A man adrift
Duncan Griffiths muses over the good old days of Cathays, and the ridiculous amount of letting agencies that we simply can’t escape from…
There was a time, when I was a little younger, that I used to wonder across the street from my abode on Catherine Street to a bar that appeared to offer everything I wanted. A unique décor, a friendly staff and cool smooth beats would greet me as I shuffled through the door to order a tea, or if I was feeling a little loose, a hot chocolate. Immediately I would be overcome with a relaxing rhythm as my walk effortlessly synced with the sounds that met my ears. I would sit in an amicable state of sheer ease and let the day pass me by. The various, curiously shaped clocks on the wall didn’t necessarily tell me the correct time but it didn’t seem to matter, I had nowhere else that I cared to be.
Buffalo Lounge was my favourite spot. As the sun set over Cathays we were filled with a bright optimism and a primal urge to have as much fun as the evening would allow.
And then, on one wet and windy September morning, I returned to my house after the Summer break and went back over there, wanting those good feelings to return to my tender soul. It was shut. And I felt sad. The note on the door thanked its patrons for their continued support. Even these kind words didn’t soften the blow. But look where that had got them. Closed down. And where had it got me? Unhappy and thirsty, forced to trudge back home and make my own tea and chocolate goddam brownies.
Time passed and wounds slowly healed. But there remained a gap in Cathays, and a chasm in my, by now, hardened heart. ‘To Let’ was a permanent reminder that things had changed. And the former bar wasn’t the only thing To Let.
I was anyone’s. Cardiff Art’s Institute, Milgis, 10feet tall. I had frequented them all, scantily dressed and ready to listen to any cocktail offers on show. I was a bar slut, a horse without a home. One drunken night walking home, I spotted the redundant, and by now derelict, bunting that had remained from the heady days of Buffalo and was instantly filled with a desire to wrap myself in it. After ten painful minutes of hopelessly attempting to scale the 10ft window ledge, I sulked home.
And then the ‘To Let’ sign disappeared. There was to be a new tenant at 34 Woodville Road. The streets were awash with rumour. What was it to become? I even started my own, that Buffalo was to make an unexpected return, and the glory years were about to come rolling back and bright light would come flooding through those dark clouds that had shrouded Cardiff for too long.
I thought that if public opinion swayed sufficiently it would be impossible for the owners to ignore. After all, what the public wants, the public invariably gets. I would never be so bold to compare myself to a revolutionary, but I certainly had that same fire burning through my soul.
One afternoon as I was sauntering through Cathays, I spotted a man working in the vacated space. Here was my chance for truth. I strode up and asked him what the place, this former jewel, was to become. He told me in no uncertain terms it was to be an estate agent. My heart sank.
So, a few months later, as I stood in the queue of the newly refurbished CPS Estate Lettings at their opening party, dribble forming at the sides of my mouth as I eagerly scrutinized the barbeque that was about to provide me with a free burger, I caught my reflection in the mirror and winced. Had I sold my soul to the commission grabbing devil? Not the devil you are thinking of my friend; the devil in disguise, dressed in a sharp suit and driving a fancy car. No, I convinced myself. This was simply a reconnaissance mission. Finding out what they had done with my beloved Buffalo. Where were the chinks in their armour, the flaws in their letting plan? Gone were the warm comfortable sofas that I had once lain happily upon, in their place were the hard clinical lines of Ikea desks and Apple macs.
I saw straight through the friendly façade that the staff presented. Beneath their smiley, kind exterior lay rogues and scoundrels, unscrupulous characters who were doing their best to pull the wool over our innocent eyes. Of course I was required to fill out a form providing the agency with all of my contact details that allowed them to contact me for any further offers and services, but I resolutely refused to ‘like’ them on Facebook in exchange for a t-shirt. A man has to draw his line in the sand.
Wondering back, I wiped the ketchup from around my lips and considered what was becoming of Cathays. Within a half mile radius of my house is Pinnacle, 2let2, Horizon, Key Let, Jupiter, Wentworth, South Wales Lettings, MJ Skinner and Ashby’s. There appears an almost suffocating abundance of estate agents. An empire has quietly risen and we’ve barely even noticed. I wandered into my house under a haze of delusion and confusion.
My love affair with Buffalo has come to an end, there is no denying that. And in its place lies a villainous foe, ever growing in stature and power. Sure they all have different names but this is surely one solitary demon formulated in several different forms. As the heavy bass from CPS’s opening party rang incessantly into the early hours of the evening, I realised that I was a man at sea, surrounded by slick sharks and struggling to keep my head above water.
The next day as I was walking to lectures, I glanced across at the newly opened CPS that was frequented by the latest group of students that had fallen prey to their powers. I tried hard to remember the glorious past of this building when things seemed a little simpler. I would not be enticed to return to the second day of their opening party, no matter how hypnotic the party atmosphere appeared to be, or how hungry I would inevitably become during the day. I would return home instead, raise a drink to Buffalo Lounge and proceed to drown my sorrows at what Cathays has lost, and what it has fast become.