Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Atypical Tuesday

Sometimes life can get a little too comfortably routine and pedestrian.  That is where teenagers come in very handy.  In fact, there's no doubt they were invented to kick routine firmly in the pants and challenge the status quo.

And so it was that last Tuesday evening, we found ourselves pootling down the motorway with two teens occupying the back seats, destined for Bristol.  The purpose of their visit was to see underground American art-rock music artist Yves Tumor.  Ours was principally to operate as a taxi service (the train was just too pricey and unreliable), but we love an excuse to visit Bristol.

Using the fantastic parking app Just Park, we parked in a quiet residential street not far from Temple Meads train station - which would have cost us £19.50 - for just over £7.00.  

Relying on Google Maps, we took the most direct route to find the music venue, The Marble Factory.  The most direct route it may have been, but it was patchily lit and at times felt as though we had strayed onto a film set created for a "gritty, urban" brief.

City at night...

The temperature was hovering around zero and the moon was bright.  After photographing this crane, I noticed that a lens flare had created a second moon.  Surreal huh?  A happy mistake.

We had the briefest of encounters with the impressive Victorian Temple Meads train station where we grabbed an on-the-go snack and drink before parting company with the gig-goers.

As is par for the course for us, we soon got lost.  It turns out that not all city centre sign posts do in fact lead into the city centre.  I stopped to do up my laces and was asked by a couple of drunks if I was OK.  I think they assumed I was feeling nauseous.  At this point we had probably walked the best part of three miles and hunger was getting the better of me.  We asked a friendly looking passer by for directions.  She suggested the King Street and as she was heading that way for a Clairvoyant evening, we joined her for the last part of her walk, taking a short cut through a dimly lit car park.  Finally, we reached King Street and realised that we had taken an elaborate detour to reach this now familiar destination.

King Street is a vibrant, pedestrianised street lined with a choice of eclectic bars and restaurants with al fresco wooden bench seating.  Even in the late November chill, many students opted to sit outside.

We parted company from our good samaritan tour guide and headed inside an inviting looking Pizzeria not far from the Old Vic Theatre.

Inside, the walls were decorated with decades of Old Vic theatre posters.  There was pizza by the slice and a good selection of beers by the local Left Handed Giant Brewery.  I opted for the vegan pizzas and honestly thought there had been a mix up with the ingredients; the cheese was that good.

As it was a week night, we were joined by only four other Tuesday night revellers during our visit.  The staff were laid back and friendly and the ambience was relaxed.

I loved what they had done with the place!

Hunger sated, we  reluctantly left the warmth of our cosy corner and decided to head back towards Temple Bar.  The temperature was now plummeting and we wanted to be as close to the Marble Factory as possible when Mr Tumor had finished his set.

By now, some of the eateries close the King Street were closing for business.

On any other given week, we may have been busy doing nothing, watching some trash TV, surfing the internet or answering emails.  Bristol's around a 90 minute drive from us, so it's not the obvious destination for a night out, but it made a refreshing change and I wish we'd had longer.

Check out this handsome pub!

In no time at all, we found ourselves back in the Temple Quay area and I took the opportunity to capture some of the lights and sights that caught my eye...

...like the impressive Valentine Bridge which snakes across Bristol's floating harbour in a newly developed mix use area behind Temple Meads station.  The bridge caused some controversy when barriers were erected to encourage cyclists to dismount before the authorities relented after complaints were lodged.

Cyclists are everywhere in Bristol.

A rear window moment.

Feeling the chill again, we headed into the promising sounding but totally soulless Wetherspoons pub The Knights Templar for a caffeine pick-me-up and carpet shot.

My friend, Vix recently enlightened me through her blog (Vintage Vixen: Black Country Tales - Viva Bilstonia! (vintagevixon.blogspot.com) that each of the carpets of Wetherspoons pubs are bespoke - unique to the building or locality and handmade, valued at around £30,000 apiece! This one's for you Vix!  I think it was probably the best part of this pub. 

I also found this interesting reading material courtesy of the Wetherspoons Magazine.  This article, penned by Nik Antona, the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), referenced the illegal demolition of our local landmark The Crooked House.  Investigations continue, arrests have been made and the campaign continues, in case you're wondering.  

At around 10.30, we took a short stroll to the Marble Factory, a move we timed perfectly to coincide with the end of the gig and there ended a tremendous and atypical Tuesday evening.  Thanks Bristol!

On the return journey, the teens took over the music and I have to say, Yves Tumor's not at all bad!

I'll leave you with a taste.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Autumn Comes

It's been a turbulent few weeks in every respect.  Autumn made its dramatic entrance with Storm Ciaran, which coincided with and compromised our mini break to Exeter.  It feels like much of life has been viewed through a pane of glass as a result.  Here you can see the storm clouds gathering on our journey down the M5.

 Our view upon arrival.  It didn't improve during our 48 hours in this small historic city.

I don't feel we are equipped as a result, to give an accurate appraisal of the city.  My biggest takeaways?  

1.  It's steeped in history.  Just opposite our apartment was the Dissenters' Graveyard, a plot of land collectively purchased by those who refused to adopt the Church of England faith.  During the Georgian and early Victorian period, Exeter underwent major social, economic and political upheaval and members of the dissenting community from the three Presbyterians Meeting Houses (Bow, Mint and George's - now a Wetherspoons) were buried here between 1748 and 1854.

Exeter Cathedral; an Anglican cathedral completed circa 1400.  We didn't visit on this occasion.  We were limited for time for one.  But we've also been spoiled by free entries with voluntary donations, (which we always opt to leave) at St David's, Liverpool and Chester recently and so balked at the £7.50 per person admission fee.  

The Norman, Rougemont Castle was built on a knoll known as red hill or rouge mont in Norman French, because of its red, volcanic rock.  This Norman three storey gatehouse's arched entrance shows evidence of Saxon workmanship and is therefore the oldest non-ecclesiastical Norman arch in existence.

2.  An iconic mural.  The paint you see is the result of vandalism, but as the building is owned by retailer Urban Outfitters, it hasn't been cleaned yet and the company is declining to comment.

The chiselled mural was created in 1991.  Members of the public were asked to send in photos which would serve as inspiration for the mural.  One local woman, Hollie-Jay Storer, sent in several of herself, one of which was selected for the final piece.

3.  Some rather good charity shops.  I picked up this book to add to my growing collection.  

4.  Character pubs and good beer; plenty of options for shelter from the storm.

5.  Amazing Wetherspoons!  First up, George's Meeting House, a former chapel connected to the aforementioned Dissenters' graveyard...

....and The Imperial.  Previously the Imperial Hotel, from 1923 until 1994, this had been converted from Elmfield House, built in 1810 for the County Surveyor James Green. 

We dined here, in the ballroom, which was intended as a replica of Buckingham Palace...

...so that we could enjoy the view of the jaw dropping orangery, added by Dr William Buller Henderson, who purchased the property in 1897.

After a couple of stormy days, we were excited to meet up with our friends, Neil and Laura, for an overnighter in Cornwall.  Remnants of the storm continued to circle and we again took refuge from horizonal rain and road spray; this time in Jamaica Inn.  You can just make out the A38 in the distance.  I don't think I've ever visited this legendary place in anything other than perfectly imperfect weather conditions.

Eventually the storm retreated and relative calm was restored, although the waves were still choppy at Carlyon Bay.  The sea, the sea!  

Charlestown looked as picturesque as ever, but Poldark was nowhere to be seen.  We enjoyed great food, company and cocktails in this atmospheric fishing village and occasional film set.  No photos, sadly, as we were too busy scoffing and chatting! 

After 24 hours in Cornwall, it was back up the M5, homeward bound...and more windscreen photos of interesting cloud formations... 

...and fading light. 

Ah, seasons change with the scenery...

Weaving time in a tapestry

Won't you stop and remember me

At any convenient time?

The Simon & Garfunkel lyrics have been playing around in my mind since our return, for obvious reasons.  Our Autumn colours are more muted than those of our American cousins, but they are beautiful nonetheless.

 The leaves are falling in earnest now.  I had to stop and jump out of the car to capture this stunning spectacle in Low Town, Bridgnorth the other day.

Oh and check out this unique little fungus with its bendy stalk, growing in our garden.

Autumn always seems to me to be a time of reflection and I've been busy setting up a little home studio and working on my portraiture, recording those around me, in the hope of getting some future bookings.  I have plans (watch this space), but for now, I'll leave you with a selection of very simple, low key portraits of recent willing victims.  

Gareth, the Skater Boi

Dawn, feeling way more comfortable with a glass in her hand

Barry, my father-in-law, gurning at the camera




Take care and stay warm and dry!

Atypical Tuesday

Sometimes life can get a little too comfortably routine and pedestrian.  That is where teenagers come in very handy.  In fact, there's n...