Have run Millie to Beziers Airport yet again, as there is a problem with one of the student tenants in her father’s house, which the family rent out to pay the considerable cost of his care-home, run by nuns as a business, not a charity. The house is in Jurassic Park, sorry Cardiff. Something very strange happens as you cross the Severn Bridge. On the English side is the affluent and beautiful Georgian city of Bristol. An hour away is the Welsh capital, whose unique zeitgeist seems to have been preserved in aspic, or more likely, chip-fat, since the late 1940‘s. Peoples’ opinions are often gems of received wisdom, or homespun philosophy and sound like headlines from the ’Sun’ newspaper: ‘Our boys in Iraq’ or ‘greatest bloody country in the World,’ that sort of thing. The 18th Century Enlightenment has yet to arrive in Wales; more contemporary movements, such as feminism, are considered to be eccentric aberrations.
The night before Millie’s departure, we watched ‘The Call Centre,’ (available on BBC i-player), a documentary series about people in Swansea, Wales’ second city. Most of the people working there wouldn’t have been out of place in Viz comic.* Many of the girls were a peculiar shade of orange, which is sprayed on to fool the feeble-minded into thinking you have a suntan. They looked like very large baked beans. Woad would definitely have been more alluring. The office Lothario, who confessed to a liking for ‘Barbie looking girls’ was even stranger; a gym nut who looked and behaved like the result of a failed experiment in cross breeding a human being with a potato.
I mention this as, having known Cardiff for many years, these people seemed fairly normal, or at least nothing out of the ordinary. Last time I was there, I nearly met the teenage friend of one of our nieces who, by all accounts, is pretty much the same type as the girls in the documentary. Nearly, because being an 18 year old baked-bean party girl, she prepared herself in the traditional Cymru fashion of smoking illegal substances, then drinking half a bottle of vodka in the taxi on the way. I caught a fleeting glimpse of her from the pub window, as she exited the taxi, vomited on the pavement and had to be sent back home in another taxi. It was luvv-lee.
Despite all this, Cardiff has some real positives. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seen the real ‘Sultans of Swing.’ I went to Cardiff several times last year, to help Millie to get the house ready for renting and in the evening went to the ’Blue Dragon,’ a modern rather soulless pub. The country band, who played there every Friday were sensational. As I approach my seventh decade, it was somehow reassuring to see a band who are considerably older than myself.
Guitar George doesn’t just know all the chords, but every country lick in the book. Tony, the singer and rhythm guitarist, originally from the north of England, has the rich chocolate voice of a Willie Nelson and the bass and drums are rock solid. It was quite clear from the opening song that these guys had done this more seriously in the past. I heard names such as Shakin’ Stevens bandied about. Should you ever find yourself in Cardiff on a Friday evening, I’d thoroughly recommend them:
Acoustic Roots with the Tony Breen Band and guests,
Every Friday 9-12pm,
Mackintosh Sports Club,
38, Keppoch St,
029 2049 4697.
*A very popular British comic of the 90’s, featuring such characters as ‘Sid the Sexist’ and ‘The Fat Slags;’ two obese girls with a love of sex and chips, normally at the same time.