I walked to St John's Canton to celebrate their midweek Eucharist this morning. Then in the afternoon Clare and I walked together to town, on my part, with no particular aim in mind apart from exercise. When we reached the Castle, Clare proposed that we enter and have a cuppa in the restaurant there. It proved an opportune moment to renew my 'Castle Key' residents' free entrance pass. My original pass was issued free and expired over eighteen months ago. I simply never got around to renewing it. Now it costs a fiver to cover the cost of issuing a new card, which is forty percent of the price of a single visitor entrance ticket. Most reasonable. I was impressed that a fresh plastic photocard could be made for issue within minutes of proving one's residence rights, using a hand-held scanner to take a photo and etch it on a card with name and renewal date.
On our way out Clare chatted with one of the guides/welcomers who look after visitors, someone who had been on the team when she acted as a tour guide there. Recession has reduced the number of visitors, and Council budget cuts have led to a drastic limitation of the conservation budget, so that some of the most visited rooms are suffering from wear and tear and starting to look neglected. This is hardly likely to attract extra visitors. "It's slowly turning into one big function suite." I heard said. Hiring the place out for receptions and social events helps balance the books. One of Cardiff's iconic tourist venues is in government speak 'Just About Managing'.
What's so sad is that the region boasts many institutions of higher and further education with staff and students undergoing various specialised aspects of training in conservation arts and crafts. There's no reason why a partnership between these institutions and the City Council couldn't help to guarantee a high standard of maintenance and provide a practical training ground at the same time. Admittedly a significant obstacle would be the surveillance CADW exercises on listed buildings and monuments in Wales. It's a quango which sets acceptably high standards, but is dauntingly slow and bureaucratic in exercising its regulatory powers, so getting a functional partnership between educational interests, Council and CADW, even with a shared aim, would not be easy to commend to politicians preferring the glamour of quick wins.
Wales has so many ancient monuments, more than its fair share of ruins. Across the centuries few prestige building projects realized by wealthy or powerful people have survived the test of time in their intended condition. Sooner or later, places lose their significance as status symbols in the public eye. They become unaffordable to run, and end up in ruins. The hardest thing is to witness the decay of beautiful things and places through neglect, for whatever reason.
After walking around the shops for a while, my knee joint started to become painful. I may just have overdone the exercise lately. Anyway, I caught the bus home, tired and aching, conscious of my own wear and tear. After a short rest, I drove over to St German's for the evening's Lenten Stations of the Cross and eucharistic adoration. At the end, a man who arrived with a friend during the service asked with tears in his eyes, to talk to a priest about his troubles.
He said his landlord had thrown him out, and that he'd been on the streets for two days and neither eaten nor slept. I'm not sure I believed the story he told, or maybe it wasn't the whole story, as he looked remarkably clean and tidy for someone who'd been out on the streets a couple of days with no support, but there was no way to corroborate his story, He was hungry, but there was no means to give him anything to eat and drink at that time of night with the church day centre closed. I sent him to the homelessness hub in Tresilian Terrace, and told him where he could contact the city centre detached social worker team, and the church gave him some money to buy a meal on his way. It was the best we could do. There are so many ways in which someone can be precipitated on to the streets unprepared and traumatized by the experience. Cardiff has many voluntary and professional people active in caring for the homeless, and the numbers continue to grow.