Milk and Sugar, Sir?

I love a lunch out as much as the next guy, but to magnetically pull me back – like a proper 90s yoyo (not one of the shitty ones found in Christmas crackers) – seven times in three weeks indicates something a bit special.

Of the staff. They. Are. Cool. Not in a pretentious way, but in an I’ve-been-to-art school-and-when-I-get-home-after-a-day-shift-I-paint-(Jackson-Pollock-esque)-masterpieces kind of way. Also, if they don’t enjoy working at this grandly-housed food and drink dispenser, then they hide it really, really well. So well, in fact, that there would be no upward inflection in my caterpillar-like eyebrows if Daniel Day-Lewis plans to probe them for pointers – in their (method-acting) technique – prior to his next behemothic film (that I definitely will not muster up the will power to watch).

Of the food (as a whole). Going somewhere for lunch doesn’t require Michelin star-standard fodder; palatable and fulfilling dining is, however, essential. This establishment strikes the right balance between attention to detail and speed of service; call me a simpleton, but a purple(y), flower-like decoration on top of my Eggs Benedict made my internal albumen rise in temperature.

Of the food that I ordered. Eggs Benedict on the (oval-shaped) surface would appear a formality, but ensuring that the yolk remains runny when it arrives in front of your cutlery-wielding hands somehow eludes many culinary outlets in Wales’ capital city, (who also charge significantly more than £6.95). The hollandaise sauce had exactly the right level of zing to it: not a (head-butt)-to-the-gonads-from-a-(four-year-old) level of zing; more a (four-year-old-gently-increasing-the-pressure-of-his slowly-closing-jaw-(containing shark-like teeth)-on-your-placid-finger level of zing.

Of the clientele. Put simply: if a locale can attract the owners of Blue Honey (proprietors of the Sully’s evening café), then it’s got to be pretty, fucking cool.

One improvement point (and this harks back to my wedding hospitality days): cloth napkins. I don’t want a satin cygnet’s beady eyes judging me as I order my second chocolate brownie to accompany my moreish coffee; a fabric food collector resting on my occasionally bare thighs (yes, I can be seen wearing inappropriately short shorts in the summer months) would, however, provide additional warmth – as the sun inevitably hides behind Cymru’s inclement clouds – along with a dash of class.

So, whilst I take my Americano black, I like my lunchtime location with – a dollop and a sprinkle of – Milk and Sugar.

Bah-bah-bah-bah-barber gal

Call me a sexist, misogynist, or – hell – even an opponent of the #MeToo campaign, but getting a cranial trim from a female barber was, for me, a big deal.

Having been born and bred in a small town, where there was only one male, Italian barber – ([insert cliched name here], who leased a unit adorned with draughtboard-style flooring and in which pictures of nudey women on out-of-date calendars decorated the walls) – my brain is conditioned to men getting their hair cut by men (as sensual and non-masculine as that may be).

Since re-locating to Cardiff, I have unsuccessfully searched for a hair lopper to replace my Roman amigo. So, when I came across Sophia’s – aptly and razor precision-named – cutting shop, ‘The Barber Room‘, in Womanby Street’s The Castle Emporium, I thought to myself, “she might be the one” (in a strictly barbering sense, that is).

8 months (and several barbers) later, I finally plucked up the courage to plonk my diminutive gluetei maximi on Sophia’s leather chair; being the only customer in her singularly-seated premises meant that she could not be distracted in the way that [let’s call him Luigi for shits and giggles] was when his ex-wife poked her head into his barbershop to enquire about tardy maintenance payments.

Once seated, in response to my Hugh Grant-like mumbling, regarding xx-chromosomal barbering, Sophia uttered the words, “look, if you’re not going to enjoy this you can go somewhere else”

At that point I was sold: my previously tetchy, bonce-warming talons were assuaged by a sass comparable to Luigi’s former lover.

With regards to the barbering itself, there was very little drama (and significantly less ear snips when compared to the effect of Luigi’s hand twitches when reacting to the ever-increasing sums of money requested – down the earpiece of the shoulder and jaw-balanced telephone  – by his previous spouse).

The result: a Peaky Blinders-style hair-do. Described by Mr. Green (I presume his last name is Green) of Tailor Green, Sophia’s neighbouring tenant in the Cardiff Emporium, as “much better” I took that as: you still look shit, but less shit. At least Sophia improved with what she had to work. Unfortunately, though, if you polish a turd too much it starts to look like a childs drawing).

As I made to leave, Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line struck up – on Sophia’s former bedroom radio – their most recent hit, and I thought to myself: female barbering; is it meant to be?

Well, Sophia, you now have the privilege , or pain in the perinium, of being my Luigi (if you so wish).

Female Cymbals

I was in Llantwit Major eating two-week-old BBQ food (frozen on day of cooking and safely defrosted on day of consumption) and decided that I would flick the bird in the big man’s direction and search out some live music on the designated day of rest.

Songkick was my Mad Men secretary and packed me off to Cardiff sin my narrow-lapelled two-piece (well, one must occasionally dress down in the summer months). Gwdihw was my destination where a charity, Cardiff Reach, was showcasing talent of the female variety. Unfortunately, due to Arriva Trains Wales’ policy of providing only two-hourly direct trains on The Vale line of a Sunday, I only got to experience one-and-a-half sets. Importantly, what did travel into my proportionately-sized noise consumers was largely enjoyable.

The two acts were:

  1. Marged (half a set)
  2. Fioled (whole set)

I seriously think Marged has the potential to sell out stadia. Two songs were all I needed (and probably more than most people need) to get her. She’s authentic, likeable, and – moreover – funny. When she introduced her penultimate song as a “love story I wrote for my drug dealer” I was putty in her proportionately-sized, non-microphone-holding hand. One improvement point for her recorded work: don’t cloud your voice. It’s good, and the more it can be clearly heard the better. I feverishly listened to all of her available recordings (iPhone speakers were once again my conduit) the morning after the gig, proceeding to embrace them as additions to my shower music repertoire (possibly the highest honour bestowed by this wordsmith – ¿if that’s what I can be called?).


EP Launch | 7th July | The Spice of Life | London

Of Fioled. Firstly, the drummer needs to get some new cymbals or sticks – I couldn’t decide on which at the time of listening. As soon as he drifted into playing more intricately (in the second half of the set), the whole sonic experience became much more enjoyable and interesting (a word I use comparably to a fast approaching Second Class Upper university degree). Their songs (and especially the effective use of the violin when it could be heard above the imperious cymbal and snare levels) led me to reminisce about the times I used to listen to Mahavishnu Orchestra on my ailing Packard Bell (either side of exploring the more sordid – but no less pleasurable – corners of the www).

Another improvement point directed towards the lead singer and violinist (only being made because I enjoyed them so much): please relax. You’re good and there’s no need to be so tense – especially since the crowd was, unfortunately, so sparsely populated. As a band, they looked good. The bassist played a bloomin’ keytar (which whisked me off to pool-side La La Land-style), but somehow pulled it off: maybe because his volumous hair was so distracting and he didn’t play it like a four-year-old.


Charlie Says (support act) | 6th July | The Big Top | Cardiff

The only disappointment about the whole evening (and I may be hoisting myself up as a straw man with this comment): that so many of Cardiff’s music moguls were watching Gruff Rhys at the Wales Millennium Centre.

BBQ | non-alcoholic beer

Yesterday, I experienced two new things:

  1. a gig in a garden
  2. not tasting a self-bought bottle of wine.

The first of these introduced me to a live performance by John MOuse. Sitting in the sun with toddlers toddling around, a dog wee-ing on the lawn whilst listening to two guitarists and a vocalist convey the stark realities of life was bliss. I’ll happily admit that on first listening to John MOuse through the speakers of my iPhone, I wasn’t much enamoured. But, in a similar vain to my late-teens swift reassessment of Radiohead and The Smiths, this was quickly turned on its head after properly listening to them second time around (and this time there was an added bonus of burgers and hotdogs). The reason for this turnaround: because it was different. After five years of fleeting listens to Radio 1 (and Radio 2), my ears have become attuned to the expected. I will – without haste – be attending their next local gig where I look forward to the full shebang. I listened to the album Replica Figures through my iphone speakers the next day and – simultaneously – did nothing else.

Now, for the second on that list. Despite currently avoiding anything that might cause a Brahms and Liszt episode, I can still appreciate a good tipple from a whiff or by adding a splash to the odd culinary exploit. I wouldn’t disagree with someone who argued that £12.99 isn’t small change for a bottle wine, but, where else – other than Pen-Y-Lan Road’s The Bottle Shop – would you be reminded of a scene in Black Books where Dylan Moran freezes a bottle of wine to use as a lollipop, straight after being informed of Germany’s thriving microbrewery scene and the contravening of strict beer purity laws. Alas, I couldn’t request a taste test as my Becks Blue was slowly warming back home; I’ll watch Black Books, though.