Thursday, 4 June 2009

Guest Blog - Dom Stocqueler

After a bit of a gap I am pleased present our second guest blogger, Dom Stocqueler. If you are interested in contributing to the blog please get in touch -

Dom is the editor of the great Welsh Icons website, keen photographer, blogger and Vulcan regular.

Dom Stocqueler - My Vulcan

Well when I say my Vulcan, I'm not doing so in a proprietorial way. I'm just trying to explain what the Vulcan means to me.

When Chris asked me to write this guest article I was delighted and got to thinking about what pubs in general, and the Vulcan in particular mean to me.

Having had a typical middle class 1960's/70's upbringing, pubs have always held a certain fascination for me. As a child we used to holiday in Devon and on the drive back from the beach to our rented cottage we would stop off at one of the numerous country pubs. My sister and I would be placed in the beer garden (even in the rain) while one of our parents would go inside to get us a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps each (halcyon days). On occasions we would need to use the lavatory and would be escorted inside, normally via the rear entrance to use the facilities and would see glimpses of the magical, mysterious world that was the pub.

Today, I cannot pass a pub without wondering what it is like inside. So it was with the Vulcan. Past Cardiff prison, with its walls looking much higher as they appear to me now I would walk past the Vulcan as a child, sometimes the door was open and I'd peer inside, peering through the blue fug of pipe and cigarette smoke to see a room full of happy people.

I suppose it must have been around 1983 that I first ventured into the Vulcan. I wasn't impressed. I was young and gauche and having been an underage drinker at some of Cardiff's newer watering holes (well the Three Brewers was just opposite my school) I wanted modernity - well it was the early 80's.

I then went to live in London for 20 years and it was while I was there that I discovered the joys of the real pub. Working in Soho and the City there was always a hidden gem tucked away up a side street away from the tourists. The Mitre in Holborn and of course the French House and the Nelly Dean in Soho spring to mind and I'm still sworn to secrecy about some of the Smithfield Market pubs where you can get a beer at 5am in the morning.

Returning to Cardiff in 2005 I found that most of the pubs not to my London acquired unsophisticated tastes. I don't like neon lights, loud music and laminate flooring in pubs and hate with a vengeance the identikit chain pubs that seem to have sprung up everywhere offering cheap lager and bland food - no names, no pack drill but I'm sure you know who I'm talking about. So it was I rediscovered the Vulcan.

I was taken there by two friends who were regulars. It was love at second sight. I returned alone a few days later to be greeted by the landlady who remembered my name and what I drank - What more could you ask for?

I have returned many times since and made many firm friends, not the 'hail fellow well met' people you would expect to find in any local's bar but a real cross-section of local residents and workers. From lecturers and students in the Atrium across the road, to retired steelworkers from the Eastmoors works.

In fact, I was in the Vulcan yesterday. I had to sign on, always a humiliating experience however hard the staff at the Job Centre try, and I always make sure I keep enough money back to buy a half in the Vulcan on my walk back home. As always I was greeted with a warm welcome and chatted with a few of my old mates. Refreshed physically and mentally I walked home.

I cannot comment on the politics behind the proposed closure of the Vulcan but I know Mr Rapport comes from an old and respected Cardiff family who have done much for Cardiff over the years and I trust he will do the right thing.

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