In the early morning after the second London evening I hopped into a car minus Graeme – sadly, he has work to do back in Canada for his forthcoming Bedside Book of Beasts — and was driven to Paddington Station. I was supposed to meet Fiona in front of something called “the Big Board.” She had my ticket to Cardiff: I couldn’t leave without her.
Once inside Paddington, I found that there were two Big Boards, at opposite sides of the station. They looked exactly alike. This cognitive dissonance must have caused a neural overload in my brain: I have no memory of the next six minutes. I awoke to find that I’d acquired two stuffed Paddington Bears, in little duffel coats. How had this happened?
Then I saw Orville and his guitar case wandering troubadour-like through the crowd, with Phoebe wafting behind. But where was Fiona? The train for Cardiff was about to leave! P & O had their own tickets, so I shooed them in the direction of the train, then ricocheted like a ping-pong ball between the two Big Boards, all of a frazzle lest Fiona be waiting at the one I wasn’t at.
Enter Fiona. “Oh no, it’s the next train,” said she. Reappearance of Orville and Phoebe, having missed the train I’d mistakenly urged them to take. An eldritch cackle was enjoyed by all. When young people get snarled up like that, they’re called “feckless.”
After obtaining some organic coffee from Starbucks (Yes! They have it!) we got on the right train. The green rolling Welsh hills were much appreciated — especially by Phoebe and Orville, who’d never been to Wales before — as we approached Cardiff. Once there, we set off in search of the organic food eatery researched by Fiona: she’s determined to make sure we stick with the Veggie Vow programme. I’m getting some help with it from other quarters, too. For instance, various Twitterpals have thoughtfully been coming up with organic coffee – physically, that is:
Thanks to Matt Cowan of Reuters (“Londonjourno” on Twitter), for the Monmouth Coffee Company, located in Covent Garden, London: www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk. And to www.pulsewholefoods.com for the Nardo Organic Coffee: www.cafe-ita.co.uk. And to Suma for the Suma Ethiopia, www.suma.coop. Thank you, Sheila Paine of Friendly Gardening, No Job Too Small, in Llantwit Major. I’m carrying all the little coffee packets around in my wheelie, with the result that I smell like a freshly-roasted bean. Not a bad smell, or not yet; but will I attract a trail of caffeine addicts? Time will tell.
Let me mention also Janie Hampton, an Event singer, who brought some bantam eggs and plums by bike, train, and foot from her Oxford garden, and is involved with an African boat refit and health clinic programme (www.chauncymaples.org.)
The Hungry Planet (142 Clifton Street, Adamstown, Cardiff) turned out to be largely a food shop, but with takeaway and a couple of eat-in tables tucked into a corner. Very, very vegetarian; also very good. Chef wears green chef thing on head. “What will the world be like when you’re pushing up the daisies?” asked the Centre for Alternative Technology in its pamphlet (www.cat.org.uk.) While sipping the Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock Root traditional drink (Yikes! It exists!), I meditated upon how that message might be more tactfully rephrased. (To avoid, for instance, the subversive reply, “If I’m pushin’ ‘em daisies up, why should I give a toss eh?”) Perhaps: “A little bit of YOU can live on at CAT!” More positive, I think. No need to mention which bit might live on.
I had another wee shopping blackout at The Hungry Planet and came to with a pencil case that used to be a car tyre and also a pen that used to be a games module. (By Remarkable, at www.remarkable.co.uk.) as well as some Nutty 9Bars with Hemp – recommended! (www.wholebake.co.uk.) After our www.ecocoffee.co.uk, it was off to rehearsal at the stunning Llandaff Cathedral (site of 1120 Cathedral founded by Urban, the first Norman Bishop). The choir was at first somewhat daunted by the fact that none of them had met any of the others before 3.00 that afternoon, with showtime at 7.30, but happily the singers had terrific sight-reading skills, the musical director Paul Elkington was determined, Orville was there to play and sing, and Diana Quick was transported by archangels from London to be Toby again, and was thus able to give a bit of extra coaching and a few tips. After some Elvis Presley warm-up singing backstage, it all came off in tip-top form, with some of the excitement one feels when watching a bicyclist crossing Niagara Falls on a rope. Wales goes in for hang-gliding in more ways than one. Diana was a star, Jesse Ingram was a brave and stoical Ren, drama student Kristoffer Huball was an energetic Adam One, and the sell-out audience were enthusiastic clappers. The RSPB Wales was there in force, leaflets and cash buckets in full deploy, beaming with bemused joy.
Then we went off with Peter Florence of the Hay Festival – under whose wing the Event took place – to the Milgi Restaurant, again totally vegetarian and very good. Bring your earplugs though: it has a disc jockey, and The Beet Goes On.
Saturday was our day off. After eating some plums and boiled bantam eggs, I spent the morning with Tim Stowe of the RSPB Wales, looking at shore birds, ducks, and others at the lagoons near Newport, hearing about the positive eco-effects of sheep – there are some! — and worrying about a tidal power project they’re thinking of putting across the Severn. (Baaad idea.)
In the afternoon, after a crazed catch-up emailing session in an internet café — the only place where we could get a connection that worked — we did a tourist thing and went to Cardiff Castle, a wonderful 19th-C Gothic Revival, the No-gilt, -carving, -fresco, -bee, -beetle, -parrot, or wimpled- damsel-spared extravaganza that I liked when I first saw it, way back in 1964, before the Pre-Raphaelites had made their comeback. We even took the “Premium Tour,” which got us into the Winter Smoking Room –gosh! – and the Arabian Room – wow! Many more goshes and wows were emitted by us along the way. We further disgraced ourselves by eating Welsh cakes, and buying, not only some no-tree SheepPooPaper from www.SheepPooPaper.com, but also some CDs of Welsh rugby songs. (www.sainwales.com) I did resist the tea towel with the Tourist’s Prayer on it, the red plush dragon, and the huggy sheep-shaped pillow. Give me some credit.