Silent Sunday 1 September 2013

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Gromit Unleashed

The last couple of weeks have been madly busy for us, some days for good reasons, others not so much. That’s why it has taken a bit of time to get round to posting about our recent trip up to Bristol. I had to take Abi up to the Royal Children’s Hospital to get some tests done last week, and fully aware that we were going to be in the hospital all day, that she was going to have to fast and that they weren’t going to be very nice tests I decided it was more practical and would take the edge off the experience a bit if we had a nice day out and then booked into a hotel the night before.

I already knew about the Gromit trail because a) it’s been on the local news more than once and b) we saw the one located at Paddington Station when we went up to London in July. I had been thinking of visiting science museum @Bristol but thought as the weather was good and my companion for the trip, my mum, hadn’t been to Bristol for decades, that wandering around Gromit spotting might be as much, if not more, fun.

It also seemed apt, bearing in mind we were there to visit the Children’s hospital, that the Gromit Unleashed trail is part of the fundraising by Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal which is the charity for the hospital. Anyone who has visited may tell you that one of the things that makes them smile there is the voice over in one of the lifts – done by Wallace and including lines like “Eee, watch you trousers lad” and advising that one of the floors (which are different colours) is the colour of cheese. Madam may be too young to appreciate it but it always makes me and her dad smile.

The basic premise is that there are 80 Gromits, mostly in Bristol. They have been designed by different artists and celebrities and once the trail is over (the event runs until 8th Sept) they will be auctioned off to raise money for the Appeal. There has long been a shop opposite the hospital selling W&G items but for the duration of the trail they have additional space and are selling all manner of items to raise extra money. We came away with a tea towel, Gromit print and some wristbands, and I’m sorely tempted to buy one of the figurines via the website 

A trail map is available showing the locations and providing details of the artists and sponsors, and there is also an app (which I tried to buy but have issues with my phone!) For serious Gromit collectors there’s even a little passport that you can collect embossed stamps in at 6 of the locations. We didn’t have a lot of time so only clocked up eight but were in good company as there were loads of families armed with maps and cameras strolling around the centre of Bristol. If you are in the area and looking for something to do that isn’t going to cost you much (if you avoid the shop and nagging) then it’s a fabulous idea and a nice way to see some of the city.

Sadly there is no way we’ll have time to go back up and clock up more sightings, and as much as I’d love to buy one I don’t have the space (or the cash as I suspect and hope they will raise a good amount each) Maybe I’ll divert our attention to seeing more of Great Gorillas in Exeter and Torbay instead! Without further ado here are some of the Gromits we found.

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Doodles at Cabot Circus

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Gnashional Gromit at the Marriott

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Lancelot at Quakers Friars

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Malago at Broadmead

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Hero at Subway Harbourside

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Salty Sea Dog at the Cascade Steps

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Silent Sunday 25 August

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Silent Sunday

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Beautiful Days indeed

This weekend was a bit of a first for us. I’ve been to plenty of concerts in the past but never made it to a festival. Going to one has been on my To Do list for a long time but it was only when a friend suggested we go to Beautiful Days with them that I got beyond just thinking about it. Unsurprisingly it was also Abi’s first festival, although definitely not her first experience of camping and mud!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeautiful Days festival takes place each year at Escot Park, near Ottery St Mary in Devon. If you haven’t heard of it before it may be because this festival doesn’t DO sponsorship, branding or advertising. It does though pride itself on being family friendly, and was one of the Best Family Festivals 2013 according to the Guardian. Looking at their website when we were planning on booking there were a huge number of acts on 6 stages, plus kids entertainment. While it’s as good as on out doorstep they only offer weekend tickets including camping so it turned into a little holiday for us.

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We rolled up, car stuffed to the gunwales, on Thursday afternoon not long after the gates had opened. Once we had pitched the tent we took a wander around the site and found lots of quirky stalls selling all manner of items, and a wide range of food on offer at what were surprisingly reasonable prices. My top spend of the weekend was £10 on beautiful grey embellished sari, a gorgeous piece of embroidered fabric, a scarf and 3 little tops (perfect for Abi and my nieces for dressing up) After spending ages trying to tear madam away from a spinner on a telescopic pole we gave in and bought her one, which looked great against the perfect blue sky (and a bit sad when the rain set in)

The music started at lunchtime on Friday, running through until Sunday night, culminating in a fireworks display at the end of the final set by The Levellers (they start and finish it, as it is “their” festival.) Having spent a lot of time at airshows, with her hearing loss in mind, we already knew Abi wasn’t fazed by loud noise, but we were impressed by how much she loved the whole experience. It was sensory stimulation city! She was thrilled by the lights and wanted to be right at the front by the stage when she could. She was dancing away, waving her arms around and clapping at the right times. There was a strong feeling of it being a family event and there were plenty of little ones being pulled around in wagons which doubled up as beds when they nodded off during the evening, a great environment really. Sunday has a theme, this year was Animals, and plenty of people, adults and kids grabbed the excuse to dress up. I think we’ll probably go again next year, and if we do I’ll make an effort to join in the dressing up fun next time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was plenty to entertain kids, from circus skills to drumming to arts and crafts. We spent a lot of time watching, and joining in with, the drumming, and came away with a peg dolly, a dream catcher and a decorated  memory book we had created. There were also kids entertainers and Punch and Judy shows which were well attended every time we walked past the tent. The smattering of fairground rides also went down well, as we had a go on the helter-skelter and big wheel, and Abi went on a lovely hand operated carousel. A lot of the entertainment was good old fashioned fun, although the betweenagers tent was a bit more modern, what with the lure of free phone charging.

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I think madam’s favourite performance was Treacherous Orchestra, and in all fairness they were amazing. They play high energy Scottish folk music, and project a very modern (maybe futuristic is better word) and slightly dark image. I used to absolutely love Dodgy, so it was fantastic to see them live. They have been in the business for years, then on the other end of the spectrum I was delighted to see relative newbies Hudson Taylor (we saw them in Hyde Park last month) on the main stage. Hubby was downloading their songs as soon as we got in – while I was attending to the mountain of washing. Him indoors was particularly impressed by Sinead O’Connor. There were so many brilliant acts it would be impossible to mention them all, but it’s safe to say they covered a wide range of genres, including pop, ska and folk. 

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It wouldn’t be right to go to an event in the UK during the summer and not get some mud, so the rain on Saturday morning was enough to supply a bit of swamp effect without dampening spirits. Otherwise the weather was really good, and once again I have developed a really unattractive wellie tan on my legs (white with a band of brown just above and below the knees then white again above that)

Beautiful Days is a fab event and we’re already discussing when tickets go on sale for next year, so that probably tells you something. I don’t think we could have asked for much better, and now we’ve realised Abi will fall asleep in her buggy mid-performance and sleep happily we’ll be a bit more free to stay out and enjoy the evenings in full next year. Roll on 2014!

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Cafe ODE, Shaldon

This weekend, having a get together to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I was treated to a very different dining experience in the village of Shaldon. I had never heard of Cafe ODE, or its big brother ODE, but when you have friends with serious foodie cred you tend to let them pick where you are going when you eat out. As it happens none of the six of us had eaten there before but its reputation preceded it.

Located just above the Ness with views of the sea (and the not so attractive public car park) you can find Cafe ODE in a converted stable.  The focus is on providing sustainable food in an eco friendly environment. At present Cafe ODE is the highest rated cafe/restaurant in the UK per the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The interior has a laid back, earthy vibe with lots of wood and there’s plenty to look at what with the view, the on-site microbrewery and the open kitchen.

Having settled down to a round of G&Ts our waiter gave us a bit of info about the ethos of Cafe ODE, followed by the specials and information about the dishes. The menu changes according to what is available locally, and this weekend I was sorely tempted by the open venison steak sandwich. As well as the seafood which you would expect there were also great meaty options including organic sausages and the fabulous burger that found its way onto my plate.

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Well, I say plate but actually the crockery and cutlery aren’t exactly standard. The cutlery is all biodegradable (although designed for multiple uses) as are the glasses. The food was delivered in vegware compostable containers, with a wooden crate rather than a tray.  It was a brilliant experience, and it was quite a contrast between the relatively simple yet very well done food and the laid back presentation and style of the surroundings. Unfortunately in my rush to get out of the door in time I forgot my camera and my phone only gave me one decent picture so take a look at their website to see more.

I really enjoyed my food – salt and pepper squid, followed by a burger with bacon, fries, raw slaw and a garlic mayo dip. Choosing was difficult as there were so many great sounding options although the menu isn’t vast. The dessert of ginger cake with ice cream went down well too and the girls who chose lemon posset were making faces and noises that suggested they liked it!

Getting ready I panicked about what to wear but was happy to find the sort of place where you could pitch up in deck shoes and shorts and be just as comfortable as the person on the next table (or on the same table if you are into communal dining) in a dress and heels. for the current hot spell they have outdoor seating but I can imagine it being very cozy inside, what with the lovely log burner in situ.

Eating here was something of an experience and was about a lot more than just the food. The bill was pretty reasonable, especially with the wine and G&Ts in mind. I’d definitely visit again, and am hoping that will be some time fairly soon.

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Silent Sunday 11 August

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What a load of rubbish!

The title of this post is a literal one, as I want to talk about litter. My personal impression is that while campaigns like Keep Britain Tidy have done a lot to improve the state of our streets there still seems to be a core of people who think it is okay to leave their rubbish behind on beaches. Sadly the same is true of other outdoor spaces, and with picnicking high on the agenda with the recent good weather the problem is getting worse. Of course there are much wider issues than just those who can’t be bothered to take their waste home or find a bin but that’s where I’m going to start.

Taking a walk on the beach yesterday collecting shells with little ‘un I came across broken bottles, chocolate bar wrappers and plastic bottles. A council employee on the beach on litter picking duty appeared to have a bin liner than was half full. When there are bins dotted at regular intervals you have to wonder what the excuse is. It has been a while since I either snorkelled or dived but in the past it was rare to do either without coming across discarded cans or plastic bags.

Obviously some of the litter is unlikely to cause physical harm, and is more of an eyesore, but broken glass is a clear hazard, and plastic bags can be fatal to wildlife if they either become entangled or mistake them for food. I saw the ad below some time ago and thought it was a clever representation of the problem. Another common sight on my local beach is knotted strands of fishing line, more often than not with hooks still attached. Again both the hooks and line can present dangers for humans and marine life alike. As someone who had to visit A&E a few years back to get a tetanus shot after stepping on a discarded fishing hook I know just how painful an unexpected encounter can be.

So, what is to be done? First up a little personal responsibility goes a long way. If you’re out and about and there isn’t a bin nearby, or it’s full, please take it with you. We’ve all been sat outside having a picnic when a gust of wind has whipped something away. We chase after hats but not so much after rubbish, so perhaps more effort on that front is needed.  And I’m not suggesting everyone should do it, because I’d hate for anyone to injure themselves, but if you see something sharp lying around and you can move it safely then why not? Today I used a spare bucket to collect a few items lying on the beach, hopefully sparing someone an injury, and disposed of them safely. I consider it a bit of micro-volunteering (must blog about that some other time) and it makes me feel like I’ve done a good deed for the day. The majority shouldn’t have to clean up after the anti-social minority but if more people did a little, spaces would be that bit safer and tidier.

The Marine Conservation Society has a number of campaigns running in relation to clean seas and beaches. These include Beach Watch and the Beachwatch Big Weekend. Every year volunteers collect vast quantities of rubbish! Their basic safety guidelines include using heavy duty garden gloves if you have them, and staying away from containers or drums that may contain hazardous substances. For anyone who is interested in joining in you can look for organised events here.

The disposal of plastic bags is a big issue above and below water and, while in this country there doesn’t seem to be much momentum behind banning or taxing them, I’d like to think we as a nation could be more proactive about minimising our use of them without needing to be compelled. So many shops now sell cotton, hemp and jute bags (among others) with fabulous designs on, why not tote something that’s far more attractive than a carrier bag. And if you need lots for a big shop consider buying the reusable bags on offer. They don’t cost much, many places will replace them for free once they are coming to the end of their life and you don’t end up with hundreds of the single use blighters to dispose of.

Our oceans and outdoor spaces can be absolute jewels, and it would only take some small changes to make a big difference, so this is really a plea for people to think more about their actions and make the most of these natural assets!

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