Christmas Steps

It’s been an interesting few days because we’ve been over to Bristol – our city of birth- three times, and each time we’ve been able to revisit familiar places. This one is particularly important to me because when Christmas Steps was virtually rebuilt many decades ago, my Grandfather, who was over 70 at the time, came out of retirement to work on the medieval timbers because he was one of very few carpenters who actually knew how these timber framed buildings worked. So I always feel a particular affinity with this important remnant of the City, most of whose medieval buildings were destroyed by bombing during the 2nd world war; and those that weren’t were mostly demolished by planners, just as they were in Bath.

But these few buildings are surrounded and dwarfed by all the usual canyons of undistinguished glass and steel towers. Bristol, a creative boom city, is from a pedestrian’s street level point of view, noisy and rather shabby. There are many empty shops in what were once important shopping centres. Plato thought that cities were a work of art but he’d have held his tongue if he’d been here. Here’s a photo of the now derelict original Bristol Royal Infirmary – the revamped modern hospital is just across the road but why on earth they don’t do something about this ghastly mess is a mystery.

The lettering over the door includes the words “Charity Universal” – Hmmm!

But we couldn’t resist revisiting the Museum and Art Gallery where we found one of the pieces of pottery that most inspired my interest in Chinese ceramics. This Chün dynasty bowl is inspirational in its restraint – an object of meditation,

Later we had lunch at Watershed and were greatly amused to see that so many apparent pitching meetings were going on in the cafe. We felt a bit odd; actually talking to one another with no anticipation of a future commission whilst sharing a bottle of wine and keeping our mobiles in our pockets without a single laptop between us. Most of our fellow diners wore furrowed brows for fear of being suspected of slacking, drank water and spoke of going forward, hiding behind their de rigeur screens. Later again as we walked to the bus station and passed the foot of Christmas Steps again, Madame pointed out the rather elaborate birthday cake she would like me to bake for her. Very well Madam!

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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