Wednesday, 19 August 2015

I Love Bristol - Back in the Jugs Agane.....

Who Gibbs a Guano?





I'd forgotten how much I love Bristol.  No need for much detail, but I've lived, and worked, within the precincts; my wife and children were born there; and it's a city that kicks and switches like the cables to a Bessemer Converter, pulsing convulsively with power surges of life and energy. 




So I find myself there again, after an absence.  Daughter meets with Aunt; wife meets with life-long friend.  I strike a pose under the flowers that someone has hung from a tree in Fremantle Square. 




We used to live close by, and the colours dazzle me again to then, only a few years back, when seagulls would raise the reveille and dusk would lead me to the Hare on the Hill....





But, what is this?  Doors akimbo, the windows smeared white, is the dear pub dead?  Absence, and the heart will flounder!

In fact I have stumbled on a regenesis, as the Hare is being restarted, the tortoise, for once, being vanquished.  Two affable guys have taken on the task of maintaining a traditional community pub and the pumps will soon be live again. Good luck! Cotham needs you, as indeed does every corner of this land.  Pubs may not be everyone's cup of tea, so to speak, and there's no denying that the carpet has shifted underneath the fracking landscape of twenty-first century society, but there is still very much a place for the hostelry that warms and cheers.  

Loneliness begins at home....

 



By way of contrast, having dropped said daughter in the arms of Isambard (Temple Meads), we skip out to exercise our National Truss members-hip chez Tyntesfield, the home for several general rations of the Gibbs family (and I claim no connection), the richest commoners of Victoriana, so 'tis said, having cornered the trade in guano - no shit, Sherlock....






Now I'll be honest. I love the National Trust, despite all my misgivings about being far more interested in the kitchen gardens and below stairs adventures of "stately" homes than in any of Archibald's leather suitcases, left with Teddy where no one came back from the war; craftless copies of great masters, or grinning gibbons on the dining room ceiling....  I love the must and fustiness of what's left of another country, and, more, much more, I love the parks and landscapes that the Trust maintains.

But I can't be doing with the stuffed Moose heads and the empty Chaises Longues.....


 

So, what's my point?  It's the diversity.  At one point you're in a place where railway engineering hit the headlines, and then a mere twenty minutes away you are up to your ears in the Gibbs's guano excesses.  Then, ten minutes from there you cross the Avon Gorge on Brunel's stunning suspension bridge....





And then barely ten minutes later you can be sipping cider in the Cotham Porter Stores.....






Of course, things ain't what they were. The Gibbses (almost) are all gone and the antlers over the billiard table are crumbling.  In the CPS the barmaid didn't know this was once one of the cider houses in an apple crazy city (OK, they still sell cider, but from puny plastic barrelettes, not fermenting up at ten or eleven per cent alcohol through the beer engines to feed Guardian crossword aficionados at breakfast time).

I stroll on down Kingsdown Parade, admiring the local paintwork:






Down Nine Tree Hill, where the style is a little less conservative, perhaps?







(Though you could be confused by the stencilled family values portrayed in this day and age?)





On Stokes Croft the graffiti is new (see http://www.richardpgibbs.org/2013/08/bristol-2-art-and-architecture.html) compared with my last visit in 2013.....







And on Picton Street I wonder what Sir Henry Irving would think if he were still around (the plaque on the wall says he once lived here)....








A few steps on the juxtapositions become even more accentuated.  On the one hand you have a certain chiaroscuro that speaks of resignation, resilience and collective stoicism:







While on the opposite wall there is the brilliance of a sentimental approach, combining Michelangelo with both Magritte and Dali, which is only marred by the collectivity of commercial landfill:







I love this confusion of expression, this vitality of colour.  How drab is middle England?  The High Streets by numbers, from HSBC to Sainsbury's, Nationwide to Iceland, W H Smith to Oxfam? All those things may exist here in bombed out Bristol, but there is a sense of daring, from more-than-pastel shades:





To decorations that express something of love beyond Bullingdon economics:






And just here, across the street, thrives one of Bristol's treasures:






For almost forty years Bell's Diner and Bar Rooms has traded on this Montpelier corner, though for the last couple of years it has been under the imaginative management of Connie Coombes and her co-conspirator Kate Hawkings, whose daughter used to share her pet rats with our girls in Nugent heaven....




Apricots and panna cotta, with a glass of Muscat, round off a colourful day.  I'm not sure that it can get better than this....



Apricot (on the left) and Panna Cotta - my dates for the night....

 


Perhaps it's the wild boar. Maybe it's the cuttlefish. But my dreams are vivid, and in the grey rain I meet with Tess of the d'Urbervilles on the edge of the Cotswolds, a fifteenth century hunting lodge masquerading as a town house, blood dripping through the ceiling.  






Bristol is nowhere to be seen. In the wads of cloth that roll in from the Channel nothing is clear. Colour is bleached in the cold comfort of the National Trust. Curtains by Laura Ashley. History by numbers. Paper aeroplanes by volunteers.







Then the sun breaks through, a lampshade by Ed Dorn dispelling my dream, seagulls crying I love Bristol with the voice of Cary Grant, born Archibald Alexander Leach just a block away from me here in the Horfield morning......








The seagull lazily flaps and turns, a stream of white deposit splattering the window glass.  A notion tugs at my Keynesian underwear and, with the brilliance of the Gibbsean genes that I never knew I had, I think there might be money in this aerodynamic ordure, money enough to leave vast estates to the National Trust perhaps?

But who Gibbs a Guano?

I just love Bristol....






1 comment:

  1. Love the contrasts, colours and 's(c)ent' of heaven of it all.

    ReplyDelete