In the moment

Juno may be gone but one of the great things about blogging is that an ex-cool cat still has the opportunity to share cool cat stuff with those that consume such things. She was a cat that always had her eyes on the unexpected…

You looking at me?

… so I know she would have appreciated the opportunity to spike the moment for a former politician and ‘Friend of Freedom’, John Batchelor, as he stands commemorated in The Hayes, Cardiff: “LOOKS LIKE SNOW AGAIN.” 

Is it snowing?

As Juno always used to sign off… ‘Until we speak again I…’ will be relying on my in-house numpty to keep the eyes and ears open on proceedings in Cardiff (and occasionally elsewhere); and in the meantime may all of your snow be as thick as my nom de plume!

Fellini appeal

Forgive me for confusing Fellini for being something cat-like… particularly sensual and emotive, sleek in movement and extravagant in taste. As my resident ‘cultural imposter‘ watches a DVD of La Dolce Vita I am left wondering whether the title is meant to be an advert for a healthy ice-cream. But then, so many things in Italian just sound like they should be eaten, whether you know what they are or not.

Anita Ekberg

Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita

I am reminded of a recent sojourn into what passes as Little Italy, Cardiff-style. No, not the clusters of ersatz pizza chains designed to remind the casual holidaymaker of something they used mainly to soak up the excess alcohol. I am reflecting on something with a little more authenticity and panache. For those in the know, I am talking a gentle sashay down The Hayes to Giovanni’s joint.

Giovanni's [3]

Original since 1983, here you will be greeted by truly melodic Italian accents, and a clash of cultural images as something a little more sinister bids you ‘buon appetito’.

Giovanni's [1]I strongly advise you to check out the menu before you go, because there is so much to tempt the taste buds, and all sounding like they should be devoured with relish (no, not the American stuff for covering up bad tasting food!). Just for starters you can indulge a Carpaccio di Manzo (marinated raw fillet of beef), Gamberoni alla Marchesa (roasted large king prawns); or if you are strictly vegetarian they even throw in some humourous offers: Funghi alla Mimi e Coco’ (sort that one out for yourself). And then there is the inevitable Zuppa Giorno ( because life is a minestrone!).

As for the main course, this cat couldn’t resist the Penne Spezzatino (fillet steak pieces tossed in garlic, wine and traditional Italian tomato sauce). I am still tasting it as I write.

Giovanni's [2]

As for liquid refreshment, there is nothing like a bowl of Peroni Nastro Azzurro to whet a cat’s whiskers before the main course. And it was a certain Hannibal Lecter who once advised the choice of a nice Chianti, but just be careful what the meat is if you are taking this source of advice!!!

Until we speak again I have been Don Juno wishing you buon appetito.

[With thanks to Arte.TV blog for posting the still image I borrowed of Anita Ekberg].

It was 1972…

My ‘Resident DJ’ is gazing at the old vinyl collection and reminiscing about something or another. ” What’s new pussycat, Pussycat Dolls, Stray Cat Strut, Cat Power, Cat on a hot tin roof” I helpfully suggest; but ‘Nostalgia Freak’ is not impressed, and mutters something about me being deported back to England if I don’t develop some musical respect.

   Oops, time to hide…  Year of the cat, Cats in the cradle…” I proffer from my new-found bolt-hole. ‘Now your’e getting nearer’ I hear.

Spillers Records [1]It seems that Cardiff is home to the oldest record shop in the world. It has been 119 years since Henry Spiller began selling shellac phonographic discs from a little shop in the long since disappeared [original] Queen’s Arcade. In true Dr. Who style (a newer Cardiff legend), the shop’s second incarnation from the 1940s coincided with vinyl becoming king; and with a new century seeing the CD struggle against downloads it has more recently moved to its third home in the Morgan Arcade.  

Step into this old emporium of the different formats and it still brings back many fond memories as well as great music to all lovers of a good tune. Everyone who knows Spillers Records are likely to have their own definitive year; something about their personal musical era, or the first time they visited the little shop of big expectations. For the ‘Native Old Git’ it seems 1972 was the year… with record player barely a year old, and a few albums bought in a subterranean part of Woolworths on Queen Street, it was time to enter the dark world of the music shop on The Hayes. I am reliably informed that John Kongos became that first purchase, shortly followed by a couple of albums by The Who, and the changing musical directions from Stevie Wonder. Alas, these uplifting reflections are tempered by a flickering thought of the loss of the other album purchased in Spillers that year, but subsequently lost in the intervening years of travelling.

Vinyl [1]

Hmmm… this John Kongos guy looks a bit like a cat, but I am a bit wary of meandering around someone who says He’s gonna step on you again!  At least Stevie Wonder knows how to cheer a sun worshipping cat up.

Vinyl [2]


As for The Who, I am left wondering what there is to do in Leeds… apart from leaving their mark on the concrete column. Their songs about Young Man Blues and Teenage Wasteland suggest they should try somewhere else. Cardiff comes to mind…

Back in 1972 vinyl wasn’t ‘cool’, vinyl was ‘everything’. It is hard to believe that this venerable institution was already 78 years old at the time ‘Nostalgia Junior’ was ready to spend the hard earned (by somebody else) pocket money. Then again, apparently not; we are talking about a time when smoking was still a widespread profession rather than the Public Enemy No 1 badge of today, and most places had a darker dingier feel to them… and Spillers on The Hayes was no different. This second incarnation of Henry’s gift had already absorbed 25 years or more of people loitering and browsing with intent; of passionate staff and inquisitive punters engaged in musical inspection and introspection.

Unlike any other music selling joint of the time, this was a place where you could even disappear into a private booth to listen to a few tracks before deciding on what to give the cash up for. That first album personally bought in Spillers was known for its couple of previously released singles, but what of the rest? In the claustrophobic atmosphere of that booth John Kongos sang of nostalgia, and the deal was sealed. This was no place or time for absence of thought and rash musical whims. After all, when you walked out of this place and set off around town, your vinyl album under your arm said something about who you are; it would become part of your teenage peacock-like display. CDs slipped into pockets or bags project nothing, and as for downloads… beam me up Scotty.

    Old & New 

It’s another world we live in, compared with 1972, but today Spillers became the ‘Old Git’s’ destination for the first time in 30 years… there was unfinished business, a long lost album to be rediscovered. The shock of the airy brightness soon recedes as the same old Spillers values of love for music becomes clearly evident on the racks and in the banter between staff and visitors. It’s nowhere to be seen in the CD racks on the ground floor; but what’s this new invention… a smaller upstairs room housing the vinyl… could it come to the rescue? Still no sign of the elusive lost album, until without hesitation the welcoming staff immediately offer to order it. With three additional live tracks, my ‘Native Bottler’ throws nostalgia to the wind and orders the remastered CD version, and in a few days I am promised the treat of Santana Abraxas providing the soundtrack to my universe. At least it isn’t the download version, God knows where I would have to plug something in to listen to that!

It seems that The Oldest Record Shop in the World keeps the fire going for those who love their music, but it is more than a collection of hardware, I am reliably informed this place is a purveyor of memories, a definer of ages, a repository of personal histories. I have been Juno, and until we meet again it looks like I am going to be transported back to the early 1970s.