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.

Mounty bites the dust

Sleeping catMy ‘resident inebriate‘ does bang on about how traditional pubs are disappearing, only to be replaced by swanky bars, and craft this, brew that and hop the other! Why should I care, after all, any self-indulgent cat worth their whiskers would always go for swanky whatever’s.

However, as I was prowling around the Adamsdown-Splott-Roath who-knows-whats-where boundary in downtown Cardiff, I couldn’t help but notice that the local maple leaf had hit the turf, as the Dead Pubs Crawl gets a little longer…

The CanadianUntil we speak again I will continue to be Bella, but I guess that’s the end of any potential twinning of Cardiff and Ottawa!

Lunar confusion

It’s getting late… You looking at me?a pint or two too many at the City Arms kind of late. These days I miss out on Juno’s quiet air of indignation as I return home later than promised; though I wasn’t sure whether she knew the time, or simply presented in the same way whatever time I got home.

It’s the time of night when sailor’s come into their own, as they navigate a way home by the location of the moon. But such a skill seems to become more difficult than expected in an inebriated downtown central Cardiff. Where is that moon when you need it? In the early hours of a Spring night Cardiff seems particularly blessed by many moons.

Moonlight [1]

Who says that alcohol marinated logic makes no sense? A walk through a local wooded copse will surely be the solution to narrowing the moons down to the real one! Well, perhaps it doesn’t necessarily narrow down the number of potential moons, but there are a few clues beginning to shape up.

Moonlight [2]

Even a few pints of the hoppy stuff can’t dim the realisation that a mix of man-made unnatural wood and a man-made built environment gives a zig-zag trajectory a bit more of a focus and direction. Now I am able to narrow down the options…

Monlight [3]

Strangely enough, the real McCoy presents itself in full-moon splendour just at the moment it is least needed… I seem to be home.

Moonlight [5]

Who needs the moon anyway, when you have a carefully developed and honed homing instinct? Now, just before the hangover kicks in… what do we do on a cloudy night?

Half cat half door

 

Until we speak again, I seem to recall similar escapades in the past, only with the scary addition to the end of the night of something that resembled half-cat/half-door. The moral of this story is drink sensibly, or if you don’t, at least try to enjoy the bizarre distortions that the world presents to those in need of surgical realignment of their ‘eyes-to-sockets’ relationship.

 

A fishy tale

Now, us cats are widely known for our gastronomic approach to the fish… after all, why waste time observing the aesthetic when you can tuck in to some damn good nosh? But my laser focus on the subject was temporarily interupted when the resident wobbly one recently staggered back from the ale house of choice mumbling something about rings, trappist monks and fountain-dwelling fish. For a moment it just sounded like the usual garbled nonsense that emerges from one who spends an hour or two longer than is wise in dens of intoxication.

A word of warning… this tale starts withOrval [3] a somewhat obscure reference to rats, a most unpleasant subject to interrupt the joys of your festive celebrations! And as for the idea of ‘Premium’ black rat, I can only hope that that is overdone in cajun spices.

Anyway, back to the original inspiration for this tale… it appears many years ago that Countess Matilde of Tuscany accidentally lost her wedding ring in a fountain somewhere in Belgium. Though I am rather suspicious already… what was a recently widowed countess hoping to find in Belgium, and was the loss of the ring accident or providence? I leave you to speculate on questions of such magnitude.

Orval [2] For those of you into religion, and other sources of miracles, it seems that while Matilde was praying (for what you may continue your own bizarre speculations), a trout appeared from out of said fountain, with her ring in its mouth. Being an avid studier of the fish I can only suggest that rings play havoc with their digestion. However, like all grateful souls, it appears that Matilde decided there and then to build a monastery on the site; and probably in consultation with her google maps app realised she was in a place from henceforth to be known as Orval.

My resident ‘imbiber general’ informs me that this was the least interesting part of the whole story. It seems that the trappist cistercian monks who took up residence in the new gaff had loads of time on their hands after daily prayers were completed. So, like all men who easily succumb to boredom as a tactic for avoiding the usual domestic chores they took to developing a hobby, most notably home brewing. From that day onwards they have been spreading joy to the world through something that Fat-Freddies-Cat describes as ‘liquidised hops’. Meanwhile my resident knobhead tries to convince me that it tastes better out of the designed for purpose glass… well at least it looks good; so I leave you with a festive image:

Orval [1]

Enjoy your lotion of choice, Arrival in Cardiffbut in the meantime I shall return to my pursuit of what fish were really designed for. Until we speak again I shall mainly be snoozing Juno.

Be my guest

Talking of arse-end surveillance, as I was just recently… I have just found a new way of consuming news:

Newspaper

Anyway, I digress… a particular problem when, like me, you have a passion for writing loads of stuff and your concentration tends to wander. So, the opportunity has arisen for me to take a break, step back, and take pleasure in welcoming another cool cat from Cardiff to share an experience with you. My good friend Fat-Freddies-Cat accompanied me on a trip to Newport in a much earlier post on this site, but also happens to wander into many a pub in many a town for the odd beer or two. In fact, he continues to produce a photographic series ‘Time for a pint’ which now has over a million views on Flickr. Why not check it out by clicking the following link:

a pint in the minerva, plymouth

As a taster, so to speak, Fat-Freddies-Cat has a tail (or is that tale?) to tell about one such adventure in the local area. This is a brief story about a visit to Kitty Flynn’s in Cardiff, and a personal reflection on the changing fortunes of the SA drinker over the years…

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“There’s gonna be trouble in here later” said the lady determined to shake my hand.

It’s a quiet Monday night, hardly looks like there is trouble brewing. My first visit here this century. This used to be The Cambrian, on the corner of Cardiff’s most notorious street, wall to wall with the brewery that owns it. Hookers and hustlers used to fill the room, Brains SA was known as ‘skull attack’ and a thick fog of cigarette smoke hung about waist height. Today, The Cambrian is Kitty Flynn’s – an Irish bar, the smoke has now moved outside, the brewery has moved to what was then the wrong side of the tracks. Caroline Street is now mere ‘chip shop alley’ – people even live there. Brains SA has not attacked any skulls in many a long year.

I didn’t stay for the trouble, it only occurring to me after I had left, that I was wearing an orange t-shirt which was probably not a good idea in an Irish pub.

 

Until we speak again I aim to continue being Juno, 4. Brains journey [1]but with a degree of caution about the colours I wear in distinct hostelries about town. The search for the long-lost SA tradition will continue (though it can look and taste pretty good at times); and I do believe that Fat-Freddie-Cat is consuming what remains of the pint next to it! Cheers.

A dead pubs crawl

The recent fact that around 20,000 pubs have been closed down in the UK during the last couple of decades hardly caused me a ruffle of the whiskers. After all, us cool cats are much more sophisticated in our tastes… I am more concerned with preserving my premium wine stocks.

Wine stocks

As far as I am concerned pubs are uncouth places where dogs are more likely to be found. However, my ‘resident old git’ seems somewhat more perplexed than I about this dilapidated state of affairs in the ‘world the beer guide forgot‘. It being the beginning of the season to be jolly, I thought I would send the thirsty one on a tour of modern day temperance; and there is no shortage of places in Cardiff you can no longer get a drink!

Whoever said that the pubs of today are being taken over by food has certainly been to The Neville recently. Unfortunately, it seems that this former favourite of fans of the local team has gone the whole hog, its become a local supermarket… so the only grog available here will be the discounted stuff better drunk out of a brown paper bag!

The Neville [2]

An even worse fate for The Splotlands, as the chances of even getting in the inn are now completely blocked. I hope the last customer at last orders managed to get out in time!

The Splotlands

Black Friday and even Cyber Monday have now past us by, but anyone still in search of a bargain need look no further than downtown Butetown. The White Hart either finished off on a sale of its remaining stocks, or more likely has now become the subject of a sale.

The White HartBut not all pubs are allowed to finally give up the ghost and die; take an amble along Constellation Street and you come across a fine residence that probably shouldn’t be… all hail local activism down at The Tredegar as people exert squatters rights as a means of keeping a grand old landmark in occupation other than by rats and mice.

The Tredegar, Tin Street

Talking of rats and mice… just look what happens to a prestigious city centre site when you neglect history. The York Hotel might well have long since given up its final incarnation as an Indian restaurant, but it still serves as a grim reminder of former halcyon days.

York Hotel

My in-house beer monkey returned stoically sober after this particular pub crawl. Until we speak again I hope your pre-christmas crawling is to your satisfaction. Meanwhile I shall continue my duties as Wine Merchant Juno.

[With special thanks to my original guide and mentor into the world of blogging The Gentle Author for the original idea of the ‘Dead Pubs Crawl’].

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.