Be my guest

Talking of arse-end surveillance, as I was just recently… I have just found a new way of consuming news:

Newspaper

Anyway, I digress… a particular problem when, like me, you have a passion for writing loads of stuff and your concentration tends to wander. So, the opportunity has arisen for me to take a break, step back, and take pleasure in welcoming another cool cat from Cardiff to share an experience with you. My good friend Fat-Freddies-Cat accompanied me on a trip to Newport in a much earlier post on this site, but also happens to wander into many a pub in many a town for the odd beer or two. In fact, he continues to produce a photographic series ‘Time for a pint’ which now has over a million views on Flickr. Why not check it out by clicking the following link:

a pint in the minerva, plymouth

As a taster, so to speak, Fat-Freddies-Cat has a tail (or is that tale?) to tell about one such adventure in the local area. This is a brief story about a visit to Kitty Flynn’s in Cardiff, and a personal reflection on the changing fortunes of the SA drinker over the years…

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“There’s gonna be trouble in here later” said the lady determined to shake my hand.

It’s a quiet Monday night, hardly looks like there is trouble brewing. My first visit here this century. This used to be The Cambrian, on the corner of Cardiff’s most notorious street, wall to wall with the brewery that owns it. Hookers and hustlers used to fill the room, Brains SA was known as ‘skull attack’ and a thick fog of cigarette smoke hung about waist height. Today, The Cambrian is Kitty Flynn’s – an Irish bar, the smoke has now moved outside, the brewery has moved to what was then the wrong side of the tracks. Caroline Street is now mere ‘chip shop alley’ – people even live there. Brains SA has not attacked any skulls in many a long year.

I didn’t stay for the trouble, it only occurring to me after I had left, that I was wearing an orange t-shirt which was probably not a good idea in an Irish pub.

 

Until we speak again I aim to continue being Juno, 4. Brains journey [1]but with a degree of caution about the colours I wear in distinct hostelries about town. The search for the long-lost SA tradition will continue (though it can look and taste pretty good at times); and I do believe that Fat-Freddie-Cat is consuming what remains of the pint next to it! Cheers.

Culinary adornment

Stay out [4]

So, that’s where the ancestors went wrong… a 25 foot high solid wall clearly wasn’t enough to keep the historic hordes of marauding cats out, particularly at banqueting time. Cardiff discovers that every good castle needs the unfathomable wisdom of an ugly Health & Safety intervention. Just add a 10 foot high steel fence, and you too can commune with your local population, delivering a message that something special is happening here, but you’re not invited!

Stay out [5]

Clearly somebody forgot to tell Batman… a fence and a high visibility cone threat will do nothing to deter a super hero with a skateboard. As for the subtle human addition to the high-vis security… just set your egg-timer to suss out the frequency of patrols by plods-on-wheels cycling the whole perimeter of the prolateriat-diner-exclusion-zone…

Stay out [6]

So, what is all the fuss about, you ask? NATO are holding a summit… somewhere else!!! Yes, the summit is in Newport, about 15 miles away. Maybe, my reader, you have been to Newport, in which case you know it doesn’t need anything added in order to be twinned with cold war Berlin, or the present day West Bank or Gazza Strip! Cardiff largely ignores its scruffier little neighbour, and instead casts its ambitions wider by adapting the model of the Green Line in Nicosia, Cyprus, with a contemporary version of their no-man’s land.

Stay out [3]

It seems that dining out just got very expensive for all the residents of Cardiff, even though they will not be invited to the table themselves. The grandest nosh on the planet takes place in the setting of Cardiff Castle, providing the main distraction for world leaders desperate to get together to say nothing of any significance about a whole load of very significant world issues. As an exclusive meal it takes some beating, with a leeked preview (is that the Welsh version of ‘leaked’?) of the indigenous menu of laver bread starter…

    … cawl main, and Welsh cakes for pudding…

 

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… all washed down with a pint of Brains finest SA.

4. Brains journey [1]

The unanswered conundrum is why a meal that lasts no more than a few hours requires a month of security measures? Until we speak again send you answers nailed to the forehead of a peaceful protester to a somewhat disillusioned Juno.

funny cats   [Thanks to http://www.sodahead.com as the source of this image, and gypsy-willow.com for the previous food images].

Key to a kiss

This adopted home of mine has a seemingly insatiable capacity to draw out the most unexpected of emotions from time to time. Take the other day, there I was minding my own business, gently sashaying along the boulevard… a cool cat in shades with a gentle breeze through the whiskers, when I am arrested by a heart fluttering vision. Being in the heart of the renovated old industrial docklands my first thought was of a site of romantic antiquity, a monument for the demarcation of a long forgotten industrial love story… thoughts drifting to the romantic melting pot that was Tiger Bay, a mere palpitation away across the railway tracks.

Key to a kiss [2]Curvy, groovy, and altogether suggestive of tender moments spent with the cat you love. A reminder that us cats may spend time in territorial seclusion, but thrive most when we are lost in thoughts of others… particularly those with the special quality of occupying almost every waking moment. Step aside Paris, take a break Venice, the capital of romance has found a new candle-lit table to gaze across. As the warm sun bathes my coat I am left to ponder whether this is a clue as to why my ‘in-house failed romantic‘ decided on a return to their spiritual home of Cardiff  was it a search following love lost for the potential to be re-ignited by some unexpected magical tryst. Nope, I guess it was just the pure romance of economics, and a pint of Brains SA!

The Blade My A

 

So, my message from the heart of Cardiff to all you cats who decide your lives from the head, is to occasionally listen from the heart… you may just be surprised by what could change and transform your bowl into a banquet.

Then again, if you can’t spare a kiss for the one you love, I can offer you the alternative of my furry rump, along with a cut-throat razor for re-shaping some of your thinking!

Until we speak again this has been Romancer Juno, and sick bags will be provided on request.

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.

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.