Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Cardiff Walking

In this city you need a different approach. Check the wind first. Know that rain arrives like a flight of tigers from the south west.

Nearly all of this place is hard top. Unmade roads and paths full of brown and grass finished thirty years ago. No longer do you need to scrape your boots. 

Cardiff rises. It seems so flat, there in the centre. But it’s not. Bay’s edge to Boulevard de Nantes climbs imperceptibly but steadily. You can roll a marble at the top of Bute Street and watch it track right back to the Pier Head.  

Of poems on walking there are any number but few on urban joy. The unexpected street you’ve never seen before, the new view of a familiar vista, the plantings in the gardens of others, the paths and driveways fabricated from rock and gravel, brick and hardcore, worn slab concrete, sheets of black polythene below scatters of chipped slate. Anything to hold the green growth back.

Names of houses: Ger y Lan, Brook House, Cartref, Homewood, Red House, The Firs (no firs anywhere), Woodside, Wayside, Westside, Hillcrest, Maes-y-Gareg, Lincoln House, Cymric House, Mount Stuart House, River House, Lake View, Fairwinds, Mallards Reach, Brynhyfryd (no lovelies, no hills), Glamorgan House, Cardiff House, The Rectory, The Vicarage, The Old Post Office, The Old Rectory, The Old Surgery, The Old Vicarage, Ty Newydd, Felin Allt, Ty Ni. Nothing great, little grand. No Fort Apache. Just names to mark these places out from the swamp.

Inner city you are invisible. The further out the more your body lights. Flicker crossing Roath.   60 watts over Rhymney. By the time we reach St Mellons you glow like fire. In these suburban brightnesseses the walker cannot be surreptitious. Covert is not a Cardiff word. Enter a street and no matter how silent you are your first step will make everyone look. Why are you here.   What do you want. You can warm your hands on the glowering. Walk on, don’t stop.

But don't walk here.  Whitchurch, Cardiff.  Photo: P Finch

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