Monthly Archives: July 2011

Self service machines, Bristol Central Library

The self service machines are amazing and I pray, pray, pray that no one hurts them.

To return a book, simply click on ‘return’ on the touch screen. Place the item in the shelf underneath the monitor, the machine recognizes the book(s), choose to receive a receipt or not and you’re done.

To borrow a book is just as simple. There is a slot where the library card’s barcode is read. You place the book(s) in the tray in the machine and when you receive your optional receipt, all the items you’ve borrowed are listed on there.

How could anyone not love it?

The Tree of Life, reflections

I saw the Tree of Life at a baby friendly cinema session and I watched it while either holding, feeding or walking my daughter up and down the aisle. Also while crying because the movie made me weep. But then it’s easy to pull the heart strings of someone who has just had a baby.

There is a 20 minute sequence which depicts the creation of the universe and there appears to be some intent to portray the miracle of life with reference to beauty in art and music and nature.

Intellectually, I understand this. Emotionally, I was only touched by the acting of Pitt and the eldest son, played by Hunter Mcracken.

The mother’s role was mostly silent. Maybe she was portraying the feminine aspect of the world. Passive, embracing, emotional. Silent disapproval rather than active aggression.

I spent a lot of time pondering on the symbolism of the film. I’m not sure if it’s rather blatantly obvious or just misguidedly over the top.

I barely realised that the movie had a plot. IMDB says it was about the following:

The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.

I definitely didn’t get that. I did wonder which son Sean Penn was meant to be and was convinced he was the middle one, the eldest being the subject of the phone call at the start of the movie.

The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki was beautiful but clinically so. Framing the shot while showing it made me think of the person behind the camera rather than the scenery.

It felt like a movie about the miracle of raising a child by someone who had never changed a nappy or been splattered by porridge.

I felt the miracle of life a lot more while feeding my daughter in the middle of an allotment last week than I did while watching Malick’s rendition of the beginning of time while listening to Lacrimosa from Requiem for My Friend by Zbigniew Preisner (source).

The Tree of Life is showing at the Watershed in Bristol until August 4.

Saga of Nails, a pub’s story

Luke Daniels used to run the Cornubia and is soon going to reopen the Bag of Nails in Hotwells.

It’s a pub close enough to be my local if I had ever wanted to go in while it was open. It didn’t seem very nice but I’ve been informed that it was Bristol & District CAMRA Pub Of The Year 2000 so maybe it had something going for it.

He has only just signed the lease, and has a lot of work to do, “as
the pub is in a sorry state indeed”. He says that he is hoping to open by the end of August, but it depends on how the work goes. The emphasis when the pub opens will be “on quality booze, proper music played though a turntable and the best selection of games of any pub in the city”.

“Anyhow, in the run up to this big adventure I have decided to start a
journal, chronicling the ups and downs of trying to make an empty
building special again. (With not very much money indeed.)”

The blog is at Saga of Nails. See what you think.


La Riva, review

La Riva means the shore, in Italian, and I guess it’s a sign of its move from the east coast’s Weston Super Mare, Clacton. I’ve been trying to think of something interesting to go along with that fact, something about the non-shore like location of Park St, being opposite Jamie’s Italian perhaps, replacing Beijing Bistro – a tasteless but cheap oriental restaurant – but I can’t.

It’s a nice restaurant. The staff are friendly. The midday meals are great value at £5.95. The space is open and cheerful and the food is pretty good.

It’s not amazing. It’s better than Vincenzo’s across the road and it’s not as good as Jamie’s. It’s also not as good as Mamma Mia’s on Park Row which has character and a lovely family friendly atmosphere and setting. A great place for a first date and somewhere where you could make a nice tradition of visiting for intimate occasions.

La Riva feels a little more functional. I had the quattro stagioni pizza and it was nice. Martin, my dining companion had the risotto alla pollo but was so busy playing with our daughter that I’ve no idea if he liked it or not. Let’s assume he did and let’s go on assuming that he liked his white wine as well. My sparkling water was delicious, by the way.

I don’t have much more to say about La Riva. It’s a nice enough Italian restaurant on Park St. I would be very unhappy if I received a marriage proposal there but it would be one of my first choices for a quick and tasty meal at lunchtime.

The digest part of the name

I seem to have acquired more than one blog. I have three more than one, two more than the two I had until this week and I’ll tell you why with a story that is one of my favourites from my running.

I was at the gym, a few weeks before my first 10k, running at a steady pace and finding it utterly exhausting. I hadn’t managed to run the full distance yet so it felt pretty important to get in as much training as possible.

I did my best but gave up after about five minutes. Instead I did some running at an incline and put the treadmill to the random setting. I increased the speed to as fast as I could go for as long as I could run and then walked for a bit and generally chop and changed my routine for about 40 minutes. It was brilliant fun.

My housemate and I then went to Tampopo for dinner and I pretty much zonked out on top of my red Thai curry with prawns. I was ill for the next three days with a throat infection so my body was probably right to want me to rest.

I don’t feel proud for tricking it, I’m just glad I put my last bit of energy to good use.

So how is that like having four blogs? Well, I don’t seem to have much energy these days and sometimes I want to post random things that are utterly meaningless but fun. Little posts with few words aren’t a problem on a blog that is filled with meaningless posts.

I also really like the picture on the Miscellaneous blog.

We’ll see how it goes.

The blogs I’ve been talking about:

Bristol Quays And Hidden Colston

And a picture of autumn because it caught my eye as I was browsing Flickr.

Nectarine & almond cupcakes with basil syrup

This post is about my very brief but tasty adventure pursuing a new recipe by Genevieve Taylor. I became determined to make the peach almond cake with lavender syrup as soon as I saw the recipe.

“I will make this recipe today,” I foolishly proclaimed in a tweet but then struggled to find lavender. Well, I didn’t struggle to find it, admittedly, there was some on the corner of Cumberland Rd but I felt too guilty cutting bits off of someone else’s plant.

I bought the ingredients straight away but I couldn’t really get going without the flowery one so I wondered whether to just skip the syrup.

After sleeping on it for a few days I ingeniously decided that since I had lots of basil growing around the flat (about six plants at last count) why not just use that? Brilliant!

I also had bought nectarines that day as I don’t actually like peaches which explains part of the name.

Oh and the cupcake rather than cake part? Well when it came time to pour the mixture into the already prepared cake tin, I couldn’t find it. The muffin / cupcake tin was right in front though as were the muffin little paper things so voila!

The recipe is available on Genevieve’s site and the cupcakes turned out delicious.

Miscellaneous and 30 days

I sorted out my blog recently and I bet none of you even noticed. That’s ok. It wasn’t much of a sort out. I took little daily, trivial posts and put them on a new blog, Ephemeral Misc. There’s nothing too new or exciting there but it’s the site of my new 30 day challenges.

See the following Ted talk for what gave me inspiration (and the fact that I have taken part in NaNoWriMo for the last five years and even won once)

I now have to decide what to do for the next 30 days and once I decide I will post on Misc.

A couple of reviews, Mr Stink & Treasure Island

Over the last week or so I reviewed two productions, Mr Stink at the Hippodrome and Treasure Island on King Street at the Old Vic.

Mr Stink

“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…” starts the award-winning second novel by David Walliams, better known for his acting alongside Matt Lucas in Little Britain.

Read the rest on Bristol247.

Treasure Island

The first drops of rain fell just as the cast said their final farewells and once more, the gamble, of holding an open air production in the middle of an English summer, paid off.

Director Sally Cookson’s audacious idea to perform the most Bristolian of plays, Treasure Island, outside, and facing the Llandoger Trow, where Robert Louis Stevenson purportedly got the idea for the play, was inspired.

The rest can be found on Bristol Culture.

A single man, some thoughts

A gay man in sixties America goes through an important day and we follow.

His long term partner has died and he is trying to cope in a world that has rendered him invisible. He is judged as something abhorrent and yet the world that others describe as normal is unbelievably cruel.

Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.

The cruelty of the children next door.

The bigoted neighbours.

The blue, like Joni Mitchell’s I Love You is everywhere. The little girl’s dress, the beautiful student’s eyes.

Is the world of all men so sexual? This man’s world is full of sexuality even when the grief makes that taking a gun with him seem normal. Men’s athletic bodies are followed by the protagonist and the camera.

Some random thoughts: why does Julianne Moore have top billing when she isn’t that big a character; isn’t Colin Firth a little old for his gorgeous partner.

A beautiful film.

Zazu’s Kitchen, Stokes Croft

The bright dining area with Story I by Mila Furstova, a £4,500 art work, on display may be surprising for Stoke Croft but wait until you taste the food. It is shockingly elegant and delicious.

Of course, if you’ve already eaten at the Runcible Spoon you may be a little less taken aback at one more of the area’s restaurants providing good, local and seasonal offerings.

What stood out for me was the chips. I still keep thinking about the perfectly seasoned, hand-cut chips which were ordered as an aside. (A side as an aside, get it? I’m being silly.)

They were even better than the posh chips with parmesan and truffle oil at Jamie’s on Park Street.

I had a whole mackerel which was almost beautifully cooked. It was nice but slightly, and I mean barely, overdone. However, the raspberry and lemon sauce was just right with the salad and samphire and the fried new potatoes also very good. The dish was of exceptional value at £7.95 and it was equally to, if not better than, the one at Jamie’s for £13.

The restaurant provides no menus. The dishes and specials of the day are written on a blackboard. The orders are taken at the front which was interesting as we were seated at the back.

A few rattles, a broken cup and the general cooking noises seemed loud to my ears which were mindful of the fact that my five month old daughter was sleeping but she didn’t seem to mind.

Many people passed water glasses over her pram as they helped themselves through the free dispenser.

I’d like to go back for a rooibos espresso and cake sit for a while. Zazu’s Kitchen is friendly and warm and feels very inviting. If you’ve passed by outside you’ll definitely be surprised at how much more spacious it is.

Not huge, but there are six or seven tables at the back and some space at the front for the cafe. Our party of six was lucky to book on a Saturday as it got very busy.

I recommend the chips. I hope to have more recommendations in the near future. This restaurant is a much more authentic choice to Jamie’s and I keep picking on it because the meal was almost identical but much cheaper and tastier.

For further details on the background of Zazu’s, see Bristol Culture.

Zazu’s Kitchen

By Jontangerine

Zazu’s Kitchen, 45 Jamaica Street, Stokes Croft. 0117 923 2233.