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 FortApache.
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