Yes, the constant rain in the UK has finally got to me, and having sat through – and enjoyed – Euro 2012 and Wimbledon, I am making my getaway before the Olympics, which has already bored me to tears (and that’s just the torch-bearing).
There is so much that I still miss about LA – and not just the weather. I miss the daily walk to the gym, sunsets over the Pacific while nursing a frozen Margarita, and I specially miss my 2pm appointment with Judge Alex.
No, that’s not a legal requirement with an ankle bracelet, but Judge Alex’s courtroom TV show that was my weekday lunchtime and a programme for which I grieve on a daily basis, sobbing into my beer at 10 pm British time and reminiscing about where I would be at 2pm in LA.
It hasn’t been all bad since returning to the UK, and much as I moan about aspects of Cardiff in South Wales, I still believe it is a wonderful city. As I bid farewell (again), here are 10 reasons why it is still good not only to be Welsh but to live here:-
1. The Millennium Stadium. One of the greatest sports stadiums in the world. Its proximity to the city centre makes it a joy for fans arriving by train, and I have never met anyone who hasn’t loved the experience of being there.
2. The Welsh rugby team. They may have lost all their Tests in Australia, but this vibrant team did us proud in the World Cup in New Zealand – both as players and ambassadors for our country.
3. The Apple Store in St David’s 2. Easily the best and most knowledgeable staff of any Apple store I have ever visited.
4. Cardiff Bay. On a sunny day, there is no better place to be in the city.
5. Premier Cabs. By far the best taxi service. Clean cars, pleasant drivers, and you never feel less than 100% safe in them. They are 99.9% reliable, too.
6. Café Citta in Church Place and The Cinnamon Tree in King’s Road - my two favourite places to eat. Great food, great service. Would that anywhere else came close.
7. Pontcanna Fields, where I used to sit under trees with my books as a student, and which still give me pleasure over 30 years on.
8. Dave’s Monday night quiz in the Butcher’s Arms in Llandaff. The best quiz in town, in which everyone’s a winner. It’s always packed and it’s a great atmosphere – enormous fun, as quizzes are meant to be.
9. The St David’s Hotel Spa. Streets above every other health club and right next door to the hotel’s Tides, a really cool bar.
10. Last but not least: my wonderful friends, many of whom I have known for decades. I am blessed in knowing kind, funny people, who are always there for me.
. . . and 10 reasons who I’ll be glad to get away again:-
1. The weather. I don’t ever remember seeing so much rain, and after living in LA for the most part of two and a half years, waking every morning to blue skies, I can now barely drag myself out of bed in the morning.
2. The appalling service in restaurants and bars. In a five-star hotel, if I say the wine is corked, I don’t expect the bar staff to hold the glass up to the light and say “I can’t see any cork in it”. I don’t expect them to argue with me if I say that champagne is flat. And I specially don’t want to do battle if I say that my food is cold and am told that it was hot when it left the kitchen. Yes, I am sure it was; leaving it on the sidelines for 10 minutes is what kills it.
3. Staff with eyebrow, mouth or tongue piercings. I don’t want to be served by people rolling a silver ball around in their mouths – especially in five-star establishments. It’s fine for a night out with your mates, but in the service industry it smacks of a lack of respect for your customers.
4. The really bad music in Brains establishments. The Maltsters in Llandaff would be a joy, were it not for the racket that is fed automatically by the brewery that has less taste than its beer (in my non-beer drinking opinion).
5. Cardiff Airport which, with the departure of BMI Baby, no longer flies to anywhere I want to go. Losing the Malaga run means trekking over to Bristol, which I hate.
6. The traffic. I’m not advocating a return to the horse and cart, but the congestion on the outskirts of the city centre means that it now takes roughly five times as long as it did to get anywhere than it did just a couple of years ago.
7. The filthy pavements. After LA (and in Beverly Hills, you could eat off the sidewalk), the appalling mess on our streets disgusts me. Fast food packets, cigarette ends, overflowing bins – visitors from northern California must think they have arrived in a Third World country.
8. The doom and gloom of most people, everywhere. Times are tough, I know, but negativity seems to be built into our national consciousness.
9. Drunkenness – the national pastime. Town on a Friday and Saturday night is an embarrassment, with not only young boys but young girls being bundled into the back of police cars. Any big city on weekends, I suppose, but still a disgrace.
10. No Judge Alex in Wales. Did I mention that?