Last weekend we went to Cardiff. Trips away are trickier now we’ve got a cat: certainly weekends with K’s family have fallen into a slightly complicated routine. K. heads off on Friday; I stay until Saturday morning; and either I return on a late train on Saturday evening to put food down, or – as we did this time – a combination of automated feeder and work colleague visit lasts us till Sunday.
Even with the cat well provided for, such weekends always feel like a bit of a rush. This time, though, I got K. to join me when I arrived in Cardiff central, and we took a troll around the arcades off St Mary’s Street. The street had recently been paved, lending the whole quarter a much more welcoming feel. Still, I don’t doubt that when they closed off the uncrossable, nasty dual carriageway that was only used for through traffic, the retailers complained; they always do, and notably in Oxford when some of its best pedestrianizations were put in place. But the opening of the vast, sci-fi-sounding “St David’s II” around the same time must have put the willies up them.
If anything, the arcades felt rejuvenated: station and taxis at one end, large complex at the other, and pleasant walking along both, have connected up the arcades crosswise, and turned them into an ambling, genial experience of their own. I wouldn’t say we bought much from them, especially from the more chichi oil and vinegar shops, but I did manage to pop into Spillers (all together: the oldest record store in the country, you know), and I might have left with something.
Doing all this felt like I was slowing the weekend away down a bit. They always seem like a hectic fight between encroaching work commitments, boring responsibilities and the desire to see family and nice places. But you don’t feel like you can continue to fight, when you’re surrounded by the wrought irons of a Victorian arcade, or browsing Welsh rugs with may chang and lemongrass in your nostrils, or sat in a silly hipster coffee shop eating a plate of granola as big as your head.
And so the urge to do so evaporates, in a way that the weekend itself then very pleasantly doesn’t.