Saturday, 31 December 2011

Gwenvor

27th December 2011

My best friends from school and I met again at Sennen for a walk two days after Christmas. We don't get many chances to meet up during the year and relished the opportunity to chat and enjoy time off together.
We set off across the beach, skipping over the rivulets of water running to the sea, chatting our way across the sand until we got to the stony bit. The decision was made to scramble across the rocks to reach Gwenvor, nearly cut off from the incoming tide, and head back to Sennen via the coast path above the beach.
As usual I was at the back of the group. I like to think of myself as quite sturdy and not easily scared, but the others just kept skipping from rock to rock as I stumbled, negotiated pathways, jumped, lunged and used all fours to get across. The further we got, the further Gwenvor seemed, and I was grateful when the others decided to rest in a particularly beautiful spot.
This is what life is about. Moving, sharing, breathing sea air. I might be a bit of a wimp, but I love to be outdoors with good friends.
After an easy stretch back across the coastal path we met up with my sister in the Old Success, where I had a couple of drinks and left feeling very merry. Back to Penzance to greet yet more loved ones. A lovely day.

Seasonal Swim at Sennen

25th December 2011

We often go to Sennen for a walk along the beach on Christmas Day, but somehow this year we ended up there earlier than usual, and Lucy decided it would be a good day for a dip. I pondered the idea but decided against it as I had no bathers and couldn't really be bothered. Bad decision.
We arrived just before 11am, and were greeted by a throng of seasonal swimmers. People of all ages, shapes and sizes were stripping to their cozzies, ready to run to the waves at 11. This happens every year but we never realised at what time, or just how many people were prepared to take the plunge. I bumped into a few old friends and congratulated them on their brave choice of Christmas activity, while secretly wishing I could join them.
We counted down to 11am, a whistle blew and in they ran, hundreds of them, jogging down the beach for a quick dip. Lucy lingered the longest, claiming that once she was in it wasn't cold anymore.
Despite not actually getting into the water, I was very happy to be part of the occasion. So Cornwall, so Christmas, so crazy. Most of the swimmers huddled in the Old Success afterwards for a drink. We rushed home to greet neighbours and nephews, drink champagne and celebrate. A great start to Christmas!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

St Andrew's Park, Bristol

St Andrew's Park has been many things to me over the years. I have whiled away the hours waiting for friends to finish work when I was visiting Bristol, come for quiet autumn walks alone, barbecued with friends, jogged around it in half hearted attempts to get fit, taken my little niece to the paddling pool, celebrated friends' kids' birthdays with picnics, come to find sunshine and escape the hassle of sunbathing anywhere near my house when I lived in St Pauls, watched the sun rise on long nights out partying, and came here to drink away the first hot day this year.
On Tuesday, for the first time, I joined in the annual 'Carols in the Park', and saw the park transform once again, this time taken over by churches to spread the Christmas cheer. I love to sing, and was so glad I made it out amongst the families, friends and couples, singing in the rain and celebrating Christmas in a very well used and well loved place.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bath Christmas markets

Bath is so close to Bristol and so easy to shop in, as the new shopping centre is opposite the train and bus stations. Lucy was visiting for the weekend, and as I'd heard of the legendary Christmas markets in Bath, I decided it was time for shopping.
We had a lovely time buying gifts, mulled wine and bratwurst from the stalls, but the best part had to be Lucy acting as elf. She made all my Christmas dreams come true, phoning Santa when I saw something I liked and making sure I'd be well dressed for 2012.
The markets, set around the cathedral in a beautiful and historic city, are very pretty, but they were not quite as exciting as the ones I went to a couple of years ago. Bath is a great option for a Christmas shopping trip, but if you can be up north, a trip around York and Leeds is magical at Christmas time. In York it was snowing, and every bit as pretty as Bath, and in Leeds the German markets come complete with a huge marquee with a bar and bands.
Wherever I am before Christmas, I love days spent shopping for presents, and coming home to wrap them with Lucy and put them under our lovely big tree made me very happy.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Blaise Estate

I've been running a lot recently, and yesterday decided to go for a long run up to Blaise Castle, around it and back again. It didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped, as after mapping my run, writing down the directions and setting off with only them, my phone and some water, I got immediately lost.
I found myself running around some newly built housing estates in Horfield or Henbury or Henleaze or somewhere in North Bristol beginning with H... or was it Southmead? Possibly I ran around all these places, sometimes ringing home for directions, sometimes stopping strangers, sometimes running down streets I was sure I'd already run.
Eventually I turned up at Blaise Estate, which should have been the fun bit, but which was full of families, and dogs who wanted to run beside me, and I was getting cold. I rang home again, with the bright suggestion that Matt might like to drive up, come for a walk with me and drive us back to the relative warmth of our flat. Luckily he thought this was a great idea, so whilst I did laps of the grounds outside the museum to stop me from freezing, he drove to my rescue, remembering to bring a jumper.
We wandered into the woods and found the elusive castle, just in time to play with our new camera phones and watch the sun go down. I was glad of the jumper, glad of the lift, and determined that next time I'd leave a little earlier, better prepared, and wearing gloves.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Bright on Brighton beach

Another beautiful sunny relaxing weekend in Brighton, this time with two people who have a special shared ability to make me feel ok. We ate fudge, cooked, shopped, sat on the beach in t-shirts, had fish n chips with cider for lunch, watched TV, drank wine, then rum, and reminisced about the days spent in Peru. Excitingly, we made plans to visit our missing quarter in Seattle, and most memorably, we made up a game to be played in the birdcage on Brighton beach. It involves being very silly, laughing and making a fool of yourself, and I hope to play it again soon.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Brecon

Having seen photos and heard stories from across the Severn, we decided to take a look at the Brecon Beacons for ourselves. Tales of hills, lakes and fountains, within an hour's drive, led us to falsely believe a walk in Wales would be easily achievable. Alas, we awoke too late, failed to plan anything and eventually, after a long drive, stopped briefly in Llangors, where the angry ducks and lack of footpaths spurred us to drive on. Turning up at 3pm in Brecon, we found the Tourist Info shut for the day.
Nothing for it but to climb the nearest hill, which was nice, but gentle, and not quite the day's arduous adventure we'd envisaged. Brecon, however, is a charming little town which I'd like to visit again.
We spent the next couple of hours searching for a nice place to eat, settling in the end for an average pub in Abergavenny, and headed home, where films and fireworks awaited. It's always good to spend some time with your beloved, away from the daily grind. Next time, however, we might look at a map or make a plan before we set off, and find the evasive long walk in the wild. I'm sure there are many, and look forward to telling you all about them.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cross country across town

Beginning the day early in Somerset we headed to Portishead Open Air Swimming Pool in the West of Bristol. We arrived at opening time: 10am, and were handed a leaflet about how the pool operates in busy times. It was set to be busy, with a forecast of high 20s and bright cloudless skies in October! The pool had opened especially, having been already shut for the winter season.
As we were such early birds we had no problem diving in, but the crowds of other swimmers prevented us from actually swimming. We bobbed about for a while then emerged into the sunlight, where we reflected that we have been spoilt by the Cheltenham Lido and the Jubilee Pool in Penzance, and that maybe the hype about Portishead was not really deserved as it is a bit on the scruffy and small side.
So we jumped back in the car upon an invitation to picnic by the Avon near Bitton, crossing Bristol to reach the East of the city and arriving ages later no thanks to the traffic. We parked on Church Road, hoping to join up with the cycle path and find the picnic area.
We made our way down a footpath, crossed a field and decided we were lost. We could hear the river and see the cyclists, but could not work out how they connected to where we were. So we jumped over a barbed wire fence, crossed a field of cow pats and stinging nettles, jumped an electric fence and we were there.
The second swim of the day was much colder, but much more exhilarating than the first. After some food and conversation with friends, we made our way back home, to the centre of Bristol, where I turned around and ran 4 miles, just to complete the healthy, outdoor feel of the weekend.
Despite the hours in the car, I felt I'd made the most of the sunshine.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

South London

A weekend well spent in the south of the capital. Started in Balham, where we bumped into most of the family, ate curry and drank wine. Rose early on Saturday to babysit little Ella who is nearly two and completely gorgeous. Such a lovely disposition, she's happy and chatty with anyone.
Then to Lewisham for lunch, fab fajitas made by Andy and were entertained by Lucy in her lovely garden, shivering and sipping cider. We went for a stroll through Lewisham high street, losing the boys to the pub as we stocked up on cheap tops and I felt thirteen again. I love hanging out with Lucy, I feel so like me, but more carefree. We all then went to The Ravensbourne Arms, a cool pub with ping pong, books and board games. We opted for Taboo, and stayed long enough to stay a bit too long, making us late to meet more friends.
Hopped on a bus to Brixton, where Vanessa was waiting in her new house with a lasagne in the oven. We were well looked after, and had to tear ourselves out of our seats to get to Hootananny's, a laid back pub with live music and a very Bristol feel; where we bounced around to music, caught up with yet more friends and fought fatigue until an acceptable hour arrived in which we could go home to Vanessa's and sleep.
Rising lusciously late on Sunday we ate a posh breakfast in the garden and played scrabble until home time. With many good friends now living around the Tooting area, I don't think it'll be long before we're back to this part of London.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cheltenham Lido

Cheltenham Lido is a wonderful place.
I am a huge fan of outdoor swimming and have been meaning to visit Portishead Open Air Swimming Pool for a long time now, but when I finally had a free day in which to do so, which was sunny enough to enjoy in an outdoor pool, the person I was going to swim with, and who was to drive, suggested Cheltenham Lido instead.
Eventually, after attacking housework and all the other things which hold up a Sunday, we got there at 4pm, and dived straight in. It was glorious. Heated, long (at over 50m) and lovely. The grounds are green, with a cafe at the end, the decor is quite refined, and the atmosphere is of good old fashioned fun.
I sincerely wish Bristol had a lido. One you can afford to swim in I mean, so that discounts the Clifton one. If I could, I'd swim outdoors all the time, as I just love cold water, fresh air and exercise.
After 30 lengths we got out, showered, ate chips and headed home, feeling healthy, happy and tired.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

South of Bristol

We found ourselves in Ashton Court on bank holiday Monday, which was a great place to be, given the green everywhere, deer up close and only a very faint hum of traffic noise. We then moved on to Clevedon, which has some charm, despite all the mud and the fare to enter the pier. On the way a pub advertised 'Live Steak Night' and I wondered if they served live cows, and the garage may or may not wash your car in its 'Car Wash Lottery'. Finally on to Somerset, to hang out in the huge garden, eat, drink tea, and relax. A family filled, fresh air day.

Zakynthos. Heaven and hellenic.

We booked our flights to Zakynthos two days before we left and didn't bother booking anywhere to stay, as our flight landed in the morning. However, upon our arrival, in 30 degree heat, we realised it was Sunday and there was but one bus running on the island. So we scrapped our plans to head to the peninsula and, after a quick dip in the sea, boarded the bus, getting off at the final stop, and wandered to Amboula beach in Tragaki. After another swim, we decided to ask at the beach bar if they knew of any rooms to rent. This was our first introduction to the incredible hospitality of the Zakynthans.
We were given a lift up the hill to a detached house with a panoramic view, air-con and a huge garden, and we quickly decided to stay. Over the next few days any idea we voiced aloud fast became a reality as our hosts felt it their duty to make our stay a success. Mention of a boat trip transpired in a ticket the following morning. Pondering car hire, a car turned up in our drive. So during our five day stay we managed to circumnavigate the island by boat, drive to secluded beaches, swim in caves, spot turtles and eat tons of tomatoes, olives and cheese.
We did not see a single cloud, we swam for hours every day, and with the sun shining on the crystal clear sea, I knew it was worth the money we paid to go away on the most expensive week of the year, for a lifetime of turquoise memories.

Back to Boomtown

It was a good and busy Boomtown.
This time round was bigger, less friendly perhaps, busier, but the music was still amazing. Highlights for me included the energetic First Degree Burns; incredible beatboxing by Reeps One; the club atmosphere Ms Dynamite managed to create; jumping about to Babylon Circus; hearing good time classics by The Selector; hearing them again in a new and even more energetic format from True Beat; and the constantly crawling Arcadia stage, in the form of a giant beetle, which would sporadically spread its wings to reveal a dark underside of music and dance.
I got to interview bands, which was fun. Despite its inflated size, Los Albertos, the Carnyvillains and First Degree Burns all reckon that Boomtown is an unpretentious, fun and friendly place, to discover and dance to all manner of music. I think they're right.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Kings of Ping

Only in Bristol can an old motorcycle showroom be taken over by a bunch of artists and find new life as a ping-pong-off.
Saturday evening was spent supporting friends as they took on opponents in games of ping-pong on the five tables set up in 'The Motorcycle Showroom' on Stokes Croft.
As next weekend sees a festival in a bowling alley, it's occurred to me that here in Bristol we can make a party out of anything. Annual events include Stokes Croft Street Fest, in the underpass of the motorway; St Werburgh's Fair, held in a pig pen; Vegfest, celebrating all things vegan; the Bristol Do, for street performance; Upfest, for street art; the Zombie Walk at Halloween; the Organic Food Fair; the Montpelier Bean Feast; St Paul's Carnival celebrating Afro-Carribean culture, the Balloon Fiesta, the Kite Festival, and countless music festivals on the harbourside.
I could go on, but like the party-goers in Bristol, I don't know when I would stop.

Monday, 11 July 2011

St Ives

We went to St Ives to buy board shorts, but got distracted by the glorious sunshine and ended up celebrating by eating ice-cream, swimming in the sea, throwing sand at seagulls and watching a seal bobbing about in the harbour. Then we dragged ourselves away from the beach in order to visit the Tate, where we wandered through a hall of balloons and raced through the rest of the gallery. We finally made our way back along the coast path to the car, sunkissed, refreshed and happy, but pondering where all the surfshops went.

Zennor

I raced away from work on Thursday in order to be at my mum's book launch that evening, and had such a lovely but frantic time that I hadn't considered what to do with my day off. Luckily, every family member was in Cornwall, along with many friends, so my decision was made for me, and I was taken to Zennor on Friday, for a drink at the Tinners and a walk to Zennor Head. This end of the country, just before you drop into the sea, is simply stunning. With nothing between me and America, I am always hit by a sense of freedom. A surprise bonus day spent with good people and Dilly the dog.
If you're after blue sky, endless sea, heather, wind whipping around your face, fresh air, space, freedom, beauty and light; go to Zennor.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Farm, St Werburghs

After another great day at St Paul's Carnival, combining a visit from my sister and an anniversary celebration, we opted for a Sunday at The Farm.
We visited the goats and their four kids, huddled together in a family hug; the big piglets; little chicks and other animals, then fought for table space at The Farm pub. As the sun was out, many people had chosen to extend the festivities, like us, with the best roast in town.
We queued for half a lifetime, and managed to place our order about a second before the decision was made to close the kitchen. An hour or so later our food arrived, our choice of roast complete with 8 other vegetables, roasties, yorkshire pudding and tons of gravy. Delicious! We ate quickly, then took our drinks with us as we had to drop Lucy and Andy at the coach station. We walked through the eco-village and Strawberry Hill, emerging by the allotments just in time for a toilet stop at the house and a sprint to the station.
A great weekend, topped off by the fact that we'll meet again next week in Cornwall. Nothing like family and friends, short weeks and long weekends!

Coombe Dingle

It's great to discover a new part of a city you've known for 10 years.
On Wednesday after work I was waiting to hear how I'd done in an interview (very well, but not well enough), and to kill time we decided to drop back a laptop I'd borrowed near to Coombe Dingle, go for a walk and eat out.
I was exhausted and frazzled, and couldn't handle too much exertion, but we managed a gentle meander around Coombe Dingle Estate, which leads to Blaise Castle. With knotted tree roots, ancient bridges and people making fires, it felt fitting for an escape.
Then we ate in a pub on Whiteladies Road and decided to move in together, and I felt a lot better.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Keynsham

I am lucky enough to have a friend who lives on a boat, phones me up on a sunny day and invites me for lunch and trip down the river. She is based in Keynsham, so that's where I went on Saturday.
It was a really hot day, but a little windy with some clouds, so it was perfect really. The first task was to get the boat out of the marina, which involved one person steering and two people with mops in hand to brace the boat against any other boats before we crashed into them. It was nice to feel needed. Once safely out of the marina I sat outside and relaxed. Well, relaxed as much as is possible with low flying geese coming at full speed towards you! We chugged along past swans and signets, ducks and ducklings, until we got to Bitton, where we pulled up next to a pontoon for a lovely chicken salad lunch.
As we ate, teenagers were flinging themselves off the pontoon into the water, which was brave of them considering the water is cold and rather murky. I wasn't tempted to join them but I did dangle my feet in.
Just as the clouds came across it was time for me to head back and catch my train back to Bristol, where it was my turn to make a feast for friends. It was great to get a few hours out of my packed weekend to just sit and watch the world go by.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Based in Balham

The final bank holiday weekend in a long string of days off was spent based in Balham, where my sister Kate lives, with her husband Jim and baby Ella. Jim was away on a stag weekend, so I was hoping for some quiet time to catch up with Kate and get to know Ella again, having not had the chance to see her since Christmas. I did get that, after a delay.
The rest of the family heard of my plans, so we were joined on Sunday by Lucy and her boyfriend Andy; Mum and Dad; Pippa and Vinny, my nephew; and my best friend Vanessa. We had such a great time. On Saturday night, for the first time since any of us could remember, it was just the girls: Kate, Pippa, Claire and Lucy, aka the people I love most in the world and with whom I grew up.
On Sunday, we started at the Science Museum, which, to tell you the truth, holds not a huge amount of interest for me, as I am much more inclined towards the arts. However, Lucy and I paired off as we always would have done in childhood, and had a go at all the experiments, and it was great. Then we had lunch in Carluccio's, which was noisy and nice. Ella couldn't get enough of the bolognese! Then we headed to the South Bank, so that 4-year-old Vinny could see all the street performers, and he gave them a run for their money, dancing and doing impressions along with each artist he met! He was in his element! We went back to Balham for a roast and a wind down, Vinny wearing out Andy as he played on his skateboard and threw around the slinky he got at the museum, Ella opening and closing the garden gate a billion times.
On Monday I finally got Kate and Ella to myself, and we went to the Battersea Children's Zoo. It was a lovely sunny day, with a lovely chilled vibe, and we spent a few hours saying 'bye bye' to all the animals and playing in the park. Ella was gorgeous and contented throughout, and really good company.
I had such a wonderful weekend, with such great people, and left Balham feeling relaxed and inspired. Not only had I fed my soul with family love, but I'd also found the time to start teaching myself Italian! Che vita!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

S'Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence has a special place in my heart, being the French town I finally got to live in, aged 21, after spending most of my childhood fantasising that I'd one day live in France. It is the most wonderful place to make such a dream come true. The old town is mostly pedestrianised, and contains over 100 fountains although it can be walked around within half an hour, a few days, six months or more, whatever you have. It is a maze of squares, cafes and old shuttered buildings, and it couldn't be more beautiful.
I have been lucky enough to share Aix this week with three of my most precious friends. We got the cheapest flights we could find, and stayed in the cheapest hotel, but this neither meant we had a bad time, nor a cheap one. Our money and time were spent wisely, wandering through the streets; drinking coffee, wine or kir; visiting one of the three C├ęzanne sights, his country house (disappointingly devoid of his paintings, but pretty nonetheless); buying clothes and jewellery; marvelling at the cost of living in Aix (beat £8 for a fruit juice!) and eating pastries, pizzas and salads.
Our hotel was spacious and clean, with a good pool, I got to catch up with a friend who still lives in Aix, and we even swam in the sea before flying home.
It was wonderful for me to relive some of my happiest days, and share it with the people who keep on making my dreams come true.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Forest of Dean

Caterpillars, bluebells
Butterflies, woody smells

Black beetles, bumble bees
Pine cones, oak trees

Blue sky, endless green
Peace and quiet, the Forest of Dean.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Montpelier Arts Trail

It's arts weekend in Montpelier. That's not a misspelling, as I mean Montpelier, pronounced Montpelier with an 'er', in Bristol, UK, not Montpellier with an 'ay' in Southern France.
The weekend began in the Attic Bar in Stokes Croft, where we watched the bidding for paintings by local artists raise nearly £10,000 for Temwa. Amazing, and very exciting.
The weekend continued, for a very long time, in the Studio, where Matt and I had been tidying, hanging and pricing in preparation for the Arts Trail. Actually, before really starting we attempted to nurse our hangovers with a slap-up breakfast in The Bristolian, but it turned into lunch, so long was the wait for beans on toast. I could have walked to the shop, bought the food, gone home, cooked it, eaten it, washed up, queued up for a Banksy print and got one, in the time it took between paying and eating... and I would've remembered the difference between brown and white toast. (One is brown, one white, it's not hard).
Anyway, once finally fed, we installed ourselves in the studio, with supplies of tea, coffee, biscuits and beer, and chatted to the local art enthusiasts as they dropped in and out. It was fun. Most people seemed to love the space, and the art, and quite a few transactions were made, so the happy, arty, local, lovely feeling from the night before was sustained. Then Matt's parents came and took us out for dinner, to The Social on Cheltenham Road, where the service is normal speed and the food delicious, so it couldn't have been better really.
On Sunday we hung out some more with the artists who share the studio, and welcomed more Bristol people through the doors, and sold more work, and drank more beer. It was good to see so many people out and about, wandering in and out of people's homes and work spaces.
Another uniquely Bristol weekend, and it was great to be so involved. I'll be sad to miss the Stokes Croft Street Fest coming up this month...but much as I love Bristol, I do also love to leave it.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Blown away

Jon has a lot of lovely friends. Unsurprising really, as he is a lovely person.
I hadn't made plans for the second long weekend in a row. I'd been too obsessed with the first one, as it provided my first days off so far this year (illness excluded as that's no fun). Then, all of a sudden it was here, and miraculously, the sun was still shining! So I went for a cider after work, then a burger, then found that I was remarkably tired and slept early, and lengthily.
On Friday, after satisfying my compulsion to clean the house, I was ready to celebrate not working by drinking, doing this first in a garden, then in the studio, welcoming various friends who dropped by. We'd intended to find a street party but never really got that far, as when we left the studio it was already time for tea, then the pub, then a bar.
One of the friends we'd seen on Friday had convinced us to join him the following day for a trip to Mersea, so we had an early start on Saturday.
It was the first time I'd been to Mersea. Actually, I'd not really heard of the place before, and I can't tell you how to get there as I spent the journey asleep. Anyway, it's quite far from Bristol, and very windy. We pitched our tents in the campsite and stomped across the beach to Jon's house, where his generous parents were hosting the bank holiday for Jon, his brothers and around 40 of his friends. They have a massive garden, which is thankfully sheltered from the wind.
The next two days were spent drinking, barbecuing, walking across the beach and huddling in a tent while the wind threatened to blow us into the air and across the sea. We wouldn't have gone far, as the sea at Mersea is more like a muddy estuary, with a view of houses and power plants on the opposite shore, but I didn't fancy being blown across it.
I have been utterly spoilt growing up in Cornwall, and in terms of natural beauty, Mersea does not compare. However, what it did offer was sunshine, fresh air and seafood, a beautiful sunset and lots of lovely people. I was blown away, almost literally, by Mersea.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Kynance Cove

I've heard so many good things about Kynance Cove, and as my parents live relatively close to it, I requested that we visit on Easter Monday.
The drive from Penzance to Kynance Cove is pretty spectacular, as it's all country lanes lined with pretty hedgerows, blooming at this time of year with yellow, white, pink and blue flowers. Nearing Lizard Point the road becomes littered with signposts signalling secluded coves, and I'd love to visit for a week in Summer with a tent and a car or bike, as this part of the country is unspoilt.
We reached the sign for Kynance Cove, parked the car and walked down the road to avoid the carparking charges. The walk down was a nature trail of adders and millipedes, and smelt beautifully of fresh air and wild flowers. We reached the car park and followed the track across the cliffs and down to the cove.
The view approaching the cove is stunning, and typically Cornish with the rough blue sea, rocks and dramatic cliffs. I'd been told that this would be a good beach for swimming, but the tide was high and the sea choppy, so stayed on shore with my nephews, digging holes and stroking millipedes.
After a few hours the collective decision was made to visit the cafe behind us, and I believe that this cafe must possess one of the most spectacular views there could be. Nothing between us and the Atlantic, just a grassy lawn.
Kynance Cove is a special place, and I hope I return soon, on a bike, on a calm day. I can't wait to swim here.

Sennen

Easter Sunday was glorious, and where better to spend it than Sennen Beach? This beach, the closest to Lands End, has been a family favourite for the past 30 years, and on a sunny day I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.
It took two cars to transport the family, and I was lucky enough to be in the roof down one with Dad, Lucy and a sing-along CD! We waited for Mum, Pippa, Zac and Vinny to arrive, then picked a spot and settled down.
It was not quite warm enough for a dip in the sea, but it was fine for paddling, sandcastle building, picnic eating, reading, jogging and sunburning. As I looked up at the sky, unmarked by clouds, I felt a long way from the stresses of city life. Happy happy Easter!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

A clucking good day!

Immi's hen day is here! Who would have thought? A great chance to catch up with school friends and chill out, and the perfect weekend for it.
I met Marie and Jessie in Rosudgeon and we drove to Falmouth via a champagne stop in Asda, to meet the other hens at St Michael's Spa. It was fab... a day of sunshine and laughter. We started by drinking champagne in the bar, followed by swimming, sunbathing and sandwiches. Before we knew it, the time had come to head back to Penzance to pick up our Thai takeaway, then laden with food we reassembled at the in-laws to eat, drink and be very merry!
We had a great time dressing Immi up, playing silly games, dancing, and reminiscing about the good days when we were always skinny and mostly drunk... We caught up on all the jobs and boys gossip, drank endless glasses of champagne, and just had a good old giggle with girls we've known for ages.
The day couldn't have been any better!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bristol by foot

After work on Friday we were enticed by the sun and Cambodian visitors towards the Avon Gorge hotel, where we sipped cider overlooking the Clifton Suspension bridge. We then decided to eat at the Thali cafe in Clifton, and walked home via The Bell on Jamaica Street, leaving the car behind. Sunday was another fine day, giving us the opportunity to trek across North Bristol again to fetch the car.
We started in Montpelier, near the Star and Garter pub, passed the graffiti on Ashley Road and back onto Jamaica Street. This part of Bristol has recently begun to refer to itself as 'The Cultural Quarter', which is a name not entirely undeserved. Stokes Croft is an area full of old run down buildings which have found new life as brothels, squats and studios; large warehouse style nightclubs providing the finest of Bristol's underground music scene; independent shops, eateries, bars and galleries; and some of the best off licenses you could hope to come across, serving way into the night. Stokes Croft even has a Post Office which has a cash point, sells beer, and is open past 10pm on a weekend. Graffiti plays a large part in the culture of Stokes Croft, as the huge Banksy mural and designated graffiti wall (or 'outdoor gallery'), encourage many to make their mark, and the urban landscape is constantly changing. Sadly, this week saw an incongruous addition to it, with the opening of a Tesco on Stokes Croft, much to the dismay of locals who voted against its presence.
Emerging at the other end of Jamaica Street we hit the edge of Broadmead shopping centre, the BRI hospital and continued on to Park Row. Ahead of us was the imposing and quite magnificent Wills Memorial building, home to Bristol University's law students and many of my memories from student days. Next to the building we discovered that the museum was still open, showing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. We wandered in to take a look.
Back out onto the Clifton Triangle, and up another memory lane, as I used to live on Park Place, between the Quinton House pub, the old dilapidated cathedral and the barbers. From here we passed various student halls, finally reaching Clifton Village.
Just walking distance from Stokes Croft we felt in a completely different space, as Clifton is a beautiful array of Georgian terraces, cafes and rich people. Not much in the way of graffiti here.
It's amazing how diverse Bristol is, with a different outlook on each corner. The best way to take it in is on foot, especially as covering this distance by public transport would probably take all day!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Hartland

To Devon, to celebrate a birthday. Pit packed 20 of his friends into a 'camping barn' in Hartland, which is as basic but not as charming as it sounds! We arrived on Friday night, reorganised the furniture and got stuck into the beers. Saturday brought sunshine and a trip to the beach. In true holiday mode, those crazy enough to want to surf the freezing seas finally got their feet wet at about 4pm. The rest of us variously lounged, slept, walked or watched football. I was in the walking crew, and was delighted to come across cliffs covered in my favourite flora: gorse. I absolutely love the way it smells, looks and scratches. It reminds me of home and lazy Summer days, of a childhood spent on clifftops walking dogs.
We regrouped for a pub dinner and headed back to our barn for another drinking session. The only room with any furniture to rearrange in the first place was the kitchen, which now had two plastic benches and carpet on the floor. It reminded us all of being back in student halls, the level of noise and alcohol consumption only aiding the memory. At 12.30pm the following day, when nearly all of us were still asleep, we learned that kick out time was 10am. Oops.
After a quick clean up operation we headed back to the beach for pasties. It was a good weekend, but I really must be getting old now, because as great as it was to revisit Uni life for a weekend, my favourite part of getting out of Bristol this time had to be the gorse.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Mina Road Park

Emerging from 15 hours sleep, I was in need of sustenance in the form of food and sunlight. Destined for the City Farm in St Werburghs, we were disappointed to find the grass off limits as it intended to grow. So with empty pockets and stomachs alike, we changed our route towards the nearest access to food and light: Sunni's supermarket on Mina Road, which accepts card payment. We purchased our cider, sandwiches and snacks and crossed the road to Mina Road Park, a peculiar place.
The park seems to be in bit of a ditch, surrounded by roads and houses, with an unusual number of metal bars. There are many trees providing little needed shade considering the climate, and an awful lot of mud. We found a relatively dry and bright patch, and settled down.
In the time it took us to eat our lunch we saw the park fill up. First came a crew of Spaniards setting up camp within a metre of us, bringing saucepans of food from a nearby house and playing the didgeridoo. Next came my ASBO neighbour with her two dogs and argumentative boyfriend. They were soon followed by some scruffy looking youngsters who proceeded to tie a rope to a tree and walk the slackline. Then came another wave of Spanish friends, bringing bongos. A few more circus types with clubs to juggle, then two girls with fire sticks who started practising their dance. Finally, a man with a small sound system arrived.
We had been unwittingly engulfed by the Werburgh festival vibe.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Street shopping and Glastonbury torr-ing

The start of March has been cold but beautiful. Spring is in the air and it feels good! To celebrate, I'm planning mini-breaks and new wardrobes. Saturday was spent whiling away the hours on Park Street, picking up bargain jeans and beautiful birthday presents. Sunday was a bit special.
We started by heading to Clark's Village in Street, which is not an outlet store, but an outlet village. And it doesn't just sell shoes. Every shop had about 70% off, from Calvin Klein to Billabong, and I walked away with a pair of jeans from the United Colors of Benetton which only set me back £7!
We didn't stay long though, as the sun was shining, air bracing and sky blue. It felt like the first time I'd seen the blue sky for months, so as we were near Glastonbury, we headed up the Tor. It was a very easy climb, but this didn't stop the views from being quite spectacular. Green as far as the eye could see. It was windy and cold, so with dreams of spending the rest of Sunday in a sheltered sunny beer garden, we did the right thing and went to visit relatives in South Bristol.
There's a lot to be said for staying in and watching films at the weekend. Aside from the nightmares I got after watching 'Splice', I managed to catch up with lots of people, buy two new pairs of jeans for only £22, plan weekends away, cut hair, breathe fresh air and gain brownie points... All in a weekend.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sensory Somerset

I don't know where I went last weekend, but I loved it so much I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Luckily for Matt and I, his parents have a lovely house in the middle of nowhere (nowhere is not really a good name for Somerset), and they are away for weeks. We pounced on the opportunity to while away a weekend in the countryside, and it was wonderful.
We arrived on Friday night, and I fell asleep on the sofa, waking up in complete disorientation as I found myself in pitch black and near silence. Bristol never gets like that. I was a bit scared. But I soon got used to blissful solitude, emerging from bed at 1pm on Saturday, as we had no clock in the room and there were no city noises to rouse us. We scrambled up the hill behind the house, where we were exposed to breathtaking winds. A walk incorporating smell, touch, sight and sound reminded me that I am actually alive, not just existing to pay the bills. I took delight in the many smells of woodland, gorse and leaves, the softness of moss and the scratchiness of bushes on my legs, the wind whipping around my face and the expanse of space which stretches for miles. It's difficult to describe, but having sea, trees and wildlife around you feels like sustenance for the soul after weeks cycling to work up busy roads from St Paul's to Stoke Bishop.
We ate a huge salad for lunch (at 5pm) and had friends around to pass the evening playing board games and drinking cider. Sunday brought another walk, through woods of silver birch, oak and pine trees, and the cooking and eating of a veggie roast before the drive back to Bristol, to face life and its many emails.
I am now on a quest to escape the city. Luckily, my work experience is mostly in jobs which do not require me to be here for long. I hope I can make it work!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Arnos Vale cemetery

I love visiting cemeteries. I love the stories told there, of lives led and cherished. I love thinking of relatives in years gone by, coming to remember their loved ones and placing flowers on their graves. I love the old headstones, the inscriptions, the lettering, and the moss and lichen that grows on them. I love the idea that people return to the earth, becoming part of the life cycle again. And I love the fact that they are, or should be, peaceful, holy places.
Yesterday I convinced some friends to share in my pastime, as it was a bright and chilly day, and we had an afternoon to spare. So we headed to Arnos Vale.
Unfortunately, this huge, sprawling cemetery has been ruined in parts, by neglect and, this being Bristol, traffic noise. The graves go on for acres, but many have caved in or have been completely overtaken by flora. But we still saw hundreds of graves, finding our namesakes, searching for the oldest we could find (1865) and the newest (2010), the youngest (babies) and oldest people (97) laid to rest in them.
We got very muddy on our travels, and very very cold and hungry, so we didn't stay long, but we had time to pass the memorials for those killed in the Second World War, and take a minute to contemplate the loss of life and what it meant for the families involved.
Visiting cemeteries can offer an opportunity for reflection. This week, as we celebrated my boyfriend's birthday, I lost a great aunty and my friend gave birth to a baby girl. When I'm walking through a cemetery, I can't help but appreciate the people around me, and assess my priorities. Cemeteries can be fascinating, especially if, like me yesterday, you are sharing the company of a talkative, enthusiastic twelve-year-old.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Staple Plain

It was a beautiful sunny winter's day yesterday, and we headed to Somerset for a Sunday lunch. After food we went to Staple Plain for a walk, where until very recently Rhododendron Valley (or Vinny Coombe) was full of rhododendrons. Apparently they have been giving diseases to all the native trees, so gone are the flowers, and many many trees too, restoring the landscape to the way it would have originally looked years ago. The views up here are panoramic. You can see as far as Wales ahead, Glastonbury Tor to the east and Exmoor to the west. On the way home we stopped to see the deer at Alfoxton Drive, this time spotting around 60, but a little too far away to resemble anything other than brown blobs to me.
It was such a clear day. We were lucky. I thought that again as I cycled home from work today in the hailstones and gale force winds.