I walk out of my house and look across the bay. What do I see?
An open sky, blue, with a few small clouds. An infinity of opportunities. Life won’t be perfect. There’ll be a few tests or problems on the way, but the future is good.
In the distance, the peaks of our mountains. The Valleys, once famous for coal mines, now green once again. Fields and forests. New growth and promises. Even if we have to climb to reach them.
Perched in the trees overlooking the River Taff is Castell Coch, a fairy-tale red castle reminding me that dreams can come true.
The houses behind me were home to dockworkers when Cardiff was the world’s busiest port. Now they offer safety and security to young families, Not to mention providing film locations for the BBC Drama Studios, based just across the Barrage. If you watch films or TV programmes to improve your English, there’s a chance you’ll recognise Penarth or Cardiff in some scenes.
Looking at the grassy play area in front of me, sloping down towards the docks, I think of the children I have taught here. “Roundabout” is always a favourite word. “Swings“, “slide” “seesaw” and “climbing wall” are close behind in popularity.
Adult clients prefer the spectacular view. But they are equally eager to learn the words to describe it. Tree-covered hills to the left, tall masts of yachts in the Marina below me and, beyond, on the River Ely. A bridge crosses the Taff. Behind it stands the mighty Millennium Stadium. In front of the bridge are yet more yachts, moored beside the Wetlands. Migrating birds make their temporary home in the Bay. You can put down “adoptive” roots here, too, if you attend an immersion course.
Dotted over the blue water there are sailing boats and powerboats. Further along the Bay, bars and restaurants cluster before giving way to the dramatic Millennium Centre, the stately red brick Pierhead and the fascinating National Assembly for Wales. The curve of the Bay is closed by the man-made Barrage. Boats queue to pass through as it opens, gliding out to the open sea. How far could English take you?
As I sit here, a BBC film crew sets up behind me, recording a drama series in a neighbouring house. I’m joined on my bench by curious onlookers. We talk about television, Penarth and languages. These are the moments that allow you to use your English in unplanned, unprepared ways. Genuine, natural communication is what makes the world – and the Bay – go round. This is a safe place for you to practise and experiment with vocabulary and grammar.
Climb to the top of the mountains with your English. Find a job where you work in English every day, or one based in an English-speaking country. Take a risk and go where the tide takes you. Discover adventures beyond the Barrage. Or float in a relaxed way on a waterbus and use just the amount of English you need. It’s all here, waiting for you.