Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Here's to Local Independent Trading!

On Saturday North Street, our local high street, was closed to traffic, bedecked in bunting and transformed into a local market.  Stalls ran the length of the road, musicians and dancers performed on stages, vendors sold hot drinks from vans, shops spilled out onto the pavement, and residents enjoyed the freedom of wandering at will.

I was on the Bristol Pound stall, promoting our local currency to be launched in autumn.  The majority of punters were enthusiastic and many of them signed up to open an account.  Personally I can't wait to get my sticky paws on the crisp new notes and am hopeful that it will help keep local high streets like ours in business.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Here be Art!

Southbank Bristol Art Trail 2012


Monday, 14 May 2012

Christian Aid Week

If someone knocks on your door to collect the envelope left earlier in the week, please be generous.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Feeding of the 5000

Every year thousands of tons of perfectly edible food is sent to landfill sites.   We tend to blame supermarkets and the food industry and they do have to take responsibility for food waste caused by packaging errors, out of date promotions, discontinued lines etc.  But half of the food thrown away in the UK comes from our own homes - and more than half of this is food we could have eaten or drunk.

At the same time there are over 4 million people in the UK who cannot afford a healthy diet, including the homeless, the elderly, disadvantaged children, refugees and people suffering from mental illness.

Fareshare aims to marry the two issues and offer a solution by redistributing surplus food to those who need it.  No waste.  Better health.

To illustrate the magnitude of the problem Fareshare Southwest hosted the Feeding of the 5000 on College Green yesterday, when they served a vegetable curry prepared from a ton of donated vegetables.

I volunteered for duty as a steward and was assigned to recycling bin duty, helping diners to dispose of their waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

The sun shone.  Crowds descended.  Queues formed.  Curry was eaten.  Children potato printed.  Bands played.  Cooks demonstrated.  Awareness was raised. 

Less food will be wasted?

I hope so. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Isn't She Lovely?

My 'wee' girl off to her Leavers' Ball.
I am a very proud mummy.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Crisis in the Kitchen

This evening when I switched on my oven to preheat as I wrapped my gammon joint in foil, I heard a ping and saw a red flash.  Our 20 year old oven had finally given up the ghost

While its timing could undoubtedly have been much worse (think Christmas morning!), it wasn't entirely convenient with a friend coming for dinner and an uncooked joint sitting on the worktop.  Some quick thinking was called for.  I unwrapped the gammon, sliced it thickly and popped it under the luckily still functioning grill.

This was a meal designed around 'the side', Quince Tree's tangy pineapple and chilli salsa.  It looked so fresh and juicy that I just had to try it out.   A slice of gammon struck me as the ideal partner.  And it was.  Thanks Sue.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The End of an Era

Twelve years ago, when my elder daughter took her first violin lesson, we began our long and fruitful relationship with the Bristol Arts & Music Service.  After mastering the basics she joined Starter Strings where two devoted conductors coached tunes from her scratchy notes.  How proud I was of her at her first concert.

There followed the String Group, the Junior String orchestra, the Concert Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra and finally the Philharmonia, with her younger sister, on the viola, close behind.  There were no more Saturday morning lie ins during term time, with three hour rehearsals beginning at 9:30 am. To begin with, this involved a bus journey across the city, but later their teacher kindly offered a lift - and her friendship.

There were concerts twice a year, at Christmas and in the summer term, in various churches, the Victoria Rooms, the Colston Hall and finally this evening at St George's.  I repaid their teacher's kindness by selling programmes, mastering the knack of folding music stands and lugging piles of music out to the car.

But tonight it all came to an end with my younger daughter's last concert.  It was a good one - Elgar, Schumann, Holst and the premiere of a piece composed specially for them by Raymond Warren.

I'm indebted to the staff who give their time and energy to offer Bristol's children the opportunity to make music together.

Thank you BAMS - and goodbye.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sourdough Baguette

Today I decided to bake my sourdough in a different shape.  Many years ago I invested in a baguette tray but I don't recall ever having used it - until this afternoon.

I was very pleased with the result.  Hugh's recipe made two baguettes, which rose impressively and baked to a pale golden crust. The perforations on the tray gave them the authentic French look.  They did burst apart in a couple of places, is probably due to my slashes not being deep enough.  I'm going to remedy this by buying a artist's scalpel which I hope will make all the difference.

This, and some of my recent photos, are taken using my newly acquired Instagram app.  I'm enjoying trying out the various filters.  I don't have a very fancy camera, so I need all the help I can get.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bristol Says Yes

Given my unequivocal opposition to the proposition of a mayor for Bristol, it will not surprise you to learn that I was bitterly disappointed when Bristol voted 'yes' last Thursday, the only one of nine cities to do so.

However what upset me even more than the result was the turnout - an average of 24%.  Three out of four Bristolians couldn't be bothered to get themselves down to the polling station and register their vote.  In one ward nine out of ten failed to attend!

I've said my piece about elections here and have nothing to add except that I reckon the fiercest opponent our mayoral candidates will face in November will not be one another, but voter apathy.

I wish them luck.  They'll need it!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Noye's Fludde

This afternoon I sang in the chorus of Benjamin Britten's setting of the 15th century mystery play 'Noye's Fludde'.

The opera was directed by Keith Cheeetham and conducted by Benjamin Ellin who, although I'd never heard of either of them, are both award winners in  their respective fields.  The rest, on the other hand were, as far as I could make out, all local residents.  Rehearsals began on Monday and, after only 27 or so hours of preparation, the performance took place on Saturday afternoon.

The chorus' role was minimal, a few kyries and alleluias and three hymns, but the orchestra and cast faced a far greater challenge and rose to it with enthusiasm and enjoyment.  They say you should never work with children and animals but these children/animals were delightful.

I find myself singing more and more often - Sing for Water last summer, Gasworks Winter Concert in December and two scratch Messiahs before and after Christmas.  Next week I'm singing with Classical Gas at St James Priory, in June I'll be taking part in the Festival of the Voice at Stourhead and in July in I'll be part of the Gasworks/Gert Lush extravaganza at the Colston Hall.  I wouldn't describe myself as a good singer but I love music and enjoy the camaraderie of a choir.  It's said to be good for one's state of mind and, when I think about it, I have been feeling more relaxed and happy recently.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A Mayor for Bristol - Yes or No?

The truth is that no one knows which way Bristol will vote on Thursday.  But I've decided to vote 'no' for the following reasons (apologies for any inaccuracies but, as we did not receive any official explanation of the referendum proposal I've had to rely on my own investigations):

  • We don't know exactly how much it will cost and, at a time when key public services are being cut, I don't believe we should be spending money on unnecessary reforms.
  • We don't know exactly what powers will be vested in the mayor.  I believe these will be decided at a later date - when it will be too late for any of us to change our minds.
  • Although the process of electing the mayor is democratic, it will shift power from the whole council to the hands of one individual and her/his handpicked cabinet.
  • The mayor will be able to push through her/his budget on a mere 30% vote from council, as opposed to the majority approval currently required.
  • The election process will favour candidates put up by the major political parties (politicians/councillors past their sell-by date?), entrepreneurs backed by (and beholden to?)  business interests, single issue campaigners and celebrities.  I can't see manygenuinely independent candidates being in a position to mount a successful campaign.
  • The party political impasse in the council chamber is cited as reason to elect someone who will be able to cut through the wrangling, but I can't see that a mayor of one political persuasion would fare any better with a council of another.
  • I am anxious about suggestions that we might lose recourse to central government in issues such as planning.
  • I'd be grateful for a mayor who drove through projects that I believed in, but what if s/he were to drive through ones I objected to?
  • I am suspicious of top down localism.
  • While Bristol's mayor might negotiate a favourable deal with central government, where does that leave communities who have not been offered a mayor, or who have declined the offer.  Will this not lead to two tier cities?
  • It's not impossible, but nonetheless very difficult, to get rid of a bad mayor.
I'm sure there are readers who disagree with some or all of the above.  I'm happy to hear from you (provided you're civil, of course).  And feel free to correct any errors.

As for the rest of you.  Are you being asked to vote for a mayor on Thursday?  Which way will you vote?  Do you already have a mayor?  Are you happy with her/him?

I don't have to make my final decision until Thursday.  There is still time to convince me to vote 'yes'!