So today was Cardiff.

Originally, the plan was that I was going to go to Cardiff by myself one day while Patty was at her conference (that is, after all, why we're here, she's delivering a paper on Friday), but then she came home one day and said there was a thing she needed to learn and there were only three places she could do it and she really thought the other two were more likely but the third was -- and you'll never guess where -- Cardiff.

From that moment on I was pretty sure Cardiff was going to be the lucky winner, and so it's turned out to be the case. My private pilgrimage turned into Patty and I taking the (really quite confusing to purchase a ticket) train together to Cardiff and then each of us walking in a different direction: her towards the university and me towards Mermaid Quay.

The area you have to walk through to get to the Quay is sort of crap. That's all right though. I spent a lot of time in crap seaside towns as a child (hell, we spent a rainy summer weekend in one last year), and I felt more or less fond of it right off.

So the plan was, get to Mermaid Quay, ensconce myself in a Starbucks, do work (this is a working trip for me) and then see some stuff before meeting Patty at six.

You already got my initial This Is So Weird, and in truth, it didn't get a lot less weird. I wound up talking on Google chat with Jill for a while, who was suitably amused by my various forms of flailing (i.e., "I packed poorly and it's cold so I'm wearing my pinstripe suit jacket over jeans and a girly t-shirt and now I feel like an asshole!"), getting crap done, and eventually forcing myself to go down to the memorial thing.

I felt really self-conscious about it, and in the end, I can pretty safely say this was neither quite fannish embarrassment or genuine grief, but something older in me, a sense of sin for giving a shit about anything no matter what it's about. Even my parents always told me I was a cry-baby, and the people who are kindest to me are those who help me give myself permission to be as acutely permeable as I am.

There were people down there, too, which sort of sucked. A family with a couple of kids that had come to see the Doctor Who exhibition and other sites for the day. The long-haired father tried to pose heroically in front of the memorial, but only after I heard him remark to a pair of girls sitting on a bench near it that he hadn't watched the third series yet, that it was waiting on DVD at home, and he supposed this meant that Ianto had died. All in all, he seemed a bit sanguine and puzzled about it -- not the memorial, but Ianto, being dead.

Anyway, I couldn't really bear it for long. It wasn't for me I decided, and after watching the lone swan that kept coming up by the dock and harassing people, I went over to the Millennium Center and the Plass.

It's really a ridiculous thing. Because it rises up out of nowhere, more or less, and it's massive, imposing architecture that makes no sense adjacent either to the rather minor mall-like stuff at the Quay or to the shit housing along Bute Street. But you can't see it, can't say those words -- in these stones, horizons sing -- and not get a bit of a chill. At least, if you're me.

And that's not about Torchwood, that's about stories. And texture. And the way words are the bare, miserable edge of narrative.

I had a button in my coat. One of the original buttons from my Jack coat. I cut them all off when I got it last year, because they were silver in tone, and therefore wrong, and they've been scattered on Patty's desk since. In sweeping up the jewelry she wanted to bring on this trip (Patty enjoys being a girl), she swept up one of the buttons.

I noticed it yesterday on the desk in our hotel room, and I commented on it. She apologized.

"No, no," I said, "it's good."

And it was, because I thought, how can I go to Cardiff and not leave something at that damn tourist office memorial? Except, then when I was there, and I couldn't.

By the Millennium Center and the metal column with the water that theoretically extends down into the Rift pool is an open hole in the ground of the same shape. It's fenced off, and you look down, and it's full of running water and coins; a wishing well. And that seemed right, so instead of pence or pennies, I threw the button in and won't tell you what I wished for, because those are the rules, and I've some pride besides.

I felt lighter after that. Things were easier, and I sat on the steps of the Plass and checked my email and watched a little blond-haired boy kick a soccer ball around. He was about seven and was wearing a red and blue striped rugby shirt. And yeah, that was about like you'd expect.

When I got up to go to the Tesco (I wanted a snack and I wanted to go to the Tesco), he'd made a bad but strong kick, and it had gone way far away from him. He was running towards it (me) but kept pausing and frowning. Oh! I was supposed to kick it to him! So I tried when he finally put his hands on his hips and waited, but it went crazy left and not very far.

"Sorry," I shouted. "American!" I added with a shrug.

On the way to the Tesco, I found Patty, who was over an hour early for our rendezvous.

"You're early," I said.

"I have been walking over two hours."

"How? It should be a straight shot."

"I went around a lake full of swans."

She sat on a bench while I ran into the Tesco, and when I first skidded into it, I sort of had this moment of paralysis, because yeah, that's it, just right, just like in my head. But then I got chips and soda and ran back out to her just in time to watch a feminine creature of extreme artifice stroll down the street in a black tank top, black booty shorts that said FUCK ME across the ass and platform high-heels with stiletto heels.

Did I mention it was like 50 degrees today?

"Oh my," Patty said.

"Fuck me," I repeated dully.

"Did you see the shorts?"

"Yes."

"I want Welsh Cakes."

"What?"

There was a store selling Welsh cakes. I followed Patty in dutifully, assuming this would not be for me, but they had gluten-free ones too, and they were AMAZING. I ran back later to buy a whole bunch and the proprietress told us about a tea shop in Roath with lots of gluten-free stuff, so we'll go when Patty is here in the fall.

After, Patty somehow led me back down to the Tourist Office memorial thing, and we looked at all the stuff and talked about it.

"Is the blip in time thing something from the show?"

"Yeah. From the death scene."

"The paper cranes are nice."

"Yeah."

"He was only a year younger than me."

"I know."

"I like this one," she said, and it was just a scrap of paper that said Bye now.

I took photos of a few items that might get mentioned in my paper, and we watched a couple of fannish queer chicks (was that you? did you have a Cyberman etch-a-sketch?) canoodle in front of the thing, which I still hated (the thing, not the chicks), albeit differently.

We walked off arm in arm to look at our dinner choices and eventually settled on a pub. After we ate, we walked back towards the city center and around a bit. Ah, here was the rest of Cardiff, and I liked it very much and immediately without conflict or reservation or echo, although I could also (thankfully, in truth) find all those things in it if I concentrated even a little.

It was good, and then it was time to go home. We had our photo taken in the photo booth in the train station and then I watched a loud, loud girl miss her train to Newport while Patty was in the bathroom.

I'm writing this on the train now, and there are a few photos on Patty's camera I'll post eventually. I did what I needed to do, and that's what I was here for.

Patty and I laughed all along our walk as she told me about meeting with the housing office of the University, because compared to New York, the rents are nothing. And yes, she knows not to wire money ahead for an apartment she hasn't even seen. And, really? she bets she can get a lot of Cardiff neighborhood information from the Internet

"Totally!" I said, "Although it'll all be, 'okay, but Grangetown is where Jack owned that fucked up house that got haunted and then started being all House of Leaves, so you might find that a little creepy.'"

And she laughed and elbowed me and made another Dead Ianto joke while a big fat hunting cat in a yard filled with litter looked up at the sky and thought extra hard about how to bring down a seagull. We paused to watch him, and he stared at us a long time until another seagull cawed, and he looked up again, dreaming of London.

May 2016

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