Monthly Archives: March 2011

Six weeks old, March 28 2011

Today we tried our Bjorn Baby carrier for the first time after having it sit around for three weeks.

The first attempt was a bit of a scare as the baby screamed as soon as I put her in so I quickly took her out. After examining and adjusting, I put her back in, and figured out how to do up various straps thanks to a youtube video on my smartphone watched while wandering around, she loved it and took about 10 seconds to fall asleep.

I’d bought the Baby Bjorn in a panic stricken mode one day after having some issue with the pram. I rushed off to Boots to buy cotton and saw it and bought it – £62. I can’t even remember why now but the urgency disappeared as soon as I brought it home and couldn’t figure out how to use it. My sister visited soon after luckily and helped out.

Our first trip in the pouch was to Tesco on Millennium Square.

Very quick getting there and baby was zonked out the whole way. Figuring out how to dress her took longer than going and coming back. I settled on a knitted hoody cardigan which was beautifully created by my housemate’s mum. She used baby cotton wool and the texture is delicate and soft. She made it before I knew I’d be having a little girl so the colours are white, green and yellow. It is simply stunning. The baby also wore an all in one pink pant suit, over her pink onesie, with a gathered front to look like a set of Vs and she also wore pink polka dot socks.

We then spent our morning cooking mushroom stroganoff.

I had to buy some red wine for the dish and was almost disappointed that the woman had no problem selling alcohol to someone carrying a tiny baby around. Obviously an overreaction on my behalf. I have barely drunk any alcohol over the last year and my last hangover was nearly a year ago now. Instead of missing it, I just seem to look down on any consumption but I do keep noticing how normal it is.

After having a few naps and feeds, the baby had her first proper Exorcist-like vomit session all over me and herself.

The poor little pup became hysterical and we rushed off to get changed and get cleaned up. She didn’t calm down until the offensive clothes were gone and she was all snuggled up in her blankie. She was back to normal once uncle housemate gave her a cuddle while he worked on his computer.

I have the tv off all day but M was introduced to whatever was on between nine and 11 last night as housemate took care of her while I caught up on some sleep.

Lovely housemate also cooked dinner for us, of which I managed half. After her babysitting adventures she slept through most of the night, in between feeds, and I woke the next day at 10.10 to find her cooing to herself.

And that’s how we spent little M’s six week birthday celebration.

In between all those events I think I noticed some new sounds she has been making. Some warbles and ‘eees’ and ‘ouwamawa’ things. She smiles more often, plays and talks to herself more often. She does not seem as frantic about eating which is a relief and since Saturday night, her neck wobbles a lot less.

The Hive and Other Stories by Nigel Legg

The Hive and Other Stories is author Nigel Legg’s first published work and the names of the stories make me smile with The Elephants Get It and Morphine Dreams invoking a colourful selection. I am right in a way as there is plenty of colour in what comes up next but not quite as I expected.

Legg, was born and brought up in Zambia but attended boarding school in Somerset and university in Bristol and Bangor. He has lived in Sri Lanka but these days calls Bristol home. The stories are mainly based in Africa with local names of towns in Zambia and authentic sounding details about farming, easily flowing, as background.

The first story, the Hive, starts with a sinister introduction for the reader, and the protagonist, to an unheard of Zambian department rounding up people and locking them away. The scene unfolds through the eyes of the farmer who isn’t great a controlling his temper. Legg manages to mix current and serious national issues with personal quirks. The piece sets the tone and I am not quite sure what to expect from now on.

The Elephants Get It is another foray into an alternative reality with a new president’s ingenious way of getting money from the IMF. Blood from a stone would be more likely, I thought, but the story was spot on in pointing out the indifference of western nations to the plight of people.

This is followed by Morphine Dreams which is just as quick to read but leaves a whole different feel to it. Brief but touching.

The tales are quirky and unusual with the unnamed protagonist venturing through different situations without pause. The text flows and it didn’t take me long to get through to the final part.

The last four stories are versions of one scene as told through the eyes of different characters. This worked well but it was a bit of a dense way to end the book. I would have liked at least one more stand alone short story with which to finish. Perhaps I just wanted more stories.

I liked not knowing how it would end, especially with the Hive where the unusual became normal very quickly. I’m looking forward to the next collection as Legg surely must have more to share. Maybe they’ll feature a Bristol I’m not used to seeing. I am feeling hopeful.

The Hive & Other Stories is available from Amazon and as an ebook from Smashworks.

More firsts for the baby

Five weeks, five days

From going up a nappy size to a visit to the first Foyles book store outside of London, this week has been full of firsts for the baby and more energy and sleep for mama.

Mersina’s first official smile has been written down, in her Junior Moleskine diary, as having taken place on March 14. Since then she has smiled once or twice a day in response to prompts until a day or so ago when she increased the instances to lots. We even had an unprompted smile when I held her hand and she looked up at me. Her smiles light her up like big energy glow worm and she has chortled and laughed a couple of times too.

On Thursday we quite serendipitously met up with dad going and leaving, respectively, from Foyles bookstore in Quakers Friars at Cabot Circus. After browsing for a bit, he was more excited than the baby, we went to lunch at Brasserie Blanc so Mersina had her first restaurant visit which she mostly slept through luckily.

As soon as she woke she was hungry so I rushed off, leaving dad with the bill, and visited the Family Room at Cabot Circus which is amazing. There is a comfortable chair in the corner for feeding, a changing bench, a sink and a toilet. The room locks as well so it’s wonderfully private. Well, kind of private as there were three or four attempts to get in and when I left there was a queue of mums with prams outside.

We also had our first trip to the Bristol Central Library, in the beautiful building designed by Charles Holden, at the College Green and right next to the Bristol Cathedral. We returned my housemate’s books and borrowed Asterix en Espana for the little one. Never too early to learn a second or third language and to find out more about the Gauls. A brave nation who have managed to withstand invasion by the Romans thanks to their magic potion which gives them great strength. Obelix, of course, doesn’t need to drink any because he fell into the cauldron as a child but that’s another story.

One of our most exciting adventures was to the wonderful Clifton Lido and baby’s first glance of the pool in sunlight and later on in softer lighting which turned the water a deeper blue green colour. I would have loved a dip in the pool and apparently baby had to be restrained from diving in herself although that’s quite surprising as she hates bath time.

She also met some lovely friends for the first time, Fritha, Nancy, Helen and some other knitting and non-knitting folk at our tweet up.

On our way back from the Lido we stopped in at Waitrose, her second trip there, and spotted some great reductions so it was baby’s first bargain hunt achievement. The best purchase of the evening was a bouquet of flowers reduced from £20 to 49p. Incredible and beautiful.

A successful week all around, I think, although I have yet to try out her new Baby Bjorn carrying pouch thing. Soon. Very soon.

Read-a-long: Bolaño’s 2666: week 2

This is week 2 of the 2666 read-a-long. See Leeswammes blog for the central discussion points for this section.

Pages 80-159 (79 pages)

The second part of meeting the critics seems to continue with the theme of introducing the characters and helps set the scene for whatever horrors come next.

The story tells about the last vestiges of normality and it feels like Bolaño is placing the characters in their final positions like chess pieces ready to do battle. Norton has the most action with a central part in the story which references the abyss.

My favourite scene is the dream where Norton is looking at the reflection of herself in the mirrors in the hotel room. It’s her, but dead. A literal death or a reference to a transition? The apocalypse that’s coming perhaps?

I noticed that the characters are referred to by their surnames except when in dialogue or thought thinks of them. Then they are more intimately referenced by their first names (116). Even though Norton seems to be the ‘whore’ as mentioned in the first part, it is the men who are crass and turn quickly to prostitutes.

Espinoza turns an ordinary girl into a prostitute – see the lingerie he bought for her. A thong and garters and black tights and a black teddy and black spike heeled shoes. Then there’s the crude way the author refers to sex in those scenes (154).

The gentle Morini and Norton finally find love which we discover in a letter interspersed throughout the derelict end of the world in Santa Teresa. This makes the love sentiment even more poignant for the abandoned two critics. Pelletier spends his time reading Archimboldi, who writes about pain delicately (143), and drinking. Espinoza seduces a young local girl only to turn her into a cheap sex object in the back of his car and his hotel room.

Archimboldi is meant to have appeared in the town they all visit as perhaps trying to escape his destiny. Amalfitano can see what’s coming up and tells them of exile “as a natural movement, something that, in its way, helps to abolish fate, or what is generally thought of as fate.” (117)

Edwin Johns, the painter who cut off his arm for money is one of the first, we are told about, who fell into the abyss. He is fascinating and his actions rather chilling. When I first read about his mutilation I thought it might be due to some profound thought such as a part of him as actual self expression. Instead he tells Morini that it was about, the basest of desires, money. This seems so hollow and empty to me and he is one of the first lost to the abyss because he has lost all hope perhaps? The abyss seems to be a living metaphor for desperation and hopelessness. We see it in Liz’s eyes when looking down at the two men.

when [Espinoza] woke his stomach hurt and he wanted to die. Is this because he had a fleeting glimpse of reality? Has he lost everything that makes him a little human, that gives him some hope?

The final part is Pelletier’s dream of water. There’s also the reminder of the people waiting at the beach (see previous week). Water can also represent emotions and the strangest part of the dream was that the water was alive. Is the abyss feeding on people’s emotions? Is the apocalypse representative of a lost sense of happiness? a monster of sorts that feeds off emotions? It reminds me of the dementors in Harry Potter, that same draining of all hope. The loss of serotonin that leads to depression and the effects that can be felt in hangovers and come downs.

And so the scene is set.

Next is Section II The Part About Amalfitano (1 week)

3. Pages 163-228 (65 pages) March 19th

The grandparents’ favourite

The grandparents’ favourite photo, well one of, and mine. Here she is sitting on dad’s lap and contemplating the camera which has taken over a hundred photos of her that day.

Love Food Festival, finally free

Love Food Presents ‘The Spring Festival 2011’ and I will finally be going back since it is now free.

The event takes place at Brunel’s Old Station, Temple Meads, Bristol on 26 Saturday – 10.30 – 6.00 and 27 Sunday from 11.00 – 5.00

There are over 70 producers and cooking demonstrations set for this weekend. The Cookery School will play host to some chefs over the two days including Ronnie Faulkner of ‘Ronnies’, Freddie Bird of The Lido & Tom Kneale who’ll be demonstrating some British food along with some Molecular Gastronomy & some ‘Food For Free’! Foraging recipes from Sarah Moore. Hands on classes for all ages will teach you how to make pasta, butter, cup cakes and Sushi amongst many other delicious things.

See the website and poster for more details.

Bristol brewer feels squeeze as it prepares for new Budget beer price hike

Wednesday 23 March is the day the budget is announced in the UK and I took a look at how the beer duty increase was set to affect Bristol brewers.

By Joanna Papageorgiou, published on

Across the Floating Harbour from the tourist attraction, the ss Great Britain, are two pubs which sell locally produced ale. The Grain Barge sells its Bristol Beer Factory produce and the Three Tuns over the road is owned by local producers Arbor Ales.

In between the two sits the shut down pub ‘Bag of nails’ at the bottom of Jacobs Wells Rd. One pub as a reminder of the difficulty to keep afloat during a recession although there are many more former pubs scattered across the city.

Click on the link for the rest of the article.

Playing On The Side, North St


Low hanging fruit

Low hanging fruit

The Runcible Spoon, Stokes Croft

Reasons not to review a restaurant on opening night: things can go wrong. Reasons to review: when things go wrong you can blame it on the opening night. I hope that all further sittings are lacking in the slight issues we encountered.

The new restaurant Runcible Spoon is a confusing mix of excellent food and the casual atmosphere of Stokes Croft. Set up by some members of last year’s pop-up restaurant Cloak and Dinner, it retains a similar feel.

Customers on opening night were served a banquet meal for £25 each which is something that will be available each Saturday night.

The first course was a serving of black pudding scotch eggs; a success because of the much nicer and softer texture than sausage meat. Also, well seasoned and cooked.

The almond and wild garlic soup, which followed, was tasty, thick and enjoyable in a hearty and rustic style. I couldn’t taste the almonds much but they added to the texture.

The mussels were superb and were better than ones I’ve had at Cote, Zerodegrees and Bordeaux Quay. The bacon made the white wine and cream sauce delightfully delicious although the service meant that only one person on the table still kept their spoon. Emily, of Bristol Bites, and I used half a mussel shell and I used my bread to dip in the sauce . One slice each. Poor form.

The horseradish mash was smooth and flavoured enough for taste but just less than painful for the sinuses. The meat was a little chewy and the kale looked uninteresting so I left it. The main was good and I don’t mean to sound as critical as I do because I definitely enjoyed it.

The trinity creme dessert, a brulee by another name, was delicious, the caramelised sugar was just right, slightly browned, crisp and delicate. There were vanilla seeds in the cream and it was warm enough but not too hot. An excellent dessert and almost as good as the one at Flinty Red which is the best one I have had so far.

Unfortunately, and note the motif, we were left without spoons again so I ate half my dessert with my perfect cardamom shortbread biscuits. Others ate their poached pears by holding them from the stem.

The alcohol choices were limited and the prices were a surprise until the end. Not expensive.

The opening night was cash only and I am not sure whether this will remain. There were some issues with opening night which will undoubtedly be resolved. I am a little less certain about what they can do about the cramped interior. There were eight of us at our table and getting in and out was a major issue. Also, the rooms are windowless and a tad cosy, leaning towards claustrophobic. The previous establishment was the Cafe Kino which has opened up across the road in premises that are bright and open, almost clinically so, in direct contrast to the little restaurant on Nine Tree Hill.

Notwithstanding all of this, and the pervasive sense that runcible actually means missing*, the food makes it worth a visit.

A half empty/full bowl of mussels

The Runcible Spoon, Nine Tree Hill, Stokes Croft. 0117 3297645,,

* hat tip to my friend Martin who pointed out the irony of the missing spoons

Commonplace and yet miraculous

Dad and I were having coffee and cupcakes the other morning when I mentioned that if he ever wanted to know what a baby that we made would look like, he just had to look at Mersi. In response, he demonstrated his ability to convey sarcasm in a glance without needing to roll his eyes. Impressive. Then went back to his father daughter chat about who was a silly sausage.

I am, on the other hand, still impressed by my profound thought and have started regressing to a stage where I find this whole co-mingling of DNA to be an incredible happening. My friend Mark, commented once that if having babies wasn’t so commonplace that it would be seen as utterly miraculous. So true.

My thoughts, when I first had the baby, were very much focused on ‘protect’, ‘defend’ and ‘feed’. I knew she was beautiful, I had eyes after all, but everything felt practical rather than spiritual. I spent three days in hospital after giving birth and by the third I had slept maybe eight hours out of the previous 96. I was drifting in and out of consciousness and I wasn’t blacking out but would see little scenes of dreams for seconds at a time before snapping back into being awake.

The first night my housemate and I brought the baby home we ordered a Chinese take away and I went off to sleep while he watched her. He came to wake me up an hour and a half later and I could not understand what he was saying. He managed to convey she needed feeding as she had been screaming in her frantic tone. Poor, poor baby.

The tiredness hasn’t been as bad since but it did get exhausting for a while which I can only appreciate now that I’m starting to perk up. I’ve started taking people’s advice to sleep when she does. My lucidity has happily combined with baby’s new tricks of waving her arms about more, keeping her gaze focused for longer, smiling and even chortling in her tiny way.

She is the most miraculous baby and I have started to collect moments of wonder about her. Yesterday she stared over my shoulder for over five minutes at the book case and the wall. Stared fixedly while I held her up and she’s not light (11lb, 12ozs at last count). The picture in her birth announcement is from her baby registration day and taken at Source food, now forever to be held in the annals of the Bristol Evening Post and wherever their archives get stored. She smiles at random times which I can’t quite predict yet but I do find time stops while I wait for her to do more. She has also started to follow me with her eyes now, a trick she learned only last Tuesday so now I worry that she’ll get upset when I’m gone.

We were separated for over four hours last Friday when I went out for dinner. By the time I came home I vowed never to leave her again. I sat across from a lovely couple who were pregnant, had a 17 month old baby boy and were personal trainers. I managed to fit in baby talk and the London marathon in pretty much every discussion for the entire evening and showed off pictures too.

I came home and there she was, this amazing tiny miracle.