Blue sky thinking

Why cats dont like waterCardiff has a researched reputation for being the wettest city in the UK, but any cats put off by a little water need not worry about visiting the city. For a start, 60% of days in the year don’t experience any rainfall! What’s more, on a few of these Cardiffians have even been known to recognise the sun as some mysterious bright sphere in the sky.

So that got me thinking about all of the wonderful sights around the world that are framed by a deep blue sky. And, you know what, Cardiff can rival each of them on its day.

Take Dubrovnik in Croatia, for example. The old port looks quite stunning when viewed on a sunny day…

Old Port [8]But then, so does the old port in Cardiff, given a chance…

Cardiff Bay sweep 6As for a view of the Sponza Palace framing the blue stuff…

Sponza palace [2] Just try out the Millennium Stadium for size…

Inside Millenium Stadium [1]

Then there is the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, or the Bell Tower in Hydra (Greece); all very perpendicular, or phallic, depending on your outlook…

Koutoubia Mosque [2]Bell Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But any unsuspecting seagull soaring over the Bute East Dock in Cardiff had better maintain supreme surveillance, if a headache is to be avoided…

Sit and spin on that

As for historic finery, the Duomo in Milan has few rivals…

Duomo from bus tour

But don’t underestimate the majesty of Cardiff City Hall either…

City Hall [2]

Raffles City in Singapore and the Lippo Tower in Hong Kong may stake their claims for attracting the awe of passing visitors…

Raffles CityBank of China & Lippo Tower 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, be prepared to be stunned when you meander around Cardiff Bay to see the Pierhead Building

Pierhead Building

Until we speak again, enjoy your travels, but don’t forget to admire the beauty that exists closer to home!

 

The Battle of Christmas

What's that?It’s the time of year when families get together and try desperately not to beat the crap out of each other, or so I’m told; as mine is brimful of decorum.

‘In-house numpty’s’ Junior 2.0  has just left after a visit across xmas, so now we can return to drawing our usual battle lines… they don’t share enough of the good food, and I might just miss the litter tray on the odd occasion!

Must remember not to go so far as to make it look like some serious disease-thing though; otherwise I might be dragged off to the vet in that strange cage thing left out in the passageway as some kind of humanoid threat. Is that the best they can do?

Anyway, I digress with these deliciously wicked thoughts and future plans of retribution. “Tis the season to be jolly” they keep saying on the talking box in the corner of the room. What was more interesting on my recent visit to the local mega cultural centre (aka the Millennium Centre) was a true recognition of the challenge this time of year presents for so many people. It seems that one of the key messages in Cardiff this year reflects a sense of reality… seasons greetings are reserved ‘Only for the Brave’!

Brave xmasUntil we speak again this Bella is puzzling over what the overhead spectre in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff is meant to represent. Any suggestions welcomed on the back of a postcard.

Home made

You looking at me?As I happen to be a cool cat born in Cardiff it was only reasonable that I should educate this wanderer resident who I find occupying my new home. I understand they left this wonderful city for some strange reason, and then returned after many years. Well, I suppose original errors can be overlooked when action is taken to rectify the stupidity! Anyway, I digress, and not for the last time I’m sure… so what should I begin my tenure of Juno’s View with? I am Bella, and as I’m 100% home grown today I’m going to let you in on another home grown gem… come with me on a stroll around the Millennium Centre.

Slinking my way down Lloyd George Avenue towards the Bay I can’t help but stop in my tracks as I take in the visual invitation drawing me towards this shiny shed…

Millenium Centre 2‘In These Stones Horizons Sing’… whatever that is supposed to mean. Personally, I don’t give a bag of mouses’ tails for much of what goes on in the way of performances in this place, except the staging of ‘Cats’ of course. Oh, and possibly ‘The Lion King’, but that sounds a bit scary to me. As a sophisticated cat I understand how some of you humans get caught up in what you like to think of as ‘culture’, but for all of your opera, ballet and classical concerts, I am initially interested in the architectural wonder  of the building itself.

Millenium Centre 3

This is a home grown building, designed by Jonathan Adams a local architect with Percy Thomas Architects, and made of Welsh materials throughout… the metals, slate, wood and glass. The part that first catches the eye is the great metal frontage, a bronze coloured dome clad in steel and treated with copper oxide to cope with the less than wonderful climate of Cardiff Bay (think rain, and add some; not conditions conducive for us self-respecting fur paraders).

Then there is the slate; five separate colours of Welsh slate each from a different Welsh slate quarry…

Millenium Centre 6Another home grown eminence, Ivor Novello, seems impressed as he sits quietly taking in the ambience of the Bay, or is he distractedly looking over his shoulder scanning the area for other Cardiff cool cats?

Just as we can see on the outside so we see the same on the inside, a good use of natural materials in their natural condition. Bands of hardwood give the natural look, with oak, ash, beech, sycamore, alder, birch, chestnut and cherry wood from sustainable Welsh sources…

Inside Millenium Centre [3]

Inside Millenium Centre [4]

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Millenium Centre [1]

 

 

 

Inside Millenium Centre [5]

 

 

 

 

 

Metal dominates the reception area, but steel columns topped with lights also give an impression of tree-like structures within the wide open spaces. Clearly this is a home made statement of architectural intent, even though the site has a history of architectural diplomatic turmoil. A world leading Iranian female architectural cat (Zaha Hadid) was less than pleased to have won the original design competition but fail to get the financial backing to get her ideas built. Apparently she doesn’t want anything to do with Cardiff again… some cats just don’t know how to lose with grace!

Riveting

 

As for my first post, I hope you found it as riveting as the covered entrance to the Millennium Centre. Riveting… get it!

Until we speak again I’m going to continue to be Bella, and you have my permission to continue being whoever you happen to be. Feel free to let me know what is man made in and around your life.

 

Cardiff at night

I can’t ever remember seeing Juno down a coal mine in the middle of the night, but being as she was a black cat, and if the situation had arisen, then I guess it would have been an encounter along the lines of this…

black-cat-eyes-cute-pet-cat-desktop-pictures-cute-1538612781

Cardiff at night on the other hand, has the ability to offer less predictable images. Firstly, for all of you Led Zeppelin fans out there (and I include myself as one of you) there is always the ‘Stairway to who knows where?’

Smart stairs

In this case it leads to one of those surreal Dr Who type of experiences (Cardiff being the home of the Dr Who Experience of course!). Those cunning Daleks seem to have mastered the art of disguise…

Smart Way [2]

If it’s culture that you’re looking for, beware, the writing just could be on the wall…

Millenium Centre night front [1]

While London Underground may have cornered the use of ‘Mind the gapCardiff has an altogether more sophisticated take on warning you of large gaps…

Atrium [4]

Strolling along The Hayes you might just get an indication that this is the wrong time of day to check out a book…

The Hayes [3]

Or anything else come to think of it, as the enticingly colourful welcome only draws you towards closed doors…

The Hayes [1]

But you can rely on the ancient old St John’s Church to give you an eery indication that the day is done…

St John's Church

So, with your car safely parked out of sight, the only message left is to wish you the best form of relaxation to finish off the twilight stroll…The Big Sleep

Until we speak again this has been a meditation on finding the light in the moments of darkness!

[With thanks to fansshare.com for sharing the cats eyes image].

Wind Power

Wind turbines: Wind turbines 'killed goats' by depriving them of sleep    As an indoor cat I don’t usually give much thought to the whole issue of renewable energy supplies, so long as at this time of year my in-house heating engineer remembers to turn the damn radiators on. But, there I was one day, minding my own business and continually being  
interrupted by the background noise of some BBC Radio programmes, when some political dude starts rapping on about the state of the planet, and how all you humans are ruining it for cats like us. Plotting an escape

Now I’m not averse to a little breeze around the whiskers from time to time, but this whole wind power thing seemed to be political dude’s answer to all of our problems. Only for a whole bunch of what were called NIMBY’s (Not in my back yard) to phone in proclaiming nothing but an ugly end to our beautiful environment. It seemed to a sophisticated cat like me that the whole political thing generates enough wind to keep me going in cat food for an eternity.

Then it dawned on me… perhaps local politics held a solution! With all of the recent passionate UK attention generated by politics in Scotland, followed by the immediate low point of interest generated by a bunch of numpty’s voting in the looney tunes of Ukip in the English constituency of Clacton, Senedd 1perhaps it would be to Wales, and more specifically my adopted home of Cardiff that we should turn for sustainable sources of wind.
There it was, right on my doorstep, the beached wooden stingray, aka The Senedd, aka the home of the Welsh Assembly… the ultimate source of hot air dressed up as a local seat of power!

On closer inspection it would appear the design of the building, whilst admirably made up of home grown sustainable sources of wood, steel and slate, also had the structural foresight for the job… the politicians are densely housed deep in the basement of the building, and directly above them is the large funnel for capturing the hot air…

Senedd [7]

Senedd [1]

Whilst panoramic views of Cardiff Bay are afforded out of the glass-lined walls, I couldn’t help but think that this also doubled-up as a means of bringing light into proceedings on those occasions when the incumbent politicians were away from their energy-sapping deliberations, desperately searching for the elusive voter.

Senedd [4]

It seems like all of the heat and air generated by debates on the relationship between the Westminster bubble and the Cardiff Bay mushroom has caused structural damage through severe bowing of The Senedd roof…Senedd [8]

… so my next question is where to store all of this wind power to ensure our sustainable energy supplies? The Millenium Stadium has a closable roof and vast acres of space… what goes on in there most of the time? Until we speak again this has been Political Juno engaging the wrath of a nation’s rugby fans.

Great place for a litter tray

Cardiff Beach 1

Ok, before the health and safety ayatollahs get onto me, I am not really going to use the sand of the new artificial beach down at Cardiff Bay as a litter tray (at least not during the day!). But it did come as surprise to me as I was strutting around the bay to suddenly be confronted by a mix of sand, water, funfair rides and the usual trappings of a bona fide beach where there used to be an open space in front of the Millenium Centre. It seems Cardiff is not the first, as European cities as well as London, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham have already stumbled upon similar ideas… though I never thought of a day by the beach when I was in East or South-East London.

Well, I suppose if the United Arab Emirates can build cities in the desert, then why shouldn’t Cardiff bring sand to the city? If I was being ungenerous, I might suggest a sand-pit has been placed next to a paddling pool. But judging from the crowds, and other good reviews, this seems like a great idea that should become an annual event:

Cardiff Beach 5Cardiff Beach 6Get those handkerchiefs knotted at the four corners, get the trouser legs rolled up, there is a deck chair with your name on it if you beat the crowds… well it isn’t quite St.Tropez yet. We even have another British summer quirk to set the right scene… a ‘scorchio’ of a July with temperatures into the 30’s bode well for a summer at the beach, but no sooner does the attraction open on 27th July (until 1st September) and we get clouds, lower temperatures and showers! Still, pack your shades and brollies, beachwear and plastic macs; its time to do what the Brits do best, and stoically hope that your few hours on the sand will be the few that get the sun.

Cardiff Beach 8

It doesn’t seem to have dampened too many spirits so far… and as I was strolling under the boardwalk I reflected back on days spent up the pool, to times spent on the dunes, and like a stranger on the shore there was nothing quite like being on the beach. I have been Juno your bayside DJ, see you again soon.

Tumbleweed Junction

As a sophisticated cat I have always had a liking for the dramatic entrance. So you will no doubt share my recent dismay as I was strolling around the iconic Cardiff Bay (or Bae Caerdydd for those of you who want to know nearly as much Welsh as me). People seemed very relaxed as they sipped their cappuccino’s and cool beers, gazing out over the sun-drenched waters where the waves form a shimmering dance only briefly interrupted by a passing pleasure boat. The Millenium Centre glistens in various shades of gold and bronze, and the Pierhead Building projects a bold gothic majesty in red, facing out towards the seven seas. The Senedd houses whatever it is that government does these days, as we all look up in wonder at the weird funnel shape on its roof, waiting for the puff of white smoke that will signify that something useful has been uttered inside.

The Bay 2:13

Such a mesmeric place deserves a grand entrance… but if you are arriving by train the only item that probably would escape the call of the council tip is the somewhat less than inviting welcome sign at the station:

Tumbleweed Junction 6

Now, originating from London I am used to the idea of run-down places looking to re-invent themselves. Everywhere you look is trying to become a new centre of leisure… the newest place to drink coffee and buy loads of stuff you don’t need. But, you at least need to make an effort at the front end of the business if you want to attract the punters in (that’s a free business tip I will pass on to you from Sean, who we met last time I spoke with you).

Let’s take the St. Pancras and Kings Cross area of London for example… it has a long way to go to catch up with the development of Cardiff Bay, but they are working on transforming the area behind the stations (previously known more for the pleasures of the night, available 24/7 so I am told, by sources who were told, by sources who might have been in the know, or not). As you approach St. Pancras you are greeted by a very imposing building:

St Pancras Station 1

Meanwhile, back at Cardiff Bay you could be forgiven for not feeling, well, imposed upon:

Tumbleweed junction [1]

The station entrance at St. Pancras radiates a sense of the opulence that might just be lurking within:

St Pancras Station 2

Whereas that at Cardiff Bay just lurks:

Tumbleweed junction [5]

Furthermore, gazing up at the roof structure tells a further story of the fine detail that goes into making a building that will inevitably dazzle all who come into it. For St. Pancras there is one of the world’s great iron roof arches:

St Pancras 2

Meanwhile, for Cardiff Bay there is a clear statement of being at one with nature, a place where conservation of the natural environment takes precedence over the demands of the built environment:

Tumbleweed junction [3]

And then there is the issue of time… where iconic clocks are designed to draw your attention and help to order your day. For St. Pancras there is no mistaking the clock above the platform entrances:

St Pancras 5As for Cardiff Bay you may be forgiven again for having to search around a bit (there is a working clock on the building across the road in the picture), or perhaps make sure you haven’t forgotten your watch!

Tumbleweed Junction 14Now, us cats may seem like we spend most of the day snoozing in between serious bouts of sleeping, but we still have a strong appreciation for irony. Perhaps there is a deliberate plan in Cardiff that travellers arriving for the first time to witness the delights of Mermaid Quay and the Bay, are invited to take a somewhat Narnia-like transition ‘from the ironic to the iconic’.

Even the modes of transport between our comparative sites have something to say about these two places… take St.Pancras for example, you always have a chance to be travelling on one of the country’s leading ‘iconic’ Javelin trains:

St Pancras 4Whereas, down at Cardiff Bay station, every 12 minutes you get the chance to see and travel on the ironic ‘bubble car’ train, as it is described on the Wikipedia page for our somewhat rusty and dilapidated ‘gateway’ to the Bay.

Tumbleweed Junction 12The history books tell us that this station down the Bay was the site of the first steam train in South Wales, and for that it has become a listed building. What we don’t need the history books for is the reason why, if you are coming from Cardiff Queen Street to the Bay (the only two stations on this line), the best thing to do on a dry day is… walk!

The Bay will never have or need a St. Pancras style station, but to a casual laid back cat, this is not a building I would seek shade under, for fear of the building itself being so laid back it might just collapse on me. An iconic station could be small scale and innovative in design, or probably even restoring the current pile to something reflecting its history. I have been Juno, sharing a little social comment with you until we meet again soon.