Unless it’s pissing down, I walk to work. Door-to-door, the journey is exactly a mile as the crow flies, but I am not a crow (except in the Cwmbrân Town sense, sob), and this is complicated, convoluted Cardiff – so it’s actually more like two miles. Note to Cardiff Council: open Roath Dock Road to the public you utter bastards.
There’s no avoiding Tyndall Street, named after a Bute Estate barrister from a family of Bristol slave-traders, Onesiphorous Tyndall (1790-1855), but as soon as possible I turn off at Atlantic Wharf and follow the 1859 Junction Canal that once linked the Bute West Dock and Bute East Dock. A pair of coots have built a nest floating on the surface under the Schooner Way bridge. Soon the female will be laying six to nine eggs and taking turns with her partner to incubate them until hatched. I stop a while to check progress. Rightly, they are wary of people – hence the nest’s inaccessible position. I just pray no psychopathic bastard decides it would be fun to destroy their fragile, tentative, brave little home.
I turn southward and track the ornamental waterway that threads down to the Wharf pub. Constructed in 1988 on what was previously a maze of dockside railway tracks and sidings, this was one of the very first Cardiff Bay developments. Being barely a foot deep, the waterway can’t really be called a canal. It runs between housing that looks incongruously suburban and namby-pamby for an inner city area, and is a peaceful and little-frequented haven for quite a variety of wildlife: mallard ducks, swans, cruising gay men and gangs of hooded lads smoking weed under the Celerity Drive bridge. The little bastards.
At Letton Road, a gratuitous name-check for Tommy Letton (1901-1985), ‘Tommy the Fish’ who wheeled his barrow round Tiger Bay for 60 years, I join Lloyd George Avenue. I’ve mocked this road from/to nowhere in plenty of blogs before – but, you know what, despite myself, the dead-straight, ¾mile long dual carriageway is beginning to grow on me. The complete absence of character, street life, sense of urban enclosure, metropolitan clout or distinguishing features paradoxically produce a bare, bright, wide, wind-buffeted blank canvas, upon which I can readily project my Cardiff dreams. Peaceful contemplation is only interrupted when an empty bendy-bus trundles by, looking like a right daft bastard.
I cross the Avenue at Cardiff Bay station, an unavoidable reminder of the Bay project’s true cheap-skate short-termism and lowest-common-denominator mendacity. You wouldn’t know it from the heart-breaking scene of crumbling, boarded-up dereliction, stucco falling off in chunks, tiles sliding down the overhanging eaves, broken gutters leaching water into the walls, but this is an extremely important Grade II listed building; part of the original 1841 Taff Vale Railway terminus, the historic origin of Wales’ first steam passenger service and a very rare UK survivor from the early years of rail. The exquisitely proportioned, elegant lines form a potent fulcrum at the Bute Street/West Bute Street bifurcation – but there’s no quick bucks or easy money in restoration, renovation and reinvention, so this exceptional jewel in Cardiff’s crown can just rot. Unsurprisingly, Wales has no say in its future: it’s owned by Network Rail – British bastards.
After this 20 minute power-walk, by noon-ish I arrive at the office. My colleague Siôn Chavez has been working for hours already. He takes a well-deserved break while I make coffee and shout at him. Then, batteries recharged, we get cracking and get creative. And get into deeper and deeper water. We must be mad b******s.