Some Gothic Fashions of Another Era

Mixing an equal amount of rain, double consonants and other Gothic-like follies, we took about a day and change to walk and mainly laugh our way around the wet greens of Cardiff and Llandaff. In truth, we would have gladly walked way more than that but by the noon of the second day we found we had already walked everything twice and some of it thrice even, so we moved on.

The nicest part of it turned out to be the Llandaf area with its old but rather neat houses and its reasonably atmospheric cathedral at least as seen through the trees from midway down a path that's a few hundred years old itself:

Llandaff cathedral is Anglican and so relatively austere, a sort of well meaning in a very dry - bordering on dull - way inside. It is quiet and peaceful though and that's about as much as I ever care to ask of a cathedral/church/similar1. To my eyes, Llandaff cathedral still looks quite small too, since I compare it - as I always do - with those huge Catholic edifices that my 18 year old self encountered first in France2 and found afterwards to be quite the good measure for the western church style at least if not for much else.

At any rate, the Llandaff cathedral claims to go back all the way to 1107 although at a closer look, that means simply that there was *something* on that same site as early as 1107. The construction as it stands today has very little to do with what once was - it's simply the restoration of a rebuild of a renovation of an extension and so on, as those things arguably go at least in some places. It still makes I think for a good thing to see, as I could point out to the child who wanted to know why is that statue missing or incomplete or blacker than the other: that age-eaten stone saw people being born, getting old and dieing while other people were being born and getting old and dieing and so on. Through all of this, the stone simply got a bit more worn perhaps, a little smaller or a little smoother on its sides or shinier on its corners. And at times, it got carved into funereal statues for those dieing people, for all the difference that made to either stone or people themselves. I like old stone though, I always did.

Stone aside, I liked the ceilings inside the cathedral with their arches and red-with-green adornments:

The stained glass windows were all right I suppose, though nothing fancy or extraordinary really:

And once outside again, I tried and tried to get a straight picture of the cathedral's tower from the side but the only picture with a reasonably straight such tower is that taken by someone else who aimed it not even at the tower it would seem but at my doomed and unaware of being-photographed attempts:

As to the city of Cardiff itself, the walk started with an old hotel3 that is currently serving as a corner pub and is for sure way better looking than anything surrounding it as it stands clad in its random stone and mixed Gothic elements - they basically seem to have wanted to have "one of everything" when it comes to possible Gothic windows, there's no other way I can describe it:

Despite this promising start, the city centre is a terrible exercise in getting one-of-all-the-same-things, to the extent that I could think myself equally well in ~any other UK town4 really: the same chain shops and restaurants and fashionable bars & cafes. For all the potential charm of those winding Edwardian arcades that connect parallel streets in the town centre, they turned out to be all lined with the same-new-fake-old that had them banned rather quickly from my path. And for their eternal shame, I refused to even take a single photo of them and I shall put instead a photo of the billingual road sign at the entrance to the pedestrian city centre area since it's still more interesting than all the pretense-to-be-different:

At the other end of the rather compact city centre, there's more Gothic folly, if of a different... calibre, let's say. While the gorsaf gonalog could do no more than one hotel with all the gothic it could handle, the local Marquess5 had to have a castle stuffed to the gills with Gothic look alikes - since it was all just the fashionable thing to have at the time, nothing more. And so he built a tower with colourful pictures of very little meaning and a "Victorian house" with an Arab room and otherwise Gothic-this-and-Gothic-that. There's all in there and nothing really makes a lot of sense although at times and in well chosen bits and pieces it can provide a bit of beauty - more as an unexpected respite from the overall odd, uneasy and quite tiresome mix. Here's the "victorian house" part of it with its city-backdrop and novelty figure-ladden useless tower:

The nicest part of the inside would be perhaps one of the narrow staircases and the ceiling in the "Arab" room but it's all such a mix and don't-quite-match that there's no point in trying all that hard to follow the inexistent thread of any meaning - it's just fashion and pretense really, if one of a few hundred years ago when its forms were at least solid enough to last a bit longer than the latest iphone, I suppose:

The library looked at least peaceful enough to want perhaps to sit down and read a bit but a quick look at the shelves turned out the sort of "collection" that goes with all the rest of pretense: full set of jane austen and encyclopedia britannica. As my company promptly and quite smilingly pointed out, "what did you expect now, Dostoyevsky?"

Outside the fashionable quarters, there was at least the more interesting old stone of the walls themselves6:

On the funny side, we spotted this crowned animal head - we couldn't quite figure out *what* animal it was exactly and why the crown anyway - serving as gutter ending. I suggested it might have been simply a place holder until they could get a real crowned head to use for the purpose:

The nicest part of this "castle" complex was the old keep itself, the rebuilt remains of an actual fort that served a real necessity even if that was indeed ages ago:

From inside, the keep offers glimpses of what restricted - view or more - might mean at times, behind the bars that protect and deprive at the same time or through the narrow slit that frames perspective for defensive focus7:

At the top of the keep, I got photographed again for one reason or another, as I was otherwise taking in the view that opened up quite nicely despite the very wet and grayish day:

And at the end of those two days of almost always-on rain, I couldn't help but think again of that rain of another time and another place, the one that I left behind and still carry within me, nevertheless.

  1. I still find after a while that I need to get out of it, though in this case it was a relatively long while so I'll count it as all right. 

  2. Reims, Rouen, Amiens, Strasbourg, there's realy no lack of Notre Dames set out quite purposefully to awe and be grand rather than being any sort of friendly, dry or otherwise. 

  3. While changing function, it retained its name as The Great Western, perhaps as it also retained - unexpectedly? - its position right next to the local Gorsaf Ganalog - I think that Welsh does fit many "central stations" way better than plain English can ever hope to do, there's just no match for gorsaf ganalog, I tell you. 

  4. And it brings of course to mind not only the communist-mandated sameness of old days but also - for added laughter of a certain kind - the popular Russian illustration of it; see perhaps - if you really have nothing better to do one day - The Irony of Fate film, directed by Eldar Ryazanov, 1975 

  5. One of Bute but more appropriately it would be of Coal, I suppose, since that was his fief anyway: the local collieries, nothing else. 

  6. Part of the wall was double and the space inside served as shelter during the war. 

  7. The child explained and onomatopeically demonstrated the usefulness of such openings for shooting arrows. He missed and couldn't care less - nor do I think he should have cared just yet - about the shoot of green trying to get out to the light. 

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