Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Walked the walk, now talking the talk

When lockdown came, Peter Finch was never going to keep himself cooped up, bingeing boxsets or bemoaning boredom. Instead, he got out and about when he could, finding a way to make profitable use of the circumstances.

The local poet, writer and psychogeographer has already published several books on Cardiff, so it'd be tempting to think that what he doesn't know about the city isn't worth knowing. And yet he found that there was still more to be discovered about the Welsh capital - this time through walking around its fringes, fuelled by nothing more than the contents of a Thermos flask and his characteristic curiosity.

These perambulations birthed another tome - Edging The City, published in 2022 - and last night Finch arrived at Insole Court at the invitation of Cardiff Civic Society to talk about his indefatigable attempts to trace an administrative boundary that often runs up the middle of rivers and into fenced-off private land, and regularly seems to vanish into thin air altogether.

Doggedly pursuing that semi-imaginary line took him through fields, industrial edgelands and amenity-free new-build estates christened with improbable names like Buttercup Fields. What he found prompted reflections on the liminal zones between urban and rural and on the city's creeping expansion past and present (including the ongoing turf war between Cardiff and its neighbouring authorities that appears to be waged principally by welcome sign).

Finch's talk was somewhat circuitous at times, appropriately enough, but as an engaging and genial public speaker he easily carried his audience along with him - whether dissecting Cardiff Council's attempts to deal with gulls, recalling drives up to the summit of Caerphilly Mountain in his dad's blue Ford Cortina or describing how pitching up in some places with muddy shoes and a map around his neck to a welcome of uncomprehending stares made him feel like he'd unwittingly wandered into the wrong saloon in the Wild West.

If you want a fresh look and insightful comment on the familiar as well as being metaphorically transported to places where your own feet are yet to tread, Finch is your man.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write this up, really appreciated. The book appeared in 2022.