On the busy train into Cardiff, two white-haired old ladies sit on the battered seats, their Dot Cotton house coats visible underneath their rain-macs. Tightly pursed lips, arms folded cross their robust darlek-shaped bodies, clutching their handbags as if their lives depended on it. There is a slight smell of odor de cooking-oil.
"No discipline" utters one critically to the other, whilst staring directly ahead with a glare of a Terminator.
"Dave says he needs to go back to the doctors for his pills". Replies the other, frowning.
"They don't listen."
"That'll be another bus trip."
"We were brought up to listen."
"John Lewis is nice."
The mouths fasten shut and the two masses of old cotton-wooled hair bob up and down in complete un-agreement with each other. The train chugs along, a DJ tracked monotonous soundtrack.
The light is yellow and bright, giving Cardiff a vintage, almost sepia atmosphere.
On Queen Street the fruit seller is pushing his stock, his stall packed full with colours amidst scrawled little price signs- miniature jackson pollock-esque biro efforts. His grubby woolly hat is delicately tilted, appearing to defy gravity as he paces up and down, his stubbled cheeks red raw like one of his shiny apples.
"STREEEWB-BERRIEES FOR A POWND!" He yells, echoing down the street, ironically past the Echo vendor. "STREEEWB-BERRIEEES FOR A POWND!" Consistent, tone, pace, every 10 seconds. He is the Cardiff-accented metronome of fruit pushing. This is consistent hollering the speaking clock would be proud of. "BAAAAAAAG OF GRAAAAAPES FOR A POWND!" It shrills through the slightly musky, cold air.
Trundling the other direction, amidst the aimless shoppers, dreadlocked chuggers with permanently fixed chirpy grins and southern accents, and suited-smart commuters pretending they can't see anything clamped to their smartphones; a middle-aged man dressed in a dirty pink-from-wear-Welsh rugby shirt from the terrorisingly horrible early 1990s - the period taste and wins forgot - begins to mimic and repeat the fruit seller's shouts as he carries on down the street, his arms swaying as he carries beer cans, his eyes large but very proud of himself indeed.
"STREEEEEWB-BERRIEES FOR A POWND!" goes the fruit seller. "STREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW! BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRREEEEEES!" repeats the man, at passersby, who scuttle away, ignoring the scene.
"STREEEWB-BERRIEES FOR A POWND!" The fruit seller continues.
"STREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW! BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRREEEEEES........" He continues down the street with a swagger of an X-Factor auditionee.
There's a slight smell of beer in the atmosphere. Outside a hairdressers on St. Mary Street, two young ladies are puffing on cigarettes in a doorway, both identically dressed in tight clothing, both identically gravy-browned with fake tan, their eyes giant spider-legs of thick mascara. They clutch their phones in one hand, their cigarettes in the other. Both text away manically, and yet in full-conversation with each other. Their hands gesticulating and multi-tasking rapidly, a hazy blur of arms and manicured nails. They appear to have more than two arms each, Shiva-esque. If Shiva was a hairdresser in Cardiff stood next to a load of empty goods boxes and Big Issue sellers.
"Yeah well," one quips in a thick Merthyr accent that could pierce bank vaults. "he looked just like wassiname. Wassiname. Lenny Henry." She pronounces the "ry" like Rea and goes so high, the pigeons nearby fly off.
"Yeah. But white." replies the other taking another drag on her cigarette whilst simultaneously yanking her tight top over her protruding belly.
An old, olive skinned woman is playing the accordion, asking for money as she shuffles along. She is clad like a fortune teller from a film, her clothes ragged and strangely other-worldly. The tinny music hangs around the sound of shoppers, cars and police sirens from the distance. A short while later the music stops, but no one cares. She nips down a dark alleyway, lifts up her long skirt and pisses into the wall nonchalantly.
The light is fading and the day takes on a harsher hue from it's photoshopped scene. The bars begin to open & the shadows lurk.
Later on, a peroxide-dyed blonde podgy man in shorts- despite the cold March temperature- rollerblades past Burger King. He is dressed like Timmy Mallett in 1988, a mixture of fluorescent acid trip and kids TV. As he passes, he spins around and dances a pose. You half expect a musical to break out.
Instead, there's a tall athletic young man with tights on his head. He is preaching loudly to passersby who seem to barely even notice his presence. One or two people smile to each other knowingly. This is Ninjah, everyone in Cardiff knows Ninjah; usually seen playing drums on various bins across the city centre. But people seem to think it's best to avoid eye-contact. Ninjah finishes his speech and ambles on to his next non-audience.
Trotting towards Cardiff Castle, there's a young trendy girl, completely over-dressed with so many various accessories and layers, she looks like a walking rail in Top Shop. On jimmy choo stilts. Her hair is bundled up in elaborate curls that appear to be made out of airfix model plastic. She turns to the skinny, spiky haired young man she is with, whose tight black jeans are half way around his bottom, displaying designer pants complete with washing label. 40 degrees in case you're wondering.
"Is that a castle?" she asks him, pointing a bangled, jangling arm to the huge Cardiff castle...that looks like a huge large castle.
It is dark. The promise is now all but dead. The seedy Jokers are being played. On the station platform awaiting the train home, the orange street lights fill the scene, a backdrop of BRAINS BREWERY signs and strange smell of sewers. Two teenage girls clutching books speak in a mixture of Spanish and English excitedly. The muffled tannoy plays indecipherably, although you can make out badly pronounced Welsh place names. The air is biting.
The train approaches to take me home from this giant jigsawed world I have been viewing.
"Isisthetraintomeeeeerthyrrrrr?" A young man asks no one in particular. "Cantbethetraintomerrrrthyyyyyyyrlike." He turns to his friend. "Rugbytomorrowinnit"
I mind the gap, wondering why we do. One day, I might at last, become part of it all.