Monday, 23 May 2011


I've been neglecting my blogging duties recently - every time I've thought about sitting down to write something I find I have something else to do. I'm trying to do odd extra bits and pieces of writing here and there in my free time and I've also set myself various crafting activities which are probably beyond me but which I will blog about at a later date.
However, all this industry has led me to discover Bristol Central Library, which is one of my new favourite places.
With a lot to get done a couple of weekends ago I decided I would be more focused if I took myself off to a place of study, rather than staying in my flat with all the distractions it contains.
I love libraries and joined the one nearest to me - Redland Library - a while ago, thinking that I would do my bit in supporting it.
But I was disappointed on my first visit to discover that their categorisation system consists of dividing everything into "story books" and "not story books". OK, I'm over-simplifying a bit, but it is pretty much novels in one section and everything else - including plays and poetry - lumped together under non-fiction.
I found this absolutely baffling; not only is it very difficult to find anything but it seems to show a complete disrespect for the books.
I do understand that it's a very small, local library, but I do think a library is one place where you'd expect people to understand that Katie Price's autobiography should not be filed in the same category as Hamlet. 
I thought about writing a letter expressing my dismay, but instead I just stopped going and instead thought longingly of the British Library in London, where I've spent many happy hours pretending to be Virginia Woolf.
However, as I said, I needed somewhere to get some work done and I thought I'd give the city's library system another chance.
And you'll be pleased to hear that the Central Library met my exacting standards. It's grand and beautiful and studiously hushed. I was there mainly to use the computer so I didn't inspect the categorisation system at length but it looked suitably complex. And everyone there seemed to be deep in learning.
In short I was impressed, and my faith in libraries has been restored.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The reluctant exerciser

I usually write this with a nice glass of wine, or an even nicer tumbler of whisky, by my side. After a long day at work I find a touch of alcohol helps the creative muscles to flex. But this evening I've got nothing stronger than a big glass of water, because I've decided May is going to be a healthy month.
Two bank holidays in a row resulted in me throwing all thoughts of self-control to the wind as far as food, drink and fags were concerned. I now feel like one of those pictures where someone has made a face out of vegetables, except it's my whole body, and instead of vegetables it's crisps, chocolate, cider, wine, tequila and cigarette butts.
So with a couple of family celebrations coming up at the end of the month, followed by a two week holiday by the sea in France, it's time to get healthy. I've decided to stop smoking the occassional social roll-up I too often enjoy (and which can easily turn into a whole packet of tobacco), improve my diet and cut down on the drinking (I'm not cutting it out altogether, I'm not a masochist).
But most of all, I'm upping the exercise ante. I'm not a natural athlete and spent my teenage years avoiding all physical activity except dancing. But in the past couple of years I've come to accept that if I want to eat more than a few oatcakes a day, I need to find a way to burn it off. I've also realised, reluctantly, that when I exercise I do actually feel better - eventually.
The problem initially was finding something that I enjoyed, and would actually go to. Classes work better for me than the gym or running, because I can't give up after 10 minutes, and I've found it's best to have a selection of different classes throughout the week that I can pick and choose from, so if I'm busy a couple of night I don't have an excuse not to do any exercise at all that week.
Because I did a lot of ballet when I was younger, that seemed like a good place to start when I moved to Bristol.
I've been to adult ballet classes in other cities I've lived in, but I really struggled to find one here that suited me. I've been through two ballet schools in the past year and managed to leave both under something of a cloud (I'm really not a troublemaker, but something about ballet teachers seems to bring out my rebellious side). Then I discovered that non-students can attend the classes at Bristol University, which are perfect because there's a range of levels and you can just drop in, rather than signing up for a term. So I now happily prance around there, trying to keep myself out of trouble.
I also love the slightly ramshackle Community Dance Centre on Jacobs Wells Road, where you can work up a sweat in a variety of  dance-related ways, from Hip Hop to Flamenco.
And Bristol University Gym has provided me with Body Combat and Body Pump, which are great if you want to imagine either that you're punching everyone who's pissed you off during the day, or that you're a strongman in a circus (and who doesn't want to do both?)
The key, I've found, is to mix it up, don't give yourself excuses not to go, and keep your mind on the end goal. In my case, a passable bikini body and the sweet, sweet taste of practically guilt-free cider and crepes for the duration of my holiday in Brittany.

The Community Dance Centre on Jacobs Wells Road

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Cohen and a camera

This evening I felt a real need to get out and do something active. I'd been planning all day to go to the street jazz dance class at the Community Dance Centre on Jacobs Wells Road but realised that it's closed for the Easter holiday.
Thwarted of a good hour dancing around, and with the evening sun calling me, I headed down to the river instead.
I had Leanord Cohen on my ipod and my shiny new camera in my pocket - all I needed for a thoughtful saunter along the harbourside. Somehow, the sight of boats on water always helps when I need to clear my head a bit.
Plenty of people seemed to have had the same idea - I felt particularly envious of the woman I saw sitting out on the deck of her houseboat, sewing. At that moment, I couldn't imagine anything more blissful.
I was going to upload some photos here but several attempts later I'm still being told I can't. I'm not sure who's at fault - me or the computer - but things to do and all that, so I'll have to try and get them up tomorrow.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Bunting at bedtime

I've had a bit of a thing about bunting for several years now. It started at university when I bought some online on a whim. I was hoping for genteel English tea-party but the plasticky, primary-coloured flags that turned up were more dodgy pub garden during the World Cup. I festooned our living room with them nevertheless, and the festive, if incongruous, sight never failed to raise a smile. I'm sure my housemates agreed.
Bunting has stayed with me ever since. I now have a more restrained, pastel-coloured set strung across my bedroom, bought for me by a friend who lived with me at the above-mentioned house, which suggests  that she wasn't quite as enamoured with the orignal purchase as I thought. 
I also have a bunting necklace and, when a friend had a baby recently, I knew exactly what I'd be contributing to the nursery.
But it's my most recent foray into the world of bunting that is making me really happy at the moment - pillow cases. I made them myself out of an old, torn sheet, which I cut up and then appliqued the flag design to.
It's amazing how much pleasure such a simple thing can bring - I challenge anyone to fail to be cheered by the jauntiness of my new bedlinen.
And we're going to be seeing a lot more of this particular decoration in the next couple of weeks. So if the thought of the Royal Wedding leaves you cold, follow my lead, lie back, and just think of the bunting.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

A Saturday stroll in springtime

Saturday afternoon was meant to be devoted to working, tidying up, and generally getting things done, but the sun was out so my boyfriend and I decided to go for a little walk first. The thinking was that we would then return to our chores refreshed. We walked down to the SS Great Britain, with a quick rummage in Recession, the second-hand clothes shop on Jacob's Wells Road, on the way. We then headed along the river back in the direction of the town centre, dreaming of living in one of the apartments on the waterfront. I've always found that riversides in cities have a particular rough charm - I think it's something to do with the meeting of urban life and nature. The swan we spotted protecting her eggs in a rubbish-strewn nest illustrated this rather well.

We'd got to Welshback and were thinking of heading back home to begin those chores, when we heard some strains of gypsy jazz floating from the direction of The Old Duke.
 A jam session was in full swing out in the square and we thought a quick drink wouldn't hurt. A few pints and whisky chasers later we were still there, soaking in the very last of the rays and tapping our feet along to the ever changing line-up of musicians. It was a perfect spontaneous afternoon - the work didn't get done but that's what tomorrow is for...

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Breakfast at Cox and Baloneys

In Breakfast at Tiffany's Holly Gollightly say her cure for the "mean reds" is to jumps in a taxi and head to the eponymous jewellers for some quality time among the diamonds.
"It calms me right down," she tells Paul Varjak, "The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there".
I've never felt that a jewellery shop is a particulalry soothing or uplifting place - full as they are of items that cost more than my yearly salary and assistants who look at you (or me, anyway) as though you're going to nick the lot.
But I think I've found my alternative.
I first came across Cox and Baloney when they had a stall upstairs at the Woolies Indoor Market on Whiteladies Road, and I thought they had something good going on then.
I knew they'd moved to a shop on Cheltenham Road, but hadn't had a chance to visit until this weekend. But once I'd finally made my way there it was difficult to drag myself away.
It was as though someone had reached into my mind, taken out all the vague ideas I've ever had about what my perfect shop would be like, stitched them all together and made them reality.
It didn't even feel like a shop, but more like the quirky, cluttered home of someone who I definitely wanted to become my new best friend. I was in heaven.
As well as vintage clothes and accessories, they also stock vintage and retro homeware. There's a seamstress downstairs who makes and alters clothes to order. And the shop includes a bookspace selling old and new books, and a gorgeous, comfy tea room whioch serves homemade cake.
In short, once you're inside, there's absolutely no reason ever to leave. If I could have set up home there, I would have done.
So the next time I get the mean reds, I know where I'll be heading.