Thursday, 22 December 2016

Hoovering the Garden

The world is insane. I am insane. If anyone had told me, a few years back, that I would spend a day driving around garden centres looking for a spare part so I could hoover my garden, then I’d have suggested locking them away in a room with all the sharp edges removed.

But yes, I am sad and shallow and I want to hoover my garden. There are leaves. Many leaves. And because I am idle I have a Flymo GardenVac, and the shredder thingy has snapped, (see photo) so I need to buy a new one. It is a standard consumable, just a bit of plastic wire, and they tend to snap and need to be replaced from time to time. I could buy one from Amazon but I could really do with it now and the mini-helicopter delivery system isn’t quite ready yet.

“We’ll have to go to a garden centre,” I said.

A reasonable thing to say. Garden centres have garden stuff, don’t they? Well, apparently not. Garden centres have nothing for gardens. They have Santa’s grottos and they have overpriced clothing and ornaments and wicker furniture and wooden plaques with motivational slogans. They have bad joke books and books with photos of the British coast from the air. They have kitchen equipment in jaunty bright colours that cost three times the price of the old kitchen equipment that used to come in perfectly acceptable stainless steel. They have bird boxes, and sacks of bird food that costs more than supermarket muesli (but probably tastes the same). Or I could buy a little basket with two jars of jam nestling in a bed of paper straw. Why? Why the hell do I need jam in a basket? What do I do with the basket afterwards? And what about the little red and white paper covers held over the vacuum-sealed lids with rubber bands: why do I need paper lids on the jam? Why? Do they make the jam taste better?

And before I’m done with my garden centre visit, as I’m striding with a purpose towards the exit, I could pause by the DVD rack and pick up a black and white WWII DVD or one about steam trains or Fred Dibnah, each carefully cropped to fit a square TV screen, to remind me about how good things used to be in the old days.

You remember the old days?

The days when you went to a garden centre to buy garden stuff!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Trip Around Cardiff Bay

As a diversion from my usual caravan posts I'm admitting here and now that sometimes I go to the dark side and stay in hotels. I had the chance of free rail travel down to Cardiff and it is very hard to take a caravan on the train. So yes, I'm a traitor to the cause. But Cardiff is such a lovely city to visit that I'm sure we'll do it again, and maybe next time we will take the 'van. Mind you, in December it was very nice to have a warm room and someone to make the bed and bring clean towels each day.
I love the way the low sun hits this water feature in Roald Dahl Plans.
It has been a few years since we last visited Cardiff, and I hardly recognised the area around the station. New buildings have gone up all over the place. There are two huge indoor shopping centres, but the character hasn't changed at all. Linking the main streets there are still plenty of the narrow covered arcades full of fascinating and different shops.
Looking across to Mermaid Quay and all the eateries.
The highlight of our visit, though, was Cardiff Bay. It's about a mile to walk, but the train from Queen Street Station takes you there in under ten minutes. Head for the copper clad Millennium Theatre and the fabulous water feature in Roald Dahl Plass. Then there's a path to the left that goes right out to the barrage and over to Penarth. The sun was shining on the day we visited and it really is a fabulous walk, even in December.
Home of the Welsh Assembly, The Senedd.
The walk goes past the front of the Welsh Assembly building, The Senedd. We didn't go inside on this occasion, but we did on our last visit, and it's worth doing just that, if only to admire the fabulous ceiling of red cedar that mushrooms up from above the debating chamber and ripples in waves across the ceiling and outside to form the huge porch. There's a viewing gallery above the chamber, and the whole interior is a wide, light and airy space, where you can just sit and admire the whole thing. 

This is how to do public seating. A tribute to Roald Dahl.

Back on the walk there are plenty of reminders that Cardiff is proud of its association with Roald Dahl. Not only is the square in front of the theatre named after him, but the Norwegian Church where he was christened still stands (and is a good place for a coffee) and now and again you might come across other memorials, such as the crocodile and bench, part way around the bay walk. 
We are also reminded that Captain Robert Falcon Scott set sail on his ill fated exhibition to the South Pole from Cardiff - another link with the Norwegian Church - and there is a memorial to Captain Scott and his Terra Nova crew, part way around the bay.

And of course there's Doctor Who. All I will say here is that the Doctor Who Experience is fabulous. If you want to know more you should take a look at my scifi blog, here.
Yes, okay. Daleks. (I'm a SciFi writer, so of course I'm going to mention Doctor Who) Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, came from Cardiff, and the Doctor Who Experience, right on the Cardiff Bay walk, is a must see exhibit.

 A brilliant visit, but the caravan is calling once more. Let's get Christmas out of the way so we can get back on the road.