I am thinking about my husband. Last day at old job at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, Wales. Looking forward to new job at Southmead Hospital on Monday. His colleagues have been making posters to day goodbye, buying donuts and cakes and generally making a huge fuss of “the legend that is Russell Walker”. There is sadness at leaving these friends, colleagues and patients, mixed with apprehension but also anticipation of the new challenges ahead. He is leaving because it costs too much to cross the bridge every day, or to get the train every day. Also it’s about an hour’s journey which often means he isn’t home until well after 7pm. So he has a bright shiny new job here in Bristol, same salary, same job, new people, new place, new patients. Some of them may even be under 90 which will be a big change. Being American he could have worked over there for much more money (I really quite fancy a sabbatical in Nashville but sadly not to be…), but in a system that, despite a few improvements, is still costly and unfair. He has chosen to work for the NHS and that makes me very proud of him. He is going to an American BBQ restaurant and bar this evening, in Cardiff (yes, cardiff does Nashville), to have a good old send off and I expect it will get messy. It’s his party, he can cry if he wants to. Up to me now, and friends here in Bristol and new friends to be made at the new job to make him feel he has indeed made the right choice.
Having experienced the NHS first hand this morning I can say I am truly grateful for it. A long wait, but we all have mobile phones to play/work with these days so so what? I saw a 12 year old doctor who managed not to be patronising to old lady with thyroid stuff going on, efficient and thoughtful to the point where she suggested she took my blood sample rather than making me get back in the queue to see the nurse. My opinion of 12 year olds is changing fast.
Now, here are some vibrantly coloured pictures of last weekend in sunny Pembrokeshire in our picture gallery -
Some purists (Lucy) say hipstamatic and all these things which make photos look old and weird colours are simply not right. Well, I simply do not agree. Unless you have a stonkingly good camera no photo will ever do justice to the colours and scenery around us, and I think (just my personal and unimportant opinion) that these apps and photoshoppy things are helpful in imparting the feeling of the scene as well as a true-ish representation of people, places, lunch etc.
What do you think?
Wednesday is a funny day, right in the middle of the week, not much to say for itself, the day between Tuesday and Thursday, according to Wikipedia. No one has ever written about Wednesday blues or Wednesday being alright for fighting. I am at my desk, being bombarded with petitions to e-sign, spreadsheets to make sense of, bank accounts to juggle. I have a sick lodger upstairs, and a lazy son, and one other who has yet to be identified. My husband is winding up his job at The Royal Gwent in Newport, feeling sad at leaving all his friends and colleagues of eleven years, but also excited and nervous at the challenge of a new job at Southmead Hospital, here in Bristol (hurrah, no more bridge tolls!).
The washing machine is washing.
It is a sunny May Day. It’s actually warm outside; but I am not there, I am here, at my desk. The bank holiday weekend looms and promises to be cloudy and cool with possible precipitation.
I had a lovely surprise in the post the other day, from my friend Alison. When we were in Italy she would appear after her shower, radient and youthful and smelling of something utterly gorgeous. Well, guess what she sent me? No, not a radient youth, but a trio of oils – Revive, De-stress and Relax. Yum. I am currently de-stressing. Alison also sent me a book, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, because everyone just HAS to read it. It looks brilliant. I haven’t started it yet as I am reading the 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window and Ran Away for my book club. That is a good read – rollicking and silly but clever too. The book before that was The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, also recommended by Alison. A wonderful, enormous book, full of wit and pathos and sweetness. Golden Richards is the polygamist of the title, devout mormon, father of 28 children, grieving over the death of two of them. He has four wives, each of whom I liked and could identify with – not a reaction you would normally associate being faced with a tribe of mormons. Thoroughly recommend it, and I am looking forward to reading anothe rof his called The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. In fact Alison and I are starting a virtual book club – who wants to join?
Also I just made this for myself.
You can make one too if you are feeling a little jaded and under appreciated – just click HERE and follow the instruction. I’m not feeling under appreciated, just to be clear, but its nice to have an award anyway.
This is one of my favourite weekend activities, where ever I am in the world…
It’s Monday. Again. Time moves so fast and so slowly it’s hard to know which Monday it actually is, this one, next one or last one. Confusion say it not which one but what you do with it that matter. Hmmm.
Things that have happened since last post, not necessarily in order.
1. Visited the Old Book Shop for fab American diner style food (Monday’s only) with Lucy & Alex – very good but the plates really need to be warmed when coming from an ice cold kitchen. Lost all the pictures so here is one of the front.
2. Went to Barley Wood Walled Garden in Wrington, The Epicurean, for tea on the first really sunny day of the year. Heavenly brownies, as good (nearly) as The Folk House Cafe‘s (new web site coming soon courtesy of Daniel Penfold).
3. Bought a new fridge for the café from lovely Bill Butt (he of the heavenly pork pies) along with thousands of plates and forks from his ex-catering business. Now our food will again be safe and cool. Old fridge to be collected and dumped for large sums of money.
4. Bought a new car (NEW NEW) – stupid name (VW Up! – exclamation mark included… sigh). All on tick of course. But, only £20 per year to tax, 59 miles to gallon, free services and 3 year warranty. Its very small so easy to park on this narrow narrow street. That’s all good I reckon, even if it is not very cool.
5. Went to Italy with old school friends, Sophie and Alison. Thirty five (eek!) years ago we were at New Hall School together. I was from a hippy community in Scotland, Sophie from a farming family in Hampshire and Alison from the glamorous whirl of Chelsea and the jet set. Our home lives were as different as imaginable, and since then have gone in all sorts of different directions, none of them predictable. Sophie and I were au pairs together in Sicily, then purely coincidentally at college together.
6. Despite our very different lives we are still in touch, and nothing seems to have changed since we were thrown together in a posh Catholic boarding school – we still love each other and can hang out as 50-somethings in just the same way as we did at 15, only instead of tuck boxes filled with sweets crisps and fizzy pop, we have fizzy wine and gorgeous Italian food, in this instance staying in the most beautiful house in Abruzzo which you can rent if you feel so inclined. It sleeps up to 12 people comfortably, and has a pool and the area and views are indescribably beautiful.
7. Had my first wedding anniversary – celebrating the legal day rather than the big bash. We had to choose one of the days and oddly enough the legal day proved to be very moving. It was wonderful and far surpassed our expectations – meaningful words, then champagne, then lunch of the gods, then cocktails at Milk Thistle , and ending with chips in the centre with Bristol’s happy drunkards. Happy anniversary to my beloved husband, Russell Walker.
8. Sighed over son’s life choices, or non-choices really. Opting out of choosing? Choosing opting out? I remember being that age and just assuming it would all fall into place, and work out. And it did, but not in the way I envisioned it at all. I wish I had done some things differently, I do have regrets. Not many, but just enough to wish that son and heir could understand what I now know, and do it differently, do it better.
9. Happy Birthday Phil! My dear brother and generally fine fellow -
It’s been a while, I know. Just couldn’t seem to get the rhythm (thank god for auto correct – i could never spell that word) of a weekly post. I think of things to say then think that its all just too boring for you, my lonely reader (that’s you Lucy). Anyway, last weekend wasn’t boring. Big brother Nic’s 60th birthday party, shared with his old friend John*. Not the most exciting thing you ever heard of? Mix in the fact that Nic (and therefore me too) and John grew up 4 houses away from each other, both from enormous catholic families, both families being brought together for the first time in c.37 years, along with many and varied offspring and old, old (referring to the friendship rather than the age of the persons, just for clarity) family friends**, in an enormous, rambling Victorian pile of a hotel in Cumbria (The Cumbria Grand Hotel – think Fawlty Towers mixed with Hogwarts, run by staff variously from the Ritz and Premier Inn).
Battling through wind and snow, up and down and the motorways of England and Scotland there was nearly a full compliment of both families. Arriving on the Friday night after a long and uneventful drive, we were ushered into the dining room to be faced with almost my entire family, plus the Dowlings* and smattering of Dawsons**. Ages ranged from 84 (my Mum) to just one (little, yummscious Amber) with everything in between.
It was surreal to say the least. Halloos were made all round, made much easier as everyone was sitting down and all I had to do was work the room methodically. We were then given our seats at a window table, and informed that we had to keep to these seats all weekend, for reasons I know not of. Needless to say no one did.
Dinner was brown food or white food, which filled a gap and fuelled us for a ping pong marathon (I was audience only as hand eye coordination v bad). Not sure who won in the end, but it wasn’t Steve anyway, he won the small children round the ankle award instead.
Saturday was party day, and also small town charity shop hitting day, and drive by Windermere day. Too much to go into now (i did get some great tablecloths in the charity shops though and Windemere looked lovely from the car) so straight to the party. All dressed up
we joined a small reception for big sister Sue and new (ish) husband Michael, to drink a toast to their marriage and happiness. The a buffet fit to feed a small army was laid out in the foyer of the ball room, while drink was dispensed from the Victoria Bar, all red plush and waistcoated barmen. We had discovered that the restaurant wine list was infinitely superior to the Liebfraumilch (yes, really, we had reversed sharply into the 1970s, and yes, i am a snob, sorry and all that) so we supped on Sancerre (yum) and lovely Prosecco at a fraction of what you pay dahn sarf. I think we may have drunk their stocks dry, we certainly drank. I even developed a late evening liking for whiskey. My Algy would have been so proud.
The evening wasMC’d by the lovely Julian, one time owner of the shockingest red hair you ever did see, now, not so much, but unlike Samson he has not lost his talents with his hair and was a wonderful host and musical turn. The Dowlings dominated most of the musical offerings, and quite right too, because a more talented family you won’t find (Von Trapps eat your hearts out), Steve, John and Laurence (Lorry-gorry-goosegogs as he was known when we were six) all up together, and with friends, band members, spouses and children all making wonderful sounds from blues to reggae, folk and gospel – Laurence’s gorgeous teenage daughter stealing the show singing Wade in the Water with all the belt and verve of old Mavis Staple. Our side was represented by the gorgeous Alice who sang three of her Maybirds songs beautifully, solo with her guitar to a rapturous and teary eyed dad and Aunties.
The cakes were lit, huffed on and cut to huge applause.
Nic put down his imaginary clipboard and got on with the movin’ and groovin’, as I think did everyone at some point or another, doing the best kind of middle aged dancing and serious shape throwing. My own Stormy even went free style as he broke away from the linked arm group to dance alone in the centre of the circle, shades of Uncle Phil creeping in. So proud (no, really, I am).
The morning was greeted by a sunlit dining room, filled with various stages of hangovers and some very cheery small children. Fry ups was the order of the day, all diets, ethics and other obstacles removed while we troughed (Russell ate three) and drank the hot brown liquid in the silver pots.
What a party that was. What a fabulous place to stay – made even nicer by Nic and Pauline (thank you xx) who put chocolate truffles (made locally) and little pot plants in all our rooms. What amazing families and friends to have, and how brilliant to be back together after all these years of growing up and old, loving, leaving, dying, breeding and living – thank you Nic and John for making this happen. The finale was a photo call at 10.30am on Sunday, in the ballroom (with the candle stick…). Phil and I arranged everyone in tiers, and despite the photographer’s (that’s you Heidi!) lack of belief in my abilities to organise a paper bag, we were there, in rows, waiting for her arrival, tum de tum. Here we all are.
So, restaurants. WELL. Last weekend was a corker. It was a weekend of decadence and fun and boy oh boy it was good! Russell’s Christmas present (thank you thank you Russell xxx)to me was a weekend in london with tickets to see The Audience, with Helen Mirren playing the Queen, or simply being the Queen actually. A wonderfully funny and moving play about her audiences with prime ministers over the years, every Tuesday at 6.30 (except for Blair who moved the time to suit himself better) since she was crowned. It hopped back and forth over the years with Queenie ranging from slender and serious to portly and wry, acting almost as psychiatrist to the PMs, all perfectly caught in character but with a vulnerability they are not usually known for. Its all made up of course but I can’t help wishing it was really like that.
Anyway – That was a matinee performance. Prior to that we trekked the Kings Road and Memory Lane (mine anyway), bought me a frock (yum), visited the Saatchi Gallery to view Russian down and outs and their variously and miserably pocked bodies, arranged sometimes like classical paintings and other times just as they are. Not pretty. An installation using sump oil by Richard Wilson (never heard of him before) was my highlight – mesmerising.
Then to the play (see above), then to our uber (where is the umlaut button when you need it?) hip hotel in Hoxton, the Hoxton Hotel in fact. All Blade Runner and Fifth Elementy in the corridors, rooms minimal, natch, but with seriously nice touches. Its not super luxury, but its clever and fun and very comfortable. Our room over looked the ‘garden’, the concierge was keen to tell us. Bless him if he thinks that’s a garden – a space with many metal ducts and pipes, and a pattern of minimal grass in between.
Dinner was at Bistroteque, the hippest of the hipperati destinations (even 9 years in); so hip in fact it had no sign to tell you when you had arrived. You simply knew. The owners of this space out of time are David & Pablo. I knew David back when he was a gauche student from up t’north and so feel a sense of pride and amazement at such an achievement.
Bistroteque is minimalist heaven, cool white in the day time, soft, clean, candle lit lines in the evening – surprisingly warm and welcoming. I hadn’t expected to see him but, fresh from designing a superati party and the pages of Hello magazine, David had changed plans and was back to celebrate and mourn the leaving the of the lovely Hazel (resplendent in a haze of marabou feathers and red lipstick), who was off to Madrid to design expensive leather things (it’s another world, really it is) so that was a lovely bonus and more encouragement, as if needed, to drink cocktails.
At the bar chatting with these beautiful people Russell was on the martinis, with an olive (none of that lemon twist nonsense for him), and I was on the Negronis, to which I am now addicted. The barman said they were vey sophisticated, so by drinking one, then two, I became sophisticated. I did. Russell thought so anyway, but by then he was under his stool looking for his escapee olive so I am not sure he really knew what sophisticated meant from that angle.
1 part Beefeater Gin
1 part Martini Rosso
1 part Campari
Combine all ingredients over ice in a rocks glass and stir. Garnish with an orange slice.
We sat at our perfectly appointed table and chose our food just in time to stop the night being washed away in cocktails. I had cured salmon with horseradishy beetroot thing and himself had steak tartare, in honour of my son and heir whose fave dish it is. Bizarre reasoning aside he loved it, and I tasted it too and thought it quite nice, and not revolting at all despite being raw, chopped up beef. Speaks volumes for the quality of the beef because I am a bit squeamish about such things. Seconds was onglet steak for him and whole bream for me, which the very nice and patient chef filleted for me. It was delicious, perfectly cooked and came with something I can’t quite remember and the best chips ever. Wine was Picpoul – such a lovely word, and such a lovely wine. Lovely waiters too. We were very happy out of towners.
Afters was creme brulee all round because its my favourite and R likes it a lot too. Not the best I’ve ever had it has to be said, bit overcooked and not enough crackling on top – but hell, who cares because then we had a Makers Mark each because Kentucky is that place of sophistication that I was now emulating all over the place.
Lunch at the Hoxton Hotel and Columbia Road flower market heaven coming soon.
So, 17 posts in, still here, still scribbling. Why? you may think, but hopefully are too polite to ask. Well, to answer your thought question, because I enjoy it, and I do actually think it will lead somewhere important one day.
We are living in odd times I must say. Despite being able to carry as normal for the most part, like driving around, eating in restaurants (more on that later), buying stuff, watching telly (yeah, I have a VERY exciting life actually), everywhere we look we are bombarded by messages of doom; global warming, pedophiles on every corner, food insanity, tribal displacements, the Oscars. I mention the last because it is a message of doom. Despite hisself winning and Bristol taking the credit and suddenly everyone knowing him, once, well, he-stepped-on-my-toe-in-a-bar-once kind of thing (and just for the record I stood on Robin Ellis’s toe once at the Royal Court Theatre – Poldark, remember??), did you hear the song by the guy who was hosting the night? We Saw Your Boobs. That’s the title. He listed the name of all the actresses who have shown their nipples on film over the last whatever period. In song.
The doom message here is that since Hollywood has clearly spectacularly failed to drag itself into the 21st Century viz a vi (no, I don’t really know what that means but it works for me) women then the films it will vomit out over the next few decades will continue to reflect that and these neanderthal messages are the messages the world receives, and our children and children’s children will continue to receive them loud and clear. The message is it’s ok to use women and their boobs as targets for amusement; its ok to USE women. It fucking well isn’t ok and I am amazed, really, that in 2o013 that sentiment was thought to be ok to broadcast around the world. One of the actresses mentioned was Charlize Theron and her reaction said it all. Boobs are great, functional and fun – I have some, and I have a friend who dressed hers up as cheese and pineapple hedgehogs and other friends who have them, showing a bit, a lot, not at all, minus them after surgery – all sorts. We, women, are allowed to to do what the hell we like with them, people like that arse should not be allowed anywhere near them because he clearly doesn’t GET IT, and he must be incinerated asap.