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.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Live fast, wear short skirts

Live fast, wear short skirts, that's my motto. Well, sometimes I've got a bit too much on to live fast, or I'm feeling rather tired. But I stand by the short skirts bit. Or short dresses, or shorts. Basically, I like to show a bit of leg.
My thinking is, I like thigh-skimming clothes, but I'm not going to be able to wear them forever. There comes an age where it's just not appropriate, and I don't want to get to that point and regret not getting my legs out more when I had the chance. So I'm doing my damndest to make sure that doesn't happen.
Cleavage I'm not so bothered about, but I know I'll miss those high hemlines when they're gone. Having said that, I came up with this theory a good ten years ago, when I probably thought that 25 plus was pushing it a bit for anything above the knee, sartorially speaking. Now I'm heading into my late twenties (although trying not to think about it too much) and I reckon I've still got a few years in me yet.
So I was a bit perturbed to read about the latest advertising campaign from New Zealand-based boutique chain Suparette, which put plaques advertising their shorts sale on public benches, imprinting the message on to bare thighs. 
Thankfully, it doesn't sound like this marketing ploy has made it over here yet. But I'll be keeping a keen eye on Bristol park benches this summer. And if I can't sit down in public for fear of becoming a free advertising billboard, at least it gives me a good excuse to strut around in my short skirts while I still can.

Last week I liked...

Lists - for bringing a modicum of order to my life. And for the satisfaction of crossing items off.

My button and bead collection - the plan is to transform a plain high street dress into an eye-catching one off. Just hope it catches eyes for the right reason.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Last week I liked...

Hot drinks, and lots of them, while I felt sorry for myself with a cold

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

I saw you, Venue

When I was deciding which universities to apply to, more years ago than I care to remember, I got the coach to Bristol for the weekend with a friend whose older sister was studying here.
It was a good weekend. I remember sleeping very little and getting very stoned in the kitchen at a house party with someone called Ollie who, for about 12 hours, seemed like everything I’d ever wanted in a man.
I also remember that my friend’s sister had a copy of Venue in her impossibly glamorous student bedroom (glamorous to a sixth former at an all girls’ school anyway). It was intelligently and wittily written and I read it avidly, imagining it would become my bible if I moved to study here, leading me to smoky evenings at gigs and open mic nights, and exciting new art exhibitions.
Most of all, I imagined one day flicking to the I Saw You pages and seeing myself. I was hooked on those microcosms of love stories. The longing and hope and regret. I could think of nothing more romantic than discovering that someone who saw me every day from the top of a bus was secretly in love with me. Actually, one thing would be more romantic - if he then wrote to Venue beseeching me to get in touch. 
So yes, I chose to study at Bristol based on a hazy night with some bloke I never saw again and the egotistical hope that eventually someone, anyone, would be moved to seek me out in the I Saw You pages of Venue magazine.
I’ve since graduated, moved away for a few years, and moved back again. But Venue still sums up everything I love about Bristol. It‘s stylish in its own way, different, irreverent and informative. I buy it for the good old-fashioned reason of wanting to find out what’s going on in the cultural world here. But I also buy it for the features and interviews. For the letters page - Venue readers are opinionated, perhaps a little pretentious at times, but usually very funny and smart. And of course, for the I Saw You page.
I still haven’t seen myself there, though I live in hope (not that I would respond these days, I’m in a very happy relationship. Still, it would be nice…).
So I was devastated to learn last week that Venue might have to close down. Apparently a downturn in readership and decline in ad revenue means it’s no longer sustainable. It’s depressing news - not only as someone who works in the media but as a Bristol resident who can’t imagine the city without the magazine.
There is a campaign to save Venue. I don’t know what the chances of success are but I really hope it succeeds. Not least because, if it closes down, my bus-top admirer will never get the chance to tell me how he really feels.
To lend your support to the campaign to save Venue go to the website

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Last week I liked...

Silk scarves - perfect spring staple for the almost perfect lady

Stockings - for a bit of a thrill when you have to get dressed for work on a grey February day
Coaches - cheapest and sometimes cheerful way to travel for a weekend of fun in London

Monday, 14 February 2011

Good hair day

I am not a groomed person. I love clothes and making an effort to look nice but those little extra details are beyond me. I'm talking manicures, pedicures, professional waxing, blow-dried hair, fake tan... I've had a manicure once in my life, on the beach on Vietnam (not a great idea as it turns out; sand, intense heat and freshly painted nails don't really mix).
I can see why it might feel good to make that added effort to be immaculately turned out, but I'm the kind of person who sees putting on some eyeliner as pushing the cosmetic boat out, and I have to accept that. 
So it won't come as much surprise fore readers to learn that I'm not a regular at the hair salon. Getting my hair cut is very low down on my list of pleasurable ways to spend an hour. I hate having to sit in front of a mirror for a long period of time, and I hate having to make awkward chit chat over my shoulder. 
But most of all I hate being made to take responsibility for my hair and trying to answer that awful question: "So, what are we doing today?" I don't know what we're doing today, or any day. My hair is thick, curly and terminally unbiddable. I want the stylist to tell me what to do with it. If they can't, then we're really screwed. 
I usually mutter something about just wanting a trim and a few layers, before they cut, dry and straighten it into ramrod submission. Which is all very well, but I don't have the patience or the skill to style it at home, so after the first wash it always springs back into a slightly more shaped version of the mop it was before I sat down in that chair. 
I then put off the next visit for as long as I possibly can before trying somewhere else. I've lost count of the number of salons I've visited over the years. This is partly because I keep moving but also because I can't bear going back to the same place, only to have the same conversation with the same person all over again, with the same results.
I was at this point again when a friend metioned that she'd been into Altered Image on Alma Vale Road and how friendly they seemed. It's seconds from where I work and I was getting to one of those stages where I had more split ends than actual hair.
So I popped in to make an apppointment. Darrell, one half of the couple who run and own the salon, chided me for leaving it so long since my last cut. But he made me laugh at the same time, and told me that Vince would be doing my hair because he was an expert with curls. I instantly felt at ease and cautiously optimistic.
When I went back for the actual cut it was just me, Vince and Darrell in the salon. Usually that would be my worst nightmare as all the focus was on me and my hair, but they were so friendly, relaxed and funny that I sat down to have my hair washed and didn't stop gossiping until I left about 45 minutes later.
When Vince asked what I wanted done I mumbled my usual vague suggestions. Miraculously, he actually seemed to understand me and my hair and, realising that I simply wanted him to make it look as good as possible without takling too much off or drastically changing it, he gently took over.
I completely trusted him and it is a measure of his success that, while I used almost always to shove my hair up in a top knot, I now wear it down much more often. This may not sound like much of an achievement but believe me, with my unruly mane, it really is. As my boyfriend put it when he saw me for the first time after the cut, my hair finally "makes sense".
I've been back twice since and now I wouldn't go anywhere else. I never thought I'd be the kind of girl who had "my" hairdresser. But Vince and Darrell are not only great stylists, they're also brilliant company. They've even offered me advice on how to trick my boyfriend into marrying me (it wasn't very practical so I probably won't be acting on it, but I appreciated the thought).
I don't think I'll ever look forward to going to the hairdressers - there's still that sitting in front of the mirror thing - but now when I do have to go, I actually rather enjoy it.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Just a little snippet of a post but while waiting to pay at the Holland and Barrett in Clifton Down shopping centre today I heard the following conversation:

First woman: "Oh yes. I swear by linseed. It's great, it's done wonders for me."
Second woman: "Really?"
First woman: "Yes, it's so good for you. Really, really good for you."
Second woman: "In what way?"
First woman: "It's an anti-oxidant. No, wait, it's not an anti-oxidant. It's.. I can't remember what it does. But it's really healthy. It's one of these miracle foods."
Second woman: "Oooh, I'll have to get some."

Brilliant stuff. And Holland and Barrett are laughing all the way to the bank.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Last week I liked...

 Daffodils, for heralding spring, and sunshine and warmth
 Ballet shoes for keeping my feet warm and pretty
And Boots cold cream for its old-fashioned jar and super-cleansing properties

Monday, 31 January 2011

Sewing therapy

Although my last post may suggest otherwise, I didn't spent the entire weekend moping. As well as a nice trip out to the countryside I also got my sewing machine out again to run up another homemade gift. This time, a clutch bag for a friend who's moving abroad. I made it using a layering and cutting technique I've just learned at my sewing class, and which I might now be a little bit addicted to. 
The colours haven't come out in photos as pretty as they are in real life, and it's not quite finished, but here are a couple of snaps.

I also discovered the wonderful Creativity shop, on Worrall Road, Clifton.. When I say discovered, I'd known it was there for ages but for some reason assumed it was quite small and wouldn't have half of what I needed. I was wrong. My problem was trying to stick to what I needed and not get carried away in a frenzy of bead and button shopping. Lovely, helpful staff too. I'll definitely be going back soon.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Big questions and the Big Smoke

Sometimes life seems like one long struggle and this has been one of those weeks. I've been going through a period where I feel dissatisfied with everything, and as though I'm somehow failing at making a success of my life. 
This time that feeling has been focused on my career and I've found myself wondering if I'm going in the right direction and, if I'm not, what I can do to change that. 
Inevitably when I start thinking this way I begin wondering if I should be moving to London. Although I was brought up there I have no particular desire to live in the capital - unlike many of my friends who flocked there as soon as they grauated, I headed in the opposite direction.
But in the past few weeks I've been keeping my eye on media jobs - not so much for myself as for my boyfriend who is looking to move to Bristol. And the vast majority of relevant vacancies are in London. 
That there are more jobs in London than Bristol (or elsewhere in the country for that matter) doesn't come as a surprise of course. But reading the jobs pages is a depressing reminder of why many people feel that, if they really want to "make it", they have to move to the Big Smoke. 
Which got me thinking about what I need in order to feel that I've "made it", and what success even is. In the mood I've been in in the past week those were very difficult questions to be asking myself, and ones that I will have to leave for another blog post to attempt exploring.
What I do know is that I want to live in Bristol, but I also want to live with my boyfriend,  so we need to be somewhere he can work too. And, although I have a good job at the moment, at some point I will want to move on. So I was wondering if we were being idealistic about trying to have it all - the lifestyle and the careers. 
And then I picked up a copy of Bristol Property Live. I know it sounds like an unlikely place to find inspiration,and that wasn't why I started reading it (I wasn't reading it as a potential house-buyer either, sadly.) But a feature on Mike Bennett, Bristol's place-making director, caught my eye. 
As the article observed, it's a rubbish job title. But Bennett's role is to promote Bristol as an exciting, vibrant place to come and live and work. 
As part of the initiative he and his team have come up with 50 ideas to invigorate the city. 
Sure, many of them will never see the light of day, but just reading the list of suggestions, such as a Slow Sunday anti-rat race movement, or summer music sessions, made me feel excited about living here again. 
It reminded me that Bristol is alive with creativity and innovation, which is what makes it so desirable as a place to live and work. OK, the sheer volume of jobs in London may mean it's often the safest, most obvious place to pursue a career. But who wants to be safe and obvious?
It may be that little bit harder to find the ideal job here but I've decided to take that as a challenge, and to see it as a an opportunity, in the spirit of Bristol, to create something even better than those London folk can imagine.


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Teabags and poached eggs

Yesterday was my and the boyfriend's two year anniversary. Sadly, like most Monday evenings since we got together, we spent it apart. Since he lives even deeper in the Westcountry than I do we can usually only see each other at the weekends. 
I did feel a little sorry for myself, but we had spent the weekend together and exchanged presents so I couldn't complain too much. 
My bank account is still groaning slightly after the pressure Christmas put it under. Luckily, I got a sewing machine for Christmas (from the BF actually) so I thought I'd whip him up a little something.
My skills are still limited, but I had learned how to make a lavender bag at the lessons I went to before Christmas. I'd discussed this with the BF, who said he would like one to hang in his wardrobe, but wouldn't want it to be lavender scented. His reason? He was worried it might make him sleepy while he was getting dressed... How do you argue with a mind that works like that?
So I had to think a bit creatively about what to stuff the bag with. I settled on lemon and ginger tea. It might sound strange, but I figured that tea leaves are the same kind of consistency as dried lavender. And lemon and ginger should be suitably invigorating. 
I couldn't find loose herbal tea anywhere (does anyone know where you can get it from?) so I ended up buying teabags and laboriously emptying them out before feeding the tea into the bag I'd sewn. That's love. But then again, I think I'd have to go a long way to find another man to whom I could present something made, essentially, of a cut up old shirt and some tea-bags and know he'd understand what it represented.
I did take a picture which I'd planned to upload here but I'm having technical difficulties. Hopefully it will follow at a later date. 
And last night, to celebrate our two years together, I made myself two poached eggs with the egg poacher he'd given me as an anniversary present. And I loved every mouthful. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Happy City

In my last blog I shared some ideas for staving off the January blues and since then I've been thinking more about happiness and how we all need more of it. 
Bristol's been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently. As a young woman living not far from Clifton - and with an anxious mother texting me every evening to check I'm OK - it's hard to forget that there's a major police investigation going on just a few roads away. 
But I also keep reminding myself, and my concerned mother, that Bristol is by and large a wonderful, safe place to live and we shouldn't let horrible, tragic, but hopefully one-off crimes detract from that. 
As I've said before there are many things that make Bristol so fantastic, and one I've been wanting to write about for a while is an initiative I stumbled across on Facebook called Happy City Bristol. 
Its mission is very simple - to spread happiness in Bristol. And it aims to do this by bringing people together, connecting communities and helping people to make the changes they want to see in their city. 
I love everything about this. I don't think there's anything more important than happiness. And by that I don't mean the hit of instant gratification you get from a new pair of shoes. I mean that deep-seated sense of wellness and oneness that makes the whole world a better place.
And I fully endorse the Happy City principle that this comes from "creating caring, connected communities" and "bringing people, ideas and resources together".
The sense that Bristol is pulsing with a creative, community spirit was what drew me here, and it makes me very happy to find that there's a project focused on tapping into that and helping it to flourish.

Monday, 3 January 2011

January action plan

It is definitely January. Outside, the sky is a dull grey and it can’t decide whether it wants to snow or rain, so it’s doing a little of both. It’s my last day off before work and I had great intentions of a purposeful day of doing, organising and sorting so I can start the new year in a productive and energised manner. Instead, I eventually hauled myself out of bed at getting on for midday, made myself a peppermint tea, wrapped myself in a cardigan and woolly socks, and got right back into bed.
Every year I think I’m prepared for the sheer dismalness of January and promise myself that I won’t let it affect me, But each time it rolls around the cold, skin, flatness of the month manages to hit me afresh.
But this year I’m determined to meet January head on and this time I have a plan - hobbies.
I don’t know if it’s my age but in the last couple of years I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of having lots of interests, and discovering new ones. When I was a teenager my mum despaired as I gave up one extra-curricular activity after another - at weekends all I wanted to do was find new and more interesting ways to drink and meet boys.
I’m still a fan of drink and boys, but now they have to fit around dance classes, writing groups, sewing lessons and yes, even knitting. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking up the piano again. But I gave that up for a very good reason - I was crap.
So I’m going to fill this month with activities and projects. I’m already signed up for more sewing lessons at the Folk House, on Park Street, which I suggest as an excellent place to start if you want to keep yourself so busy that you don’t even notice that Christmas has been and gone for another year.
Hobbies don’t have to be expensive. Find a local book group, or a supper club. Teach yourself to play the ukulele on Youtube, or ask someone you know to share a skill with you and offer to teach them one in return. By February you’ll be full of goodwill once again, and you’ll have a new talent to boot. Happy New Year.

To get you started with a few ideas, check out the Folk House