London, Bristol, Bath and Bedford upon Avon

On Sunday I went into town and snapped this from the National Gallery’s front steps, on my way to the National Portrait Gallery. The BP Portrait Award show was on, always a winner for me, and I loved it. Then I had a last look at the Keith Arnatt show at Photographers’ Gallery, as it closed that day, and lusted after the book, but left it there and decided to cut through Chinatown on my way to elsewhere.

I picked up a bite to eat at a Chinese bakery and got as far as Regent Street where I discovered an Incredible India festival was in full swing, with

drums, dancing,


and big crowds all the way from Piccadilly to Oxford Circus.

The rest of the weekend was spent in restful preparations for my trip to Bristol and Bath, the event being given an extra frisson by rumours of a tube strike set to start on Monday. Happily, transportation was normal when I set off, and I caught a bus to Bristol which was a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours, not much longer than the train trip and quite a bit cheaper.

Upon arrival, I asked about internet cafes, and was sent up a less than salubrious street nearby – a back-of-bus-station strip of pubs, sad-looking electronics shops and massage parlours. I did indeed find an internet cafe: a sad, shabby little room with a sandwich-board outside that promised lattes and cappuccinos; but while I cast my eyes dubiously over the grubby hardware on offer I asked the North African who descended a rough set of steps with a couple of chipped cups in his hands about wireless and he looked puzzled and shook his head. I thought I’d head into the smart part of town and see if I couldn’t find something better.

And so I found my way to the waterfront, and got to Bordeaux Quay without incident: it was bright, clean, airy and welcoming with sparkling views of the river out its front wall of windows.

I had a tour of its kitchens and cooking school with the able and interesting development manager Amy Robinson, and a little chat with a very weary Barny Haughton, who was recovering from cooking demonstrations and organisational stress at the organic fair they’d had along the waterfront that weekend. Had some excellent Tuscan bread salad

and Provencal fish soup for lunch

and then on my way out, stopped at the deli counter to scooped up a stunning loaf of potato bread which I got to sample later that evening with some of BQ’s wonderful jam (Blackberry & Peach). On I went to the Watershed, a lovely cinema complex with a spiffy cafe where you can get wireless access and a nice cuppa coffee.

Passed an old friend on my way to the train. Bart, hero of my spice cupboard, I never know you lived in Bristol!

Jumped then on a train and arrived in Bath where Carrie and I played an unlikely game of hide and seek in the microscopic train station before finally spotting one another, and headed off to supper with some of her students at Wagamama. On our way, she pointed out Demuth’s, a vegetarian restaurant I’d heard about from someone else, which comes highly recommended.

Full of noodles and rice and good cheer

we carried on to the excellent Raven where there was a mixture of evening diners finishing up and a flock of poets settling in. A good crowd, I’d guess around 30 or so, with a fair number of open mics including some excellent poems from Carrie and her students. One of the readers, John Wheway, was particularly good – had published in the distant past and is getting a manuscript together, which I reckon will be a stunner. As will Carrie’s when she gets hers out there.

In the morning, before returning to London, I got a tour of beautiful Bradford upon Avon

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