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Friday, June 29, 2007

Weekend disappointment

This coming Sunday we had been looking forward to going to a Folk Festival at Saul, a little village on the canalside near Frampton on Severn. Sadly the torrential rain in the last few days has led to the event being cancelled. We are told that we can expect, as the century progesses, many more extreme weather events. I am sad the Saul festival has been put off until next year, but there many other things to do, though some may involve putting wellington boots into the boot of the car as a precaution! Today the sun is shining (rather weakly) after another night of heavy rain. At least the rain guarantees a green and pleasant England.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bristol and its artistic legacy

I am saddened this week to hear of further problems for two of Bristol's much loved but under used and under funded venues: our two theatres offering serious drama. I have written before of the Theatre Royal, known as the "Bristol Old Vic", our wonderful but somewhat dilapidated 240 year old theatre. It still needs another £2 million to complete the programme of improvements and there is now talk of its possible permanent closure. I can remember going to the theatre as a child in the late 1940's when my father was in the Old Vic company and have noted with interest the fortunes of, and have seen some of the productions at the theatre in the years since. Artistic directors have come and gone over the years, have tried hard to bring challenging drama to our city with little support from the City Council and a Bristolian audience that seems to struggle with such challenges. Popular opinion seems to be saying a root and branch overhaul of the articitic policy is required, bringing whenever the renovations have been completed, a schedule of plays with much more public appeal than has been offered in the recent past.

It would be tragic to see the demise of the BOV, my father and many other actors and directors of his generation like Stuart Burge, Newton Blick, Nat Brenner and Paul Eddington, to name just five men I have known, would be turning in their graves to hear of the theatre's current parlous state.

As well as the Old Vic, our other "fringe" theatre The Tobacco Factory in Bedminster is also struggling. It is an intimite venue at the top of one of the former Wills factory buildings in Bedminster. It has put on plays from Shakespeare to "The Wills Girls" and has had great critical acclaim, but has not been commercially popular enough to ensure long term survival without additional funding and/or an injection of more successful marketing.
I do my best to support and urge others to do the same!

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Welsh Wedding!

On Saturday, I was in Wales again for the Wedding of my cousin David's daughter Gwen at Llangynyw and at Powis Castle. There had been torrential rain in the area on Friday but despite river flood warnings and maybe because of a lot of people keeping fingers crossed the weather for the ceremony and for the reception was exellent as was the occasion.

As usual I took many photos which can be seen here: -

Gwen & Will's wedding.

Very best wishes to the newlyweds.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One of the Great Tragedies of Our Time

One of the Great Tragedies of our Time

One of the great tragedies of our time is that in our desperate incapacity to cope with the complexities of our world, we oversimplify every issue and reduce it to a neat ideological formula. Doubtless we have to do something in order to grasp things quickly and effectively. But unfortunately this "quick and effective grasp" too often turns out to be no grasp at all, or only a grasp on a shadow. The ideological formulas for which we are willing to tolerate and even provoke the destruction of entire nations may one day reveal themselves to have been the most complete deceptions....The American conscience is troubled by a sense of tragic ambiguity in our professed motives for massive intervention. Yet in the name of such tenuous and questionable motives we continue to bomb, to burn, and to kill because we think we have no alternative, and because we are reduced to a despairing trust in the assurance of "experts" in whom we have no real confidence.

Thomas Merton

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Celtic Tales

Today I have been away over the water into the "Land of My Fathers" - the Pricipality of Wales on a coach trip organised by my old friend and colleague John Vivian. We had excellent weather for the visits to two excellent places.

First we went to Castell Coch - the Red Castle, not old but in a lovely wooded setting in the hills overlooking the City of Cardiff. There were twenty-five former colleagues of the Bristol & West Building Society on the coach and we spent an enjoyable time looking around the castle, approaching it over a drawbridge above the dry moat. Built in the late 19th Century for one of the richest men of the time, the Marquess of Bute at the height of Victorian fancy for the medieval. Inside, the rooms are decorated and furnished lavishly in the most eccentric style with many wall paintings depicting scenes from Aesop's Fables (see above) and fantastic furnishings.
Further to the West of Cardiff is the wonderful National History Museum of Wales at St Fagans. I had wanted to go there for years and this was my opportunity to see it and also to see what they had done with my mother's "Ghost Bottle" or Witch Bottle (see second photo above). Back in 1983 my then little cousin Mark was playing outside my parents' cottage on the Welsh border near Oswestry, when under the old Yew Tree he found this jar or bottle, very heavy, as it is filled to halfway with lead. The story goes that a ghost once inhabited the cottage and so in order to remove the ghost, a priest or perhaps more likely a white witch was summoned in to pray the ghost down, into the bottle and this done, it would be sealed into the bottle with molten lead! Then the bottle would have been buried under the tree as Yew trees do have special mystical significance. So, there the bottle is, in the main gallery at St Fagans where it had been sent by my mother back in the 1980's for investigation. I was glad to see it again, and for the first time, the many other exhibits and houses displayed on the open air site. Houses, churches, mills, shops and many other representative buildings from all over Wales have been dismantled and taken from their original sites then put back together at St Fagans, now a working museum where carvers, millers, blacksmiths, farmers and other craftsmen and craftswomen demonstrate their rural trades for the visiting public. My Picasa photos show some of the highlights of our day.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bristol's Little Rivers

Another good walk yesterday, this time with about 50 assorted Bristol Living Rivers supporters from Sea Mills, where the River Trym joins the Avon. We hiked upstream into Westbury where the Trym is joined from the North by the Hazel Brook, sometimes known as the Hen Brook which we then followed as far as its emergence from drainage pipes near the huge shopping centre at Cribbs Causeway.
My photos on Picasa tell the tale - but just to explain the gravestone in Henbury Churchyard! The boy was one of many young african slaves who had not been sent to the sugar cane fields of the West Indies or the Cotton Fields of America but was chosen to be a servant in the household of Bristol nobility. It seems he was treated well, though he must have been the object of much curiosity and novelty at the time.