Hot air

It’s an uncharacteristically prolonged heatwave that blankets the UK in the summer of 2018, but where is it coming from? Meteorologists convey the simple message that high pressure dominates the scene, allowing stable and hot continental and tropical influences from the south to bathe the country in persistent warmth. But, those of us in the know have a different theory about the derivation of so much hot air… in England the source can be found in the Westminster area of London; but in Wales it is to be found in Cardiff Bay going under the pseudonym of the Senedd.

To some aficionados of architectural shenanigans it may simply be a giant beached manta ray, with its route back to the sea seemingly blocked by nothing more than a solitary lamppost!

Senedd 1

Propped up on a cushion of glass, it seemingly projects its message to all before it, through a menacingly oval aperture…

Senedd 2

For this is where Welsh politicians meet and pontificate in the bowels of the beast. The hot air produced is conveyed upwards to an unsuspecting world… through a sinister mushroom cloud, only it’s about as wooden as the occupants, and possesses none of the commensurate devastation usually associated with such a vision.

Senedd [8]

And, to the unsuspecting masses going about their daily business, the impact of the output is a slow burner… like a deadman’s handshake it is never seen but quietly stifles any ambition laid out before it.

Senedd [4]

Until we speak again, enjoy the hot air of the summer, as the politicians will largely be in recess!

 

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.

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:

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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.