Monthly Archives: January 2013

A boost for Brunel’s Great Western Railway

Bellott’s Road Bridge, part of Brunel’s Great Western Railway, is in line for £400,000 from the government for a full structural inspection and subsequent works. The money is being matched by £2.2 million for the cost of repairs.

This should be great news for Brunel enthusiasts such as the Bath Heritage Watchdog especially after their recent disappointment in getting the Great Western Railway listed as a World Heritage Site. The Bath Heritage Society claim that the electrification of the line between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads planned by 2016 is the reason that the GWR was not given its due.

The Grade II listed Bellot’s Road Bridge was built in 1839 and its Tudor-Gothic design is characteristic of work on the Bristol-Bath division of the GWR. It survives intact and was constructed to a design by the engineer and architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Bellotts Road Bridge
Photo from Bath Heritage Watchdog site

“It would be impossible to describe in detail all the engineering works which are to be found on Mr. Brunel’s railways, the aggregate length of which is upwards of 1,200 miles”. However with one step at a time and the help of local watchdogs, we may benefit and retain some valuable history.

The watchdog also raise an interesting point about the electrification of the line between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads. Their claim that the reason the GWR was not given world heritage status was because of the multi-billion dollar project is an interesting one. It may be worth checking how much Brunel’s work will be affected by the plans. For now it is a blessing that some structures are being taken care of.

This money is part of the £62 million worth of funding for cycling infrastructure which parliamentary under secretary of state Norman Baker announced on January 30. £42 million of that goes to an urban fund to which cities, including Bristol, may apply for matched funding and £15 million will be used to boost the community linking places fund to support schemes that improve cycle-rail integration and enhance community cycling. Five million pounds will be added to the fund already earmarked to tackle dangerous junctions.

A full list of schemes can be found at: linking-places-fund-tranche-2.

From health to happiness

I was too tired to post yesterday and ended up falling asleep when M drifted off. Today, to make up for the lack, I thought I would offer a selection of topics I’ve been enjoying through the week.

Creating space to hold your child’s emotions
From the Attachment Parenting blog comes this article on allowing or providing a space for your child to feel whatever emotion that arises in them. It is a nice way to think of your own emotions as well, to just let them be and embrace them.

Cupcake challenge
Emerald Street in association with Hummingbird Bakery are running a competition for a reader-submitted cupcake to be sold at their shops for two months. Make the cupcake, post a picture and send the recipe. (oh and you have to sign up to their website to read this post – cheeky).

The destruction of the NHS
There are some tragic and important tweets from the NHA party on Twitter

The Secret Keeper, book review

SECRET KEEPER AUSNZAt 16 Laurel witnessed a horrible crime which remained unexplained for years. Now her mother lies dying and it is her last chance to discover what really happened.

The Secret Keeper is Kate Morton’s third book and it is one of the loveliest if not always pleasant stories I have read. The characters are drawn with incredible depth and the lightest touch which makes it hard easy to believe they are real.

The writing is addictive. Morton entices with her plot, settings and style so much that it is impossible to stop reading. From the present to war time and beyond, the back and forth of the storyline never loses its pace.

I found this story as utterly gripping as the characters Morton writes. It’s wonderful and I want to say as little as possible because I don’t want to give away any part of the plot.

I don’t normally rate books but this gets 5/5.

Best cafes and best places for coffee in Bristol

Top three best places for coffee (with a dash of bias towards soy milk)

1. Small Street Espresso

The place with the best coffee in Bristol is definitely Small Street Espresso on Small Street. They serve excellent coffee (and not Extract with all its bitterness, thank God) from Clifton Coffee and other sources such as a new Swedish supplier.

The cafe itself is small but feels spacious. In what looks no bigger than a wardrobe, the space has been arranged so as to fit up to 12. When I visited with a toddler and a friend I felt very comfortable and I am not a fan of being crowded.

There is no vintage, no shoe shine, no tea cups with flowers, just good (excellent) coffee and wonderful Hart’s bakery treats alongside very tasty cakes.

Billions of bonus points for not only knowing how to treat soy well (lovingly and sweetly) they also have special import Bonsoy milk which so delicate and light that it makes your heart swell and face tingle with pleasure and even with physical delight. I have only had a soy flat white this good before at Flat White in London.

From Bristol Culture who voted it "Best new cafe of 2012"

From Bristol Culture who voted it “Best new cafe of 2012”

2. Flinty Red

Breakfast at Flinty RedWhen they have soy milk: they make the most excellent coffee with the best pastries in Bristol. Harts Bakery do the best custard tarts and pretty great everything else but Flinty Red do exquisite and delicious, delicate but sumptuous pastries that are fit for celebrating the beginning of the most beautiful love affair let alone the start to a day. I am not exaggerating, try them.

And to continue with the love affair motif, I once saw Tristan Sturrock walk by while I sipped my black coffee (no soy milk) and ate my most delectable apricot danish with its wonderful sweet glazing and delightful icing. The Old Vic setting on King Street has some heart-skipping benefits.

3. Rubicon Too.

Really nice soy latte, cheap and tasty. Untitled

Comfortable and spacious and pleasant.





4. Cafe Kino in Stokes Croft

Excellent soy lattes.

Some places that seem to be nice cafes but …

1. Birdcage

No, never. See article.  Also: “vintage”.

2. Papadeli

Excellent in everything apart from soy milk for their coffees (please try Bonsoy and note the instructions on the pack).

3. The Bristolian

Not only are they bad at soy milk but I actually received a lecture about how good quality coffee makes the soy milk curdle. The first soy latte I requested came with dairy milk; the second was curdled and I had to listen to a lecture; the third coffee was black at my request and it was too bitter – Extract coffee.

A big no for the Bristolian. Mark Taylor from the Bristol Post – the best food reviewer in Bristol – also gave a thumbs down to the Bristolian coffee. On the day I went, admittedly their opening day, they also had decaf coffee from Tesco. I don’t know whether they have updated their selection.

4. Spicer and Cole

Three visits. Two curdled soy lattes. Indifferent service.

5. Mud Dock Deli

Great location, two curdled soy lattes. Terrible and indifferent service. The first time I visited it was in the afternoon, people were sitting at the tables outside on a sunny day, the doors were open and my toddler and her father went to sit down while I ordered.The woman at the counter saw me look at the menu, look at the food and then wait for her while she was cleaning for at least five minutes before telling me they were closed.

I am tempted to say that this was the best service I have had from them but that’s probably being unkind. The tables also have too many sharp edges at toddler-head-height and I always feel overcrowded in there.

6. Lashings

Quite nice. I have been to a few and when I had a terrible curdled soy latte at the one on Lower Redland Road from a yawning barista, the other barista noticed and brought me a second one for free.

Nice place but feels overcrowded.

7. Lounges – (pick one, any one – Deco,Tinto and the rest)

Excellent Irish coffee. Terrible brownie covered in an unpleasant chocolate sauce when I visited last Sunday. Not a top choice.

8. Lahloo Pantry
Excellent tea. Magnificent cakes. Superb service. But this tea shop has only Hasbean coffee which is a non-coffee and too bland for me. They do make a wonderful soy matcha latte however.

Jack Kornfield, supportive writing

Jack Kornfield’s writing has been a huge support for me over the years. He discusses Buddhism through western filters. I have read the Wise Heart and A Path With Heart. I am reading Bringing home the Dharma and plan to read as many more as I can. I will leave with you a quotation that I also intend for my daughter because loving someone is good and great but that can mean a lot of things to different people.

Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our children, lovers, family, or friends. We can assist them, pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and actions, not on our wishes.
– Jack Kornfield

A letter to Mersina, 23 January 2013

I’ve had the strangest worry today that something would happen to me and Mersina wouldn’t have any memory of me. Before the day was over I wanted her to have something that she could keep – some sentiment from me. I’ve never particularly liked those letters that mums write to their children but this was barely a choice. I wanted her to know certain things and this was the best way I knew how.

I am not always comfortable with too much personal stuff on here but I’ve already shared so much so this feels like the place for a complete picture for her of how we are.

Dear Mersina Anne,

Four years ago today I woke up knowing that I was in love with your father. Not only that but exactly one month after I met him, he went Morris dancing and I knew that someone who could do that would meet most of life with the spirit which I saw in the world myself.

The fact that he didn’t feel the same way didn’t matter and didn’t change how I felt. I couldn’t shake off this love no matter how hard I tried. Maybe it was you that I had already seen in him and I couldn’t let that go.

About a year after your daddy and I met, you started to pop into my mind. Little pictures at first, sketches of a faceless little girl, older than you are as I write this, standing next to the two of us. I thought it was me being silly but sometime in 2010 we found you.

I loved you from the first instant and your daddy loved you from the first moment he saw you. I don’t think he believed it until then.

There was never a moment when you weren’t loved. You are loved every moment of every day. I hope you carry that feeling around with you forever and through every lifetime.

When we put your picture in the paper for your birth announcement we wanted something inspiring and fun for you to take with you. None of this “no matter what she is when grows up as long as she is happy”. We wrote, and we wrote it in complete agreement, that you would be the first foreign correspondent in space when you grow up.

You are already showing signs of aiming for his dream. Your spirit of adventure is your biggest characteristic equal to your big smile and your love. You can be very determined in your love and also forceful when you shove food in my mouth to make sure I am fed, or when you stroke my head quite violently so I can close my eyes and rest. You don’t know your own strength and I hope that knowledge comes to you in the future.

For now, I hope you can take with you the joy, happiness and love that you are and bring with you

Our miracle, our gift. Always loved.

The Girl Who Would Be King

The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson is a book I came across when I was looking for women comic book writers. This is Thompson’s first novel and had a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter attracting $26,478. That’s a pretty incredible amount for a first novel.

Thompson says this book is for

Fans of superheroes

Fans of comics

Fans of YA and Crossover Fiction

Fans of Feminism (woo!)

Fans of strong but complicated female leads

Fans of The Hunger Games or Battle Royale. (While the themes and plots are quite different, the violence is similarly intense)

Fans of character driven epics

And fans who enjoy falling love and then having their hearts torn out…who doesn’t love that?!

Check out the trailer and see what you think.

A novel about two teenage girls with superpowers and radically different agendas, destined for a collision that will rock the world:

Separated by thousands of miles, two young women are about to realize their extraordinary powers which will bind their lives together in ways they can’t begin to understand.

Protecting others. Maintaining order. Being good. These are all important things for Bonnie Braverman, even if she doesn’t understand why. Confined to a group home since she survived the car accident that killed both her parents, Bonnie has lived her life until now in self-imposed isolation and silence; but when an opportunity presents itself to help another girl in need, Bonnie has to decide whether to actually use the power she has long suspected she has. Power that frightens her.

Across the country, Lola LeFever is inheriting her own power by sending her mother over a cliff…literally. For Lola the only thing that matters is power; getting it, taking it, and eliminating anyone who would get in the way of her pursuit of it. With her mother dead and nothing to hold her back from the world any longer, Lola sets off to test her own powers on anyone unfortunate enough to cross her. And Lola’s not afraid of anything.

One girl driven to rescue, save, and heal; the other driven to punish, destroy, and kill.

And now they’re about to meet.

Recommended for ages 15 and up

Hello Lamp Post!

A love affair with the minutiae of day to day city living implements has received funding and will take place over summer. Hello Lamp Post! by London-based experience design studio PAN, won Bristol’s first ever Playable City Award. Their idea was chosen from 93 applications from around the world and will be produced and installed in Bristol before being toured internationally.

Hello Lamp Post! invites audiences to tune in to the secret conversations of the city and communicate through lamp posts, bus stops, post boxes and other street furniture. Part game, part story, anyone can play by texting in a unique code found on the city’s familiar street objects.

The project will utilise the codes that city councils and public servants use to tell one object from another when a light bulb needs changing or a bus stop is in need of repair. For the first time, city dwellers will be able to use these codes too in order to play a game and tell a story.

Every post box in Bristol has a six figure code, every bollard has two, some of the benches have seven and the storm drains have 14. This summer you will be invited to text the word ‘Hello + the name of the object + its code’ to the special phone number and the item of street furniture will immediately text you back with a question. Will it be pleased to see you? Irritated at having been left in the rain? Or will it tell you a secret? The more you play, the more the hidden life of the city will be revealed.

This sounds a bit like the wonderful Fortnight that took place a couple of years ago and was very much an intimate love story with the city’s insides. I look forward to the sequel.

zoom in and there's a whole new world

Unable to map extent of void

Rubicon Too, Cotham Hill

I couldn’t imagine liking any place which had vintage chairs in the window. I mean, how utterly pointless and vile (I am not a fan of vintage stuff – no tea cups or flowers or chintzy things at all). But I was wrong. The Rubicon Too is a rather comforting place which feels incredibly welcoming by which I mean that I was welcomed initially and ignored thereafter. Perfect.

When half the shops and cafes on Cotham Hill were closed because of the snow a couple of days ago, the Rubicon Too’s windows were steamed up and so I went in. Not the dodgy kind of steamed up, just the warm-inside-and-freezing-outside kind of steam.

Their large soy latte cost only £2.20 and was very, very good which is something I don’t say lightly. My usual routine with independent cafes is to ask for a soy latte up to three times and if they get it wrong the final time I ask for an Americano. This happens a lot.

Not at Rubicon Too though where the large size is very large and the soy milk remains uncurdled. I liked sitting there and writing in my notebook and my toddler daughter liked running around. They also have excellent champagne and strawberry truffles.

I really liked it and will go again.

Bicycles outside the Rubicon Too and my admiring daughter

This is the inside and apologies for the rubbish picture, it’s a lot nicer than I make it look

22 Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 6LA.

It’s no sacrifice at all for the very hungry elephant

This little girl on the right is Mersina, (23-months-old). Her dad, Martin (31) is to the left and in his arms is Ellie the Elephant (just under a month old as she was a Christmas present).

Ellie and Mersina

Ellie the elephant was very hungry tonight and wanted to eat Gerald the giraffe. Mersina was devastated.
“No, no, no!” she cried and rescued Gerald the multi-coloured giraffe from Ellie’s mouth.


Clutching the long lost friend, just rediscovered in a bag of toys meant for a charity shop, Mersina passed by the hungry elephant and brought Gerald to me for safekeeping.

She then went back to the toy area where Ellie was hungry for a turquoise blue convertible.

“No, no, no!” she cried and rescued the toy from the huge elephantine mouth. Clutching it to her bosom-less bosom she brought the car to me.


Fervent love and passion were also shown for her soft tiger and even the thought of her nappy bag’s demise brought her to devastation. I had collected a fair amount of survivors by then as I watched M even occasionally resort to violence and hit the elephant on the head.

The following are all his victims:



Best friend Dolly the doll was rescued at the last minute

Nappy bag


And in a move reminiscent of the great King Kong himself, Ellie even tried to eat a bus.


Finally, Mersina’s dad asked her what she thought would be good food for an elephant that seemed to be so hungry.

The very hungry elephant

“Um…” she thought and paused.

She looked around and reached up to her toy shelves and grabbed our Happyland Olympian friend, Tom Daley, and offered him up to the elephant’s ever-open mouth.


A human sacrifice. Well. That was unexpected.

(Update: Ellie did not eat Tom. The elephant, instead, feasted on packets of golden syrup flavoured porridge whose box Mersina took away until Ellie finished his packet and then she brought some more. He’s really a vegetarian Buddhist elephant.)