Kindness of strangers

Within all the horror of terrorist attacks, most recently Manchester and London in the UK, the abiding strongest message is the reporting of how strangers stop to help each other. But my recent travelling experiences to the USA have shown me that this is not only a response to terrorism.

Travelling solo to New Orleans and Chicago has left me with a great sense of how strangers are more than happy to meet, share thoughts and experiences, and are usually welcoming of people from different backgrounds.

So, to Victoria, Tom and Gayle in New Orleans, Laila in Biloxi, Steve in California, Bob in Massachusetts, Charlotte in Chicago, and Gayle and her sisters from Wisconsin… a special thanks for making a strangers travels a truly jazz funk of an experience…

Jazz Funk guys at RF's

And any blues were of the most welcoming kind (why, here is Buddy Guy in person!)…

Buddy Guy in person [2]

So until we speak again, to Jazz, Blues and all other musical cats everywhere, let the music do the communicating, as it spreads the love better than anything else! And celebrate the kindness of strangers.

They do things very strange…

Juno was always very clear… “The beach is a place for dogs, don’t bother me with all of that sand and sea stuff.” And I have to agree, I’ve seen plenty of dogs being walked on or near beaches (don’t forget those pooper scoopers dog owners!), but a cat on a lead flouncing across the dunes is something that belongs only in the strange recesses of the imagination.

On a recent visit to the infamous Barry Island in South Wales (for anyone who has seen the UK TV programme Gavin & Stacey) I was reminded of a lyric by one of my favourite bands of all time… Steely Dan“Over there in Barrytown they do things very strange”. So, maybe a cat on a lead, blah-blah-blah…

Following on from the unseasonal wintery start to this June a couple of days ago, it was good to experience Barry Island’s ability to create a mysterious draw of that sea and sand. It has the ability to entice all living creatures (except feline’s it would appear):

Barry [8]

But the sea here is not for the faint-hearted; my memory of childhood visits was of a hike to get to it, and that still seems to be the case. Juno would certainly not have been the slightest bit inquisitive about something so wet that was also a distance away. It seems that people only travel to it in packs these days!

Barry [4]

However, for students of classical architecture, you might think that Barry Island has the doric column vibe going, in order to stimulate those with an interest in culture:

Barry [1]

But close up… you begin to see the cultural vibe is more of the ‘they do things very strange’ (or even ‘Gavin & Stacey’, who are serially referenced in this arcade):

Barry [6]

It is safe to say that many things at Barry Island have not changed since those long forgotten days of my childhood. A fading but familiar sign might have been the subject to prick up Juno’s ears, something to do with food. John’s is still going:

John's cafe [1]

Though a few spare penny’s wereJohn's cafe [2] lavished on the entrance…

… not too many are required for daily specials:

John's cafe [4]

 

 

 

 

 

 

But for a true stroll down the seaside memory lane, and to prove to the Juno’s of the world that in Barry ‘they [just might] do things very strange’, just gaze at the internal decor:

John's cafe [3]

So until we speak again, enjoy your memory lanes, and feel free to go ahead and do something very strange! Why not let me know about it with a comment on this blog post?

Ton Up

Who said cats can’t write? Welcome to my 101st post in the last 15 months. To celebrate the milestone (or is that millstone?) I have reviewed those moments represented across the first 100 posts. Here are some of my highlights, but who would blame you for summoning up the spectre of Room 101 in which to consign my reminiscences.

Eating al fresco, who doesn’t love it? My favourite meal…

My feast!

Then there are those moments of personal contemplation. But it took a trip to Southend for my favourite philosophical musing (particularly reminding me of the resident numpty)…

Southend [4]

I hear that health & safety has gone completely mad in your human world, but even I was taken aback by the locals need to restrict the age-old childhood rite of passage… tree-climbing:

No tree climbing

The cultural history of Wales has apparently been partly shaped by the fire and brimstone oratory of the Baptist Minister, but my favourite religious moment has to be the shock declaration that even Jesus elaborates on the truth from time to time…

Jesus Loves

But there is no denying that Cardiff has established itself on the world music map, as its many venues play host to top quality talent. My favourite girl band (Pecker and the Birds) played a surprise concert at the little known Bute East Dock venue…

All girl group +1

But while the masses were enjoying themselves at the free concert my favourite burglar was quick to seize on the opportunity to check out any potential opportunities for plunder…

Swan burglary

The penultimate word has to belong to the guy who never stops giving; so tell me Sean, how successful do you think my blog has been so far?

Sean's world

 

Always the harsh critic… in the meantime until we speak again this has been Thespian Juno wishing you many more moments of literary and visual enjoyment.

Two cats go to Newport

If you have never had the experience of being in a war zone look no further than the city centre of Newport on the Gwent coast. The grunge Capital of Europe is known historically for its small unfashionable venues playing host to the likes of Nirvana, the grunge greats of Seatle; and centre for a great many charismatic bands from the Newport hinterland (aka known as South Wales). Rumour has it that the great Van Morrison lived in one of Newport’s prime hotels for some time; and if he hasn’t been seen for a while the hotel is shut and boarded up… who knows?

But today many of those venues are sad boarded up relics, still displaying tattered and torn posters and faded murals of past rocking nights… devastation-chic is the style of the moment. The anthem for the Newport of today is best summed up by the Stereophonics ‘Maybe Tomorrow‘! So, it was with unfocused anticipation that Fat Freddies Cat and I slinked into Newport, where the grey clouds coming in off the channel offered one of the few signs of hope. Many of the pubs offer the attractiveness of a perpetually underfunded homeless hostel, probably providing the very social services support that has been steadily strangled by the good folk of the Westminster village. The coalition government need look no further if they wish to showcase a living ‘Museum of Austerity’, in tribute to a policy of rewarding the rich, in the misplaced belief that the greedy bastards will then cascade their wealth downwards through generous investment.

As I have suggested in a previous post my fellow cat has a nose for the good pub; even if it happens to be an oasis in a desert of Euro-fizz Emporia. And so

ye olde murenger house      we find ourselves at ‘Ye Olde Murengers House’ sipping well kept Sam Smith’s Ales, chomping on some good quality pub nosh, and parting with very few of the standard beer vouchers for the pleasure. This claims to be Newport’s oldest public house, built in the 16th century; but then, so do many others. It can’t be a tourist trick, there aren’t any tourists who venture outside of the iconoclastic tin shed of a new railway station. But this pub has much to recommend it, particularly as an old pub that retains what the good old pubs were largely about, even with locals debating the forthcoming trials and tribulations of the future of the city’s chartist mural.

We could keep refilling our bowls at this fine watering hole, but cats staggering in the mid-afternoon gloom is not a desirable sight. So, what to do on a Saturday afternoon in downtown dereliction? There is a yellow stream flowing across the bridge (no, nothing to do with hours spent gargling the nectar!), so being cats of curiosity we follow… minutes later we are at one of those sporting venues known to very few people anywhere outside of the greater Newport metropolitan area… Rodney Parade. It seems that the old exiles of Newport County, recent victors of the mighty Welsh ‘Battle of Wembley’ (North v South against Wrexham, if you weren’t watching the world-wide coverage back in May), are about to take to the field against the English Riviera minnows of Torquay United.

We venture forward to the ticket office, to be halted in our muted enthusiasm by the dimly lit figure behind the iron bars stating that will be £20 each… Twenty quid! We might have come from Cardiff but do we look like foreign investors making a takeover bid? Do you throw in the keys for the Freedom of the City for that price? ‘Miss Newport 1973′ looks suitably unmoved by the remonstrations, and we walk towards the turnstiles, lighter of cash but grasping the magic tickets that will provide entry to a world of League Two football (real football, as the multitudes who don’t have the option of following the Mighty Bluebirds will quickly claim):

Ticket

So what does real football look like? Here I am with my chair seemingly placed on the pitch (down in this league for your twenty quid you can pretend to be the corner flag). We are all strapped in and ready to go…

Kick offThe problem with Premier League style of play is that teams have to adopt tactics, and play within systems. Down in the real world, when the ball goes missing you can just fire the starting gun and have a good old fashioned race instead, and even the referee joins in (probably benefitting from a head start over players half his age): and they're offAnd the more open stadium means that gusts of wind off the River Usk have the potential to suddenly blow most of the players over, or have they decided it is better to audition as a dance troupe for the old version of ‘Come Dancing’ before it got strict. Fortunately, some of the local houses on the other side of the pitch are suspended on ropes so they can withstand the climatic vicissitudes (not a phrase often associated with the Premier League matches): Gust of wind

 

For the record Newport County won 2-1, so the cats of Cardiff must have brought some of the magic dust along to share with our ‘Old Ironsiders’ cousins. Look out for the continuing rise of Newport up the leagues. I have been Juno, and my elitist Premier League representative will be back to report on another match soon.

In a New York Minute

I have never been one for thinking that close proximity to something means I have to do anything about it. Take music, for example… I have my own in-house D.J. to decide what we listen to, and when. The limit of my exertions are simply to just lie there and reflect on wherever the music takes me. Just the other day I did get a little confused, as Eagles seemed to be soaring indoors but outside there was nothing other than a flock of sea-gulls (think about it music lovers). Suddenly a beautiful version of Don Henley’s ‘New York Minute‘ filled the room:

In a New York Minute

Everything can change 

In a New York Minute

Things can get pretty strange

It is usually described as the period of time between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the driver behind you honking their horn. But it instantly got me thinking about my previous life ‘In a London Minute’, where a similar urgency and madness seems to be born out of people always needing to be somewhere else. For all of you readers afflicted by a similar malady, I say take a minute now and then to just chill-out. You don’t see us cats battling the traffic to get to the gym for yet another yoga class before we need to gargle the falling-down water just to get over the stress of the gym. Whatever you do, don’t try this yoga with cats thing on me, my take on it all is something like this:

More sunshine please

 

Why not take a few hints out of my new life… ‘In a Cardiff Minute’. I might live on the edge of the city centre of a capital city, but I still find it easy to seek out the spaces to be in the moment, without having to do the full Buddhist trip. Come on a journey around my local neighbourhood and see what I mean. No cars allowed down here:

Canal at 14[2]Lily pads [1]As for here, cars are allowed, but this is my kind of rush hour:

Rush hour dream [1]        Rush hour dream [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They say that for a brief period back at the start of the last century this local dock was busier than New York… perhaps the Eagles first song was ‘In a Cardiff Minute’! Now it is where I prefer to practice my trick of walking on water:

Bute East Dock [3] However busy your life might seem, just look out for those still spaces and still moments. You can always check out the mindfulness and meditation websites for ways of chilling on the move… or take a look at the ideas that are set out on the happiness experiment blog. I’ve even trained my personal financial consultant in the ways of the cool cat… when you think about your workspace every office needs a bed:

Office [1]

 

I’m feeling so laid back I almost forgot who I was for a minute. Going back to the early theme of these musings, the Eagles… I am Juno, and until I see you again Take it Easy.