Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sore Saddles... The Bristol to Bath Cycle Route

The sun was shining and it felt like the perfect opportunity to tick another Bristol experience off the list. The much talked about and undertaken (although a few of the talkers, did the talking and not the action) Bristol to Bath cycle route, or Bath to Bristol cycle route, whichever way round you want to play it... incidentally there is also an offshoot route which goes over to Chew Valley lake and adds another six miles onto your journey, but hey, who's counting. With two female mates in tow, we prepped our rather flat wheels and saddled up. Attired in notably contrasting outfitting of varying practicality (compardres Rhiannon - leggings, layers and backpack containing waterproofs, water and banana, Jess - tights, denim shorts, black tee and sunnies, me, dressed like i'm in the sound of music, long flowing dress, white brogues, scarf, cardie and satchel). The journey to the cycle path was a simple enough one, which led us through the working class area of Easton, traffic and shouting reminded me of being in Dalston, past St Marks Road (a rather delectable street, containing restaurants and food stores of exotic persuasions), past The Chelsea, (a dubious pub where upon the only time I've entered, had my crotch enthusiastically sniffed by an overzealous greyhound mongrel, whilst the burly male occupants hungrily looked on), up towards Easton Community Centre / The Plough (ECC is the venue for the Easton Cowboys fundraisers, good excuse for a party / Plough a late night drinking establishment which plays host to psy trance/techno/reggae/dub/anything goes dj's), taking a left onto the cycle path.

The route was once a railway path, which steam trains would run along, certain sections are still in use, with a leisurely steam train that takes enthusiasts along the track in old carriages, I think there may even be a Thomas the Tank Engine for the children. As you cycle along the seemingly flat route out the landscape changes gradually and opens up into beautiful countryside. The birds were singing, the sun was out, the blossom on the trees hung heavy, there was an air of 'The Darling Buds of May'. You are raised high which provides premium viewing for the fields, horses, farm stock and water routes. Pubs are dotted along the track with picturesque picnic spots presenting themselves intermittently, there are plenty of places to break up the journey. Once in Bath we hit the canal path, feeling slightly heady we immediately abandoned our bicycles at the nearest railings and headed to Marks (and Spencer) for some well earned lunch. After paying a £1 to enter the park, we plonked ourselves in a heap on the grass. The journey back was hampered by the differences in pace from the riders, two members disbanded and continued at an optimum speed. We missed the Easton turning whilst pacing and had to turn back, it was pretty grueling, arriving home we clambered off our bikes with the realisation that our feet felt disconnected. Walking like cowgirls we slowly eased our bodies back into movement. It was fun yet next time I may consider joining the majority of leisure cyclists and getting the train back (which incidently takes 15 minutes, not two hours). Definitely worth a go again, I wonder if there is a train station from Chew Valley lake...

Lone adventurer... Camera Obscura

There was once a time and even now and then I still get it when despite the independent upbringing, I struggle to venture out on independent day trips, it's not that I dislike my own company, merely that I prefer to share an experience. Perhaps its human nature to want to bounce off someone, it's more fun with two, or three, or more! Although too many and you spend to long waiting for people. However, being new to a city, with days at my disposal and modest amounts of friends has forced me to shake off this behavior, and strike out on my own.

My visit to the Camera Obscura was testament to this, after failed co-ordinations to meet up with a mate, I ventured up the hill to Clifton village alone. The weather was glorious and I reminded myself how lovely it is to walk around at my own pace listening to music. I paused to take photographs and diddly as and when, it was indeed a relaxed affair. Upon reaching the summit of the Obscure I was dashed out a charge of £3.50 entrance, this covered me for caves and camera... The venue is currently being renovated, soon to open as a roof top restaurant, a bid to eek more money out of the glorious building.

If like me you've never been in an obscura, don't be too disappointed, its like a giant spying device, you rotate its lens and you can see everything in detail all around, people chilling on the grass, cars passing over the suspension bridge etc. The biggest buzz I received was from the voyeuristic sensation I encountered in a blackened room, watching sunbathers below.
The building was erected as a wind mill (Snuff Mill) in 1766, however in 1777 it was destroyed internally by fire, abandoned until 1828, artist William West began to rent it. The artist used the camera to draw pictures of the surroundings including Leigh woods and the bridge itself, examples of which can be found in the Bristol Museum.
Buried deep below the hill top is St Vincent's Cave nee Giants Cave or Ghyston's Cave, which sits 250ft above Avon Gorge. Access is granted by a passageway constructed by West, its precarious route is damp, narrow and requires ducking. The cave is steeped in history and dates as far back as 305 AD with evidence that it was used a place of religious worship. The attendee informed me that a structure once existed that came out of the rock and access via external steps was possible. I spent a good deal of time down there reflecting and taking in the view, this was before I knew the history, perhaps I was under its spell, definitely a highlight of my adventure, and perhaps I may have taken less time to loiter were I with a companion.
My journey from the bridge to home took approximately 45 minutes downhill, that's the beauty of Bristol you can pretty much walk anywhere.

You can be forgiven... (Late Night Folk Tales)

For thinking I haven't been writing my blog instead I was trying to fill the gaps in the past where i'd gone on expeditions and hadn't quite got round to writing them up! This has proven quite demanding and also unnecessary, I've taken the executive decision here on in to write as incongruous as I like. I'm going to start not at the beginning, instead at last nights events and work backwards until I get bored.

Since making the decision to leave Bristol time has ebbed slowly and the transition into a new place hasn't been smooth, this has led me to bouts of deep thought, weighing up my choices and questioning my motivations for leaving. Not particularly healthy, but natural, a limbo zone, it's like waiting at a crossroads not quite knowing which direction is best, having made up your mind which avenue to turn and being made to sit and wait for the lights to change. They haven't changed for days, and days, and days... Whilst waiting I decided to pack in as much of Bristol as possible, hence the erratic blogging my time has been consumed by dashing from destination to friendship gathering and back again.

Last night I attended a folk (tales) evening in a scout hut on the harbour, such a beautiful location for such an event. We arrived early and primed a seat at the front, before climbing the steps at the back of the venue to sit and watch the sky change its colours into night, rowers and swans providing a soundtrack. The event began with a young looking busker by the name of Fabian who told tales of singing for his supper in Italy and had vocal similarities of Seth Lakeman. Next on the bill was the 2010 storytelling slam winner Saikat - a rather animated well versed Asian dude with a face full of many characters, the time slipped by and a smile appeared on my face. The preceded a rather nervous (cue hand shaking and face reddening) performer Electric Alice, who sang beautiful enchanting music with a slightly darker edge. A song that stuck out for me was the tale of a hit and run, the rhythms and harmonies created between guitar and vocal were particularly strong. The final performance on the evening came from an enigmatic Kid Carpet, who burst onto the stage with a staggering confidence that engulfed you in waves of fun. Performing his free to download album, Advert Break, with the aid of his kitchen stereo, folk karaoke, apparently. His next trick was to pull out a child microphone and amp (fisher price stylee) and a guitar head that worked by thrashing into the air - linking them up to get a distorted thrash sound. Cowboy get back on your horse was a particular favourite, however it was nice to be treated to a host of new material debuted live and intimate.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Back to the begining - get ur CRACK out...

Around a friends house the t'other day and one of my more recent friends, turned and quizzed me about a new magazine he'd seen entitled Crack, surprisingly to me, it seems a lot of Bristol or rather my new acquaintances walk round with there magazine senses closed. Crack has been around for nearly a year now and it's still being seen for the first time, five issues down, sixth one due out in the next month or so. Easily the strongest publication Bristol has to offer in terms of content, style and musical direction, which is why I put my writing behind it. Nothing quite matches it or even comes close, plus the two guys that set it (Jake and Tom) up are suitably sound, and rather hot too. With offices in Clifton they shirk off the 'we must be in Stokes Croft* to be perceived as cool', and take a more serious business approach (yes mate).
The magazine is heavily researched and has strong music and art leanings, with a focus on all things Bristol based. These boys love Bristol and pretty much know everything that goes on here that you need to know. I told Jake I was going to see the camera obscura whilst we were checking out Your Twenties last Monday - he looked slightly confused and a little disappointed as to why he didn't know they were playing, (for the record I meant the place not the band) this man is passionately obsessive, which is what you need to run a magazine. So for those that don't know already, get to grips, London folk you can download a copy here** and judge for yourself, it gives London mags of a similar size a serious run for their money. BIG UP! the Crack team!
* pretty much the perceived centre of Bristol for all things alternative (non-plastic based consumerism)
** well you could normally until I tried to and discovered the website is locked until re-launch - due in five days, so keep checking back!

Editor notes - Sleepless nights, early mornings...

are best remedied by the application of my mind. Tossing and turning is so passe and i've been neglecting my blog. It's not that I haven't been doing anything to write about, on the contrary i've possibly been doing too much, in fact i've gone slightly overboard, rediscovering and exploring new places, venues and quintessential Bristolian pass times. Before I've had time to perform an analysis and report back I've been off on my next adventure. One regurgitation I did manage to pour out onto my iphone notes was whilst waiting for the bar to close - a quick synopsis of my 30 mile round trip to Bath with my trustee bicycle and two compadres. Another adventure undertaken was after approximately four hours sleep and copious amounts of brandy, cider and anything else I could lay my hands on - a civilised is somewhat hungover family outing to the Arboretum. And so you see in the application of research I have excelled in the reporting I have achieved very little, best put my little nose to the grindstone and ignore the fact it's 6am...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Bristol Greeting - The tale of two cities.

Until a few weeks ago, I was directionless treading water in the hope that something positive and engaging would come along and consume me. It hasn't happened thus far and I have lost the motivation to keep searching it out. Standard fodder in the provinces is that London is a far less (superficially) friendly city, to which I agree, yet it does allow you a greater scope for development if that's what you're seeking. With eight million people in London and approximately half a million in Bristol it's not surprising. However the cost of opportunity is weighed up by the dog eat dog mentality which requires a hardy disposition, otherwise you'll be swallowed whole and spat out the other side. People are happier in there non-achievements here (big money career success is not top of the agenda), people don't come to Bristol to 'make it' - they arrive seeking out a nicer, more spiritually rewarding life, recycling, growing your own food, charity/arts/conservation work, diy community projects. I miss (the full extent will only be revealed upon leaving) the warmth that comes with those lifestyle choices. Laid back happy, contented people, who actively engage you, coming from a small town in back of beyond I occasionally felt alone in my energies of niceness, yet in Bristol it was met in equal measures. I long for the dynamic life of London, yet crave the relaxation, which the green city provides.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

No 1. The Duke of York...

is a pub in Bristol, my favorite pub, it's bares a healthy quota of responsibility in maintaining my sanity and providing me with a generous social outlet. Laid out like an Amsterdam grotto, you are greeted with shit' everywhere, from top trumps (mullet edition) to samples of yarn to playing cards which adorn the walls. No area is safe from decoration and adds to the charm, a particular favorite is a 'bunch of cunts' laid out like a happy birthday banner. DIY window displays with props donated from Aardman and low level lighting with the aid of fairy lights, candles and a roaring fire. The atmosphere is treat as you find, the greeting is all about the approach, warm friendly and helpful requires a smile upon arrival and gracious patience if the bar is full. Round the back a traditional skittle alley, free to use and requires re-stacking after each round. The garden contains a generous amount of seating with a sail that can be pulled overhead on rainy days to provide shelter for a much needed inhalation of Bristol. Upstairs the games room provides a pool table (which I seem to do pretty well on after a few Hendrink's and cucumber), table football (requires a jiggle to get the balls out - don't we all), and darts. The back room holds additional seating and a totally different ambiance, pimps lounge, black leather sofas, tree trunk tables and camel riding stools, nice little hideaway. The crowd are approachable and interactive, maintaining a local vibe, yet is constantly turning over new faces and sounds. The jukebox controlled by the staff reflects the musical diversity and knowledge that Bristol represents, well worth a visit.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Location Change - imminent return to the mothership

Apologies for my slackness in bloggage of late, I have been preoccupied with re-addressing the work/life/fun balance. My adventures in Bristol began with the faltered blossoming of a life-love-soulmate which wasn't meant to be, hampered by a broken heart I endeavoured to continue my quest in making a life for myself, internal wrangling ensued and the London imbedded deep inside me won. And so with a heavy heart - it's not easy moving on from broken dreams - I've found the strength to rip it all up and start all over again. Yeah!

Before I go, as a parting gift to a town that has opened it's arms to me I shall be blogging about all the places, people, events and specks of dust that have inspired or excited me in some way. It's all rather self indulgent but who cares.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Hair Reversal - Alice Anderson

Wandering the streets of London on route to Bob Bob Ricard (more to follow) for afternoon tea we stumbled across a magnificent mane of hair hanging out of a the window of a riflemakers shop nee gallery. This whimsical installation from French/Algerian artist, Alice Anderson is part of the Time Reversal series, which runs until 24th April.

Inside is a weave gone wrong creating giant cobwebs of a ginger hair, down the creaky stairs is an enchanting if somewhat sinister video piece about a girl that turns into a doll, the set is fantastic and the costumes marvelous, it kinda fits together from whichever point you begin watching. Anderson left England and her father and moved to France with her mother as a child and was forbidden to talk about him again. The play on rejection and blurring of fiction and non-fiction highlights the confusion in remembering events which happen at a young age. The whole of three floors are utilised, upstairs providing room for accompanying sculptures and etchings. The macabre elements cast my mind back to an old boyfriend whose mother used to collect dolls, you would enter the living room and be greeted with a sea of eyes observing your every move. One of the stronger pieces is a wax work construction of Anderson's face, delicate freckles sit sparsely upon a pale complexion, accented by ginger brow and lashes.