By David Llewellyn
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7th October 2019

“Thanks, Drive” – 5 Things You Really Should Know About Cardiff

The Iris Blogger offers a crash course in all things 'Caaahdiff' for those visiting this year's festival.

There are picture descriptions for those with a visual impairment at the end of this post.

Each year Iris welcomes back some familiar faces and meets a few new ones. If you fall into this latter camp (no pun intended) and this is your first time in our fair capital, there are a few things you should know.

1) IT RAINS

“It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping in the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains…”

Ray Bradbury, The Long Rain

Ray Bradbury was writing about the planet Venus and a crew of space explorers driven mad by its perpetual rains, but he could just as easily have been writing about Cardiff.

You see, while several Iris Prize Festivals have been graced with unseasonal sunshine, it’s better to prepare yourself for our rain. Because it rains in Cardiff. A lot. And don’t judge the day’s weather by what you see when you open your curtains first thing in the morning, because it’s changeable. If it’s sunny at 8am, it could be hammering down by lunchtime, and vice versa. Bring an umbrella. And sunglasses.

2) WE SING

Karaoke started off as an ice-breaker for uptight city workers in Japan, a place where they could make fools of themselves after a few drinks by belting out famous songs, regardless of whether or not they could actually sing.

Cardiff’s very own Dame Shirley

In Wales we do things differently. Here, karaoke isn’t so much an ice-breaker as a blood sport. We’re the country that gave the world Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones and we’re not about to let anyone forget it.

That’s not to say Iris’s annual karaoke night is a joyless, ego-driven affair. Far from it. Just don’t be surprised if some of the people who get up to sing are good. I mean, really good. Honestly, there must be something in the water.

Iris Sings! will take place at the Golden Cross, Bute Terrace, on Thursday 10 October from 10pm.

3) “THANKS, DRIVE”

If you need to catch a bus during your stay, remember to say “Thanks, Drive” as you step off. You may think it should be “Thanks, Driver”, but you’d be wrong. Drivers are known as “Drive”, and failure to thank them is practically a criminal offence.

4) HOW TO TALK “CAAAHDIFF” 

The Cardiff accent is quite unique. For one thing, if talking in a Cardiff accent, it’s pronounced Caaahdiff. Similarly, the local delicacy found in the city’s chip shops (see below) is a Claaahk’s Pie, and the local porter ale is Brain’s Daaahk. One doesn’t park one’s car in a car park. You parks yer caaah in the caaah paaahk.

Note: Visitors from Boston, MA should fit in quite easily.

5) CHIPPY LANE

Picture Credit: Charlie Cottrell

It’s 2am, you’ve staggered out of a party and you’re feeling peckish. What do you do? You visit Caroline Street, of course. Better known by locals and international rugby fans as “Chippy Lane”, this little side street is home to a variety of chip shops and kebab shops. Don’t expect to find hipsterish street food here. Caroline Street is all about the late-night carbs and polystyrene trays of curry and chips.

What’s more, Chippy Lane and Iris have a history. When Jonah Blechman attended the 2008 festival with Another Gay Sequel, he was delighted to discover the existence of mushy peas at the famous Dorothy’s (that really is its name). And when Iris winner Magnus Mork visited the street during a trip to Cardiff, it became the inspiration for his short film Burger, which went on to win Best Direction of an Ensemble Cast at the Sundance Film Festival.

So now that you are fully clued up, we hope you have fun here in Cardiff. We’re quite fond of the place, and we think you will be too.

Picture Descriptions

  1. The medieval gatehouse of Cardiff Castle, with a rainbow in the sky above it.
  2. A seagull sits on a window ledge in the foreground, against a backdrop of the city’s skyline (as seen from our host venue, Cineworld Cardiff).
  3. A Gif of a young Shirley Bassey, performing at a concert. She looks into the camera and suggestively blows a kiss.
  4. Three customers at the counter of a Caroline Street chip shop, seen in profile. One of them is pouring vinegar on a tray of chips.

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