Bristol Old Vic and the Grinning Man

1-img_0389-001It’s shameful really, isn’t it? I’ve lived in Clevedon for over four years and I have only just had my first visit to the Bristol Old Vic… well it won’t be the last!

If you live in or near Bristol, I am sure you are very well aware of the beautiful theatre in King Street – close to Harbourside and many wonderful pubs and restaurants. As you can see from the ticket pack above, the theatre is celebrating 250 years this year, and you get a real sense of that history in the street outside and also inside the venue. It’s a gorgeous traditional space, managing to be  intimate and impressive at the same time. The backstage bar area is large, comfortable and modern. Staff members are friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed. Work is underway on improvements to the front of house, but this doesn’t in any way diminish from the pleasure of a visit.

I booked online for the evening performance of The Grinning Man this week and I must say that the booking process was really efficient and a pleasure to use. I chose tickets closer to the top end of the scale than the bottom, to be on the safe side on our first go, but I think next time I’d be more than happy with cheaper options.

The play itself is well worth seeing. It’s a macabre musical, based on the Victor Hugo book L’Homme Qui Rit  – The Laughing Man. Victor Hugo, of course, wrote Les Miserables, and this is from the same stable. So the story has treachery, cruelty and love, brought to the audience through a wonderful production incorporating puppetry, excellent acting, music and singing. The audience loved it and there was a standing ovation and much applause at the end. I’m not going to tell you more however much you ask! I’m sure you’ll easily find detailed reviews online and elsewhere, but I think knowing too much about plots in advance can spoil surprises, so that’s all you are getting from me. If you can get to Bristol before the end of the run on November 13 2016, do so! If the production moves to other theatres near you I hope you manage to see it at a future date!

I’ll leave you with that thought as I’m heading to the website right now to sign up as a Friend of the Bristol Old Vic

 

Good reasons to visit Clevedon

I have written often about the little things that make Clevedon such a nice place to visit:

the pier, the Curzon cinema, the windswept tree and the bandstand, the views, the walking, the nice people, the opportunities to spot places featured as locations in Broadchurch, the places to have a pint …

pier and clouds august 13

but I haven’t talked about how well situated the town is for a visit en route from almost anywhere to the West Country or Wales, and now I really should, because we have just listed our house on Airbnb and we are hoping for bookings! Why have we listed? Well, we have a beautiful house, with rooms that we don’t use unless we have guests, and so which are usually empty. Some lettings income will help to supplement our other earnings (freelance writing, art sales, pension) and offering some Bed and Breakfast facilities may also help visitors to Clevedon, as there are not that many places to stay in the town.

Clevedon is well worth a visit in its own right, partly because the seafront is so unchanged from Victorian times, and partly because geography makes the place – the sunsets and the views across and down the Bristol Channel – just so picturesque. It’s also really handy for a day trip to Bristol, being just 15 minutes by car or 30 minutes by bus to Bristol city centre, and the glories of harbourside and the SS Great Britain, Clifton suspension bridge, the old city with the markets and lanes, and roughly a trillion great places to eat and drink.

If you fancy a road trip of Somerset, include Clevedon in a series of bed and breakfast stops, and take in the Cheddar Gorge, the Mendips, Glastonbury, Wells, Bath, Bradford on Avon, the Somerset Levels, Brean Down and many more places and attractions besides.

We are also perfectly placed if you are travelling to Cornwall from London or the midlands. It’s a long drive to Penzance, but from Clevedon it’s only about 2 and a half hours, so you arrive fresh and happy rather than tense and wrung out. The same thing applies for those travelling across to Tenby and the lovely Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.

There! Regional and personal promotion over. Maybe we’ll get to meet in person one day?

Neil Finn – What a show!

Just back from  seeing Neil perform at the Colston Hall in Bristol (and an overnight stay at the Novotel in the city centre).

Such a fabulous show. People love Neil as well as loving his music, so there is always a great, friendly atmosphere at his concerts. He is such a generous performer, who loves interacting with the audience, and overall it feels as though you are getting together with your mates for the best party ever. It’s probably all the better if you know his work in Split Enz, Crowded House and other collaborations, so you can join in with the sing-along bits, but the man is so brilliant that it would take a very miserable concert-goer not to have a whale of a time.  Fantastic to end the show with a sing along (that’s where knowing the greatest hits helps), so we can all say “I’ve sung with Neil Finn!”.  Catch the tour if you can. That’s all I can say.

While I’ve lived in the area for a while, I have to admit that this was my first visit to the Colston Hall, and I really enjoyed it. It’s easy to get to, has a good selection of bars, and plenty of space in the stylish atrium. There was a free performance for a local musician in the atrium before the main performance too, so the whole experience felt like great value.  Nice to to meet my brother and sister-in-law who had bought tickets independently from us and ended up in the same row, just a handful of seats apart.

I must just mention the Shakespeare Tavern in Prince Street too. We’ve been there a few times now when we’ve been in town and it’s a lovely pub. Good food, great beer and a good central location. Check it out next time you are in town. Handy for Queen’s Square, the Old City and Harbourside, so it fitted in well during our afternoon stroll around, doing a bit of shopping and a bit of sight-seeing. We always come across buildings we’ve never seen before and examples of fantastic architecture. Just fabulous.

We chose to go by bus, to be as green as we could, but I can see why people use cars. The journey there from Clevedon was quite quick on Saturday on the X6, but coming home this morning we had to use the X8, and it is such a long way round, looping through Nailsea about three times before nipping into Clevedon. A hour plus to go ten miles!  Here’s to the time we have a quick bus seven days a week.

I feel that you deserve a picture, but I don’t have one at hand of Bristol, so here’s a view of Hill Road in Clevedon instead! Oh – and thanks to my lovely daughter, Louise, who gave me the tickets for my birthday.

Hill Road

Out and about in Bradford on Avon and Clifton

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I’ve had a lovely Easter weekend, thank you for asking, with my son, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend visiting. We picked them up in Bristol on Saturday afternoon, and following a beautiful sunny walk along the Clevedon seafront enjoyed a pint at the Moon and Sixpence followed by a delicious meal at Junior Poon’s on Hill Road. Strolled home under a star-lit sky, chatting all the while.

On Sunday we headed out towards Bradford on Avon, although the weather forecast was less promising than we had hoped. However, the road over the Mendip’s was gloriously misty and atmospheric, and we saw the herds of goats used to crop the plants on the cliffs that otherwise would overwhelm the natural rare species and character of the gorges. I hadn’t been to Bradford on Avon before, even though one of my ancestors was born in the town, and I must say I loved it. I have included just a couple of photos to give an idea of the character of the place, but it is just lovely. The same golden stone that you see in Bath, interesting shops, and great walks, boat rides and cycling along and in the Kennet and Avon canal.  It poured with rain, so we dived into a very quaint coffee house for shelter and refreshments. Then we drove back to Clevedon via Bath and Bristol.

This morning we popped into Clifton across the beutiful suspension bridge, parked up and spent sometime strolling around Clifton village. My son had to head off to Temple Meads for his train, but the rest of us had lunch on the pub terrace at the Avon Gorge Hotel overlooking the gorge, basking in the beautiful warm sunshine. I saw a raven, but was the only one who was really impressed!

If you don’t know North Somerset, Bristol and Bath, I would recommend a visit. The countryside is beautiful with lots of good walks, and there are so many villages with welcoming pubs, so don’t just drive through on your way to Devon and Cornwall. Stop and say hello!

And life goes on ….

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… as it always does.

We have spent a lot of time on the motorway recently, heading back and forth between Bristol and Hertfordshire for family reasons, and we have been seeing an English late winter/early spring at its best.  We are lucky to be able to pick our moments to travel, as we don’t work full time, so have been able to enjoy the beautiful rolling hills and woodlands through Wiltshire and Berkshire rather than focusing on the traffic.  Salisbury Plain and the Berkshire downs are absolutely beautiful at any time, but when the sun is low in the sky the quality of light and the texture added by the long shadows is fantastic.  The trees were looking marvellously architectural, as the deciduous tress are just getting ready for the buds to burst and the new leaf to emerge.  There’s that lovely colour to the basically grey/brown bark as the sap rises, so even bare branches have a flush of colour.

Spring flowers everywhere too and, relatively speaking, a lot of butterflies around.  Nothing like the old days, of course, when butterflies were everywhere, but lovely to see none the less.  They have been brought out by the warmth, and here’s hoping we don;t get too much cold weather now.  Everyone is in need of some warmth.

I’m looking forward to exploring Bristol and Somerset more this year.  We have lived in the area for 18 months-ish and having not known the area before have really only scratched the surface with how much there is to see and do.  I have to say that I have found Twitter really useful for finding out what is going on, and that has surprised me.  I thought I would just use it for business, and letting people know about our website, but I have found out about lots of restaurants and paces to go – so good old Twitter!  And good old Bristol. I’ll let you know when I have been somewhere great.  Or perhaps I’ll see you there!

Have a great year – and enjoy the place where you live.