Beyond the Blue Dragon on Newport Road, familiar Finch territory, “Worst hotel in Cardiff - the bedding is appalling” or “excellent value for money !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, both this month’s comments on Trip Advisor, take your pick. East of here, out front of the social housing, transient accommodation bed-sits, nineteenth century stone built three stories, gardens paved over, is the Slavic Bar. It’s opposite a house, buried deep in its unclipped hedges, now giant green and towering, called Dom Polski, Polish House. Our friends from the East.
The low garden wall is lined with Slavic faced, crew-cut drinkers. Trainers. Cans. Cigarettes. Laughter. One of them demonstrating to another how he’d managed to punch someone in some fight somewhere and the victim had gone down with a single blow. He weaves it into the thin air, this clout, wide-mouth laughing. Takes another pull on his can, gets his cigarette lit. They could have done this in the comfort of the New Dock Tavern at twice the price but that Broadway pub has gone the way of all its fellows – the Locomotive, The Bertram - unprofitable and shut. So they drink in the street, or just off the street, in trouble-free unregulated harmony, the traffic louder than they are.
I go by here with my notebook. There’s that thing about walking and writing. The two are so close together. Walk and the ideas come foaming up. Scribble them illegibly, try to decipher your gems when you get home. Half the time this proves impossible. I don’t know the answer.
I’ve tried making notes by speaking them into a recorder, or in times of great desperation onto my phone, but this is pretty hopeless. At home I hear mostly the noise of the passing cars or the wind or both. My voice in the mix but hard to clarify. Notes by hand, well we’ve been into that. You need to stop and write slowly. Then either it starts to rain or the moment of inspiration passes.
Ideas are such fleeting things. Hold then up for consideration and they crumble. It is as if you have to get them down without actually thinking. Such a hard act.
None of the drinkers write. I’ve seen no evidence of any of them with pens or paper. Bukowski, if he were alive and here, would have made a whole book out his observations. He would have been there with the can drinkers, knocking his back and encouraging his fellows to go for more. Garrulously smiling. Then he’d make a poem of what he’d seen and heard. A dying art. Or maybe by now, in the twenty-first century, we’ve read just too much of this low-life as art stuff.
Henry Miller started it. Sitting in Paris cafes with his wine and his notepad. Recalling the drunken mauls and women chasing he got up to among the bars of Brooklyn. Whole novels fell from his pen. Sit and wait and stare and the world will give you what you need. Why walk anywhere?
But I have to. It’s what I do. I reach the house and get myself in front of the machine as fast as I can. Turn it on. Will it to boot-up just that little bit more swiftly and then, there it is, the Windows screen and Word launched. I press the keys and out it comes.