Friday, 15 February 2013

Ahhhh Bristol

I am dedicating this blog post to Rhian Organ, soon to be director of prestigious management company at M-C Towers. I'm pleased you've properly made Brizzle home and that you're a H.O with an amazingette - Much love xxx

It's been 13 years since I moved to Bristol and I've never tired of the place. I had a brief wobble 5 years ago  and contemplated a move back to Wales but in my heart I knew Bristol was where I belonged. The first time  my uni friends and I went in search of a house we had no idea where we going to end up. All we knew was that we wanted a KFC for lunch because there wasn't one in Wales at the time. We made some calls, got really lost trying to find our way around the city "pre-sat-nav" and ended up finding a house to share in Southville. There began my loyalty to everything "South of the river". Over the years the area has steadily improved and I've loved watching the transformation of the place. One of the annual highlights is the "Southbank arts trail" with local artists and crafts people opening their homes and transforming them into temporary galleries for the weekend. When I taught at Southville Primary I helped to make the school an exhibition space too, maybe one day I'll dig out the photos of my students art work inspired by lyrics and song titles by The Beatles and put the memories up on here. Anyway, there was one South Bristol artist who stood out as being special for me... Suzie Brooks. I just loved her screen prints with the rough pen lines and patches of background colour. And I wasn't alone, she did really well during those arts trail weekends and I was delighted when I managed to get this screen-print of our local drinking haunt to give to Kev and Nic for their wedding present. At the time they were contemplating a move to Australia so I was keen to find a potential Bristol memory; they've since decided to stay put and have renovated a house and had a family - yay! How amazing this building is, the catalyst for the regeneration of North street and home to our fantastic new red-trouser-wearing; next-best-thing-to-Boris-in-my-opinion, mayor! Not sure I loved the place quite as much when I had a bar job there to top up my supply teaching wage but that feels like another lifetime ago now...!

And, for their wedding present from me I got this print for Sarah and Michael to remember their time in Bristol...

"Can't park street" 

I just love it with the Wils Memorial building at the top and the 
Council house building on College green.

Then when I moved into my own house I decided that I'd wait until just the right piece of art work cropped up and buy it for my lounge. And, after wandering down to the "Affordable Art Fair" at Temple Meads, there it was...

"Ahhh Bristol"

This picture is the first thing anyone notices when the enter my house and
 I've been asked about it more times than I care to remember :)

Then Suzie Brooks dropped off the scene for a while and I periodically asked after her whereabouts when I called into the glass shop that used to sell her stuff. "Oh, she's busy having kids I think and her art has taken a back seat" was the reply I got from the shop girl. Then several years on, her work started cropping up on greetings cards in Paperchase and I knew she was heading towards big things.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was shopping for school stuff in IKEA, highly irritating a hungover Rhian by putting tea-towels, bulbs and shoe horns in her yellow bag when she wasn't looking. Then we paused at the art section and had a look at the art prints. I've always favoured buying art from local people or making my own and took the mickey out of my sister for the landscape of trees she bought from IKEA, especially when "the murderer from Eastenders" hung the same print in his lounge. Karma got me back when Sonia Jackson wore my favourite cardigan however and Karen also delighted in spotting my bedroom wallpaper in "The Dropzone" youth club on "The secret Millionaire", but anyway.... I was drawn to one print in particular and thought I might just buy it!

"New York: Love is 50 Skyscrapers High"

And I'm sure you've guessed who created this lovely print... Suzie Brooks is in IKEA!!!; what a long way she has come from a few prints in her front room. Maybe she's "sold out" but she so deserves this success so I bought it, as a valentines present to myself. (And am just hoping that it doesn't crop up adorning the wall of a murderer in a soap opera).

And that leads me onto another gift that I got (made) this week. For Mr and Mrs B's big day I wanted to get something personal and symbolic of Bristol. As a woman of good taste, Annabel already owns a "Suzie Brooks" and so I needed to think of something else. They also had no gift list and cash seemed the only option. Then I had a great idea. Bristol now has it's own currency so I thought I'd get them some of this, and frame it:-

So I called into The Tobacco Factory and bought 1 of each note.
However... great minds think alike, and when we sat down to dinner in Oxford for the first night of Annabel's hen weekend the topic of Bristol currency came up. "It's really nice" said "Annabel, "I was going to get you some and frame it as a Christmas present Jo, but then I saw that other print and got you that instead".
So, in short, I just gave then the 1 as a small gift:-

"Eternal good fortune: Bristol Fashion"

And so I went with my plan B for them for their main present which I will reveal in a future blog post. 

And my final gift of the week was another Valentines one (three). Shree posted a link on facebook to "Random acts of love" on Feb 14th asking people to participate in random acts of kindness wherever they wanted. Now, without a significant other to get something for this year I thought, well why not do the "pay it forward" thing. Karen decided to do a similar thing a couple of weeks ago and left the parking fayre attached to a parking meter but couldn't resist looking to check someone used it. It was a lovely idea but it was met with confusion and people pushed the money out of the way, probably thinking it was a hoax and they were being filmed. I liked the idea of something similar though. 

So, I went back to the tobacco factory and bought 3 more Bristol £5 notes. Then I got 3 cards from my "card box" and wrote "Happy Valentines Day, enjoy this fiver, please "pay it forward" at the right time. I gave the first one to the girl in the beauty salon that morning; I'd been there the day before and she was telling me how the student loans company were on her back and she didn't know why because she wasn't yet earning 15k and she said she was spending a lot of time on money-saving forums to make ends meet. 

Then I went to meet Nik and Shree for some lunch in Cafe Kino. Cafe Kino is so cute...

It's a co-op, not-for-profit cafe that works with the community and volunteers.
Look at that floor... :) Love it...

and the food...

It was the perfect venue to give away "pay-it-forward" gifts but Shree beat me to it and went ahead to pay for the next 4 strangers' coffees. Then while we ate Nik and I thought about who I could give my 2 remaining cards to. After loitering outside the "money shop" where people are clearly in need of cash I wimped out and got embarrassed. Then we walked down the road and a big issue seller was standing patiently. So, I nudged Nik and said "please, let's leg it quickly if I give him this card". So I did, and he beamed a confused but wide toothless smile and I kind of felt it was a good choice. Then instead of taking Nik home I talked her into coming to IKEA with me to buy my print. And after driving along for a mile and not finding the appropriate opportunity to pull over and pass over the card I got Nik to pass it through the car window to the "trolley guy" in IKEA, and she did, and he looked delighted and confused also. Then she insisted we parked miles away, so we did, but when we walked in I caught a glimpse of him showing his mate and laughing and I was pleased he got one too :) They maybe should've been a bit more "anonymous" but it was nice to see the look of surprise on their faces.

I warned Nik that our "Valentines escapades" would be going on the blog and she looked unfazed  posing for a picture with her lunch... "But I've never put a picture of a human on my blog" I told her - I'm going to have to make an exception for this beauty though I think... Haha!

The whole day was so much fun, and I know for certain I'll be doing something similar regardless of whether I have a significant other as a valentine in 2014! :)

As David and I drank our coffee in Harts Bakery underneath Temple Meads the other morning we mused about how fab Bristol is, from Banksy to bridges to Bristol pounds. He brought me up to speed on new coffee shops and I updated him on George Ferguson's tweets about plans for a rail-link to the Ashton gate stadium. 

Then, as we left to wander into town to meet Uncle Pete I remembered coming home from the Oxford hen weekend and Kev picking us up from Temple Meads. As he was driving past Totterdown, Rhian said "Woah, look at that!" and we all turned to look out of the car windows to see that at the top of the hill people had made ice walls with the remnants of the snow and had somehow graffitied them with coloured paint. "Only here!" said Rhian, "I bloody love Bristol!" 

And we all just nodded in complete agreement.

J :)