Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dydd Mercher

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement, in relation to my whinging post from Monday. I am always making vows to myself that I am going to stop complaining, but I'm apparently not very good at keeping promises.

It was a brilliant day here in Europe's youngest capital city* -- the sun was shining and I threw open the windows as soon as I got home -- so my mood was a little better than it has been over the past few weeks. I remain in over my head in university and my feelings about that manifest themselves in numerous ways. But today felt alright.

My Spanish courses are usually an ego boost because I have that inherent understanding of the language that comes from so many years of thinking all kinds of naughty things about Daisy Fuentes. My translation teacher inadvertently provided me with a good name for a band: The False Friends. Alternately, of course, one could go with Los Amigos Falsos.

Without any Welsh courses to cripple my good spirits, I was free for the day by 1 p.m. I walked from campus down Museum Avenue along Cathays Park and past City Hall on my way to City Centre. I decided I will probably take my parents down the same route when they come to visit in early April. It runs past some of Cardiff's nicer buildings and then takes the most posh route possible into City Centre -- the one that goes past the Cardiff Hilton and Slug and Lettuce pub (that's right, bitches -- we've got a Hilton and a Slug and Lettuce).

I bought a pasty from Cornish Bakehouse (the pasties there are so good that they're almost worth the trip to Cardiff in and of themselves [depending on where you're coming from, obviously]) and walked down to the temporary location of the Central Library to return a Mihangel Morgan novel that I had only managed to read 22 pages of.

As I was walking, I thought about what I had expected of Cardiff before coming here. For some reason, I had expected it would be a lot like Dublin, which is a city that is also not what I had expected.

In another classic example of my sheltered American upbringing causing me to have hilarious misconceptions about places, subconsciously some part of me was expecting Dublin to be a gritty Hogarthian London where all the blokes wore leather jackets, like Brad Pitt in "The Devil's Own," and I would run the risk of getting punched in the face for being a Methodist.

Dublin is gritty; the River Liffey, which runs through the city, is charcoal black. Along its banks there are several posts with life preservers that one could toss to a poor soul that has fallen in; I think those life preservers should be replaced with sniper rifles. Because if someone's fallen into the Liffey, the best thing you can do for them is just put them out of their misery. But the feel of the city is actually very European and cosmopolitan.

It's got its fair share of chavs ("skangers" in Dublin terminology, I think), but it's got some really nice bits, as well. On the night that the child bride and I met up with Donal, Elisa, Isobel, Linus, and others, I was struck by the fact that as we walked through the city centre there were loads of buskers ("street musicians" for those of you playing along at home) about. There were enough people wandering around at 11 p.m., and enough of them weren't drunken assclowns, that it was actually viable for people to sit there and sing James Morrison tunes to passers-by.

Some part of me decided then that Cardiff, Europe's Youngest Capital City, would be similar. But not so much. It's a little cleaner and brighter than Dublin, but unless fully intoxicated chavs from Pontypridd are your idea of European culture, it lacks somewhat. That doesn't stop it from trying, though. It's got its Cafe Quarter and Bay, and all throughout City Centre there are statues reminiscent of those in Dublin. But whereas Dublin gets a statue of a woman with an amazing rack, we get a bloke with fucking huge fists**.

A new Cardiff Central Library is being built at the moment, so it temporarily exists in a load of white worksite buildings. Never having gone to the old Central Library, I can't say for sure, but this temporary site seems to only contain a "best of" from the library's collection. As a result, I was unable to find any history or criticism of Académie française, which I need to form the crux of a paper I'm writing in Welsh -- the outline of which is due on Monday. Sadly, the university libraries are just as useless (or, perhaps there search engines are just as useless). After paying 48p for the pleasure of having held on to Morgan's Dirgel Ddyn for too long, I headed to Cardiff Central train station.

Platform 7 faces the afternoon sun, so I took a certain joy in having to wait 20 minutes for the train to Danescourt. I just sat on a bench and stared out across the Brains brewery and tried to forget about all the things that are frustrating me these days. I thought about summer and how Platform 7 is packed on hot days -- full of charming British youth heading off to Barry Island to drink cider and swear unnecessarily and serve as the living defeat of any argument that Britons are more cultured than anyone. Summer seems like it will be a long time; almost four months of my not being required to do anything. I am planning to write a book in that time, but I may just spend four months weeping -- this semester is challenging and I know things are only going to get more difficult.

Of course, I do myself no favours by taking a several hours to write really long blog posts...

*Like Americans, the Welsh enjoy coming up with ridiculous phrases that are supposed to sound impressive, but aren't really. The way that Minnesota is "the Land of 10,000 Lakes," Cardiff is "Europe's Youngest Capital City." In both cases, the statements are blatantly untrue. Minnesota has more than 10,000 lakes and Cardiff's becoming a capital city in 1955 easily predates the capital cities created by the break up of the Soviet Union.

**We love fists.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cardiff's becoming a capital city in 1955 easily predates the capital cities created by the break up of the Soviet Union.

I don't know... I think most of those were actually republican capitals already.

(Though I can't say the same for some of the new Balkan states... maybe they were capitals in previous formulations).

What's with the new URL? That should be post-worthy.

~the editor

Jenny said...

I used to use those long holidays to take a number of horrific-but-well-paid jobs, the most ludicrous of which was working a machine in a coathanger factory. On nightshift.

It was terrible, but I made 200 quid a week for only three nights work. Actually, I might give them a call.

mona said...

hey Cope- nice description of the city! My sister is actually going up there for a week to visit her boyfriend who's been there since sept. He always describes it as a city full of drunk students!
Honestly from all I've heard- seems like a pretty awesome place to be.

Brian said...

Wales is a place I just can't figure out. Betws-y-coed I stumbled into, late one evening, and didn't want to leave. Good hiking. Tourists were everywhere, but they were interesting tourists.

Somehow last summer I wound up in Chepstow, for the hiking again, but it was too chav-ridden and the place shut down after 6 PM.

I'll give Wales this: it's very hard to pin down, and usually what everyone says about it is wrong.

Annie Rhiannon said...

I worked in Betws as a teenager and loved it. I loved the summer tourists, the winters were dead without them. All those boys in shorts. I've never been to my capital, however, so this post was very interesting to me.

As for the 10,000 lakes thing, I can't tell if you're being funny or not. How can somewhere have more than 10,000 lakes? That's a lot of lakes. Or are you fucking with me?

Afe said...

I forgot to put my uplifting, encouraging, and sage-like wisdom on your whiney post the other day. It went something like this:

"Maybe you're just gay."

Curly said...

I'm more of a platform 4 fan, you can wander out into the sun and watch the trains glide (ahem) either side of you.

Give us a few years and we'll have a (s)wanky new shopping centre and a Snow-dome (whatever that is) in Cardiff too.

Huw said...

It's certainly a claim I've seen in Bratislava, but working out such claims really makes my head hurt. I'd say Slovakia has probably experienced five seperate events in the last 100 years alone where it could be said Bratislava emerged as a captial city.

Neal said...

You should write the book. In English please, so I can read it.

Thomas said...

You know what makes me happy? American Idol.

Chris Cope said...

Annie -- it's true. There are 11,842 lakes in the state of Minnesota. A lake is defined as being at least 10 acres. With ponds and rivers and creeks added, Minnesota has more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii combined.

Eric said...

Annie,
It's true about the lakes. In the capital city of Minnesota, Minneapolis, there are at least 7 good sized lakes I can think of off the top of my head, not including the numerous small ponds. It's to due with the fact that one of the most recent glaciers stopped here if my Geology 1001, rocks for jocks, class taught me anything. Just remember though that the land size of Minnesota is huge compared to most European countries.

Wierdo said...

Cardiff is nice, but it has nothing on edinburgh. Yeah it has a castle bur id it on top of a GIANT ROCK? No. Bah

Note:I'm in love with everything about edinburgh except that its 7 hours from Aberystwyth

Anna said...

1955? Did Wales have a capital city before that? Was it even a country?