Saturday, 6 July 2013

Way on down west, Cardiff Town

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,
CF24 3JW
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.


  1. Yes, your baked bean comparison is very apt, but you don't have to go to Cardiff. The "obese young women" thing has happened all over Britain during the past 20 years, and it can't just be over-eating the wrong foods -- it's like a latent genetic tendency that has found full expression. Think of those Stone Age "venus" figurines...

    It's got something to do with lack of jobs for young men and absent fathers -- I suspect some sort of matriarchy is re-establishing itself in underclass Britain...


  2. Quite agree. I'm aware that I'm being a little unfair to the good folk of Cardiff, but the interesting thing is that I'm not talking about an underclass. You meet young people there who are reasonably well educated, but who still hold values which my grandparents would have found quaint. I've met youngish people there who are religious, for example. I think the latent tendency is memetic rather than genetic.

  3. Yes, I'm just commenting on the weight thing. Being a port may be a factor, too -- Shirley High Street in Southampton is known as "Mutant Mile", owing to the jaw-dropping ugliness of the inhabitants...

    South Wales is a sad case. Away from the big cities, there are few places more depressed and depressing than the "valleys", which have gone into a tragic decline, now the mines and the steel have gone. If you really want to go back in time, but in a good way, you should have seen mid-Wales in the 1970s/80s -- isolated farms without electricity, etc. We've been visiting every year since then, and love the area, though it's changed a lot.

  4. Have always loved the Pembrokeshire Coast. My point, which I didn't make very well is that the Welsh do have a set of values different from the rest of Britain, I suspect that Welsh Chapel influences have a lot to do with it along with other more subtle factors. In brief, they're swimming in a quite different meme-pool to the rest of Britain.

  5. Quite true, and perfectly well expressed. Unfortunately, the thing about blog commenters is that they pick up on the incidental things they fancy commenting on, not the beauty and strength of your argument as such... Trust me, I know. As the Monty Python sketch goes,

    "And what are your interests?"
    "I play football"
    "Oh, really?! I used to!"

  6. Our eldest daughter went to Uni at Cardiff and my brother-in-law lives there. I know it quite well. Thursday evenings as the students go out "on the town" is a real sight - even at the height of Winter - short skirts, bottles of vodka and splashes of vomit everywhere. real "Viz" stuff. Sad to see that The Vulcan (Cardiff) finally shut even after a public campaign.