Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 - A Review

Here goes ...

Caught the train up to London to see the Gaugin exhibition at Tate Modern and meet up with an old friend and her daughter.  There was the customary visit to Wagamamas!
Took part in No Impact Week to assess my consumption of natural resources and the damage I'm doing to the environment.  A useful exercise with which to begin the New Year. 

Attended a college friend's 50th birthday party in Horley.  Drove through with another friend, got horribly lost, arrived late but nevertheless spent a lot of time laughing.

Finally lost the campaign to prevent Sainsburys building the largest superstore in the southwest on the Bristol City football ground.  Realised the Labour Party no longer reflects my vision of a socialist society, renounced my membership of 20+ years and joined the Green Party. Also vowed to try never to darken the door of the Big Four ever again.

Went to my first pop up restaurant - All Things Pig at St Aldhelm's Church where we did eat practically everything except the oink!
Was back in London to see the Elgin Marbles for my daughter's A level course where we also took in a visit to the V&A and, you've guessed it, Wagamamas!
Walked from Freshford to Bradford on Avon with a couple of friends to avoid 'The Wedding'!  With the exception of a brief glimpse of proceedings while ordering our pub lunch at the Cross Guns in Avoncliff, we succeeded.

Joined the Greville Smythe Bowling Club and played our first match.
Knitted a flowery liana to wind round a bench on North Street as part of the Southbank Arts Trail.
Sang with the Gasworks Choir in St George's.

Had a basal cell carcinoma successfully removed from the bridge of my nose under local anaesthetic.
Heard my hero Peter Owen-Jones speaking at St Stephen's Church.

Sang for Water along with several hundred other singers at the Lloyd's Amphitheatre and then went for a sail around the harbour on The Matthew when we serenaded the unsuspecting public with an impromptu rendition of our repertoire.
Went to my second pop up restaurant - All Things Italian at St Aldhelm's again, where we were entertained by opera singers.
Helped to mosaic a bench in a local park.

Joined group of knitters/crocheters at Paper Village and started a number of projects.  I've even managed to finish a couple of them.
Went on holiday in Porec, Croatia, with my family and my younger daughter's friend and enjoyed the luxury of not having to shop, cook or wash up for a whole week.
Crocheted a budgie, Bojan, for the Bert and Bessie's Budgie Banter project.

Apart from returning to work under a new Headteacher I can't remember anything of any significance this month.

Won a prize for my North Street yarnbombing collage at the Best of Bedminster Show.
Helped yarnbomb Gaol Ferry Bridge and hopefully brightened up the journey into town for a number of pedestrians.
Accompanied Eilidh to art college open days at Falmouth and Glasgow.

Sang excerpts from the Messiah with the Bristol Choral Society in the Colston Hall.
Went on strike to protect my pension.

Started swimming once a week with a friend.
Sang with the Gasworks choir in St George's and attempted my first advanced song - a 14th century French madrigal.  A scary ride but very rewarding.
Spent my first Christmas by the seaside, at St Ives.  Walked across deserted beaches, quaffed mulled cider in the Sloop, was almost blown of my feet on the Island, feasted on mulled wine and mince pies as the tide came in on Porthgwidden beach, watched dolphins feeding off Porthmeor beach, was out early enough to catch the first surfers riding the waves and spent hours knitting and looking out over the harbour.

That's it folks.

Happy 2012!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Cornish Christmas

We're just back from St Ives where we spent Christmas this year.  We haven't been away from home for Christmas since my elder daughter (now 19) was a year old.  Our families lived in Scotland and the prospect of lugging cases full of warm clothing and Christmas presents on and off crowded trains never appealed.  However, now that they are older and able to cope with pared down celebrations, we decided to get away from it all in one of our favourite places in the whole wide world.

The memories I will treasure for many years to come include:

  • standing on the Island with arms stretched out being buffeted by gale force winds
  • downing mugs of mulled cider in the Sloop before proceeding to ...
  • midnight mass at St Ia's church by the harbour with all the candles and incense I could desire
  • Iona writing Merry Xmas in the sand
  • sipping mulled wine and eating Mrs Ferrell's mince pies while sun went down and the tide came in on Porthgwidden beach
  • watching a pod of dolphins feeding off Porthmeor beach
  • dunking biscotti in my early morning cuppa at Carrick Du and watching surfers ride the waves
  • knitting by the window looking out on this view ...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Week Ending

This weekend I ...

... worked too long on Friday afternoon
... watched The Way on Movies on Demand
... wondered if I'll ever achieve my dream of following the ancient pilgrim way from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago di Compostella
... visited a Christmas craft fair at the Southville Centre
... bought some Christmas bunting and a few stocking fillers
... did some housework ... but not nearly as much as I should have
... enjoyed an excellent belly pork roast dinner cooked by my husband
... went for an early Sunday morning walk at Ashton Court with a friend and her two dogs
... attended a practice for the advanced song I'm singing at next weekend's Gasworks concert
... did a bit of Christmas shopping in Broadmead
... listened to my younger daughter play Sibelius' Symphony No 1 with the Bristol Schools' Philharmonia in the Victoria Rooms

Inspired by littlegreenshed 

Friday, 2 December 2011

Virtual Advent Calendars

It's been a while since I had an Advent calendar to open, probably not since the girls were born, but this year I have three 'virtual' Advent calendars to count me down to Christmas. 

The first, and only overtly religious one, is a joint project between Ian Adams, who wrote the text, and Si Smith, who drew the pictures.  Advent is traditionally a season of prepration and I can't think of a better person to help focus the mind on what is to come than Ian.  It is available to download, for £3.50, at Proost.

The second is a very bright and cheery one designed by Hannah Broadway and can be found on her blog, Hannah's Pictures.  I love her insights into the wonders of everyday life.

The third is the most original, featuring photographs of celebrities wearing knitted jumpers!  Pop over to Twee as Volk and be prepared to be entertained.

Have you come across a virtual calendar that you'd like to share?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

To Strike or Not to Strike

I did, along with somewhere between 10,000 (police estimate) and 20,000 (union claim) others in Bristol.

However I confess to mixed feelings over the decision to strike and have realised that I am much happier demonstrating in support of others than I am of myself.  Government policy will affect my pension, although I'm unsure of the details, but while none of us wish to see a fall in our living standards, we do need to face up to the challenge of providing for the increasing number of retired people.  I'd like to see a serious debate on this question.

In the end I based my decision to strike on my frustration with the government's unwillingness to tackle the growing inequalities within our society and its apparent aim to undermine our public services.  I wish they had listened earlier and I hope they will have taken note today.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Counting the Days

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon wrapping small presents for our Advent calendar.

When both my daughters lived at home we had two calendars, a Divine chocolate one and another with embroidered pockets which took me several years to complete and of which I am inordinately proud.  Now that my older daughter is away at university they each have a Divine calendar and continue to share the other.  Last year my daughter opened her share of presents on her return but this year she has asked for them to be posted to her so that she can open them on the appropriate dates.  I'm going to enclose a CD of highlights from the Messiah, without which Advent would not be complete.

I'm fascinated by the variety of homemade Advent calendars.  Sue over at The Quince Tree has a very charming stained glass effect version while Magic Bean has designed one to be coloured in.  I've seen rows of knitted socks and heard about one where cryptic clues lead the child to a present hidden somewhere in the house.

Do you have one to share?

Sunday, 27 November 2011


Today is Advent Sunday but for me the Christmas season kicked off yesterday with the morning spent gift shopping and the afternoon singing/listening to the Messiah.

I was brought up in India, in a city called Pune, which boasted its own choral society.  My parents were both members and I spent many a happy hour sitting at the back of a dusty hall listening to them practice for performances of Judas Maccabeus, Elijah, the Creation and, of course, the Messiah.  My dad had a fine tenor voice and I can still hear his voice when I listen to one or other of the well known arias.

There were 600 singers gathered in the Colston Hall yesterday aftenoon, the majority of whom were regular choir members, but a minority of whom had never sung the Messiah before, and a few of whom were unable to read music.  Nevertheless, under the expert tuition of Adrian Partington, we tackled half a dozen of the choruses, some more familiar than the others, including the most famous of them all, the Hallelujah.

I've been a member of the Gasworks choir for the last three years.  We sing alcapella, so following a score was a novelty and took me back to school and unversity days.

After we'd sung for two hours we took a short break before returning to the hall to hear the Bristol Choral Society perform (from memory) a Mini Messiah to an audience of parents and children.  It's a tribute to the quality of the chorus and musicians and to Adrian Partington's witty and informative commentary that between them they managed to hold the childrens' attention for an hour.  There were the patter of little feet, the murmur of childish voices and the odd wail but it was heartening to witness children being introduced to one of the greatest works of choral music in much the same way as I was so many years ago.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wow! Gorillas 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.

It's been a while since I posted any photos of the Wow! Gorillas. It's not that I haven't spotted any more. It's just that I decided to save them up until I had enough for a reasonable post.

This first one's a bit of a mystery. It's attached to the prow of The Matthew and is obviously meant to represent a figurehead. However I can't find it on the list.

Can anyone help?

In the meantime here's one that I have found. He's covered in Bristol landmarks and is called Wow! Bristol. He lives in the Podium in Broadmead.

Seeing You, Seeing Me is at One College Square. The reflective silver paint mirrors the world the gorilla inhabits.

Grievesey, outside Bristol Cathedral, sports a Bristol Rugby Club strip.

Pattern Gorilla, in the lobby of the Bristol Musem and Art Gallery, represents the repetitive patterns of our lives.
I snapped him on our way in to see the Beryl Cook exhibition, which represented the life and colour she saw around her. It's well worth a visit.

Sky Gorilla stands in Anchor Square, just in front of the pizza restaurant I've been meaning to try out for years, but never got round to. Maybe one day. He's apparently based on a children's story.

I'm guessing Zoo Keeper alludes to Johnny Morris. The monochrome pattern is very effective.
We passed him en route from the recently opened Bristol branch of Foyles (isn't it promising to see the opening of a bookshop when so many are closing down? I must encourage this development by patronising it as often as I can afford) to Carluccio's for a cup of coffee. We were persuaded by the waitress to order a plate of Italian biscuits, which added an air of glamour to the occasion.

Made me Smile!

Tobacco Factory Market - Sunday 31 July 2011
I love the creative use of an old wine crate and a cup and saucer.

If you'd like one for your garden log on to

Sunday, 24 July 2011

All Things Italian

Following the runaway success of his first 'All Things ...' venture Vincent Castellano returned to his roots for his next 6 course feast. And once again he delivered. The menu itself was enough to set my mouth watering and I'd been anticipating the meal ever since it was announced.

There had only been 65 covers at the first event. Last night it more than doubled to 150, with 4 long rows of trestle tables stretching the length of the nave, the trademark banners hanging from the pillars and the candles flickering between the arches.

In contrast to the last occasion when we had chosen our own places, we were seated according to a table plan. While this may have ensured that latecoming groups were seated at the same table, it did mean that we were unable to sit with a friend who had booked separately and had been allocated a place at another table. Castellanos would do well to advise diners of this in the future.

The evening kicked off with a warm welcome from Mike Cardwell, a grace said by Jack House, vicar of the parish and an elucidation of the menu by Vincent Castellano himself.

Then it was down to the main event - the food!

First an appetiser - a crisp bruschetta topped with aubergine, cauliflower, plum tomato and buffalo mozarella drizzled with a vivid salsa verde.

I'm a big fan of tapas, mezze and the like and, having been delighted by the All Things Pig platter, I was looking forward to the antipasti board. There were silky smooth anchovies, peppery salami, fragrant mortadella and juicy meatballs, set off by a heap of pickled gherkins and a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This time Vincent had sourced his bread more locally, from Mark's Bread, just round the corner on North Street.

Oh, and there were also enormous globe artichokes, all shared out between 6 diners.

The starter (I thought we already had!) was a single mushroom ravioli drenched in a creamy dolcelatte sauce and sprinked with dried mushrooms and parsley.

There followed a 30 minute interlude when we were entertained by two soprano opera singers who sang a selection of arias by Puccini, Verdi and a composer by the name of Tosti. They both sang beautifully but I was particularly impressed by the younger woman, who added to the entertainment with her gestures and facial expressions. It turned out that she's the daughter of a couple of Gaswork singers. It really is a small world.

The middle course was a lemon granita made from Sicilian lemons - an mouth puckering palate cleanser to prepare us for the main course which was ...

seared cod (we heard it sizzling during the operatic interlude) on a caponata with a barolo wine sauce topped with a slice of crispy pancetta. The cod was soft and flaky, no mean feat for 150 covers, but I wasn't entirely convinced by its paring with a cold caponata. It took a while for us to be served but it didn't matter. Everyone was relaxed and happy. No one was in a hurry to go home.

At least not until they'd had desert, panncotta with a frangelico and hazelnut icecream, a berry compote and a crunchy biscotti.

The raffle was drawn during desert. We won 5th prize, a Lahloo gift bag containing a packet of earl grey tea and a tin of heart shaped shortbread biscuits. It was my daughter's preferred prize so it was only right that she should have it!

The end of another evening at the St Aldhelm's pop up restaurant. I can't wait until All things Moroccan in the autumn.

For another reveiw of the event pop over to Canapes, Cupcakes and Cocktails, whose author was seated next to me last night.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Wow! Gorillas 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10

On my way in to town yesterday to pick up my younger daughter's Harry Potter tickets, I took in a few more gorillas.

Going Gone Gorilla is in Queen Square.

It's painted in heat sensitive paint changing from black to white to reveal the underlying text which details some of the abuse suffered by gorillas in the wild.

Blackbeardorilla is appropriately situated outside the Llandoger Trow, the 17th century pub that was Robert Louis Stevenson's inspiration for the Admiral Benbow in Treasure Island.

I love this gorilla's facial features!

I was disappointed by the location of Crystal Eyes, in the window of Stanfords on Corn Street, which made it difficult to fully appreciate and impossible to photograph from the street. I guess it's because of the electric light inside the gorilla which shines through holes drilled all over his body.

The Apple of my Eye in Colston Circus was much easier to capture. The street cafe in the background is the Fair Cup which sells excellent fairtrade coffee and reuseable travel mugs. The also give away boxes of coffee grounds for compost.

A close up showing the trademark eyes of this fruity gorilla.

And finally, Distinctly Different at the top of the cascade steps on the harbourside. There must be a reason for its name but I'm afraid I failed to discover what it is. You'll have to wait until I pass that way again.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Wow! Gorillas 2, 3, 4 & 5

I've been down by the harbour quite a bit this weekend and have spotted four more colourful gorillas.

Sabyinyo is one of two gorillas in Millenium Square. How I wish they'd stuck to the original plan to call it New World Square. So much more poetic.

My Kind of Bristol is the second. This is a very clever one. On one flank are written facts about Bristol and on the other about gorillas. I was particularly interested to learn that Gloucester Road has the longest row of independent traders anywhere in Europe. Now there's a statistic to be proud of!

I was tickled to see that some kind soul had left a banana and a handful of peanuts in front of each of these gorillas.

The S Express stands outside the Arnolfini and represents gorillas controlling and occupying a train. Given that it's right next to a statue of Cabot staring up the harbour in the direction of the open sea' it's a pity the gorilla's not facing in the same direction. Hey ho!

There was plenty for him to look at on Saturday, including The Matthew, home after a 4 month voyage.

This flowery gorilla is called Priscilla and she (?) can be found outside the newly opened M Shed.

We popped in a quarter of an hour before closing, just long enough to see photos of our recent yarnbombing extravaganza in the Bedminster section and find our house on the giant floor map. A proper visit is another of my summer holiday projects.

The harbour is a truly wonderful sight on a sunny afternoon.

Wow! Gorillas 1

A week ago Bristol Zoo unleashed a band of gorillas across the length and breadth of the city. You can read all about this exciting project here, so I won't repeat the story here.

They're here until the beginning of September and my summer project is to track down and photograph each and every one of them.

I'm starting with the nearest to where I live. His/her name is Suebo. S/he was painted by Cheo and is one of two gorillas sponsored by the North Street Traders.

I'm very proud of our North Street Traders for having decided to take part in this project. Given the recession/credit crunch, or whatever you like to call it, and the prospect of the largest Sainsburys in the southwest at Ashton Gate, just round the corner, it's crucial not only that we support our local independent traders, but that we work together to make our area a better place in which to live. The recent Upfest weekend and now the Wow! Gorillas (two life size and three mini ones sponsored by three local schools) have brightened up the street and brought smiles to the faces of the residents. That can't be a bad thing. Incidentally Cheo is the street artist who painted one of the shutters on the Rare butchers.

Suebo is positioned adjacent to North Street Green, site of the annual BOB (Best of Bedminster) Show. It's opposite Paper Village, a vertable Aladdin's cave for artists and crafters and the venue for a range of workshops.

I love the colours on Suebo and those funny googly eyes!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Singing on the Water

I've spent the last five Monday evenings learning seven new songs. 900+ other people have been doing the same all over the West Country. Today we gathered in Lloyd's amphitheatre to sing them once through before this afternoon's performance. The occasion was Sing for Water West and we appeared to have been singularly succesful! I woke to the sound of rain, which continued on and off pretty well all through the morning's practice. Fortunately, round about lunchtime, the clouds parted and the sun shone through. By the time we started to sing the ground had dried and the deckchairs were out.

After the concert, which appeared to have gone down well with the crowd, a number of us boarded The Matthew for a trip around the harbour. We cruised up to the Cumberland Basin where the sight of a number of pirates sparked a rendition of our sea shanty. Once we'd started we couldn't stop and the good people of Bristol strolling along the harbourside or patronising its watering holes were treated to an encore of our performance.

Standing on the prow, with a glass of Bounders in my hand, surrounded by people singing for the sheer joy of it, bringing a smile to faces on the shore, made me feel so very happy.

Roll on September and the beinning of the next Gasworks term.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Yarnbombing - 1

This one's for Diane!

Gaol Ferry Bridge, Bristol

Monday, 23 May 2011

Yarn Bombing Collage

It took me some time but I finally managed to produce a collage of the North Street Green Yarn Bombing extravaganza. I hope you like it.