Why go to Newport?

If Newport is the answer I would have to be very curious as to what was the question! Well, it’s the christmas season, so how do we get to avoid all of those obsessive bargain hunters flooding a shopping centre near you, purchasing all those things they don’t need just because the marketers have substantially dropped the price? It turns out that a couple of cats in the City Arms in Cardiff decided that Newport was the best way of avoiding the strange seasonal habits of the human race.

So three Cardiff-based cats… Yours Truly, Fat Freddies and The Banker (aka India Pale, Chocolate Stout and Organic Cider) set out to investigate…

Ye Olde Murenger House [4]Could it be that Newport has the highest respect for preserving its history? Here’s a novel way of showcasing those spare circa 1530 inns you happen to have lying around down the road from your railway station. Ye Olde Murenger House is so old that everything around it is either closed down or falling down!

Ye Olde Murenger House [1]

Perhaps it’s the modesty of the locals that shines through? Though when a place is often thought of as a beer desert you would be well advised to listen to local wisdom…

Ye Olde Murenger House [2]

Is it the haute cuisine that attracts inquisitive travellers from quite simply miles (well yards) around? The antidote to turkey is probably best found elsewhere…

Ye Olde Murenger House [3]

How about the courteous service? Though my ‘intrepid lotion-guzzler’ suggested that The Lamb has had an interesting recent makeover, providing pleasant surroundings, tasty beer, and perhaps a new innovation in the form of self-service (due to customer invisibility at a distance of a couple of yards). It was probably the desperate efforts to achieve a re-fill that got in the way of any photographic evidence of the makeover.

Or, is it the hotbed of sporting achievement that encourages mere mortals to simply look on in awe? Nuff said…

Newport v Plymouth [2]Truth be known, The Banker has been long exiled in Cardiff from somewhere mysteriously unnamed in south Devon, and has waited more than 66 years to watch the boyhood local team (Plymouth Argyle). Out of pure unadulterated respect the home team, Newport County, lost the match 2-1 not to spoil the occasion. The Banker has the truly unrivalled record of 100% success (take that Leicester City FC fans, with your altitude-induced nose-bleeds at the top of the Premier League!).

Call this food!Until we speak again I intend to be Bella, content with the thought that I can employ a personal envoy to represent me when trips to places such as Newport are on the agenda! Though my ‘ignominious traveller’ claims to have had an enjoyable day in the grunge capital of Europe. Please form an orderly queue when making your unnecessary purchases for temporary pleasures at over-filled emporia near you.

Requiem for peace

Since being dragged from the maelstrom of London life to the comparatively slower paced Cardiff, by the one who strangely believes themselves to own me, I have come to consider my home as a place of tranquility and peace by the sea. Little did I realise just how much the face of peace was dramatically changing. It seems to me that peace used to be achieved slowly by degrees; but now it is commanded by decrees! Cardiff Bay has played host to a gentle sign of peace since March 2012, when the World Harmony Peace Statue was unveiled, with particular recognition of Cardiff’s role as one of the first multicultural centres in the UK…

World Harmony Peace Statue [1]

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Listening in on the radio to daily news reports suggested to me a world out there, beyond Cardiff, that was altogether less calm… known to many as Newport! Then there has been the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a symbol of post World War II peace, coming to places near me and radically shifting my picture of what peace looks like as the 21st century progresses (if progress is the right implication!). Who would have thought it… that a bunch of world leaders could come to Newport and Cardiff and create even more wind and hot air than the usual incumbents of Cardiff Bay down at the Senedd (Welsh Government building)?

So, what does peace look like in this contemporary world of ours? For a start, the World Harmony Peace Statue now appears to need protective fences and security personnel of its own…

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And just in case that isn’t enough, the Bay plays host to water-based hardware from around Europe, with the UK warship HMS Duncan and the French warship La Motte-Picquet, among many others, providing the neighbouring Dr Who Experience plenty of reasons to maintain a lower than usual profile…

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Those pesky shoppers in the city centre also seem to need a bit more control exerting over their more exuberant tendencies, completed off with some new high profile ‘retail flow management systems’, and something approaching a personally allocated police officer for every individual shopper…

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Stay out [2]

If you hold any concerns that peace and harmony might just be the type of ethereal concepts that can easily slip from your grasp… no such problem anymore. There is nothing like a few hundred yards of shiny metal for corralling peace and harmony into more easily manageable geography…

Stay out [1]

But even a brave cat like me wasn’t going to point a camera phone in the faces of these guys, brought in specially to smile and chat with the locals as they were going about the usual business of strolling around a city centre [With thanks to BBC News Online and Flickr Images]:

Armed police in CardiffArmed police    Then you can always instil a little peace into the grumbling locals with a colourful display of Red Arrows like hardware. Nothing like a pretty distraction for contemporary camera-phone society, giving the local residents something to bore the world of social media with for an attention span approaching a few seconds, until the next snippet of inane celebrity gossip hits the airwaves [thanks to Mike Griffiths on Twitter for the image]:

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Juno face

 

So, my prospective war-mongerers, until we speak again this is President Juno offering you the international feline salute of peace, and instructing you to be harmonious and peaceful.

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].

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):

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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.