/ Wales2016

Wed 21 - Falling in love with a West-Indian girl

I’d like to complain! The campsite is having some work done today and I was roused from my slumbers by the noise of a concrete mixer and pump not too far away. I’d like to complain, but won’t; to be fair these almost certainly didn’t arrive on site until after 9am, and I suspect I was distinctly in the minority being still aslumber 1 at that time.

Two forgotten comments from yesterday 2:
Firstly - Cardiff, city of free Wifi. Yep, the entire city centre is covered by free Wifi (just name and email address required to register) which seems plenty fast enough. Bravo Cardiff! Wifi should not be a luxury. And whilst I do whole-heartedly applaud this venture, city centre Wifi is rarely a real problem. There’s generally a cafe, pub or somewhere you can pop into if the sudden urge do do a bit of research or pen a few emails overcomes you. Often just loitering on the pavement outside Greggs, Clarkes Shoes, Wetherspoons etc can provide enough for simple Google querying - something the city vistor often needs, to answer such urgent questions as “where is the nearest cake shop?” No, what is needed is better Wifi infrastructure in the smaller towns andrural locations. Not Wifi per se but 3g, 4g phone signal. It is criminal that a town the size of Ledbury should be an internet free-zone to anyone reliant on the O2 network. Come on Ofcom, hold the big telcos’ feet to the fire and refuse then newer faster, more lucrative 4g and 5g contracts until they satisfy the basic need of at least 3g over a much wider proportion of the country.

Secondly - Cardiff, city of multi-culture. Several school trips were taking place in the castle yesterday and during play-time the youngsters were cavorting on the large castle green. Children of all ethnicities were playing together, many sporting hijabs. All were playing together, the same games, the same cartwheels and handstands. There were cliques of friendships but these didn’t seem to be aligned on ethnic or religious divides, just the normal bonding of children. So where does all the hate come from particularly that hate Brexit appears to gave given license to. The ignorance, bigotry and fear is certainly not with these children and I hope this means it is not there when they return to their family homes.

In fact yesterday’s blog was a bit of a disaster. It was only this morning that I remembered I’d forgotten to mention that walking back to the van last night we spotted a poster for the forthcoming Petula Clark tour. Yesterday’s title might make a little more sense.

Today - stop one, the National Museum Of Wales. An easy walk from the castle, itself an easy walk from the van. The walk took us down the High Street, not the street I yesterday assumed was the High Street and past Poundland, Primark and other everyday shops. I knew Cardiff couldn’t just be the trendy eateries, upmarket pubs, bijou arcades, John Lewis and Vivienne Westwood that we discovered yesterday.

The National Museum has two floors, upper is an art gallery and lower a Natural History Museum. The art gallery is surprising. As well as the many works by Welsh artists there is an impressionist section that any gallery would die for, half a dozen Monet’s including 2 waterlies, Renoir’s large and stunning La Parisienne, a few Pisarros, more Rodin’s than you might imagine, including The Kiss, a Degas horse. Later works include a Magritte I’d not seen before, a Picasso I didn’t like, Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon and Ben Nicholson (of whom, only Freud works for me). A surprise was a gallery dedicated to Augustus John - I’ve seen a few of his works before (and drunk many a beer in the pub of that name which is on the Liverpool University campus) but never been wowwed. Today was different, several of his paintings stopped me in my tracks, including his portait of Dylan Thomas but his West Indian Girl was the highlight of the museum for me. I ducked out looking at the ceramic section which Liz enjoyed, but we both met up again to see the new gallery of drawings and illustrations by Quentin Blake - obviously a tie in to the Roald Dahl centenary but fascinating to see the work close up and read about the technique of an illustrator. One of his more recent works was the illustrations for Michael Rosen’s book “Sad”, written after the loss of his 18 year old son Eddie. A deeply poignant and moving work and a book I would have bought from the museum but carrying a large format paperback all day in a rucksack is not going to get it back to the van in pristine condition,

The natural history part of the museum charted the evolution of Wales and its geology as well as the plants and wildlife of Wales. It was well enough done but didn’t seem spectacular - I suspect we were a little frazzled after looking at all of the art. One interesting exhibition was about the discovery of a new species of dinosaur on a Welsh beach just a couple of years ago. Only a small dinosaur (3m long) and only a youngster (some bones hadn’t fully formed) it is a remarkably full skeleton and evidence that new stuff is turning up all the time. Hopefully an inspiration to the next generation of fossil hunters.

Museumed ou,t we were weary and without definite plan when Liz announced that she’d always fancied one of those open top-bus city tours with commentary on all the sites. I’ve always been a little reticent as they seem expensive for an hour on a bus but, what the heck. Actually it was very good and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Although the tour was jump-on, jump-off with busses every 30 minutes we just sat on for the whole ride. Fascinating insights into Cardiff’s history, the coal trade, just how busy its docks were in their hey-day, the fact that the prison has a most excellent restaurant (you need to book because you can only get in and, more importantly, out, by appointment) and a Britain-In-Bloom award winning garden. We learned the old and famous Prince Of Wales theatre is now the biggest pub in Wales (Wetherspoons, of course) and that it takes 20 minutes for the roof to open on the Millenium (whoops, Principality) stadium, consuming almost no electricity to drive its hydraulics. Apparently for rugby games the opposing team generally get to chose to play with either an open or closed roof.

Another day, with more time we’d have jumped off at the docks and gone an looked at the BBC studios or even into the Dr Who exhibition. Taken in the Senedd - the Welsh Assembly building or the next door Cardiff Bay Vistors Centre. Maybe even a flight on the Cardiff Eye.

But that’s for another day.

  1. ‘Aslumber’ is that an existing word or something I’ve just coined? And yes I know I could have used ‘stadia’ instead of ‘stadiums’ yesterday which might have been more historically correct, but something tells me ‘stadiums’ is the preferred modern parlance. ↩

  2. I was tired last night and the blog somewhat rushed. I’ve already been back this morning and added a further paragraph re the castle visit ↩