We had cause to visit Cardiff – Jackie had a morning meeting – so we went for five days. Using this trip to relate miles out and days stayed, if we ever go to New Zealand we’d have to stay about 220 days.
Arrived early afternoon and popped into the Cottage, my favourite Brains pub for a pint of Brains SA (a good beer but not a great beer, but when in Cardiff . . . ). That duty done we went round the corner to the Tiny Rebel bar for a few halves of excellent beer before walking to The Town House, a delightful B&B, and checking in.
Next day, after Jackie’s meeting, we set out northwards through the extensive network of parks and playing fields beside the river Taff to Llandaff cathedral.
It’s a small church in a hollow, but pretty and quirky – note the mismatched towers. It contains a triptych by Rossetti, but it was closed up and packed away behind screens of polythene because of building works. Bought a postcard of it and had a baked potato at the nearby Butchers pub, with a couple of pints of a pale ale from Wye Valley Brewery before walking back to town a different way through the parklands. Spotted a boar-like beast in Bute Park:
Speaking of pigs, we had dinner at Y Mochyn Du that evening – The Black Pig.
Day three was Cardiff Bay. We had to get there by bus because the big riverboat could not beat up the Taff against the heavy flow caused by overnight rain. The plan was: wander about a bit, have lunch, wander about a bit more, go to a theatrical event and go back to the Town House. The sun shone. Most of the eating places were chains, but we spotted a first floor brasserie with views across the bay.
View from our lunch table. Penarth is the higher land on the right horizon. The two boats in the centre are the ferries which could not cope with the heavy river flow. After lunch we walked 20 minutes to IKEA to look at and try out sofa beds. Passed an interesting sign of the times set in the pavement on our way:
Not everybody in Cardiff Bay is living in the new apartment blocks, or converted warehouse homes. In the evening we gathered with many others to watch a street theatre event. It was the future, a politician was speaking about the role of robots. They would make Cardiff great again, but people protested – jobs will go and the wealth won’t be shared fairly. A robot descended the side of the Millennium Hall (it was a Cyberman borrowed from the Dr Who Experience) and we all followed the action indoors where men in dresses were dancing, trance-like with supermarket trolleys around a wall of brown cardboard boxes (it was called Stepford Wives, which may help).
Further on people in black overalls were mechanically sorting more cardboard boxes, one guy pushing a box with his head as he crawled across the floor.
What did it all mean? After a few more minutes those of us who had bought tickets were invited to enter the Millennium Theatre proper to watch more brown cardboard boxes being moved, this time to booming music and dramatic lighting effects, culminating with the cyberman announcing that the heart was the link between head and hand. There was an interval for wine drinking. We drank wine. Then there was another dance piece called Tundra. Eight people danced in a line, moving with extreme synchronisation in many swirling waveforms. It was very impressive. We caught a train one stop into Cardiff and walked to the Cricketers for a late pint or two.
Next day was Castell Coch. A fairy tale thing built by the the third Marquess of Bute who’s grandfather made a fortune from docks, coal and railways. The grandson saw his job as spending it on craftsmanship of a past or even mythical kind. A bus took us out of town and a steep uphill walk took us into forest where we found the castle.
The tower on the right is old, part of a pre-existing castle that was in ruins when Lord Bute decided to create another folly. His bedroom is the balconied room over the drawbridge, his wife’s is the top floor of the left hand tower. The best room is the drawing room, panelling, wall paintings of Aesop’s Fables and the Three Fates over the fireplace – spinning the thread of life, measuring each person’s span, and cutting it to end each life.
More theatre in the evening. The Sherman Theatre this time for a re-working of the Cherry Orchard set in Thatcher’s Britain, in Pembrokeshire. The Cherry Orchard became an apple orchard planted by grandfather of a upper-middle class family on its uppers. Felling the orchard to make space for a local aspirational working class lad who had made good as a house builder to erect homes for those who had bought their Council houses for one tenth of their value and were now looking to move off the Council Estate into proper private homes. This would save the rest of the house and some land for the established owners. It was very good, often funny and well constructed. Large glasses of red wine before going in, and at the interval, oiled the process nicely.
Homeward the next day, after a quick look round the art gallery. Drawn through rooms by the sound of an organ playing the kind of music that would go with a Hammer Horror movie, or a Carry on Ghouls film. Big Booming Notes of Doom. I never discovered who the organist was, nor why he was playing. Quirky though.