TS Eliot measured life in coffee spoons (or, at least, I think he did -- the whole of my TS Eliot knowledge comes from that one Crash Test Dummies* song that mentions him); Mike Doughty** measured heartbreak in beer cans; so, I think it's worth noting that since moving here I have prepared 160 cups of tea.
Tuesday afternoon, I emptied the box of Murroughs Paned Gymreig that we bought at Asda on our first day in Cardiff (I would like to point out that the child bride and I were delirious with sleep deprivation when we went to Asda; we learned shortly after that it is owned by Wal-Mart and have never returned). Since I often drink more than one cup a day and have occasionally shared my precious tea with Jews, it doesn't quite work out to 160 days lived in Wales, but it still feels like a sort of benchmark.
I am gradually sloughing off various mental and material ties to the United States; I suppose that's a good thing. Chavtacular Caerdydd is starting to grow on me a bit.
In response to a few comments on this blog, the BBC has adjusted the playback feature for the "Eye on Wales" programme so you can now actually hear me getting the last word.
And, I've got to say, it is immensely ego inflating to have one of the world's largest, most respected, most valued media organizations respond to stuff on my blog. But I have known for a long time that the BBC is tracking me via a device they implanted in my skull; remember when that reporter showed up at the pub?*** I suppose, though, it's comforting to know that if I am attacked by chavs, robbed of all my shiny fake jewellery and New York Yankees paraphernalia and then left for dead, the BBC will know where to find me.
If you listened to the "Eye on Wales" programme Monday, you heard me reading out a post that mentioned Cardiff's laughable train service. Being disappointed by Arriva Trains is an experience that almost every Welsh person can relate to.
If I had more time, I would probably start a blog dedicated solely to Arriva's daily fuck-ups. I experience fewer trouble-free train journeys in South Wales than I did sexual intercourse in high school.
On Tuesday they managed to turn an 11-minute journey into an hour-long clusterfuckapalooza.
I always feel bad for the train company employees in these situations, because there's often not a whole hell of a lot they can do when a 20-year-old multi-tonne piece of machinery breaks down and blocks the line. Off the top of my head, I have never met an Arriva Trains employee that I wouldn't happily buy a pint. But having said that, Tuesday was the second time my attempts to arrive at Danescourt in a timely manner have been thwarted by a train breaking down. And I find it interesting that the last time this happened to me, that train also broke down at the Ninian Park platform... also at 2 p.m. ... also on a Tuesday.
If you think of Cardiff as a large circle, running roughly up the middle of that circle is the River Taff. On either side of the river, roughly, there are train lines: the City and the Merthyr/Rhondda. Some women will need a mirror for this, but a good (albeit immature) way to think of Cardiff is to imagine it as an enormous vagina -- with the City and Methyr/Rhondda lines serving as the labia minora, the village of Radyr serving as the clitoris, and Cardiff city centre serving as the perineum. I live on the left side of the labia minora, close to the clitoris, and the university is on the right, closer to the perineum.
On this particular rainy Tuesday at 2:06 in the afternoon, I had just barely managed to be at the train platform on time. I had a pint of Guinness in my tummy from lunch and after I found a seat near one of the (atypically functioning) heaters, I was feeling content and warm. I closed my eyes and tried to think of the paper that I would be writing into the ungodly hours of the morning.
Then I realised the train wasn't moving. And on cue, I heard the conductor shout: "All change, please, ladies and gentlemen. All change."
For those of you playing along at home, "all change" is train lingo for "everybody get off this train." You are most likely to hear the phrase when something gets fucked up, which means you hear it quite often in South Wales.
After first herding us toward another train, but then deciding that said train would go instead to Barry -- the spiritual anus of Cardiff, if not necessarily geographically -- we were made to stand on the platform for half an hour.
At 2:36 p.m., the next scheduled train arrived, but the broken engine was still in the way. However, the platform supervisor had figured out that while it was impossible to move a train north on the City line, the southbound tracks were clear. So, he could send us up to Radyr via the Merthyr/Rhondda line and then finally back down to the places we had hoped to be a quarter of an hour before. His determination to overcome any obstacle to reach the clitoris no doubt means his wife is very satisfied.
This plan confused the blokes running the train, and in a scene that is quintessential to the British train-travelling experience, a passenger had to explain it to them. The passenger was me. At least they didn't ask me to help fix the train.
Once we were all clear on what the hell we were doing -- bypassing three stations and going straight to Radyr -- the train driver seemed eager to answer a question that I've always had about the trains that run on these lines, that being: "How fast do these pieces of shit go?"
Since trains on the lines don't go more than a mile between stops, they tend not to move very quickly. But with about four miles of open track we were able to find out what the old Pacer could do. And what she could do was scare the shit out of me when she hit a rail joint. As the train bounced toward Radyr, it would occasionally hit a particularly uneven section of track and the floor of the second car would leap about a foot and a half.
A scheduled journey of 14 minutes, we covered it in five. And then we sat at Radyr for 20 minutes.
I finally got home at 3:08, which was 51 minutes late, or, nine minutes shy of the point at which Arriva will refund my money (and don't think I won't pursue my £1.40, yo. That's a half pint).
*Crash Test Dummies. How's that for obscure? Points to you if you know the song I'm talking about. Side fact: one of the lines in the chorus of that song is a life ambition for me.
**But the Mike Doughty reference is even more obscure. Extra special bonus points to the person who can name the song I'm referencing.
***A woman walked up to me and asked: "Are you Chris Cope?" She then explained that she was from BBC Wales and that she had been sent to interview me because "someone had heard" that I was at the pub. The story is located in the massive post that I wrote during three weeks without Internet.