Decisions decisions!

Stepping outside of home I seem to have everything I need right here on the doorstep. This might well be something akin to Juno’s view of her beloved Cardiff home, located somewhere between the two lines identifying ‘Cardiff Bay Railway Station‘ and ‘Norwegian Church‘ a little over from the top end of the dock occupying the centre of the picture. Porthteigr might be a belated reference to the old Tiger Bay, but Juno would have welcomed any recognition of the importance of cats:

I live here

The problem some days is that I’m confronted with the ultimate in decisions… to relax or to shop?

Which way?

The trouble with shopping is that you can run into the strangest kind of people…

Dragons [1]

But then the relaxation option isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be… decisions, decisions!

Places to go [2]

It does my ‘ead in it does (as the locals often say). And just when you need some guidance from the self-proclaimed guru, what would she be doing?

Chillout cat

Until we speak again it looks like Juno’s view is that it’s going to be relaxation then.

Cognitive dissonance

[aka Fucking with your mind!]

Be confused… be very confused! If you were brought up on the myths and legends of a corner of Cardiff known as Tiger Bay, then the latest extension of the 21st century docklands redevelopment will mess with whatever is left of your functioning brain cells. After air-brushing a major part of local history out of the picture for a few decades, the latest in local bureaucratic administrative hype is set to house, employ and entertain you. Put your hands together and welcome the vision that is Porth Teigr!

I live here

Whatever that is… because what is emerging out of the primordial slime of Roath Basin bears no relationship to the proud badge of Tiger Bay; and it isn’t even in the same place as the original! Not that the location of the original has anything of architectural merit to draw the attention of the discerning student of urban mythology… the southernmost boundaries of the original, relatively small Tiger Bay area, is demarcated by some prime examples of skyline blight, which actually looks even more attractive than the low level flats and houses that hold many of the original street names…

Tiger Bay [1]

Porth‘ is Welsh for ‘gate’… so in modern parlance are we supposed to have created a misdemeanour on such a scale that it becomes ‘Tiger Gate‘? Well, if you look at the blandness of the 1960’s architectural replacement for the previous Victorian ‘slums’, perhaps we have. Social engineering had become a slight of hand for so-called urban redevelopment… a destruction of world renowned character makes way for the monumental achievement of bland mediocrity.

Why are we so reluctant to celebrate our gritty historical reality when it doesn’t conform to the textbook presentation of swords and sandals, or castles and stately homes? Here we have the site of the very first multicultural society in the UK, built on the necessity of world trade, and testimony to the power of the melting pot to bring people together in local harmony. Heaven forbid that we might put the cost of demolition and reconstruction into refurbishment of what already exists. Or perhaps the forbears of the Ukip tendency were subtly at work, with a long-sighted determinism to break up any thriving community based largely on immigration. It becomes less easy to blame it on the immigrants if we have the tangible evidence of their hard-working contribution to our financial and cultural wealth.

As a cat who originates from London but was duped into relocating into the old docklands of Cardiff I am intrigued by all this Tiger-stuff, and hope to bring you more of the true history of this historical and cultural landmark. Until we speak again I have been ‘Immigrant Juno’, scrounging off my native ‘repatriated refugee’, and contributing mainly through my litter tray!

Key to a kiss

This adopted home of mine has a seemingly insatiable capacity to draw out the most unexpected of emotions from time to time. Take the other day, there I was minding my own business, gently sashaying along the boulevard… a cool cat in shades with a gentle breeze through the whiskers, when I am arrested by a heart fluttering vision. Being in the heart of the renovated old industrial docklands my first thought was of a site of romantic antiquity, a monument for the demarcation of a long forgotten industrial love story… thoughts drifting to the romantic melting pot that was Tiger Bay, a mere palpitation away across the railway tracks.

Key to a kiss [2]Curvy, groovy, and altogether suggestive of tender moments spent with the cat you love. A reminder that us cats may spend time in territorial seclusion, but thrive most when we are lost in thoughts of others… particularly those with the special quality of occupying almost every waking moment. Step aside Paris, take a break Venice, the capital of romance has found a new candle-lit table to gaze across. As the warm sun bathes my coat I am left to ponder whether this is a clue as to why my ‘in-house failed romantic‘ decided on a return to their spiritual home of Cardiff  was it a search following love lost for the potential to be re-ignited by some unexpected magical tryst. Nope, I guess it was just the pure romance of economics, and a pint of Brains SA!

The Blade My A

 

So, my message from the heart of Cardiff to all you cats who decide your lives from the head, is to occasionally listen from the heart… you may just be surprised by what could change and transform your bowl into a banquet.

Then again, if you can’t spare a kiss for the one you love, I can offer you the alternative of my furry rump, along with a cut-throat razor for re-shaping some of your thinking!

Until we speak again this has been Romancer Juno, and sick bags will be provided on request.

Cool at One

How time fly’s when you spend most of the day either sleeping or licking your nether regions. There I was, deep in meditation…

Chillout cat

… when my ‘kidnapper of culinary dreams’ decided it was time for a literary celebration. It seems that a year has already passed since the resident ‘Nonsense-in-Chief’ decided I would become a star of the blogosphere. No, I haven’t got a clue what that means either. To my personal dismay I am told I have been a Cool Cat for precisely one year… this of course is complete tosh; being a lady I’m not giving away my age, but I assure you I have been a Cool Cat wherever I have been for the whole of my life!

As for this celebration thing… there are limits, and a point when a head down the loo or offering a simple view of a fury rump out of a nearby box have their merits. Or it is just time for the more sophisticated among us to get a grip…

Olive branchApart from you humans, the point at which a year arrives is as good as any to do a bit of reflective thinking. Whereas all you lot seem to have achieved at one year is the ability to scream and wail, and project nasty stuff in all directions from both ends!

So, what should you have learned about this Cardiff place from my first year of imparted wisdom? Firstly, they have a strange way of doing architecture. When the brief says “a sophisticated blend of the old and new” I’m not sure that this is what the commissioning people exactly had in mind:

Architectural wonders

But, when it comes to combining architecture with food, and if food really is your religion,  the locals can come up with interesting new ideas for accommodating the likes of multiple feeding bowls and litter trays:

Chapel [2]

As for those moments when you left your shopping list at home, and you are sure that a violin, a Dalek, and a good cup of coffee were prominent amongst the essentials of the day, then the Castle Arcade is the place of your dreams:

Castle Arcade 6

 

Many a fellow feline in London told me before I moved that they communicate differently in that Wales place, but I was still unprepared. For example, they take health and safety of children very seriously, to the point of being very clear of the dangers of tree-climbing:

No tree climbingAs an indigenous population many of these cats may not travel very far (or is that Americans I am thinking of?), but they like to keep busy. So, there is no shortage of signs telling you were to go… in the politest sense of the phrase of course (unless you happen to be more obviously English):

Places to go [1]

Before, during and after a busy day having been told where to go, you will be in need of refreshment. So, this is when in Cardiff you really have to use your Brains! However, refreshment is also where the true multi-cultural legacy of the capital city comes into its own:

4. Brains journey [1]

The local brew is often to be found in its most splendid clarity (with Chris at The City Arms offering me free beer for the publicity… Not!). But, beware of local historians, all too eager to share their rose-tinted time warp stories of when Brains SA was the real deal.

A pint in the City Arms

However, with all of the zeitgeisty nonsense about immigration going on around these ancient lands of Perfidious Albion, it is the demands of the time warp fraternity that are at the centre of allowing interesting brands of low cloud in from the regions of England. The original multicultural port of Cardiff, giving rise to the infamous Tiger Bay, is now succeeded by little more than multi-regional representation in the brews that local people are prepared to fall over from, as a result of joyous consumption.

Just don’t ask about the local football team… you are a season too late on that one. And as for the historic local rugby team… my coughing and spluttering has nothing to do with choking on a furball. Suffice to say, this is a city that wears its sporting failures with as much ‘anonymity’ as it can muster. They even provide convenient masks lying around in public places in order to avoid being easily identified as a supporter:

Fallen headSo, it has been one year of me filling your bowl with quality morsels, and tugging on your tail about the issues that matter in this adopted city of mine. As I preen my whiskers at the thought of 84 posts in the bag, my final thought before we speak again is “are you looking at me?”

You looking at me?

Older and bolder

For any cats around the world stowing away on boats, determined that Cardiff is their desired destination (and why not I say!), you will know when you have arrived. The magnificent Pierhead Building will be there to greet you. For all of the modern development of the former world famous docks into the Cardiff Bay ‘leisure and government administration zone’, the eye can’t help but be drawn in by the older building.

Across Bay [4]It was designed by a Welsh Englishman named William Frame (1848-1906), because nothing in Wales is that straightforward. But there is no doubt about the 100% Welsh materials making up the French-originated design… Ruabon in North Wales was apparently known as ‘Terracottapolis‘ for the Etruria marl clay that forms the base of the distinctive terra cotta materials. It was paid for by a Scotsman, John Crichton-Stuart (3rd Marquess of Bute); so all that were needed were Irish and Italian builders or visitors for the locally revered ‘Six-Nations Rugby’ to be represented in the one building! It took 3 years in construction, opened in 1897, and cost a mere £30,000… which would realistically only pay for the furniture for us cats to sharpen our claws on in today’s prices.

Cardiff Bay sweep 5As I stroll around the Bay area I can do nothing but purr contentedly at the framing of this building from different angles. The Gothic revivalist architecture contrasts with the modern buildings surrounding it, with its strong lines and attention to detail marking it out against the sweeping and blander images of some of its modern neighbours.

Pierhead Building [1]

Close inspection lets you know the original purpose of this Grade 1 listed Victorian gem, established as the home of the Bute Docks Company. It also sat at the gateway for seamen from the world over who settled in Tiger Bay to make it the first multicultural community in the UK. Early in the 20th century it transferred to accommodate the Cardiff Railway Company, and later on to offices of the Great Western Railway.

Bute Dock Company sign

As the docks declined and closed, this proud building that had in its days administered the Port of Cardiff and the railways necessary for transporting much of the freight, lost its way, a bit like a stray cat, and fell into the same disuse as most of the surrounding industrial waste land. As the 20th century entered its final couple of decades it recaptured its original splendour within the new commercial vision for the docklands redevelopment.

Pierhead BuildingIt is now a part of the neighbouring Welsh Assembly buildings, complete with its own smaller version of ‘Big Ben’, but too small to provide the Assembly with its debating chamber… now accommodated in the wooden stingray beached next door. At least this architectural treasure is spared the need to accommodate political hot air, unlike the original ‘Big Ben’ of London framing the Palace of Westminster.

Pierhead Building [2]The detail on all parts of the building is exquisite, and just like many iconic buildings you can spend a great deal of time actually reading the building itself, as a bold statement of its designers and its place in time. Even the well preserved gargoyles are enough to remind any self-respecting cat of the dangers posed by a pack of ugly dogs! Now the building houses a visitor attraction with a 5-minute visual montage of the history of the surrounding area every 20 minutes in the Main Hall, as well as space for other Welsh history exhibitions, events and conferences.

Pierhead Building [3]

 

For this cat it is very reassuring that at least some remnants of the once great industrial heritage of this area are preserved, even if it also manages to show up the relatively poor standard of architectural fare that passes as modern progress and development. The Victorian age may now form a diminishing legacy of the older stock in our built environment, but it still shows how bold they were in some of their grand statements.

Who says an ordinary cat can’t have interests beyond sleeping and eating? Cardiff may not be overly blessed with world class examples of architecture, but it has a number of gems of all ages. Until we speak again I will continue to promote the Juno Architectural Appreciation Society of Cardiff.

The City of Arcades

If there is one defining thing about us dames… it is that we do like to shop! Back in the wilds of East London I had to make do with scraps from street markets, and the bins of corner shops and local stores. I am not complaining, at times I had the choice of delicacies from many different parts of the world. It often felt like the United Nations emerged from the diversity of those very streets; and that got me excited about the idea of being near to Tiger Bay… the original United Nations-by-sea. But, that is not to be; I am near it, but the Tiger Bay I heard other cats talking about has long since gone.

It seems my local corner shop is now a great big John Lewis store, a bit more upmarket than I have been used to, but something I can easily adjust to as long as my personal banker keeps the taps running.

John Lewis 1

But wait… it seems this Cardiff place has something else to interest us discerning shoppers. It seems like the Victorians in this part of the world had an idea for building shopping ‘arcades’, and from the Royal Arcade in 1858 to the Dominions Arcade in 1921 Cardiff has become famous as ‘the’ city of arcades. As I slink along the shop fronts it can get quite confusing with all these different arcades with their fancy shops, and some not so fancy shops. High this and Morgan that, the odd Castle, and even a Duke, not to say a Wyndham (whatever that is).

Castle Arcade 1

High St Arcade 2

Duke St Arcade 1Dominions Arcade 1

Morgan Arcade 1

Wyndham Arcade 1

Then I hear there was a Queen Street Arcade, a Dickens Arcade, an Andrews Arcade, and an Oxford Arcade… all gone. It is enough to make your head spin, but at least there is one great industry thriving in all of these arcades… coffee! How much coffee do you think there is in Brazil… well most of it seems to have found its way to Cardiff from what I see as I mooch along these mini glass-rooved shopping cathedrals.

After a smooth cappuccino in the Morgan Arcade I am looking like this:

A few macchiato’s in the Castle Arcade and the world is beginning to look at bit like this [go see loads of brilliant images by my friend Fat-Freddies-Cat at http://www.panoramio.com/user/5357514]:

castle arcade cardiff - balcony panorama

Then an espresso in the Royal Arcade and I’m shimmying across the glass roof looking something like this:

Thank heavens for the dimly lit recesses of The Old Arcade… the more familiar territory of the alley cat, with its stretch of beer-soaked, cigarette-butt littered cobbles leading me directly into the culinary palace that is… the Central Market.

I will have many more tales to tell about my sojourns around these arcades (and the market), but in the meantime if I have sparked your interest in this unique feature of my city I suggest you go to http://cardiffarcadesproject.com/ for loads of stuff and things about each of the arcades. See you again soon. Juno