Category Archives: Bristol

Urban Jungle Bloggers | Jungle animals

February 11, 2016

Urban Jungle Bloggers | Jungle animals | These Four Walls blog

First of all, I’d like to apologise for the lack of plant-related content in this latest Urban Jungle Bloggers post! The challenge set by hosts Igor and Judith this month was to style plants and ‘jungle animals’ (either pets, or animal-themed art), but I’d like to use it as an excuse to talk about something which is very close to my heart: adopting rescue animals.

The handsome little chap in this photo is my Bengal cat, Kanga – who, as you can see, likes to ‘help’ care for my plants (he also made a cameo appearance in last month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers post). Kanga is a rescue cat and he had a horrible start in life. He was owned by someone who didn’t have a clue how to look after him, and he was kept outside and fed scraps rather than a proper diet. He was even branded a ‘monster’ because he’s rather vocal (like many pedigree cats, he likes to announce his presence). In the end he was dumped on the doorstep of Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue, and that’s how I got to know him.

read more

Wreath-making with Ruby & The Wolf

December 18, 2015

Wreath-making with Ruby & The Wolf | These Four Walls blog

Few things conjure up a Christmas mood more than the heady, herby scent of winter foliage, and earlier this week I was lucky enough to spend an evening surrounded by it thanks to a wreath-making workshop run by my lovely friend Kirstie of Ruby & The Wolf.

It took place in the most festive of spaces – The Forge, which sits in a restored workshop in the heart of Bristol. The atmosphere was magical: candles flickering in front of exposed brick walls, the city lights sparkling through raindrops on the windows, and tea lights glowing from the steps of the cast-iron staircase.

read more

The Year in Books | December 2015

December 10, 2015

A year of Bristol-based books | These Four Walls blog

My latest choice for ‘The Year in Books’, The Bristol Suffragettes by Lucienne Boyce, was fascinating. Like most people, I’d heard of famous British suffragettes such as the Pankhursts, but I knew little about local women whose own contributions have largely been forgotten by history. As the book revealed, there were many – far too many to name here, in fact, but they included prominent members of the campaign and numerous women who took part in demonstrations, hunger strikes and more.

I had no idea that suffragettes were so active in Bristol, and reading about activity in locations I pass every day was an important reminder of the change they achieved. There were plenty of original photographs to support the accounts, and even a guided walk around some of the places mentioned. It was thought-provoking stuff, and in a world where women are still fighting for equality (and a country where less than a third of MPs are female), their struggle seems as relevant today as ever. 

read more

Introducing Yonder Collective

December 2, 2015

Introducing Yonder Collective | These Four Walls blog

At the weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to the first gathering of Yonder Collective, which saw 20 creatives from the South West come together in Bristol for an evening of inspiration, encouragement and delicious seasonal food.

Yonder Collective is a new initiative founded by Emma Chapman-Burnett (who’s also behind the @livebristol Instagram project), with the aim of giving people a platform to connect, share innovation and build ideas. The inaugural dinner certainly did that. It was held at Harts Bakery, which is hidden under an archway behind Temple Meads train station and which has become a bit of a Bristol institution (if you’re ever in town, the custard tarts are must-tries!). This lovely little café, normally buzzing with commuters and activity from an open kitchen, had been transformed for the evening into a cosy, magical space, with flickering candles, rustic foliage and the soft hum of cheerful chatter.

read more

The Year in Books | November 2015

November 12, 2015

The Year in Books | November 2015 | These Four Walls blog

I’m a little late with this month’s post for ‘The Year in Books’ because my October choice, Altered Land by Jules Hardy, took me ages to finish – not because I didn’t enjoy it (I did), but because a very busy few weeks meant I had to snatch moments to read a few pages here and there. Still, it was worth it: it’s a beautifully written, complex novel which explores all sorts of relationships – mother and son, husband and wife, two friends – and how they change after a life-shattering event.

I was keen to read this book partly because of its Bristol setting, which came through very strongly (every page was peppered with the names of streets and pubs I know well), but also because one of the characters has synesthesia – a condition I share, which causes senses to overlap. Disappointingly, it isn’t one of the two narrators, which means the novel lacks a first-hand account and probably wouldn’t provide much insight for those who haven’t experienced synesthesia themselves. But it certainly adds an extra dimension to a book that uses the senses as a running theme (some characters lose their hearing or sight, others have hyper-active senses), and in any case I should imagine it’s of much more interest to me than most other readers!

read more

A walk along Clevedon Pier

October 29, 2015

A walk along Clevedon Pier | These Four Walls blog

One of the things I love most about living in Bristol is that I get to soak up all the big-city buzz, yet I can zip out to the countryside in minutes. The Somerset Levels, the Cotswolds and the Mendip Hills are all nearby, but perhaps my favourite spot of all is Clevedon Pier, just a short drive away on the coast.

It was here that we headed last Sunday for a breath of autumnal sea air, and I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos of this beautiful old landmark. Built in the 1860s, it pokes out into the Bristol Channel, with views across to the shadowy hulk of Lundy island in one direction and the distant mountains of Wales in the other. It was almost demolished after a partial collapse in the 1970s, but a group of locals rallied together to save it, and I’m so glad they did. It’s undergone none of the tacky commercialisation that has blighted so many other piers around the UK, and its graceful arches and uncluttered decks have barely changed since its Victorian heyday. I love strolling out to the end, watching waves swirling around its spindly legs and imagining parasol-toting ladies and top-hatted gents treading the same boards all those years ago.

read more

The Year in Books | October 2015

October 7, 2015

The Year in Books - October 2015 | Altered Land by Jules Hardy | These Four Walls blog

My September choice for ‘The Year in Books’, Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley, was a thoroughly compelling read. An account of an ordinary life, it follows a Bristol woman called Stella from her 1950s childhood in a ramshackle city-centre flat through to settled middle age in the suburbs. Some reviews have criticised the lack of much plot, but that’s actually one of the things I enjoyed most about the book: it’s more of a gentle character study than anything else, and life-changing moments and day-to-day events are treated with the same quiet pragmatism. There are no dramatic twists and turns, but I felt engaged from the first paragraph and the chapters flew by in a few sittings.

read more

The Year in Books | September 2015

September 2, 2015

The Year in Books | September 2015 | These Four walls blog

I can’t quite believe September has rolled around already. Although I’m sad to say goodbye to the long, lazy days of summer, I do love the hint of autumn that’s now hanging in the air: the perfect excuse to put my feet up with a good read!

My August pick for ‘The Year in Books’, Station to Station by James Attlee, was certainly that. A mix of travel, history and philosophy, it follows the author as he journeys on the Great Western train line between London and Bristol, searching for stories along the way. Some sections are devoted to various figures who lived along the route (the actress Dianna Dors, Oscar Wilde, the famous Astor family), others to architecture and the impact of the railway on 19th-century society. There are also plenty of Alain de Botton-esque musings on the nature of travel – the hypnotic effect of landscapes rushing past windows, the ability of shared journeys to break down social barriers. And there are sensitive references to contemporary events, including the suffering of refugees arriving in Europe (and the general population’s apparent willingness to turn a blind eye to it).

read more

The Year in Books | August 2015

August 5, 2015

Station to Station by James Attlee | The Year in Books | August 2015 | These Four Walls blog

I raced through my July pick for ‘The Year in Books’, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. I’d chosen this psychological thriller – about a detective investigating a fatal hit-and-run and a woman trying to escape her past in a remote Welsh village – because I thought it would make a good holiday read during my recent trip to Sweden. It certainly did. It was gripping, tense and emotional; the kind of book that had me fighting sleep to read just another page, and then another and another… The author is a former police officer, so I got the sense that both the plot and the procedural details were a little more realistic than you might find in other novels. And, as all good thrillers should, it had a fairly hefty twist that took me completely by surprise.

Like all my choices for ‘The Year in Books’, I Let You Go is set partly in Bristol. To be honest, I didn’t feel the location added much to the plot other than to demarcate different phases in the characters’ lives, but the passing mentions of roads and neighbourhoods I know well certainly made the action seem all the more vivid and immediate.

read more

The Year in Books | July 2015

July 1, 2015

The Year in Books | July 2015 | I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh | These Four Walls blog

My June read for ‘The Year in Books’, The Devil’s Mask by Christopher Wakling, was an intriguing one – a historical novel set in the early 19th century, just after the abolition of the slave trade, but written in a fast-paced, contemporary style. It centres around young lawyer Inigo Bright, who uncovers some murky dealings while investigating unpaid customs duty.

Like all my picks for ‘The Year in Books’, the story takes place in Bristol – in this case in a Bristol that’s changing quickly, adapting to the post-abolition world and undergoing massive expansion as the well-to-do suburb of Clifton springs up on the hill behind. Reading a portrayal of such a crucial stage in the city’s development was fascinating: I loved the descriptions of ghostly, half-finished crescents, bustling coffee houses and just-constructed harbour locks, and the contrast between the elegant new houses and the grimy tangle of masts in the port below. The horrors of slavery were also highlighted in a sensitive way, with part of the story being told through the eyes of a victim of the trade.

read more