Real Cardiff

all roads lead to Cardiff

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Real Cardiff
Bute Street
Charles Street
City Road
Flat Holm
The Four Elms
The Garth
Gorsedd Gardens
Hadfield Road
Lloyd George Ave
Mount Stuart Square
Newport Road

The Parks of Roath
The Pearl


Womanby St.

Cardiff Poets Map
Cardiff, New York
Shots of the Bay
and the City

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Cardiff Fictions and

Hamadryad Park
The Bay
St David's Hall
The Museum
The City
Check Your Accent
Ffynnon Denis

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At the east end of Queen Street, beyond the railway that climbs through what's left of the once booming Cardiff valleys, is Newport Road. This is the old highway which runs like an arrow the dozen or so miles to Cardiff's almost-forgotten neighbour, Newport. Built to ship iron from the mouth of the Usk Newport has little glory save the heritage of its unique transporter bridge. And even that got located as Cardiff for Rank's 1959 film production of Tiger Bay. At their end the highway is called Cardiff Road, a bright prospect you'd imagine, but most Newportians resent the flash and dominance of the Welsh capital. That's what's wrong with it, they insist, it's Welsh.

Newport Road moves out from Cardiff centre through a rush of merchant banks, high-rise consultancies and outposts of the multi-nationals which govern the western world. Jammed incongruously here on a road of such permanent haste is the Institute for the Blind. This 50s glass palace sells large print books, bells which tell their owners when it's raining and devices which let them fill their tea-cups just to the top. Behind its frontage is the Boucher Hall. Here, in 1965, Geraint Jarman, Finch, David Callard and one Wyn Islwyn Davies, now vanished from creative sight like Arthur Cravan, mounted the first ever Second Aeon poetry reading. This was in front of an audience of ten friends and five strangers, rattling loudly in a space designed for several hundred.

The road, as it stretches on, away from the city, is ranged with hefty Victorian merchant residences. These are now converted almost entirely to one-stop, satellite TV in all rooms, vacancies, we welcome construction workers, bar, secure lock-up car park at back, two harp WTB recommended, if no answer knock at side-door hotels. Bronte, Blue Dragon, Courtlands, Glenmor, Imperial, Metropole, Marlborough. Groups of men - shopfitters from Bristol, trench-diggers from Wexford, electricians from Dudley - wearing check shirts and calf-high suede boots gather on the pavements here each night and wonder which way it is to the lights. I brought the Czech poet Miroslav Holub once. An overnight stop after his reading at the University. The rain was sheeting down as it does in Hollywood films depicting New York. We entered the foyer to find buckets catching leaks and a fall of water rolling its way from landing to hall. "Like home," he smiled. "I'll like it here."

the Greehgrocer's apostrophe at The Blue Dragon
The Blue Dragon

Back of the main road are the hostels for reforming alcoholics, the doss joints for the homeless and charity refuges for drug victims on the cure and the ragged embittered who just don't care. The pavements are wide and cars park right across them. If you're pushing a pram, sod you. In the long stretch beyond St Peter's Rugby Club - once the only place in all of East Cardiff where you could drink after 10.30 pm - I'm accosted by a rancorous wreck making kokutsu-dachi with an empty cider tin in one hand and a Guinness bottle in the other. "You bastard," he moans. The weak, wet rage of the destroyed. Terry, long-term delinquent and loony stopped here with his wife in a wheel-chair and played harmonica to passing traffic before passing out. No one stopped. She's dead now. He's inside.

Towards the funeral home - The Roath Court - and one of the oldest sites in the city - use turns to residential care for the elderly. Front lawns are lost below white gravel, flowers are in baskets. There are bright signs and powder paper faces peer out through window corners. In the sixties I had a flat just beyond here. Two rooms stuffed with fervent bohemianism Visions of Johanna, Roadrunner, Doors of Perception, Duluoz, dharma, Bomb Culture, Needle of Death. Real needles in the gardens now, when I look. The road goes on. It always did.

Peter Finch

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