Perverse principles

With the advent of a Premier League season involving the locals just a matter of weeks away, I was struck by the all-important question…

What do you stand for?

Just what is my local city all about? What do we have to offer to the visiting hordes of demented football fans over the next 9 months? Everyone should be aware of the excellent shopping and nightlife, but what about sampling some unique street food?

Street Food seagull

Then there is our stylish way of preserving historic buildings…

Preservation What's left of the docks?

Our principled way of looking after endanger species doesn’t present any conflict with the pursuit of commerce…

Bear shop [2]

This is a place where you can get sea-sick just by standing still and looking at some of the buildings…

Car park [2]

But, we are proud of the fact that our great historical heritage stands tall (well, tall-ish) in the face of the advance of bland modernity…

Insurance [4]

Until we speak again, don’t let the dark gloomy clouds of potential defeat obscure the important decisions…

Bay & City Centre post

Living in La La Land

If there is one thing we can learn from Jeremy Corbyn’s all-new Labour Party it is the folly of short-sighted optimism. Two party election victories combined with an easily won parliamentary bi-election provides the fuel for the activists to spark their delusional ideas of grandeur into action, with dreams of electoral victory in 2020.

The problem with a burgeoning band of over-enthusiastic activists is their inability to even want to see the bigger picture. Why spoil a beautiful delusion with references to reality? 600,000+ plus members are not going to paper over the cracks of the millions of the wider public who have been previous Labour supporters and who are witness to a plot being lost!

not-supposed-to-happen

Which reminds me, just when the locals win against Aston Villa and Preston North End, with an expected win over the relative minnows of Burton Albion, some of the activists dream of their team rising through the Championship table. Could it be that we are marching towards a play-off position, with dreams of winning a place back in the Premier League at a Wembley play-off final? As night turns to day the deluded dream on…

city-v-prestoncity-v-norwich

Then, along come Norwich City to act as the unwanted reminder that reality comes with a spike to puncture dreams! Cardiff City 0 Norwich City 1.

Until we speak again, Bella dreams of completely different sporting delusions, as the Rugby Six Nations Championship prepares to return to its spiritual home! C’mon Wales!

rugby-cat

OMG!!!

The football season has returned… a whole 10 minutes after the World Cup finished! So my resident ‘confounded optimist‘ is already buying into the pre-season hype of the local team being favourites to win the Championship again, and return to the Premier League (that they flunked so badly last time). The household is already resounding to the soundtrack of cliches and nonsense about the beautiful game returning to fill the void of a whole three weeks of nothing more than post-tournement pre-season tournements specially arranged for the tournement-deprived.

Look, no eyes!If, like me, you are catastrophically underwhelmed by another nine months of over-exagerated hyperbole dressed up as serious punditry delivered by people without a serious thought holding their ears apart, then I have a solution. No, give the Dignitas membership a miss! This season I am allowing the in-house ‘verbosity funnel‘ the chance to list home results, with maybe the occasional stat about the position in the league (for a laugh) and a completely uninteresting photo from the game. As for the endless drivel about the game of two halves… I am taking personal responsibility to provide succinct summaries of each home game in 10 words or less. After all, what more can you say about 22 men kicking balls?

Until we speak again, Pundit Juno is going to be placing every useful pre-season word uttered by ‘them who shalt be ignored‘ end-to-end, just to see if more than two words can actually be strung together! Meeeooow…

Animals and the city

My in-house DJ seems to be regularly blasting an album by Muse at me over recent months, and one track called Animals keeps attracting my reluctant attention. Whilst the actual track is a damnation of the bankers who have recently brought the world to its financial knees, I have had cause to link it more specifically to the mental state of the self-professed musicologist who seems to think it is ok to address more attention to their living soundtrack than the more obvious priority… me!

X-ray eyes

 

Whilst I consider myself to be somewhat superior to your average mammal, I see no particular reason to desert the inevitable challenges and travails of living in a predominantly human oriented urban environment. Why would I want to go scavenging and scrapping for territory and food, when I can just look cute and get it all brought to me on a plate (well in a pathetic bowl, if I am honest)?

So, you will understand my dismay to see all of this local evidence of my animal friends plotting their escape out of Cardiff. Firstly there is The Bear Shop, a Cardiff smokers institution since 1870…

Bear shop [3]

 

 

… yet only now does theBear shop [1] locally famous occupant decide to take a run at the window in an audacious attempt to experience the new largely smoke-controlled environment outside. He must have heard that a million beagles can’t be wrong (but you have to be above a certain age to understand that animal liberation tale).

   And as if dog emancipation wasn’t enough to tax my powers of compassion, I am then reliably informed that a couple of monkeys in the city centre are constructing some form of time-machine, with the aid of English saboteurs from Leeds, to facilitate their potential for escape:

Strange animals 2

 

What did Cardiff ever do to Leeds? Well, apart from claiming to trigger the massive plummeting of their football team from the brink of Premier League football glory in 2002 to third tier ignominy in 2007.

However, nothing could prepare me for the massive animal jail break out of Cardiff Castle. Perhaps it is just a local animal amateur dramatics society re-enactment of the Colditz escape. The William Burges design for the Third Marquis of Bute in 1880’s provides a popular sight for locals and tourists alike around part of the castle wall, but now it seems poor unsuspecting shoppers and tourists would be powerless to evade the ensuing stampede…

Meanwhile, down the Bay, perplexed sea-gulls circle in anguished patrols, determined that their preferred fish suppers remain on the menu, as news gets out that some of the aquatic types have sussed ways of escaping through the barrage:

Cardiff Bay sweep 7Barrage [1]

But, once again, if you are looking for success, even in the arena of escapology it seems we all have to look back to my previous home city of London. Rather mystifyingly, my ‘resident numpty‘ tells me there is terrifying evidence that a super-sized hamster has gone missing!

London Eye [7]  
 London Eye [11]

Personally, I think the only hamster that is really missing is the one that was supposed to be driving the wheel operating the brain of my surrogate scribe! Until we speak again this Juno may be contemplating her own escape, in search of a saner environment.

So, what did we learn?

 

Sharing my home with a dumb animal has some perks, but listening to insane optimism from an inevitably delusional fan about a failure of a football season is not one of them. So I thought I would put the story straight by offering you selected excerpts of my incisive reportage on the plight of the local colour-conflicted Purple Dragonbirds season in the Premier League. If you like football look away now, and if you don’t… read on. What did we learn, and who really cares?

Tiring day at the office

Manchester City (25/8/13) “A football stadium on match day is really just a bunch of overweight folk sat on their arses telling a bunch of fit blokes how to play the game.” There is nothing like a great start to a season to get the lardy types ramping up expectations, and with a 3-2 win for the home team against the mega-wealth of the opposition you just have to look at the final places at the end of the season to get a sense of perspective (Man City are champions, and Cardiff City finish bottom!).

Everton (1/9/13) With a foul inside the penalty area there are conflicting views of whether there should have been a penalty awarded to Everton. “A true football fan sees what they want to see, not necessarily what really happened.”

Tottenham Hotspur (22/9/13) Many players have now come to believe the hype that they are delicate thoroughbreds who, despite their obscene wealth, still need a week off to rest if they have played two matches a week for successive weeks.” The amount of money in the game is beginning to make Monopoly look like a franchise for paupers.

Newcastle United (5/10/13) “A football crowd often resembles 90 minutes brimful of inane shouting and chanting dressed up as collective banter.” But football has its moments, times when the bizarre attempts to pass itself off for normality, as when the world famous Treorchy Male Voice Choir sing Blaydon Races from the half-time pitchside to the travelling Geordie supporters.

Swansea City (3/11/13) Billed as the first South Wales Premier League derby this match resembled more of The Rest of the World v Spain. “The beautiful game arrives in the form of the ‘lovely ugly town’ to be played out in front of 27,000+ magnificently mindless people who don’t quite get how world-definingly meaningless this event is to all but the supporters of each club.” 

Manchester United (24/11/13) “The new default position is one of: if brushed by a breath of air go immediately to ground as if felled by a sledgehammer.” Since the turn of the century the once revered Newton Health (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) FC have succumbed to European trade descriptions for the game, and are now occasionally known as the Trafford Park Diving Club, noted more for the tuck and pike movements of some of their overpaid individuals, a somewhat balletic and artistically horizontal game plan disparagingly referred to as cheating by opposing fans.

Arsenal (30/11/13) “The visitors have expanded their reputation from one of ‘petit France’ to a more UKIP offending pan-European blend of team, but as with most European institutions the style can tend towards the over-elaborate with an emphasis on process sometimes to the detriment of the end product.” The locals do love a humble returning son, so Aaron Ramsey gets the rare accolade of a standing ovation on his return to his original club, and further applause for scoring against them. Uncharacteristically, their manager, Arsene Wenger, saw that (a football insiders joke).

West Bromwich Albion (14/12/13) “With christmas looming ever closer the ghosts of Premier Past, Premier Present and Premier Future align to offer difficult omens for the local’s hero Malky Mackay, particularly as a Jacob Marley-like image imposes itself over the stadium. Or is it just Vincent Tan preparing to give Malky an internal examination?” 

Southampton (26/12/13) A match mired in off the field on-going disputes between club owner and team manager promises little in the way of christmas spirit. “Ultimately what emerges is nothing more than a megalomaniac-inspired, finance-confused, football knowledge free-zone, pantomime of farcical proportions. The ragged band who make up the local team seem as clear in their style of play as the club and fans do about agreeing on the team’s shirt colour.”

Sunderland (28/12/13) When a team is devoid of confidence they even contrive to throw away a 2-0 lead when they have dominated the opposition. As the cliche goes, ‘the game is not over until the final whistle’. “The Oompa Loompa from Kuala Lumpur might just be the son of satan, but one thing is for sure, football fans have very little sense of perspective when it comes to reflecting on their own team.”

West Ham United (11/1/14) I must admit I fell off my throne laughing when I heard my original local team, West Ham, are moving into the Olympic Stadium soon; a triumph of ambition over ability if I have ever heard of one. Meanwhile, back at the local ranch the new regime replaces the old as Ole takes over from Malky, and it’s the inevitable “kiss the badge time” for several existing players who should have been fighting harder, and new players who find themselves here despite never having any previous ambition to be a Cardiff City player. “Nothing like false claims of loyalty for fooling the mindless horde into accepting you!”

Norwich City (1/2/14) A match between two teams who have completely lost the habit of scoring goals; and in the world of football cliches “it’s goals that win games”, so I am told. “This is a game that promises to ramp up the levels of boredom to new heights, and likely to provide as much excitement as watching a canary choking to death in a coalmine.” It finishes as a 2-1 home win, so that shows you how much I know when it comes to predictions.

Aston Villa (12/2/14) “It’s 7.45pm on a wet Tuesday night in February; welcome to the grim, the battered and the ugly!” Estate Agents would no doubt be hyping up the levels of exaggeration around this being a stormy battle between two teams desperate for three points. The reality is a becalming Basement Flat 0 Underwhelming Villa 0. Seems like Estate Agents might have as much knowledge as this cool cat when it comes to the predictions game.

Hull City (22/2/14) “If you put all of the footballing cliches end-to-end you would still not get anywhere near the land of common sense.” Far from being blessed with the notorious game changing players or moves, this is more the battle of the ‘name-changers’, as respective owners earn nothing but a bucket of bile from their fans for daring to suggest that history be ditched in favour American sports team style names. I am losing count of the number of ways that money trumps any source of common sense in this game.

Fulham (8/3/14) “The Premier League’s two worst teams go head-to-head in a rush for relegation. Football can be a funny game, but whoever came up with that one hasn’t watched cricket!” My prediction was that this would be a roller-coaster of a yawn in which 90 minutes can be a long time when you are sat watching grass grow. “Mesmerising, majestic, out-of-this-world, scintillating… these are all words that belong somewhere else, but surprisingly the home team conjured up a 3-1 win.”

Liverpool (22/3/14) “The Beautiful Game Tour (aka Liverpool FC) rolls into Cardiff City’s home (aka Bleak House). In true Dickensian vernacular the home fans still hold on to Great Expectations, but this is a Tale of Two Cities right out of The Old Curiosity Shop, and the home team will surely find nothing but Hard Times, as they perilously march towards Marshalsea Debtors Prison.” Despite a deserving 1-0 and 2-1 lead the home team succumb to a 6-3 defeat.

Crystal Palace (5/4/14) A battle of two recently promoted teams should present a re-staging of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, but who will win the shoot-out and will the loser have one foot on Boot Hill? When an Eagle tangles with a Bluebird only one result should be expected. Unluckily for the home team that is the way this match also went, with nothing but blue feathers spat out. In the words of the Coen Brothers “If this isn’t a mess it will do until the mess gets here.”

Stoke City(19/4/14) “My human ’emotional roller-coaster’ insists in hanging on to the hopey-changey thing following a fluke away win the previous week, but I unhelpfully suggest this bears no relation to a swallows and summer vibe.” Confiscating the belts and laces might be needed in preparation for suicide watch. At least the one with more money than sense might well be getting an extra four matches for the already purchased season ticket for next year (24 clubs in the division below, as opposed to 20 in the Premier League).

Chelsea(11/5/14) “The Premier League season comes to its closing game, and just as architectural designs disappear to the horizon at their vanishing point, so it is time for my delusional desperado to disappear up their own passageway of dreams.” Unfortunately my very own little dot on the horizon is talking the defeated pugilists talk of instant comebacks. Some people (and most football fans) are just born masochists!

So, that was it… a season in the Premier League in which Cardiff City FC came, they saw, and they were conquered. Early season promise under the guidance of the God-like Malky Mackay only gave way to a flatlining league position for the majority of the second half of the season, under the overall guidance of a clueless megalomaniac with plenty of what counts… money, and nothing of what should count… knowledge of the game and passion for the local team. All this new talk about the excitement of another Championship campaign leaves me ecstatic with delight. So, until we speak again I shall be a thoroughly overwhelmed Juno.

Vanishing Point

The Premier League season comes to its closing day, and just as architectural designs disappear to the horizon at the vanishing point so my resident ‘delusional desperado’ is about to disappear up their own passageway of dreams. They join the local tribe of dedicated panhandlers for the final time in their current Premier League existence, patiently wading through oceans of guano in the hope of the occasional pearl-laden oyster. But it is only the dark clouds rolling in that offer a genuine backdrop to the final contest. But even this final fight is more of a vanishing point, as two pugilists step into the ring for an event without a purpose, other than fulfilling a pre-determined contract. The home team are already relegated, and the away team end a season with their own disappointment of not being able to win anything.

  V.  

The locals persistently question the colour of the corners, but on this occasion the reality is that in the red corner we have ‘The Baby Faced Assassin‘ and in the blue corner we have ‘The Special One‘, as Ole visibly ageing and Jose progressively greying square up for hopefully anything but handbags at 10 paces…

   V.     

The potential pre-match hype stirred up by a street-fighting Mourinho, if his team had a heavyweight title depending on the contest, is all but missing. Snarls are replaced by the anodyne smiles of combatants with minds more firmly fixed on a summer of business in preparation for fights to be won in the future. If there is any real match day animosity it is all in the home camp as the fans make it very clear to the owner ‘they will always be blue’:

City v Chelsea [1]

The bell sounds for the first round, it is 3.00pm on a Sunday afternoon, and the home pugilists look deep down to their boots for some inspiration for the fight ahead:

City v Chelsea [2]Is this to be the mis-match of the century, as the heavyweights from the capital of England dominate the ring of the lightweights of the capital of Wales. The visitors certainly begin fleet of foot as they dance around the ring constantly probing for the opening to land a decisive punch. However, underestimate the lighter opponents at your peril, as on 15 minutes the Chelsea defence is opened up with a Craig Bellamy shot that produces a classic sucker punch as it deflects off a Chelsea defender to leave their last line of defence wrong-footed. A further 30 minutes of trading punches produces no further potential knockout blows. At the end of this round a shock is set up as the home fans witness a lead on points… Cardiff City 1 Chelsea 0.

The bell sounds for round two, but can the sleek arts of the pugilists recover against the early lead for the street-fighters?

City v Chelsea [4]The gulf in class is beginning to show as the delicate footwork of previous champions mesmerises their brave hosts. The home team cushion a few blows, and offer limited glimpses of the search for their own killer punch. On 72 minutes and 75 minutes the decisive combination of hook and upper-cut are applied, and the home fans are left on the floor. With the absence of Gary Medel, their iconic pitbull, they struggle to find the street-fighter spirit that would give them a chance of getting back into this match. The vanishing point duly arrives, as it is time to throw the towel in and slip off back to Championship football.

Final score of the final game of the season… Cardiff City 1 Chelsea 2.

My very own ‘little dot on the horizon’ arrives back with surprisingly measured temperament, but surely punch-drunk, as they evoke the spirit of many a defeated pugilist claiming that a comeback is on the cards, and it all starts here. Some people are just born masochists. Until we speak again I will be a Juno trying to discover what sense underpins the spending of billions of pounds on a few youngsters kicking a ball around a patch of grass.

[Some images have been gratefully borrowed from google images to illustrate the story, and are used with thanks to those who originally placed them].

 

 

Asylum Seeker

And so it came to pass that mathematical uncertainty disappeared down the same pan that had long since been the final port of disposal of any pretensions to artistic flare and dynamic teamwork. In short, the local team fall through the trap door of Premier League relegation, and go back from whence they came a mere twelve months ago. Gloom descends on those who are clearly unaware of the privilege they experience in sharing the Juno household.Full face

So, my thoughts mischievously turn to matters of detention and incarceration for those who have spent a deluded season of misguided hope and expectation. Don’t mistake my fixed stare for anything more than simply a mask of sympathy for those who frequently desert me; underneath I am rolling around the floor in fits of laughter.

Clarion entrance

I can’t begin to imagine the fear and despair in what passes for the mind of my companion as they are escorted through the foreboding portals of Victorian misery. Surrounded by nothing but haunting desolation suspended beneath threatening slate grey skies where I imagine the colour blue has long since been banished…

Clarion externall view

 

 

 

 

Above the stone entrance the last thought for the prospective inmate will be the 1848 etched above the cavernous door. 18.48 was to be about the time that celebrations would be easing having achieved  survival on the final day of the season; instead it is merely a portent of when time stopped for the poor lost souls of mental incapacity (aka football supporters).

How challenging it must be to put one foot before the other in a leaden walk into a world devoid of any cheerful welcome, into a place where light has long departed only to be replaced by the grim shadows…

Clarion reception

… pierced only by the incoherent screams of those fated to live out a colourless life of inactivity…

Clarion conference events centre

What dimly candle-lit expanses of cold dormitory await, where eery spectres lie in wait to disturb any inmate suspected of escaping into the soulful respite of slumber?

Clarion room entrance [1]

Clarion room entrance [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clarion bedroom

 

 

Single beds with thin mattresses barely separated by space to move, with every inch of premium real estate taken for wharehousing abject misery.

Clarion iving room [2]

 

But surely the undemarcated darkness of night and day is preferable to the grim vitals that constitute the monotonous fare to be served up in the bland surroundings of a grey refectory…

Clarion barClarion meal

 

 

 

 

 

A place where dreams are routinely crushed, and the only source of hope lies in solemn prayers…

St Columbas Church

 

Then I hear the key in the door of the Juno household, and in walks a smiling beneficence. For all of my tortured worries and concerns for the welfare of the ‘migrant labourer’, it transpires that they were residing at the Saint Columbas lunatic asylum (circa 1848) in Sligo (Republic of Ireland), but now it is the splendid luxury of the Clarion Hotel… the lucky bastard!!

Until we speak again I am going to be a determinedly demanding Juno, particularly after hearing about the enjoyment of all this hospitality and opulence.