‘Cardiff is in dan­ger of los­ing some of its unique char­ac­ter’

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

I’VE lived in Cardiff for about 15 years. In that time, I’ve fre­quented quite a few of the city’s wa­ter­ing holes. A num­ber aren’t there any more.

When I moved to Cardiff I drank in The Wharf (flat­tened) and The Vul­can (flat­tened), went to gigs at the Barfly (gone) and then moved to Roath where I drank reg­u­larly at the Poets Cor­ner (flat­tened).

The Splot­lands (closed) was a handy pub crawl stop-off on the way to town. Through­out all of this (and new pubs open­ing), Dempseys was a con­stant. And now that’s clos­ing. That place is re­spon­si­ble for giv­ing me most of my cur­rent friends. I’ll miss it but as with the rest, I’ll still have the mem­o­ries. And ter­ri­ble pho­to­graphs.

With the news Dempseys is about to be­come part of the pub crawl in the sky, I was asked to write about what made some of them spe­cial to me...

The Wharf When I moved to Cardiff per­ma­nently, I lived in a flat on Schooner Way. It was num­ber 120. The Wharf was num­ber 121. It was a friendly, handy neigh­bour.

This was in about 2004, the Bay wasn’t en­tirely fin­ished. There wasn’t a Tesco or Sains­burys, just a cor­ner shop about 15 min­utes away.

If it was rain­ing or cold or there was foot­ball on or the day had a vowel in it, that was way too far away.

It was far eas­ier to walk the 90 sec­onds to the pub, stick our credit cards be­hind the bar, or­der food and beer and stay there un­til clos­ing. It was an ex­ten­sion of our liv­ing room. Only with Sky Sports and a pool ta­ble. It re­ally was home from home.

It was a weird shape, open plan, had a pet boat and a huge in­door beer yard to com­pli­ment the out­door one that over­looked a square bit of wa­ter and a Hol­i­day Inn. It wasn’t your con­ven­tional lo­cal.

One of my favourite ever nights was in that pub.

My­self, Pete, Brad and Gary met there to watch the 2005 Liver­pool v AC Milan Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal. Three Liver­pool fans and Brad the Gooner.

At half time there was talk of just go­ing home but I per­suaded every­one to stay, not be­cause of any witchcrafty pre­mo­ni­tion, more be­cause I liked be­ing in the pub. Gary went to the bar. As he was com­ing back to the ta­ble with a pint in each hand, Ger­rard scored. Gary did bril­liantly to keep his com­po­sure and not spill a drop. At the time, he was still a pro­fes­sional boxer, he had good bal­ance.

He went back for the other two pints and on his way back, Smicer scored. Again, amaz­ing re­straint. He’d put the beers down by the time we scored the third.

We’d drunk a de­cent amount by the time it went to penal­ties. He lost track of the score by the time Dudek saved the de­ci­sive kick. He ended up crushed un­der­neath me and Pete on the floor. Pete wasn’t a small lad.

The Vul­can The walk home from town took me past The Vul­can. What a won­der­fully bonkers pub.

We’d of­ten stop off for a post-work pint but even when I moved to Roath, I kept go­ing back.

When trendy bars started to open in the city and claim to be arty, The Vul­can was fre­quented by peo­ple that cre­ated more than hot air.

I spent many a night there with writ­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers and mu­si­cians. It was the sort of pub these peo­ple grav­i­tated to.

It was the only pub I’ve fre­quented where you were of­fered food with your pint de­spite it not hav­ing a menu. More of­ten than not, there was a vat of chilli or curry sat in the back room. I never asked why, it was far eas­ier to just run with it.

I took a new house­mate there once, told him it was weird. He asked why. I told him he’d see soon enough and kept my fin­gers crossed it didn’t let me down. We walked in and the only other peo­ple in there were a ta­ble of four pen­sion­ers, all wear­ing maps of the world as kilts. I still don’t know why. It proved my point though.

I also hap­pened to be in The Vul­can the night Michael Jack­son died. We were all stood out­side as a few of the group smoked. It was rain­ing. We all jumped at the sound of thun­der as light­ning split the sky.

A sec­ond later some­one ran out of the pub shout­ing Jacko had died. The Stereo­phon­ics’ More Life In A Tramps Vest started up on the juke­box. The place was magic. Hope­fully, it’ll re­tain its mystic pow­ers when it re­opens at St Fa­gans soon.

The Poets Cor­ner When I moved to Roath, the Poets was my lo­cal. An­other pub that was less than con­ven­tional. It seemed to change hands ev­ery six months or so at that point.

With ev­ery new land­lord came new quirks. The lo­cals on the ground floor never changed though. I can’t say it was en­tirely wel­com­ing but, at the same time, it was easy to feel at home with the ram­shackle band of char­ac­ters who reg­u­larly drank there.

The Splot­lands OK, I only went there three times. All were dur­ing pub crawls. It was a handy stop-off be­tween the end of City Road and town. It never looked all that invit­ing from the out­side but the first time I went there, there were three of us and one was a serv­ing Ma­rine. We were feel­ing brave. As it hap­pened, we were the only peo­ple in there on a Tues­day af­ter­noon so we were wel­comed with open arms.

The beer se­lec­tion was ba­sic, the lay­out rudi­men­tary. There was a plaque at­tached to one of the seats, It was ded­i­cated to Cyn­thia, the in­scrip­tion stated that the old reg­u­lar had “done it her way”. It was good to know.

The sec­ond time I went was near Christ­mas. Most pubs had tacky tin­sel or gaudy foil dec­o­ra­tions hang­ing from the ceil­ing. Not Splot­lands. It had shim­mer­ing white drapes hang­ing from ev­ery wall. If a guy dressed as St Peter had emerged from the toi­lets, I gen­uinely would’ve started to be­lieve I’d left this mor­tal coil. I hope it was like that ev­ery Christ­mas. It might just have been left over from a re­cent wed­ding party. I’ll never know.

Dempseys It’s still open un­til Fe­bru­ary 12 so make the most of it. Dempseys is prob­a­bly the place in Cardiff that shaped my life the most. I run a record shop and put on gigs, so it’s fair to say I’m ac­tive in the lo­cal mu­sic scene. Dempseys gets a lot of credit for that.

Once upon a time, if you were in a band, put on bands, liked bands, wanted to cop off with some­one in a band, you went to Dempseys on a Satur­day night. Some­times up­stairs to Twisted By De­sign, some­times just down­stairs talk­ing rub­bish and drink­ing un­til 3am with like-minded peo­ple. If you were cyn­i­cal, you could call it net­work­ing but in all hon­esty, it was just a place where a mas­sive group of mates hung out. I in­clude all of the staff in that too. There are many stand­out mem­o­ries but two im­me­di­ately come to mind.

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