Victorian Folly

I thought Cardiff Castle was enough of a Victorian Folly, but just take a stroll a couple hundred yards back from the seafront of Brighton, and let your biscuit be taken!

So, why go to India when you can experience ‘it’ without so much of the heat and humidity? Who needs authenticity these days… Chicken Korma anyone!?

Until we speak again, Brighton Pavilion offers the kind of India you are unlikely to find in… err… India!

War of the Worlds

Could that be one of the Martian killing machines lurking in the foliage? Surely the good people of Tongwynlais in South Wales will come to the defence in such times of threat to the planet.

Until we speak again, Castell Coch is well situated to surveil any prospective marauders… whether they be inquisitive Cardiff folk daring to venture towards the wild lands of the South Wales Valleys, or maybe even misguided Martians‘ in search of intelligent life!

Hidden in plain sight

Ever wondered “What is in there?” as you glance up at shuttered windows; or you see most lights are on, but one room seems to be bathed in the mystery of darkness.

It would hardly be a thought worth thinking as you gaze over at a city centre Burger King joint, as late night revellers are acoustically invading your alcohol-infused imagination…

Outside at night

But, thanks to a recent ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ TV documentary, by the adventurer/writer Will Millard, the secrets of the 300 year old Green Dragon pub are briefly revealed. The building now largely occupied by a Burger King hides the only remnant of a bygone past… The Mahogany Room.

Inside [1]

Apparently, this ornate delight is obscured from public gaze for health & safety reasons (personally I think that could be more to do with the other current occupier!).

Inside [2]

Here is where the alcohol-infused imaginations of Cardiff’s former great and good discussed the pressing civic matters of the day, and made the decisions that would shape the growth of the would-be capital city of Wales.

Inside [3]

Alas, the premise of the ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ TV programme was that the city, unlike many of its English and Scottish counterparts, has not been very good at valuing its past history and architecture. It prefers to give an outward impression of the new and shiny, either destroying or hiding many of its gems. And The Mahogany Room is a classic example of such a cultural crime…

Inside [4]

Until we speak again, if your gaze is halted by closed shutters or images of darkness surrounded by pools of light, Juno and Bella would have reminded you to summon up your alcohol-infused imaginations!

Cool cats in Cardiff

Was that the ghost of Juno I saw looming over the Cardiff skyline the other day?

St Johns Church [3]

It’s funny how a distorted photograph can spark strange connections in the imagination. So, no, it turns out it was one of those rare ‘old’ buildings in the city. A recent TV programme called ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ set out the premise that the city cares little for its past, with the exception of Cardiff Castle and St. John’s Church. And the Juno vision turned out to be St. John’s Church

Night [1]

The original church was thought to have been built in 1180. But there is a certain irony in the above photograph, as it was ransacked by a rebellion led by Owain Glyndwr in 1404, and rebuilt later in the 15th century in the form it now takes… looking down on the Owain Glyndwr pub (as any ‘good’ beer lover would!).

It also seems to be a particularly ideal location for a somewhat pastoral ignoring of any fireworks across the pond in celebration of the American Declaration of Independence!

Old Cardiff pic [2]

Talking of distorted photographs and strange connections in the imagination… my New Orleans sojourns of 2017 have heightened my sensibilities to the presence of cool cats; and I recently noticed an example of the genre providing a different type of congregation at the site of St. John’s Church

Jazz band and St John's [1]

Until we speak again, listen out for Bass Twelve if you happen to be around Cardiff; or, if not, simply enjoy imaginary meanderings of your own!

Portsmouth: what’s the point?

Apart from it being the largest place in the UK I hadn’t visited up to this moment, why was I even here? Is there a point to Portsmouth?

Porstmouth Point sign

Well, I guess if you like boats it’s okay. On first impressions, the parts worth visiting have got harbour and dockyard written all over them; but what’s with the local sailor types dangling over the yardarms singing sea shanty’s?

Singing sailors

The word to keep at the forefront of your mind is ‘old’, as the aquatic warblers in the picture above are sailing into the harbour passed Old Portsmouth (where you will also see the aforementioned Portsmouth Point plaque). But, if you want a linguistic upgrade, this is definitely the place to try out ‘historic’.

The Historic Dockyards may well be the point of Portsmouth these days; catering to all manner of oldy boaty stuff. If you lament the loss of the British Empire, (or simply want to indulge some Brexit style Euro hatred), then HMS Victory will transport your imagination back to times when good old Blighty ruled the waves (with balls to the French, and all that kind of malarkey)…

HMS Victory [10]

HMS Victory [8]

Then again, if your passion is for doing creative things with leftover damp pieces of wood from the times of Henry VIII, try out the stunning Mary Rose exhibition…

 

 

 

 

For those who flunked in their woodwork skills, but prefer a bit of heavy metal, HMS Warrior 1860 has you covered. There is nothing like seeing a steam driven warship that never fired a single shot in anger for bringing out the pacifist in you! Come to think of it, the macrame specialists amongst you may even get some inspiration regarding what to do with all that surplus rope you meant to throw over the garden wall under the cover of darkness…

Moored aptly just outside of the historic dockyard is a 21st century wonder… a brand new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, with not an aircraft in sight! A great hunk of gun grey metal sits quietly representing Britain’s threat to the world. Just you wait Johnny Foreigner, as soon as we get out of Europe we will scare the world into signing free trade deals with us; or else we will recall the glorious ghost of Lord Palmerston!

Once you have exhausted yourselves spending a day around the historic dockyard, Portsmouth is not short on Historic Dickyards either! Wonderfully inviting port-side pubs simply ooze character and charm… but beware, the charm usually stops at the facade, because if you like your characters drunk and falling backwards off bar stools at 9.30pm, then this is the place for you…

Ship Anson at night [1]

At night [3]

Those of you who have managed to remain transfixed so far by this travelogue may well have just seen a glimpse of the point of Portsmouth! Just about anywhere you go near the waterside, you can’t help but see the spiky pointy thing…

And the point of Portsmouth has even been known to have a little added spice, particularly for those interested in mutual tonsil polishing!

At night [1]

If you don’t mind a bit of elevation, the views from the top can even help you plan your itinerary…

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Until we speak again, this sea-faring extravaganza has just reminded me that the oldies are still good; for example, what is brown and steaming and comes out of the back end of Cowes? No, behave…

IOW Ferry sign

That’s the Isle of Wight ferry for the uninitiated.

Assault by noodles!

Is it a cafe or is it a pub? Only one way to find out I guess…

The Ship & Castle in Portsmouth is a quirky place, to be sure. Situated directly opposite the main gate to the Historic Dockyard, you would expect something nautical and historical to inform its character and ambience, wouldn’t you? Well, you get something that is long and narrow, maybe that’s like a boat, I suppose?  Then there is the rope tightly wound around the base of a couple of metal pillars… exponents of sailing paraphernalia may genuflect with respect…

Ship and Castle [5]

So, I decided I would go for the fish-like part of the menu, so I could at least pretend to myself that I was eating in the historic heart of nautical England.

Ship and Castle [4]

The Teriyaki Salmon and Roasted Vegetables were cooked to ensure scurvy would be far from any landlubbers mind. But, beware the crispy noodles! You can’t eat them whole, but when you try to cut them with traditional eating irons, they ping everywhere. The experience of being assaulted by your own food was not listed on the menu, but adds a worthy distraction from the watery thin Young’s London Gold liquid accompaniment.

Ship and Castle [3]

Until we speak again, there might well have been a backdrop of an old metal anchor outside the window, but look elsewhere if you want authentic nautical history infusing your your choice of vittles.

‘Titanic’ for dinner, anyone?

A trip to Belfast shouldn’t induce any kind of sinking feeling, even when you are greeted with a sign that could easily be directing you to some dismal place at the bottom of the Atlantic

Road sign

There is a distinct landmark offered by the twin cranes, Samson and Goliath, of Harland and Wolff providing a beacon to draw you towards the location where the Titanic was built (even when gazing out of the hotel window).

However, these are a relatively modern monument to past industrial glory (circa 1969). Back in the day, the Titanic was built in a backdrop of harsher times, and the following pictures contrast a vision of the early 20th century with the present day exact location of its construction (actually marked out in detail on the ground)…

In a world where everything that is rooted to the spot can now be classified as a museum, to something or another, the Titanic has been commemorated by a particularly spectacular building, where every dimension and use of materials symbolises something about the original short-lived icon…

Museum building [1]

Museum building [3]

But, what about that dinner? Well, you could try the Bistro in the museum itself. My time was limited so I sampled the wares of the sleekly designed Premier Inn hotel. After all, some of us are visiting Belfast for work purposes you know (with a wonderful welcome from the Belfast Home Treatment Team)!

Premier Inn

Here, a Sirloin Steak can be adequately complemented by a glass of a Malbec Reserva. Just remember, when your waitress asks if you would like water with it, the reply is ‘NO ICE’!

Premier Inn steak

Until we speak again, you surely didn’t expect a carnivorous cat to ask for a vegetarian steak, did you!? For the record, unlike on that horrendous day in April 1912, only one animal suffered in the making of this blog post.