I think the world and their dog must have photographed this rather shabby wall, peeling plaster and weathered door at the side of Cardiff Bay Station. Under a very bright sky, though, I thought it was worth having another shot at it myself.
After numerous recommendations, we went to Southerndown beach for the first time a couple of weeks ago. If you’re in the Vale, and you haven’t been to Southerndown yet, I’d suggest you drop what you’re doing, pack a picnic, and head over there post-haste. It’s really, really lovely.
If you’re looking for lunch, stop off at The Pelican in her Piety on the way: the food is delicious, and the pub itself is opposite the ruins of Ogmore castle (great for exploring), a river with some rather exciting and precarious stepping stones, and a field housing these rather fine fellows:
At the beach itself, you can indulge in as much Doctor Who location spotting as a single stretch of sand can reasonably afford (surprisingly, rather a lot: the Who team evidently love filming at Southerndown), paddle, forage for seaweed, eat cake while dangling your toes in a lovely warm rock pool, and generally have a marvellous time.
If you’re Eoin, you can gaze wistfully after the passing surfers, and wonder how old you have to be before you can get up on a board yourself.
So, Snowmageddon™ didn’t entirely happen in Penarth: I understand it’s a different story in the Valleys, where they are further from the sea and therefore have Proper Weather, but here, everything is pretty much a mess of melty slush and the occasional icicle. Thank heavens the weather wasn’t too bad, though, as Eoin really did not like the snow. After some initial manifestations of interest, I took him out into the back garden for a little light snowballing. I was merrily prancing around, making snow angels and generally frolicking in our own little winter wonderland. Eoin, however, made it onto the lawn, and then stood rooted to the spot, massively suspicious and having apparently having forgotten how his legs worked. All encouragement to enjoy the snow failed, and, in the end, I had to carry him inside and ply him with hot chocolate before he cheered up.
Mind you, the brief snowy interlude did enable me to take a few pictures in which Penarth appeared to have been transformed into Penarnia. We even had a snowy lamp-post (with a slightly spooky halo to it):
Apparently more snow is due in the next couple of days: I can only hope that Eoin is more reconciled to it this time.
Although my love of the beach in general and the pier in particular is well-known, I do find the area under the pier to be rather a creepy spot. I’m not sure why: it might be the fact that, in the semi-darkness, one is irresistibly drawn to imagine the rising tide trapping you against metal and rock. Or perhaps it’s just that it can be dank and drippy and a bit over-barnacled? Whatever my personal feelings, though, it’s certain that it gives you a lovely opportunity to take a photo demonstrating perspective:
Click to embiggen: there’s more detail than the default size will let me show.
Near and far, with added barnacles… Just don’t let the tide get too high.
We’ve had a slow couple of weeks around here, blog-wise: Eoin and I have both had colds, which means a lot of my spare time has been spent catching up on sleep. On the odd evening, I have got as far as stumbling to the kettle to make myself a medicinal hot toddy, then crawling back onto the sofa to watch bad television from underneath the patchwork quilt. I’ve also been having some counselling for the ongoing PND, which means I often feel a bit teary or exhausted, and, really, the last thing people want to read here is a big ranty, venty post along the “woe is me” lines. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
I’ve been feeling rather guilty about missing out on the photo challenges, though, especially as I had had a good idea for the “merge” topic. I was planning to do something spinning-related: the various shades of a splodgy, particoloured batt merging into a harmonious singles yarn, perhaps with a little digression to explain the story of how I came by the fibre in the first place. Unfortunately, I neglected to consider a few factors. Firstly, I am rubbish at blending fibre: my handspun yarns so far have been barber-poley in the extreme, and there really is no rhyme or reason to the way I shove the roving towards the wheel. It gets spun pretty much in the order in which I pull chunks of it off the batt or braid in question, and it’s really neither an artistic nor a thought-out process. Secondly, how hard would it be to photograph yourself spinning? I mean, I have a tripod, but I’m not remotely sure how I’d go about composing a shot like that. Also, I don’t have a cable release so it would be self-timer all the way, which, in practice, means I would inevitably move at the wrong point in every exposure and the whole thing would end up as a blurry failure. Lastly, and perhaps most crucially, the same things which kept me from blogging (illness, malaise, general uselessness) also kept me from dragging the spinning wheel out from her new home in the sewing room and actually sitting down to do some spinning, which was really the whole point of the exercise.
What we did manage to do though, in the brief period before the colds struck, was to visit Cardiff Castle. In a blissful 15 minutes of solitude, I climbed up several vertiginous flights of stairs to the top of the keep, and was rewarded with this view of the merging of the old and new sides of the city:
Behind the Castle clock-tower, and the nineteenth-century arcades of St Mary’s Street, the Millennium Stadium pushes its way into the city skyline, conspicuously modern. The curious thing is that it really doesn’t look out of place. To my mind, it’s a lovely example of something new merging into an older, more established environment.
This is probably not the definition of “urban” intended in the challenge, but it is the urban environment filtered through my perspective as an erstwhile nineteenth-century literature scholar.
In a previous lifetime, before the nappies and the playgroups, when I used to spend my time deconstructing more involved texts than the latest episode of In the Night Garden,* I wrote an MA dissertation on the representation of the Great Exhibition in Victorian popular magazines. I was fascinated by the way people responded to the novel form of architecture employed in the Exhibition building, where solid brick walls and tiled roofs were replaced by ethereal, transparent glass panels supported by a tracery of ironwork. This ferro-vitreous structure had a powerful impact on people used to dark, enclosed spaces: there are reports of visitors to the Exhibition becoming dizzy and disorientated, unable to take in the scale of the building, and dazed by the novel light effects inside. I read a lot of Walter Benjamin and, as I was living in Leeds at the time, spent many hours photographing the city’s arcades and covered market. Going home to Preston, I would admire the decorated capitals of the columns in the station building, with their garlands of roses and lilies. Even now, as a Victorianist manquée, I am very much in love with this type of urban architecture.
I’ve already photographed my favourite arcade in Cardiff, so this is my take on another of the city’s nineteenth-century buildings.
This is the Central Market, dating from 1891 and still very much bustling today. It’s a major Cardiff landmark, and one of my favourite places to visit in the city. Entering the building from St Mary’s Street, you pass through a heavily-ornamented stone façade and an arched passageway. Then the vista opens up, and the great glass roof soars above the white-painted booths and lock-ups: everything is bright, airy, and the epitome of Victorian modernity. For a really impressive view, you can climb up to the gallery like I did, and admire the clock tower, which also housed a raised office for the market superintendent. As well as being a lovely building, the market is an excellent place to browse for fruit and vegetables, local meats, second-hand books and hard-to-find records. It’s very much a part of my urban landscape.
*Although, seriously, this is worth doing, as the programme has some awfully bizarre elements: the disturbingly cultish tendencies of the Pontipines; poor, OCD-afflicted Makka-Pakka, cuddling his stone in his lonely cave; the inconsistent scale of the Ninky-Nonk; the Haa-Hoos, who seem to exist merely embody a Barthesian Effet de réel… Maybe I’ve spent too much time watching CBeebies, but it seems pretty real to me.
It seems I have something of an obsession with the sea. When we ventured up the coast to Porthcawl last Sunday, Stephen spent most of his time trying to extract me from one rockpool or another, as I determinedly tried to paddle as much as was humanly possible. “What is wrong with you?” he exclaimed in exasperation at one point, “Just because the sea is there, it doesn’t mean you have to get into it every single time!” Reluctantly, I dried myself off and headed for the promenade, but I have to admit he has a point. It’s awfully difficult to see an empty beach with gently lapping waves and not want to roll up your trousers, wade out into the water and gaze happily into the distance.
This morning, I dropped Eoin off for his weekly morning with the childminder, and drove back along the Esplanade. The beach was empty, the clouds and the early morning sunlight were gorgeous, and I couldn’t resist stopping and wandering. Unfortunately, I didn’t have either of my “proper” cameras with me, but I took a couple of snaps on the iPhone, and, luckily, managed to capture at least an idea of how lovely it was.
Golden rosy clouds behind the pier:
I’m awfully lucky to be able to see views like this almost outside my front door, even if they are somewhat evanescent. Just minutes after I headed home, the rain started and everything became rather grey. That doesn’t really matter, though: what matters to me is that I got to see this beautiful morning light, and to potter around on the beach and in the waves for a blissful half-hour, all alone apart from the gulls. Instant happiness.
A comparison of the same garden over the last eight months: the top photographs show the Cowbridge Physic Garden the first time Eoin and I visited. As you can see, everything is bare and stark, with hardly any sign of the abundant growth to come.
These photos were taken a few days ago, showing how much the landscape has changed over the last seven or eight months. Now, the flowers are in full bloom, the wild strawberries are fruiting, and the espaliered apple trees are heavy with fruit. The growth is so thick that you can’t even see the fountain in the centre of the garden until you are almost on top of it.