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Real Cardiff
Bute Street
Charles Street
City Road
Flat Holm
The Four Elms
The Garth
Gorsedd Gardens
Hadfield Road
Lloyd George Ave
Mount Stuart Square
Newport Road


The Parks of Roath
The Pearl
Ty Draw


Womanby St.

What else?

Real Cardiff #2
The Canna
Billy Banks
Ely Fields
Llys TalyBont


Cardiff Poets Map
Cardiff, New York
Shots of the Bay
and the City

More Scenes

Cardiff Fictions and

Hamadryad Park
The Bay
St David's Hall
The Museum
The City
Check Your Accent
Ffynnon Denis

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Where the Ely meets the Taff has always been indeterminate. River mouths move as if they were speaking. Silt accumulates then shifts. The rivers themselves meander. In Cardiff's heyday the Ely looped here like a Hindu snake. Railtracks crossed the peninsula to the Victoria Wharf coal-stays on the tidal harbour. Penarth Dock station watched from the far side. Grime and sweat. The substance big cities are made from. By the 1960s the industry had gone and the wooden wharfs had begun to crumble. The Ely meanders were abandoned in 1971 and the river diverted through a new straight channel cut along their western edge. The river now ran parallel to the Cogan railway. Revealed hollows were used as landfill. The ancient Penarth Moors became a dump for city garbage. By the 1990s the hollows were full, capped with three-feet of impervious clay and redeveloped as Grangemoor Parc with the Cardiff Bay Retail Park alongside. South East lay the Ferry Road peninsula, the Red House, the Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, and the site for the in-coming Sports Village and attendant housing. To the south west, up Dunleavy Drive, are Ely Fields. Ely Fields? Secret, gated Cardiff. A thirty-acre triangle of land with the river front on its long side and the elevated Grangetown Link and Cogan Spur roadways on the others. Peer into it as you drive past, most you'll see are trees.

This is home to the exclusive Grangemoor Court waterfront apartments (£160,000 plus for a one bedroomed flat at 2004 prices) and Cardiff's much-vaunted Celtic Gateway Media Park. WDA, Rhodri, suits and smiles. Who creates these names? No park, no gateway, and hardly Celtic. Penarth mud, drained. But the media are here. NTL's bespoke 65,000 square foot call-centre with its glazed atria and softly curving maritime roof gleams white on the green sward . Opposite is BT's prize ninety-million-pound Internet Data Centre (IDC). Known as Elinia House, the complex is run by BT Global Services. No sign anywhere of the rolling silt mud that this place once was. South is water. Sky is blue. In the sun it feels like the Mediterranean.

BT Internet Data Centre front

The glass front of the IDC is riddled with words. High over the revolving entrance run a series of names: Peter Pan Tinkerbell Roger Ellis Norman Schwenk D.Z. Phillips William Carlos Williams William ap Will William Williams Jones Walcott St Paul ap Iestyn A.M. Allchin. Norman, poet, hat wearer, and American denizen of the Cardiff literary scene for at least forty years hasn't seen his name up here yet. Nether has Roger Ellis, nor, come to that, has Peter Pan, William Carlos Williams nor A M Allchin. These are all fragments of my long web poem R S Thomas Information, never published in hard copy form but now here, hard as you like and in copious quantity, all over BT's Bay masterpiece. I've parked my car on the roadside under the Link Road bridge. The official car parks are all chain fenced and motor barriered. The service roads look vulnerable, park and someone will remove your vehicle with a rocket launcher. Or tow it away for scrap. At the entrance a uniformed guard tells me that I can't just turn up here, I need an appointment. These buildings are not like offices. They are not . Inside the lobby is all curves and glass and R S Thomas deconstructed. Risk ripening rescued red random rubbing reborn R. rooting rnld ring remote rain rain rooting roof reason remoter root removes roses return rigid. Three hundred people a day will walk past it. fescue fuddled females flame fire flies flying failed flowed from fields foolish fields foolish This is data in action. You look at it. You read it. You don't take it in.

BT IDC in the corridor

Back in the early 80s when the best home computer in the world was the BBC B with 32k memory, no printer and a cassette-tape A-drive I wrote a program in Basic which would compose Anglo-Welsh poems for me. I set up a number of word pools containing the sort of vocabulary the Anglo-Welsh were famous for - sheep, stipple, cariad, hillside, hiraeth, chapel, pit - and then a couple of rules for how these words could be combined. Up it all came on screen.

slate fences on farmer's hillsides,
shrouded cockles and grass-polished deacons,
the nation majestically watered

This was great. Machines that could do your work for you. I copied the poetry down.

BT IDC Peter Finch's text

R S Thomas, Wales' greatest poet, dour and dark, was clearly next. He was a Cardiffian who had deserted the anglicised-city for the north. He'd learned Welsh to perfection and adopted a hard, revolutionary line on the culture. A man who certainly needed to be celebrated. I chose the most contemporary of devices open to me. The net. Using real and imagined sources I build up a hyperlinked database of the poet's history, his friends and acquaintances, his fans, his influences, his childhood, his favoured lexicon. We are all identifiable by the extent of our vocabulary and the frequency of its use. What would his look like? I found out. In his lifetime he was nominated for the Nobel Prize. He didn't get it. I wrote the history up. Did he ever listen to Mozart? Certainly. Dion and the Belmonts? Maybe not. He was a famous birder but not of the reworked feather-bearers I included. Greeebe Hebron Goshandy Goosehandy Gobbler Grey Dipper Kingklank Goldeneye Grodfish Godeel Golders Green Grass Basher h'm.

colour too

The database - the poem - grew like topsy. I built in a bibliographic resource showing his extant books and where to buy them. There was a newspaper story somewhere about him looking happy. I inserted a clickable link. I wrote an imaginary walk of his through fields of mangles and an encounter with the poet Childe Roland. Someone e-mailed me to say that R S had moved to Criccieth. I pasted it in. The piece was structured alphabetically to give it a base. I mixed genuine R S vocabulary with imagined resources and developed a host of cross-cutting links. When you arrived at the site there was no intention that you should read the data sequentially, A to Z. Far from it. This was a simulacrum of the real world where data was to be grazed and processed, batched and filed, cut and pasted, spliced and dumped. Visitors took it as how life was. His son Gwydion said the work was elliptical. R S himself would have been appalled.

and in the offices

Back out in the Bay the heat is burning the shirt into my back. Along the edges of the undeveloped areas of the site ragwort, wild carrot and yellow toadflax sprout. Inside the IDC data hovers. R S on the windows, R S in the cable, R S on the central servers. Data developed and deployed. R S of the new age. Wouldn't have been appreciated. I know.

BT IDC - all Welsh


In his hand he clutches a copy of Peter Meuiller's Distaff and the catalogue of book-bound objects showing at the European Centre for Traditional and Regional Culture at Llangollen, Clwyd. Childe Roland's paper book in a bottle, his bindings of torn paper, colours overlaid and rolling like waves, treaties with subject but no content, gestalt whiteness, French and welsh merging, fel melin, fel ymbarel, fel eli, fel melfa, fel tawel, fel dychwel, What are your plans for the future, my lord, Ham and Jam? There is light in these works; sometimes nothing but. Where else in this northern fastness can you find the word for light repeated so often that it glows. The friction of the signifier, the concrete base of Meuiller's brightness makes sparks in the Welsh air.

still there

Peter Finch


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