to narrowing the moons down to the real one! Well, perhaps it doesn’t necessarily narrow down the number of potential moons, but there are a few clues beginning to shape up.

Moonlight [2]

Even a few pints of the hoppy stuff can’t dim the realisation that a mix of man-made unnatural wood and a man-made built environment gives a zig-zag trajectory a bit more of a focus and direction. Now I am able to narrow down the options…

Monlight [3]

Strangely enough, the real McCoy presents itself in full-moon splendour just at the moment it is least needed… I seem to be home.

Moonlight [5]

Who needs the moon anyway, when you have a carefully developed and honed homing instinct? Now, just before the hangover kicks in… what do we do on a cloudy night?

Half cat half door

 

Until we speak again, I seem to recall similar escapades in the past, only with the scary addition to the end of the night of something that resembled half-cat/half-door. The moral of this story is drink sensibly, or if you don’t, at least try to enjoy the bizarre distortions that the world presents to those in need of surgical realignment of their ‘eyes-to-sockets’ relationship.

 

A dead pubs crawl

The recent fact that around 20,000 pubs have been closed down in the UK during the last couple of decades hardly caused me a ruffle of the whiskers. After all, us cool cats are much more sophisticated in our tastes… I am more concerned with preserving my premium wine stocks.

Wine stocks

As far as I am concerned pubs are uncouth places where dogs are more likely to be found. However, my ‘resident old git’ seems somewhat more perplexed than I about this dilapidated state of affairs in the ‘world the beer guide forgot‘. It being the beginning of the season to be jolly, I thought I would send the thirsty one on a tour of modern day temperance; and there is no shortage of places in Cardiff you can no longer get a drink!

Whoever said that the pubs of today are being taken over by food has certainly been to The Neville recently. Unfortunately, it seems that this former favourite of fans of the local team has gone the whole hog, its become a local supermarket… so the only grog available here will be the discounted stuff better drunk out of a brown paper bag!

The Neville [2]

An even worse fate for The Splotlands, as the chances of even getting in the inn are now completely blocked. I hope the last customer at last orders managed to get out in time!

The Splotlands

Black Friday and even Cyber Monday have now past us by, but anyone still in search of a bargain need look no further than downtown Butetown. The White Hart either finished off on a sale of its remaining stocks, or more likely has now become the subject of a sale.

The White HartBut not all pubs are allowed to finally give up the ghost and die; take an amble along Constellation Street and you come across a fine residence that probably shouldn’t be… all hail local activism down at The Tredegar as people exert squatters rights as a means of keeping a grand old landmark in occupation other than by rats and mice.

The Tredegar, Tin Street

Talking of rats and mice… just look what happens to a prestigious city centre site when you neglect history. The York Hotel might well have long since given up its final incarnation as an Indian restaurant, but it still serves as a grim reminder of former halcyon days.

York Hotel

My in-house beer monkey returned stoically sober after this particular pub crawl. Until we speak again I hope your pre-christmas crawling is to your satisfaction. Meanwhile I shall continue my duties as Wine Merchant Juno.

[With special thanks to my original guide and mentor into the world of blogging The Gentle Author for the original idea of the ‘Dead Pubs Crawl’].

Cool at One

How time fly’s when you spend most of the day either sleeping or licking your nether regions. There I was, deep in meditation…

Chillout cat

… when my ‘kidnapper of culinary dreams’ decided it was time for a literary celebration. It seems that a year has already passed since the resident ‘Nonsense-in-Chief’ decided I would become a star of the blogosphere. No, I haven’t got a clue what that means either. To my personal dismay I am told I have been a Cool Cat for precisely one year… this of course is complete tosh; being a lady I’m not giving away my age, but I assure you I have been a Cool Cat wherever I have been for the whole of my life!

As for this celebration thing… there are limits, and a point when a head down the loo or offering a simple view of a fury rump out of a nearby box have their merits. Or it is just time for the more sophisticated among us to get a grip…

Olive branchApart from you humans, the point at which a year arrives is as good as any to do a bit of reflective thinking. Whereas all you lot seem to have achieved at one year is the ability to scream and wail, and project nasty stuff in all directions from both ends!

So, what should you have learned about this Cardiff place from my first year of imparted wisdom? Firstly, they have a strange way of doing architecture. When the brief says “a sophisticated blend of the old and new” I’m not sure that this is what the commissioning people exactly had in mind:

Architectural wonders

But, when it comes to combining architecture with food, and if food really is your religion,  the locals can come up with interesting new ideas for accommodating the likes of multiple feeding bowls and litter trays:

Chapel [2]

As for those moments when you left your shopping list at home, and you are sure that a violin, a Dalek, and a good cup of coffee were prominent amongst the essentials of the day, then the Castle Arcade is the place of your dreams:

Castle Arcade 6

 

Many a fellow feline in London told me before I moved that they communicate differently in that Wales place, but I was still unprepared. For example, they take health and safety of children very seriously, to the point of being very clear of the dangers of tree-climbing:

No tree climbingAs an indigenous population many of these cats may not travel very far (or is that Americans I am thinking of?), but they like to keep busy. So, there is no shortage of signs telling you were to go… in the politest sense of the phrase of course (unless you happen to be more obviously English):

Places to go [1]

Before, during and after a busy day having been told where to go, you will be in need of refreshment. So, this is when in Cardiff you really have to use your Brains! However, refreshment is also where the true multi-cultural legacy of the capital city comes into its own:

4. Brains journey [1]

The local brew is often to be found in its most splendid clarity (with Chris at The City Arms offering me free beer for the publicity… Not!). But, beware of local historians, all too eager to share their rose-tinted time warp stories of when Brains SA was the real deal.

A pint in the City Arms

However, with all of the zeitgeisty nonsense about immigration going on around these ancient lands of Perfidious Albion, it is the demands of the time warp fraternity that are at the centre of allowing interesting brands of low cloud in from the regions of England. The original multicultural port of Cardiff, giving rise to the infamous Tiger Bay, is now succeeded by little more than multi-regional representation in the brews that local people are prepared to fall over from, as a result of joyous consumption.

Just don’t ask about the local football team… you are a season too late on that one. And as for the historic local rugby team… my coughing and spluttering has nothing to do with choking on a furball. Suffice to say, this is a city that wears its sporting failures with as much ‘anonymity’ as it can muster. They even provide convenient masks lying around in public places in order to avoid being easily identified as a supporter:

Fallen headSo, it has been one year of me filling your bowl with quality morsels, and tugging on your tail about the issues that matter in this adopted city of mine. As I preen my whiskers at the thought of 84 posts in the bag, my final thought before we speak again is “are you looking at me?”

You looking at me?

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.