I went on a day trip to Cardiff Docks last year. It had been a long time since I had been right down to the Pier head where the Senedd building now stands. When I had been at University in the mid 70s, Cardiff was still a very serious working port.The dock area was a mass of railways, coal trucks, warehouses and sheds. It always seemed foggy and Cardiff nights were punctuated for half the year with foghorns, and the other six months with the cry of peacocks in the castle grounds. Nightlife was quieter then. Pubs still shut early and there were few nightclubs. The area south of the railway seemed to be a black and white landscape, like something out of the last scene from Casablanca, minus the aeroplane.
Our trip, with other writing minded folk, gave me a different modern view of the place, but despite having burst into technicolor, I still felt the frisson of its past. Rather than having an upbeat bright modernistic feel it inspired a weird sort of Celtic noir mood in me. It gave rise to the beginning of the something posted below. So far I haven’t returned to work it into more. I have a vague feeling for who and what Pendragon may be if I develop this more; but for the moment – here is what my day trip to Cardiff produced.
The two girls were leggy and had an almost doe like quality about them. They seemed to totter slightly as they stopped their bicycles and surveyed the waterfront scene. Davies wondered what his great grandfather would have made of them if they had cycled down the wharf dressed like that in his day. The idea was mad of course. Girls in denim shorts and crop tops would have been arrested long before the dockers could have worked out what to do. Most would probably have died of shock.
Davies remembered why he was here and focused on the other occupants of the newly gentrified scene. Dragging his eyes from the girls was harder than it should have been given what he was supposed to be doing. Life in the old dog yet he told himself. It wouldn’t do to miss Pendragon if he turned up. It certainly wouldn’t do to let Pendragon see him first. He didn’t think the man was likely to be violent but you never knew. This wasn’t south Central LA or the Bronx, it wasn’t even the bay from the 1920s or 1950s. Cardiff Bay in 2015 was almost metrosexual. Whatever that meant. Davies had read the word in a few newspaper articles but they assumed you knew what the phrase meant. Davies’s brain had done a few uncomfortable cartwheels before deciding he would have to look it up online. He hadn’t got round to it yet. There always seemed so many other things to do.
Just beyond the Senedd building was a candidate for one of the phrases meanings. In what had been the entrance to the basin of Bute West Dock was a large semi permanent marquee. It was plastered in garish signs proudly displaying the title of the show inside: ‘Lady Boys of Bangkok’.
Definitely metrosexual Davies decided. Docks had always had a more, Davies struggled for the right word, one that didn’t sound too Hampstead thinkerish, not too Cyn Coed for what he wanted to convey; ‘convoluted’, that would do. A more convoluted social approach to sex than some areas. Maybe the Lady Boys of Bangkok fitted in better than they thought.
No sign of Pendragon though.
Davies took a sip of his coffee. It tasted pretty much as you would expect a cup of coffee in a Norwegian church in the docks to taste like even if the area was gentrified and the church no longer a place of worship. The place was filling up. It had been nearly deserted when he arrived. Just a gaggle of people on a trip of some sort. They had split up and the women had left two middle aged men sat at one of the tables. They were talking earnestly about something, breaking into laughter now and again. Nothing for him to worry about. The early lunch crowd were beginning to wander down the bay now, making it harder to keep an eye out for his man. Davies checked his watch again and swung his gaze through as much of the area as he could. There were no real blind spots but a couple of the approaches were difficult to keep an eye on. The area was still very open here. The clutter of building that had filled in the area around the Senedd Building had not yet stretched down the waterside to where Davies sat. Someone was doing some more building development nearby however, and diggers and trucks kept obscuring the approach. Ideally he would have liked to have some others watching the ways in and out, but given the nature of the conversation he wanted to have, the fewer people knew about it the better.
He checked the waterside again. The sun lit flickering silver lights off the water in the bay behind the two girls who were just now cycling off on their way. A middle aged couple sat on one of the benches, very close to each other, in a way more reminiscent of young lovers than the comfortable familiarity of a long marriage. An affair perhaps? Davies smiled, good luck to them. Snatch happiness where you can. Then he thought of the other couple separated by the infidelity in front of him. Too far he thought. They may just have kept the spark alive all this time. Just because you’re a miserable old sod.
The door opened and a young man, little more than a boy, walked in. He looked around and made straight for Davies’ table across the old church. Davies prepared to throw the cup and contents into his face. The table should be enough to bring the boy down if he kicked it at him and Davies hoped he’s still be fast enough to stamp on the boy’s head before he recovered.
‘Mr Davies?’ The boy stopped short, a hopeful look on his face.
The boy dropped an envelope on the table.
‘A man gave me that for you. Said there’d be a tenner in it for me.’
‘Did he now?’
‘Aye he did.’
Davies looked at the envelope and back to the expectant, fidgeting boy.
‘Do you know him?
‘No. He just asked me to deliver this. Said I’d make some money.’
‘Where was this?’
The boy picked up the envelope again.
‘Look mate, I just wanted to help and get the tenner all right?’
‘Make it twenty if you tell me where this was and what he looked like.’
He pulled out his wallet and extracted two tens.
The boys face brightened considerably.
‘By the pier head, big bloke, red hair, old fashioned clothes.’ He nodded at Davies. ‘Like yours.’
‘Cheeky sod.’ Davies laughed and threw the notes on the table. The boy dumped the envelope and snatched up the notes.
‘He said you’d know what he meant.’ the boy said pointing at the white rectangle on the table, as he walked sideways out of the café.
Davies picked up the communication from Pendragon. He smiled. Maybe. Maybe not. He slit the top of the envelope and pulled out the note inside. He’d have to see