18 October 2016

Cardiff: pubs and their signs 2

Fancy a drink? How about a pub crawl? Just to check out the signs and their buildings, of course. No imbibing!

Poet’s Corner, Roath
It was brought home to me recently how behind I am with my posts on this blog when I discovered that this pub, the Poet’s Corner in City Road, Roath, has closed down since I took these photographs back in September last year. Built in the late 1800s and known by a series of names, including The Ruperra Arms, PC’s Food and Drink Factory and Tut’n’Shive – who thinks up these names? – last orders were called for the final time in December 2015. Word at the bar is that old pubs like this are being targeted by property developers keen to grab a prime piece of inner city real estate, knock down the heritage buildings, and build cheap and soul-less concrete blocks in their places, though it also seems there are just too many pubs and not enough punters these days – or maybe that should be too many pubs and not enough poets!

Pen and Wig, Cathays
In contrast to the Poet’s Corner, the Pen and Wig, no more than a mile away, seems to be thriving. I’m sure it benefits from being closer to the city centre, very close to City Hall, the National Museum, Cardiff University and the Crown Court, and, as you might guess from its name, the area is awash with legal professionals. This pub also boasts a large rear garden area and a reputation for good food, including Sunday roasts, a combination sure to bring in the customers. 

The building was previously occupied by an ophthalmologist and only converted to a public house in 1994. The pub sign may be modern but is stylish and has a traditional feel.

Robin Hood, Canton
As far as I’m aware there is no actual association between this pub and the legendary Nottinghamshire outlaw and, in fact, there are pubs throughout Britain called ‘Robin Hood’ for no other reason than the fact that the owner liked the name. Apparently, this particular Robin Hood was built as recently as 1901 and its main claim to fame is that it used to be owned by Charlotte Church’s parents – this is where the Welsh singer-songwriter-actress-television presenter began her career in singing. With such a handsome Robin hanging outside to inspire her, I'm a little surprised she didn't adopt the stage name Maid Marian!

The pub sits in a nice tree-lined suburban street and I imagine it’s rather pleasant sitting outside sipping on a cold one on a hot summer’s day. (For the dubious, yes, we do actually have hot summer’s days in Cardiff!) 

The Heath, Cathays
I pass the Heath often, as it occupies a corner adjacent to Cathays Cemetery and is on one of my regular walking routes to Bute Park and the River Taff, yet I’ve never crossed its doorstep. It’s known as a working man’s pub, though I imagine it also attracts its fair share of the medical students and staff from Heath Hospital, just down the road. 

The Heath was built in 1899 but has been altered and extended since its original construction, though I understand it still retains some traces of its original interior decoration, with plaster reliefs of national symbols and a coat of arms high up on the walls. 

I particularly like the Heath’s pub sign, which has a rather eerie look with its solitary caped woman and sinister black bird.

02 October 2016

Cardiff art: A celebration of mining

Wales and coal mining go together like bread and butter. In fact, coal mining was the bread and butter of many Welsh men for many a year, and none more so than in the Valleys north of Cardiff. From valleys and men stained black with its soot and dust, the black gold of coal flowed down the innumerable railway lines to the port of Cardiff and thence by ship to power industries in Britain and around the world.

It’s no surprise, then, to find that many of Cardiff’s public artworks pay tribute to the industry that put Cardiff on the world map and to the 250,000 men who slaved and sometimes died underground to extract the coal that powered that industry. Over time, though, the styles of the artworks have changed rather dramatically.

This first grouping sits outside the Edwardian-era Glamorgan Building, formerly Cardiff’s County Hall but now home to the Schools of Social Sciences, Planning and Geography within Cardiff University. Two groups of statues sit adjacent to the building’s main entrance, one group representing navigation and the other, shown here, coal mining. The statues were sculpted between 1908 and 1912 by Albert Hemstock Hodge (1875-1917), a Scottish artist who specialised in architectural sculptures like these, and were originally intended to go on the roof of the building. Maybe the Portland stone proved too heavy for that lofty perch!

Hodge’s style is reminiscent of Classical Greek sculpture though, to my eye, his work shows none of the grace and elegance of the Greeks. The work is allegorical: from the helmet she wears and the shield on her right arm, one of the two seated female figures can be identified as Minerva, Roman goddess of trade and industry. She appears to be receiving a gift of a basket of coal from the front male figure. To see the real miners in this group, though, you need to climb the entrance stairs and take a look at the back of the statue. Here, one man is straining to push a tram full of coal, while another uses his pick to help pull the heavy load.

Though rugged and well-muscled workers, these two don’t resemble any Welsh men I’ve ever seen! But then neither does the collier in this more recent artwork. 

As one critic commented ‘The statue looks more like a pumped-up male model than a raw-boned Welsh miner’.

Titled ‘From Pit to Port’, this bronze and wrought iron work was designed and partly constructed by John Clinch (1934-2001) but completed by Jon Buck after Clinch died. 

Unveiled in 2005, it stands alongside Roath Dock in Cardiff Bay, celebrating the connection between mining and the port from where the coal was shipped far and wide.

05 September 2016

In the pink!

I haven’t blogged about my knitting projects before but there has to be a first time for everything, right? And I’m celebrating because ... finally ... FINALLY ... F.I.N.A.L.L.Y! ... I’ve finished a project that’s been on the go since January 2015.

I have actually completed three other projects in the meantime – a bulky jumper with cables, a simple scarf using up the rest of the bulky jumper wool, and another Fair Isle project, a sleeveless vest (which was my own design and one I’m rather proud of) – but this other just seemed to linger somehow.

It’s a jumper / sweater / jersey – whichever you prefer – and it’s one of my own Fair Isle designs (or, more correctly, I should say that it’s my own combination of traditional Fair Isle motifs knitted to my own colour choice). 

I started the project during the six months I lived in Cheshire in 2014-15 and even took the part-finished jumper and all the wool back to New Zealand in April 2015, thinking I would get it finished during the few months I was back there. It was the New Zealand winter after all.

But no! I was too busy selling my apartment, selling off my goods and chattels, and arranging to move my life to Britain to knit a single stitch. And then, when I left New Zealand, I went travelling for a few weeks and didn’t have the space to carry the part-jumper with me, so it had to go into the boxes with all my other belongings, to be seafreighted to Wales.

My worldly goods finally got delivered in mid-October 2015 and I recall enthusiastically extolling the virtues of knitting and including a photo of the part-jumper in a blog I wrote then, entitled ‘Ten things I love about autumn’ – one thing being that the autumn weather meant it was cool enough to knit comfortably.

Still, it lingered.... I was busy getting my new life here in Cardiff under way, walking and exploring a lot. I joined the Glamorgan Fungi Club and the Glamorgan Bird Club and the Ramblers so was out and about with them as well. And, at the beginning of the year, I started a new daily nature blog that took / takes quite a lot of time to produce. And then I started doing voluntary work two full days a week....

Excuses, excuses, excuses! Finally, in the middle of summer, I got my knitting mojo back. 

First, I knitted the sleeveless vest mentioned and shown above, and then I finally got back to my lovely Pinky jumper. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to start anything new until it was finished and I set a date of 31 August to get it done. And I did! 

So here it is. I absolutely love it and can’t wait for the colder weather so I can wear it. 

And, in the meantime, another sleeveless vest is underway. My knitting mojo is well and truly back!