Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’

Naked guideBe nice if every city had a guide like The naked guide to Bristol: not all guide books are the same (5th ed: Tangent, 2015).  Scathing wit and a whole lot of sub-cultural love and knowledge, a production of real urban identification and affection.  Organised energetically by postal district BS1 to BS8, and by theme, giving a people’s history.  We were out in the suburbs in BS9, Henleaze, but I thought this publication worthy of mention.  If its span had reached as far as where we were staying I’m certain they would have raved about the fruit and veg shop on the main drag – beautifully presented and full of temptation beyond what we had the capacity for.  Wish I’d taken a photo of that basket mixed in shape and colour – purple, green, yellow, oh, and red – of English tomatoes.  Also Badock’s Wood.

Chestnut blossomA short stroll over a minor crossroads and up a bit, Badock’s Wood is an oasis of green in a mild sea of mixed suburban housing – if Richard Thompson’s Mock Tudor had been a song rather than an album title I might have been humming down some of the streets.  According to its Friends organisation “It is a small, semi-natural, broad-leaved woodland situated in a limestone valley with adjacent areas of grassland.”  There’s a small river along its edge and the circular fitness route the council has instituted with unobtrusive distance markers involves, as we shall see, a bit of a climb.

Badock’s Wood has survived because it was given to what was then the Bristol Corporation in 1937 by Sir Stanley Badock, a local landowner and industrialist – something to do with metal smelting and refining – so that the citizens of Bristol could enjoy the woods as a public open space in perpetuity.  The deed of gift specifically excluded the erection of any buildings on the land.  Good for him; and wouldn’t developers just love to get their hands on it.  I mention this because I was reminded that within living memory financial success was once regarded as an opportunity to make a grand gesture and give something tangible back to where you lived, as an expression of civic pride; rather than, these days, self-indulgence far away.  (Locally one must give a very big nod of appreciation to Jim Marshall, of Marshall Amplification no less, and all that he contributed to Milton Keynes, but inevitably the nature of philanthropy, of land or libraries, has changed.)

Badock's Wood wild garlicAnd for sure the locals do appreciate Badock’s Wood.  Especially the dog owners and the keep-fitters and those with babes napping in prams.  Walking by the wild garlic in full flower and scent, then through a carpet of pink chestnut blossom.

On the path (river to the right) up to top of the woods a bisected fallen tree trunk invites you on, but not before taking in the not wasted opportunity for a bit of wood sculpture – the spider stood out but other creatures and the inevitable serpent featured on the other side of the path too.

At the top a wild flower meadow and modest tumulus – a Bronze Age burial mound – and rumours of a windmill.  There’s a stainless steel sculpture marking the tumulus that plays nicely with its position and the light, the work of Michael Fairfax.  The hole is at adult face height.

20160523_8The windmill is anecdotal – there used to be one somewhere around here – but that seems ample justification for the inscription curling at the foot of the piece, written by the sculptor’s dad, John Fairfax:

At Badock’s Wood ghostly windmill sails turn / and like a rewound film spin through history / to remote times when this was burial place for bronze aged warrior / In that landscape wolves prowled / and nervy red deer grazed / while hog rooted among the trees.

It’s a thought.

StonerStoner – a slight return

Back home in time for Book Group.  Half of us had read John WilliamsStoner (1965) before but none regretted a re-read and it retains its quiet power admirably.  This is a special book.  Put simply, the only son of a farming family who could have posed for Grant Wood’s American Gothic, William Stoner, at the urging of the Land Agent, goes to uni to study agriculture, struggles with the compulsory EngLit intro until he has a classroom revelation and devotes the rest of his life to medieval and renaissance literature there.  His dissertation? – “The influence of the Classical Tradition upon the Medieval Lyric.” But you don’t hear much specifically about that.

He’s not that great a teacher, though he gets a bit of a mojo in that regard after a personal tragedy brought on by backstabbing spirit-destroying departmental politics.  It’s the story of a decent man’s life, how he copes with its slings and unreasonable arrows (“…the density of accident and circumstance”), related in an even-toned unspectacular yet haunting prose, and it is absolutely thrilling.  Incredibly sad and yet so life-affirming.

Reading it the second time round I was struck by how vivid the supporting cast are; the slow tragedy of his mentor’s despair as he sees how others react to the Great War (“There are wars and defeats and victories of the human race that are not military and that are not recorded in the annals of history”), seeing his mate Finch as less of the uncaring careerist I’d thought, and further ruing the loss in that war of the third of that Friday night drinks trio, who, for all that he “gave him a glimpse of the corrosive and unspoiled bitterness of youth”, might have given Stoner the odd useful kick or pointer when he needed it: “Dave Masters, the defiant boy they both had loved, whose ghost had held them, all these years, in a friendship whose depth they had never quite realised.”

And then there’s his wife …  Now I wasn’t the only one – and I’m the only male in the group – who’d wanted to strangle the bitch (sorry, it just slipped out, but it’s visceral in the book), but discussion had us wondering how damaged she was even before she met Stoner: when her father dies she comprehensively destroys all her stuff with any connection to him, and cruelly reclaims their daughter, the saving grace of the marriage for him – is it more than jealousy and bloody-mindedness?  If I ever read it again – not out of the question, it’s a great book – it’s something to look out for.  Again, on second reading, the hope and excitement of his compensating affair seemed even more vivid: “after a while, the outer world where people walked and spoke, where there was change and continual movement, seemed to them false and unreal.”

He was forty-two years old, and he could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy and little behind him that he cared to remember. (p181) [that number again!]

He had dreamed of a kind of integrity, of a kind of purity that was entire; he had found compromise and the assaulting diversion of triviality. He had conceived wisdom, and at the end of the long years he had found ignorance. (p275)

Thrilling? Life affirming?  A life worth living?  A book worth reading.  You betcha. 

Here’s the link to what I said at first reading a couple of years ago: https://quavid.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/this-is-your-life/

Vaultage late May 2016A Vaultage that was a bit special

And not just for the launch of the T-shirts (see photo below).  Two very fine guest acts who formed a mutual admiration society while being quite different in their subtle offerings.  First up were hazeyjane – one word, no spaces – two blokes with no qualms about bravely wearing the Nick Drake influence on their sleeves, but doing their own nicely crafted material.  Was that a five-string bass?  Indeed it was, being mellifluously played behind some accomplished singing and guitar from the writer.  Only thing I would say, is you probably need to dig a bit deeper in the Drake oeuvre to find another name, not because of gender confusion but because it’s already quite a well used web identity.  There’s even a US ‘saison’ beer (whatever that means) from the Mystic Brewery.

Then we had Wednesday’s Wolves – that’s them on the poster – two young women who describe themselves on their worth a visit website as doing ‘contemporary folk’, again doing their own stuff.  Enchanting vocals, some aetherial harmonies, engaging songs, the one who didn’t play guitar getting away with playing glockenspiel on a couple of songs in an often noisy pub.  As Lois, who had got these two duos to come along, said: a magical evening.  (Not forgetting the open mic-ers too, he added, of course).

Dynamic duo

Now seems a good time for a photo of Pat Nicholson and Lois Barrett, two fine performers and writers in, um, their own right, who host Vaultage, sporting the aforementioned t-shirts. And a nod to the Vaults Bar in the Bull Hotel, Stony Stratford for this and many other things.



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Sojourning in Bristol a week or so ago we wandered by the river with no great plan and crossed the modern pedestrian bridge spanning the floating harbour.  Pero’s Bridge is named, in reparation, for Pero Jones – an African slave brought back from the West Indies by a local merchant – who lived and died in Bristol in the late eighteenth century.

Love locks on Pero's Bridge

Love locks on Pero’s Bridge

The length of the bridge was decorated with padlocks, attached and inscribed as tokens of love (or memory) in an urban metal update of the old custom of tree dressing.  I was much taken with this, hadn’t encountered its like before; a woman called Jenny even had 5 locks in a column spelling out her name.  Seems it is not unique to Bristol, and that a bridge in Paris actually collapsed under the weight of all the love.  I’m curious as to the etiquette – do you throw the key into the River Frome as a gesture of eternal love (or til rust do us part)?  Do you surreptitiously keep the spare just in case?

Let us now praise the inventors of durable exterior housepaint

Let us now praise the inventors of durable exterior housepaint

Thought we’d at least have a look at Brunel’s Great Britain and couldn’t resist going in.  Big fan of old Isambard for the GWR, but I had no idea of what a big deal this was.  Built in Bristol, it was the first propeller-driven iron-hulled ocean liner, launched 1843, the first Atlantic crossing you could set a reasonably accurate timetable for.  Used as a troop ship in the Crimean War, then for the emigrant passage for Australia and in its old age used to carry bulk cargo.  Holed up in the Falkland Islands in 1886, beyond economic repair, it still had a contribution to make, some of its structure being cannibalised to patch up HMS Exeter, damaged in the action that saw off the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Second World War.  It was somehow returned to Bristol in 1970.

Great Britain ticketIt’s a class act, this dockyard museum and ship restoration (http://www.ssgreatbritain.org/).  Your entrance ticket is a reproduction of  the Passengers’ Contract Ticket to Australia (click on the picture, then click again), and the trip through the dockyard, the museum, the dry dock (over your head a rippling water-filled glass ceiling) where you can walk round the tired old iron hull, and of course on board the ship itself, is full of nice touches.  The interior has been restored; as you wander the sumptuous first class dining saloon you get snatches in a babble of mealtime conversations wafting in and out; in the kitchens a back projection of a rat moving across the back of the shelves, the cook cursing the lazy cat, a ship’s doctor tending a bloody wound, and various other scenarios.  Horse smells from the hold, even, it threatened in the guide, though we didn’t encounter it, a whiff of seasickness.

Here some views of the hull’s massive texture:

20160523_5220160523_4620160523_45Sorry, but like my 8 month old grandson, I’m fascinated by texture, though with me it’s more visual than the relentless touching.  It’s an extraordinary feeling to walk round this awesome structure and think of the decades of oceans’ wear and tear; I know it’s simple eureka! physics but the idea of all that iron floating still seems magical.

Barber and poetPretty sure this is not an original piece of what library cataloguers have cause to call realia, but I’d hope he has to be fact-based.  You couldn’t make it up.  I’d love to find some of his stuff.  I like the idea of a barber-poet shaving a beard and staunching the bleeding to the accompaniment of the sound of soothing stanzas recited.  Beats “Where you going on your holidays? – Oh, hang on.”  (Sadly the nearest I’ve found to any such poetry was tucked away on the .org website, where you’ll find a poem by Joseph Earl James, written and poignantly submitted from Islington Workhouse, celebrating Great Britain’s predecessor, the steam paddle liner, Great Eastern, including the lines: “Brunel thy mind so great with power at will / Subdues the toughened Iron to thy learned skill.”)

First class on deckMusicians stuck in the cornerWhile the dining saloon was a bit special, the actual First Class accommodation was nothing special, especially by today’s standards (or at least what I’ve seen on telly).  The bunks were slim and with a raised edge (anti-rolling out of bed presumably) and not that much of an upgrade from those in steerage, except those had zero privacy and were housed like shelves in a corridor with the odd little space for belongings.  Apparently those in steerage mainly banqueted on ship’s biscuit.  And had no music other than what they made for themselves.  Leaving you see the grandly decorated stern – for the first modern liner, definitely olde school.

SSGB Horn of Plenty

The Horn of plenty

Continuing adventures

Woolly BristolBristol in wool

Back on shore again we retraced our steps, this time to enter the splendid Mshed, Bristol’s history museum, there to climb the stairs and get a great Tate Modern-like view across the city and see a fabulous knitted representation of it.  Note those multi-coloured houses as featured above in my second photo here.  How about that as an idea for the MK50 celebrations?

I’d hoped (the sadness of the sojourning ex-librarian) to get a good look inside Bristol Central Library – a classic old municipal showpiece library building of renown, Grade I listed even – but unbelievably in a city of well over 400,000 souls, being a Wednesday it was … CLOSED (capitalised in disgust at austerity politics).

20160523_115Wandered around the new bit, where we said hello to a statue of Cary Grant (Bristol’s most famous? – still called Archibald Leach as all pub quizzers know, when he left in 1920, aged 16) and encountered again the group of young French students we’d just thankfully missed on the SS GB.  Nothing against the French; just seems in my experience they can be the noisiest school groups going, which is some feat.  That’s them reflected in the enormous static disco mirror ball behind the energy tree in the photo.  Should have found out what goes in inside really.

Another thing I should have done – and this not for the first time – was consulted Simon Jenkins’ trusty England’s thousand best churches before we went rather than after the event.  Godless, I still like a good church.  And so it was we missed 4- and 5-starr-ers in favour of the Cathedral.  Which is a Weird windowperfectly good cathedral – Gothic Revival and all that – but without any special wow factors.  Indeed, deja vu of Worcester in finding the caff and the bogs – even men and women’s – in the same niches,  on the same corridor with stained glass decorated windows from which you can see the cloisters.  One of said windows boasted these weird creatures.  Undersea? Cute aliens?

By which time we were knackered and went home.  Or at least where we were staying.

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Westward Ho!  Not wholly literally, but, at least, a weekend spent in Bristol and Cardiff.


“Fellow citizens”: This is what the British super-rich used to do with their money – Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Didn’t have the time to do all of the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery on Friday, and, to tell the truth, I can’t remember much about the paintings or the pots on the second floor, but I’d go again; Alfred the gorilla, the gypsy caravan and the dinosaurs on the first floor fare better with the memory cells, and it’s as good a colourful collection of stuffed birds as I can recall seeing.

TeasmadesWe had practical reasons to visit the Clevedon Craft Centre the next morning.  Where we did espy a small garden of dead Teasmades at Clock Repairs & More.  Click on the link for the proprietor’s entertaining take on Teasmades and his chosen life path.  Shame about the Teasmade; we had one once.  If only they could have cracked the milk problem.

Oakham treasures

And so to Oakham Treasures, just off the M5 at Porterbury, near Bristol.  This wondrous collection of old domestic and retail tat and ephemera (and some bigger stuff) from the last century is a crammed and endlessly surprising collection of memory triggers of staggering proportions.  Here’s a link to the website.  Never mind those period shops in York Castle Museum (or, indeed, more locally to Lillabullero, Milton Keynes Museum), here are aisles of shelves and counters of multi-decaded emporia – groceries, sweets, hardware, booze and fags, chemists’ stocks, cameras, shaving mugs, post boxes … I could go on.  With an accent, I guess, on the central decades of the twentieth century (though I saw my first mobile phone in one of the displays).  Filled, un-cashed in books of Green Shield stamps, anyone?  Then there’s that barn full of tractors – well over a hundred of them – and an overpowering aroma of pneumatic rubber; would you believe a folk art of decorated metal tractor seats?

Navy CutHappily Oakham Treasures is not overburdened with captions and explanations detailing time, place or significance.  Nor is there any attempt at chronological arrangement.  The material is allowed to just be there, broadly themed, so memories are organically sparked.  I’d forgotten my dad used to cut out the iconic capped and bearded sailor roundels from the Players Navy Cut cigarette packets that cost him a lung and use them creatively – just about the most artistic thing he ever did – though nothing like on the scale of the picture here.  Hard to remember just how prevalent smoking used to be.  All the men were hooked, so they had to get to the women.  So-phisticated:

CapstanGold Flake woman

 And the times, they were a’changing:

Fab Eve

Lord of the Flies

lord-of-the-fliesAnd so, on Saturday evening, to Cardiff Bay, to Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru – the Wales Millennium Centre – for Matthew Bourne‘s New Adventures dance company’s production of Lord of the Flies, from the William Golding novel.  Wow.  Even without a show the venue is impressive, even from the back outside.  We were in the Circle on Level 4, and the climb was an architectural treat in itself – beyond the atrium the lettering on the front of the building (there’s a photo below) is actually window space – while the auditorium roof is an elegant, clean, warm wonder in wood just considered on its own.

The performance was, as you’d expect from a Matthew Bourne production, a total experience.  Loud, exciting, bold, involving … just stunning.  There was so much going on among the cast, the bare permanent scaffolding set was inventively functional, there were moments of great beauty just from the lighting effects, while the cello-based music was intriguing and driving, intrinsic to the drama of the whole.

The story is basically a bunch of boys left to their own devices on a remote island (an extreme reality tv scenario if you will).  The sweet dulcet tones of the stranded boys’ choir of the opening sequence is soon forgotten as the power struggle of reason and brute charisma develops and practical survival becomes the issue.  It’s been a long time since I read the book; that will now have to change.  And though I wasn’t quite there with some of the finer points of the narrative all of the time, the gradual descent into savagery was all too understandable.  It’s not the most optimistic of works, whatever the format.

I won’t go into great detail about the project – a team of 8 professional dancers and a 20-plus volunteer ensemble of young men and boys initially recruited as their introduction to dance – but you couldn’t tell where the one group ended and the other began.  Brilliant night’s dance, brilliant night’s theatre.

Wales Millennium Centre: "In these stones horizons sing" it says, in English and Welsh.

Wales Millennium Centre: “In these stones horizons sing” it says. In English and Welsh.

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… an alliteration fail to signal Lillabullero‘s third cultural destination as featured in this post.

Old Duke entranceA brief sojourn in Bristol at the weekend and disappointment that the walls of the gents’ bogs in The Old Duke jazz pub – not exactly the marbled halls of the Philharmonic in Liverpool but still marvels in their own way of artistic distinction – have been scraped and whitewashed into blankness.  I’ve been quietly pleased that photos of the varnished wall- and door-coverings – of layers of sheet music, newspaper cuttings and gig posters – have attracted some attention over the years here at Lillabullero (click here for a view) … and now it would appear they have achieved the status of historical document.

Old Duke scaffoldingStill good music to be had of a Sunday lunchtime, though, from some spritely (shall we say) older geezers playing the jazz – from revivalist stylings through to Lou Donaldson – they’ve played all their lives, as renovation work continues.  And in Banksy’s city, a neat piece of wall art on the brickwork outside:
Old Duke

Le Corsaire

Le CorsaireWhenever New Adventures are in town I drag out the mantra, “I don’t do ballet, but I do do Matthew Bourne.”  Well I did do ballet last week and while not actively regretting it I think I’ll be resuming that position.  The publicity for English National Ballet‘s production of Le Corsaire promised much.  Billed as “an epic pirate adventure“, Pirates of the Caribbean it was not.  OK, I didn’t do my homework, but ballet as a narrative form left me confused, and I still don’t know who exactly the bare-chested bloke who stole the attention of the women I was with was, or what his function.  The leads (he with le grand bulge, d’accords) were obviously a big deal – applause the first time they came on stage before they’d done anything – and could, well, dance rather well, and there were some lovely duets (is that the right word?).

The publicity promised “some of the most bravura male dancing in the ballet” and furthermore “a shipwreck which is one of the most breath-taking spectacles in ballet.”  The stage effects of the latter were pretty good, indeed the staging and costumes were spectacular, borrowing from contemporary (to its inception) nineteenth century exotic east illustration (the book was loosely based on a long poem of Byron’s) and (I pinched this from a review I chanced upon) Bollywood, which some of the ensemble set routines seemed to borrow from too.  Swashbuckling it was not, and nothing like the picture reproduced here was to be seen; indeed, very little time was spent at sea.  The sword fight had a certain brio, I guess, but I was expecting spectacular.  The music – 5 composers are listed – was all over the place, from oom-pah to Tchaikovsky (though he was not one of them).  But what do I know?  All around me Le Corsaire was received rapturously.  No way am I saying it was an evening wasted – it was a visual treat, sometimes due to the dancing – but I’ve still got to catch up with the last episode of Peaky Blinders.

Peter Dreher at MK Gallery

An interesting exhibition in part at MK Gallery from the German artist Peter Dreher, who says:

I was always cautious about narrative pictures charged with meaning.  But an individual painting loses its relationship with reality as soon as it is repeated.  It is just painting.  This is how I arrived at the idea of painting the same thing over and over again.

This is the rationale behind Everyday is a good day (in German the enticing Tag um tag guter tag).  Again, from the MK Gallery’s printed Exhibition Guide:

… Dreher wanted to paint the simplest thing he could imagine, and paint it again and again.  It had to be an object familiar to everyone and he decided on a glass, selecting one from his studio without thinking too much about it. Initially it was meant to be five or six paintings that proved as an artist you didn’t need to change your subject to be stimulated to paint.  He then carried on, fascinated by the process, and now there are over 5,000.  Each painting is created in the same conditions, in the same position and from the same perspective, in one sitting.  It is methodical and obsessive, and loads the painting of the glass with further meaning for the artist and viewer; by producing thousands, the work becomes more abstract and conceptual and the tireless repetition of a motif questions and challenges representation in painting.  At the same time, the ritual act of painting the same thing over and over again is meditative, and provides quiet and pace for the artist.

Peter Dreher 01And 150 of them take up two walls in the Long Gallery allowing the visitor to partake in that old favourite of a picture game,  Spot the difference.  There are differences, but ultimately, so what?  Elsewhere, however, there is stuff I could appreciate more.

In the Cube Gallery the installation of a series of many many skulls done in gouache opposite oil paintings of flowers – a staple juxtaposition of traditional still lifes – do set up an interesting still life experience.  And yes, the varied angles and seeming expressions of the skulls make the observer feel … observed.  You can see the skulls and a couple of glasses on the Gallery website (at http://www.mkgallery.org/exhibitions/peter_dreher/).

Peter Dreher 02Three sides of the Middle Gallery are taken up by Beachcomber shores, a panoramic 52 paneled straight replication in oils – and framed by the wall spaces left for the sections of the room not painted – of  three sides of a California motel room.  This works for me as more of a zen thing than those bloody glasses.  For what it’s worth, on the fourth wall is my favourite piece, frame and all – what is probably a self-portrait from 1948, when Dreher was 16.


Briefly, back to Bristol

Make Sundays Special Bristol

As it happens the Sunday we were in Bristol was a Make Sundays Special Sunday.  These are the brainwave of Bristol’s elected Mayor wherein once a month some city centre streets are closed off to traffic and given over to street artists and stallholders selling their various wares.  Great idea.  A regular buzzing mini-carnival no less.






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A brief sojourn in Bristol means I’ve fallen a bit behind.

Funny word chippy.  So … being belligerent or touchy, coming from the more specific resentment or over-sensitivity about being perceived as inferior aka having a chip on your shoulder, related to the by-product of the work of a carpenter, aka a chippy, rather than batons of potato of the deep-fried variety.  Never mind the derivation of the North American meanings of a promiscuous woman or, more extremely, a prostitute, their chipping sparrow is a cute little bird, its persimmon-red cap in the breeding season (I just looked it up) making it a more colourful creature than our common or garden variety.  All of which has little to do with my wishing to sing the praises of the ethically sound Fish Bar – “purveyors of the finest fish and chips” even if they say so themselves – in Stoke Bishop, Bristol 9.  Exquisite crispy batter, but with a choice of fish cooked therein that I’ve not encountered before: sea bass, mackerel, hake and more, along with the usual.  I’ve had better chips, mind.

Also in Bristol, in the grounds of the Blaise Castle Estate – big dramatic parkland with river gorge and some spectacular trees (especially at this time of year) – was good to be re-acquainted with the metal dog, even though I’m not generally a dog person.  Shame it’s unattributed (or at least I found no hint of who or when it was made from old bits of machinery).  Was lucky for the time of day to be able to catch the shadow in the same photo.

And now the catching up.  Alan Davies at the theatre with his Life is pain show, the Sunday before last. Good natured, fairly filthy in parts, always fun and at times very funny.  He’s hit the being-a-dad stage that most stand-ups go through (“So many stairs“) and made good use of his chosen text, Oliver James’s How not to f*** them up in a wide-ranging couple of hours took in deck quoits (not what you’re thinking of at all), his Essex childhood and his father (“There is no such thing as an accident“) and much beyond.  Living in Milton Keynes one always hopes roundabouts will not feature too much in a stand-up’s opener; it did, but in a neat way.  “How many roundabouts are there between the M1 and the City Centre?” he asked, “Nine?” Followed up with, “I’m not knocking it, just seeing how well you know where you live.  I picked the number off the top of my head.”  He then went on to ask a specifically reasonable and acute question about where exactly is the city centre in MK?  Inevitably no response, because how could there be when you put an out-of-town shopping centre at a city’s heart?  MK has its own qualities despite that, and Alan went on to make Leighton Buzzard the urban butt of the evening to be kicked, feeding off some odd defences of same from the stalls.  Why, I wonder, on occasions like this, do we always seem manage to be sitting nearby someone who laughs too affectedly, too loudly, too readily, throughout?  Despite that, a good night.

October’s Scribal Gathering was a bit bitty, truth be told.  Featured musician Pat Nicholson, billed – probably without his consultation – as Pat the Hat (for reasons that should need no explanation) wittily turned up in a bulky flat cap and kicked off with Freight train as a test of the ages of the audience.  Featured poet, the buxom Kezzabelle, made ballads out of her boobs and other aspects of her interesting late-liberated life.  There was a lovely acoustic version of Cyndi Lauper’s beautiful Time after time from Glass Tears, all two of them.

Two final thoughts.

  • I love this photo of Heather Watson winning her first big deal tennis final.  It was in all the papers, has an AP byline, and I’ve mucked about with it a bit using the posterize function in PSP.  It’s her sheer simple delight in winning that I delight in.  None of the usual fist-pumping, no triumphalism or showboating.  just her moment … Hey!
  • On the other hand, is there anyone who actually thinks Victoria Coren’s jokes are funny?

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All I’d seen of Bristol before last weekend was one of the IT business parks out on the periphery, which could have been anywhere.  I’m impressed, can see why people – as I am assured happens – go there as students and never leave.  A lot going on, especially down by the river, some fine-looking buildings (not especially down by the river), a decent bus service, some huge municipal green spaces with great views of the Avon gorge (though some of the football played on the uneven Downs pitches above the city must be an interesting lottery) and …

As it happens it was the climax of the See No Evil project.  Multi-story buildings and frontages (and backages) in ’60s brutalist Nelson Street -“Bristol’s ugliest thoroughfare” says the Bristol Culture website – have been officially given over to a whatever the collective noun is for graffiti artists, including some of international repute, for a permanent display, the biggest of its kind in the UK.  It was a buzz – the street closed to traffic as the artists arted, bone rattling DJs, a stretch of Astroturf, deck chairs, loads of people of all ages.  You can find loads of photos easily enough elsewhere – just put ‘Nelson Street graffiti’ into the search engine of your choice – but I can’t resist a couple of favourites, and I couldn’t see many of Onandonandon (see below – I’d love to credit it if I knew who to credit it to), resplendent black and white in a sea of colour:










I liked the guy above too, working his tag into a great pictureshame it wasn’t on a walland this team (right above), Fauna Graphic, just for their name, never mind the artAnd just around the corner, street art from another age in another stylee:

Had a good time sitting in the sun listening to Dixieland jazz outside The Old Duke, where the gents’ loos so knocked me out that  I’ve given them a page of their own in Glimpses here on Lillabullero.

Lucky, too, to catch The Ballroom Spy, a joint exhibition of some of Jack Vettriano‘s dancing pieces and his main source – he works from photos – Jeanette Jones’s photos of ballroom dancers, at the Royal West of England Academy.  I don’t care what the art establishment says – I like Vettriano’s story telling pictures (where, of course, we supply the story) and none of the usual art practice verbiage (aka art bollocks) is necessary.  Interesting supporting shows too.  Good on the RWA and its varied programming.

One last thing before we leave Bristol.  There were gorillas all over the place 61 in total apparently – variously decorated and sponsored, something to do with Bristol Zoo’s 175th anniversary, a city-wide art charity event also promoting gorilla conservation projects worldwide.  There are photos of them all on the already mentioned and splendid Bristol Culture website, but here’s one I took myself by Isombard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. I’m still not sure whether to protest – sacrilege! – but I think I’ll let it lie.

Thanks, ‘Ness.

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