An edited version of this article originally appeared in the South Wales Echo in April 2016. This is one of our monthly columns, which are listed on this blog here. Where an online version wasn’t posted by WalesOnline for reasons unknown they’re posted on our blog because one night in the Echo just ain’t enough!
On Saturday we were really proud that so many people visited St David’s shopping centre to grab the Cardiff-celebrating poster that I’d created exclusively for St David’s as part of its I Loves St David’s spring event.
The place was buzzing. There were loads of give-aways and games happening, and I’m told some 180,000 people visited throughout the course of the day – an incredible number. It was great to see a fair few of them walking around with tote bags emblazoned with the I Loves The ‘Diff logo too.
St David’s gave away 4,000 free copies of our Cardiff print. It was a pleasure to meet so many people and chat about the poster and the landmarks we’d featured. A security guard wanted to know why the ‘Magic Roundabout’ is on there. I explained that as a kid it was exciting to drive around it (actually, it still is), it’s something everyone knows, and it has even been featured on the calendar of UK Roundabout Appreciation Society.
Plus, not only is the art installation by Pierre Vivant fun and unusual, but its name is really Landmark. The fact that locals have called it the Magic Roundabout makes it all the more Cardiff, I suggested. He was happy with this answer and asked me to sign his poster!
Pick an orange
An item on the print that no one will question is the Cardiff Bus. In fact, the one I used is actually a photo of a mural of a Cardiff Bus that was on a wall in Tudor Lane, off Tudor Street in Riverside. I recently noticed that this artwork – a celebration of the city’s trolley-buses and buses over the 20th century – has been painted over. It’s such a shame, especially as it’s been replaced with a coat of boring magnolia. I’m glad a part of it lives on via the poster.
Speaking of buses of the past, yesterday Cardiff Bus unveiled a Scania Olympus double decker in the fondly-remembered orange livery, which were used from 1972 till 2000. I probably shouldn’t be quite so excited as I am about this, but to my mind orange buses are as Cardiff as Clark’s Pies and Billy The Seal.
The orange No.472, complete with “Pick an Orange” stickers will be used throughout 2016 as part of celebrations to mark 30 years of Cardiff Bus in its current form. There’s a history of the buses on cardiffbus.com, and there’ll be more information on more celebrations coming soon.
The city centre needs a tourist hub
On Saturday, I spent some time with Tom and his colleagues on the information desk on the first floor in St David’s shopping centre. I was given the chance to show off some of our products, but I also found it a bit of an eye-opener.
As well as fielding visitors’ enquiries about shops and services, I saw that the team also does its best to satisfy tourists, both British and from overseas, who approach the desk looking for ideas as to what to do in our great little city.
The staff members do their best to suggest activities and itineraries, and there are quite a few leaflets on display. It’s just a shame they can’t direct people to a nearby tourist information centre as they once did.
In my very first Echo column, in April 2015, I lamented the (then) recent closure of the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) in the Old Library. “The sudden absence in Cardiff city centre of the little ‘i’ has caused many of us to ask a big ‘why’,” I wrote.
Shortly afterward I attended a Cardiff Council meeting and sat in the public viewing gallery to hear a Councillor claim that visitors no longer want information centres – they only require free wi-fi. (I won’t say who said this.)
The fact that Cardiff Council intends to create a TIC by the station one day means the powers that be acknowledge the need for one. Why don’t we have a temporary one on the grassy ‘moat’ near Cardiff Castle’s main entrance till the time a permanent one is created? It could even be staffed by volunteers. I’ll do an afternoon a week myself.
As I was writing this, I looked up to see a plume of dark, ominous smoke spreading eastward across the hillside north of Lisvane. The fire – the bright flames now visible with the naked eye from two miles away – has gutted a workshop next to a house.
The fire brigade has just arrived, and Jennie Griffiths, Head of the Joint Fire Control for South and Mid and West Wales Fire Services has confirmed on Twitter (@GriffithsJECtrl) that everyone is safe. In fact, the smoke has turned to a lighter shade of grey as the firemen and women get to work putting the fire out.
Watching helpless as part of your home, and perhaps prized or sentimental possessions, or perhaps even your livelihood, go up in smoke is an agonising experience. I hope that whatever the fire has taken away can be replaced easily enough, and wish the homeowner all the best for the considerable effort that is required to pick up the pieces and rebuild.
It’s an odd feeling watching the fire from afar, not least because in July 2011 the attic space in which I’m sat was itself entirely destroyed by a fire that lasted hours and threatened the entire house. It was only thanks to the concerted efforts of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service that the house was saved, albeit with considerable smoke and water damage to all floors. (If you don’t mind, I’ll gloss over the reason that I’m sat writing an article in my parents’ converted attic.)
That day was incredibly emotional. You never expect to see your childhood home go up in flames. And as a family we remain hugely grateful to the fire service for their actions and support – they were incredible.
Sadly, the family cat died due to smoke inhalation – the highly sympathetic fire crew tried to revive her but to no avail. Mind you, she was very old. That minor tragedy aside, had the fire occurred at night it could have been so much worse.
And as for material possessions, well, I feel so lucky to have saved a few important things, like my grandfather’s old slides, but something like that puts things into perspective; the stuff we surround ourselves with is not important. Our family and their well-being are all that matters.
I’m sorry that this column kind of took an unexpected turn caused by a fire in Lisvane – but then, that’s fire for you, isn’t it? It’s usually unexpected and a very unwelcome ‘guest’.
Perhaps like a lot of people, to my mind a fire was something you read about in the paper. They were things that happened to other people. But as I discovered – it’s not always the case. At the risk of sounding like a public safety advertisement, it’s really something we all need to consider more often – especially when it comes to ensuring our loved ones (of all species) remain safe.
“Over recent years we have seen a reduction in the number of dwelling fires we attend,” Garry David, Head of Community Safety at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, told me. “However, it is essential that people keep checking their smoke alarms on a regular basis – we encourage once a week. Replace the alarm battery when needed and know their escape route should a fire occur in their home.” That’s us told. I’m off to check ours.
An edited version of this article originally appeared in the South Wales Echo in April 2016. This is one of our monthly columns, which are listed on this blog here. Where an online version wasn’t posted by WalesOnline for reasons unknown they’re posted on our blog.