Socially it was a busy few days. I had four full days at my disposal, and I visited family or friends on three of them. Only the final day was completely free of meetups.
I spent the first afternoon and evening with Angie, who had moved herself and her wife S--- from Cornwall up to the Forest of Dean late in 2012. Angie and I had two interesting hours in the Forest inspecting a tramway, a coal mine, and two lakes, before deciding that it was getting much too chilly for comfort. In the evening, the three of us went to The Nag's Head in Usk for a delicious meal. I can only show you a shot of myself, but I think you'll see in it a person having a lovely time:
Of course the mellow evening lighting is terribly flattering, and in the name of honesty I feel obliged to show you a shot of myself taken next day in natural daylight:
A shot redeemed by the modelling induced by the pale midday light. By the way, even now I keep on taking shots of myself, to study any changes, and make corrections to my 'look' if I can. Although frankly I don't think my appearance has changed much in the last two years, except for a bit more facial sagging, and an increase in my girth! I've definitely missed the boat for Miss World.
The second day, from lunch till tea time, was devoted to my elderly aunt in Newport. She was in good spirits, and I was glad of it, because she will be 92 later this year and getting no younger. She has a unique privilege: she is the only person alive who can use my old name without my minding. She puts it this way: she takes her religion seriously (she has attended the same Methodist church for decades); she is my godmother; and she can't bring herself to use a name different from the one I was christened with. She is my only elderly aunt, and I simply can't bring myself to insist on her using 'Lucy' at all times. She's nevertheless accommodating when others are around. So she will say 'Lucy' if her son or anyone else is present, and would certainly do so in public. Any cards or letters I get from her are addressed to 'Miss Lucy Melford' too. It's 'J---' only between the two of us, and I don't feel compromised.
The third day's socialising was in late afternoon, so I had a lot of the day free. I went into Cardiff. It's not a place I know well. I was born there, but we actually lived in Barry, the seaside town a few miles to the south-west. Dad had no car for most of our time at Barry, and you went everywhere by train or bus. I don't recall many trips into Cardiff. We usually went straight through on the train, to Newport where most of my family lived. Cardiff always seemed a big, busy, slightly rundown place, with very bumpy roads where the old tramlines had been tarmacked over. I never went to the docks: that was a workaday place with a very dodgy reputation. The docks at sunny Barry were getting quiet, running down, and mums and kids could wander through them. The old docks at Cardiff were quite another thing. I never heard of the placename 'Tiger Bay' until the mid-1960s, but Things Went On There that children ought not to know. Well, the shipping offices remain, together with a few old landmark buildings. But everything else in the Bute Town district has either gone, or been remodelled into a new waterfront complex. The dock basins have mostly been filled in, and where there were cranes and warehouses and railway sidings, there are now stylish flats and shops and eateries and places to see performances. Some original parts remain, but only until development resumes:
The BBC Wales studios are now here, and an offshoot of that is the Doctor Who Experience:
Personally I don't think this captures the true flavour of this rough and ready corner of the proud Welsh Capital. I like to see old redbrick dock buildings combined with an imaginative use of former dock infrastructure:
That tall silvery column is actually a water feature: water cascades down its sides. Here's me getting wet:
I wish I were really so slender! Nearby is a colossal venue, for concerts I think, with huge lettering on the front in Welsh and English:
A strapping and handsome young seaman passes time with a pretty prostitute on a summer's evening, before they get down to a cash transaction. The Cardiff that Mum wouldn't tell me about. It's cleverly done. He looks confident and supremely at ease. She looks full of life and oddly innocent. An ancient scene replays itself. Who is the victim? Or are there no victims: only customers, and girls who make it their business to please? The artist has not made her voluptuous. She is slim and small-breasted, and yet very feminine. And he is well and truly hooked. I'd say those obsessed with having a big bust should reconsider: you can be a fanciable woman with quite small breasts - as any glance around the real world will prove.
Further along, there is a metal sculpture that commemorates life at sea in quite a different way. I thought it very moving. It's a Merchant Navy wartime memorial. From one angle it's a wrecked hull; from another it's a drowning face:
Yet further along, near a moored lightship, is another figure, the traditional docker:
As you can see, there's a pleasant café on the lightship. I had a bacon roll and a pot of tea. Actually two pots of tea. All for not much more than £2. The guys serving made a big fuss of me for some reason, and one of them brought me that extra free pot of tea so that I'd be able to enjoy a really fresh cup. That was lovely, but I couldn't see why I deserved such attention - unless they wanted another close-up look at me out of curiosity! Maybe, maybe not.
There was unfortunately no loo on the lightship, and by the time I trekked back to where I'd left Fiona, I was in need of a pee. I popped into the BBC Wales studios in the hope of finding toilets in their reception area, but they let me down. So I had to drive around the quayside to the white-painted Norwegian Church (now a café and exhibition centre) in order to go - just in time, after all that tea!
Tomorrow I'll tell you about the National Museum of Wales, and if there's space I'll move on to Blaenavon town and say something about that too.