I had a plan of sorts for today: a long To Do list and a significant goal. But then, for one reason and another, my plans went awry and whichever way I looked at the situation I could see that I would never get back on track. At least not in a very productive way.

So I took the dog for a walk and, having cleared my head, I set off into town with a new goal in mind: the Norman Parkinson exhibition, An Eye For Fashion, at the M Shed, with a little nose around St Nicholas Market along the way, and perhaps the Arnolfini too.

St Nick’s is undoubtedly the foodie heart of Bristol. Although there are lots of wonderful delis, bakeries, cafes and restaurants dotted all over the city, I think it is fair to say that St Nicholas’s Market has the highest concentration of specialist food stalls and pocket-size restaurants in Bristol. And the number increases twice a week: on Wednesdays with the Farmers’ Market and on Fridays with a string of stalls along Wine street.

And it was on the Wine street stretch that I picked up a box of falafels from Jacob’s Finest (for lunch tomorrow), and one of these goat’s cheese tarts from Chef de Maison (lunch for me when I got home – delicious). Both stalls had long queues when I retraced my steps and hour or so later.

I was sorely tempted by the fabulous cakes on Crumpet’s stand, but then remembered that I’ll be able to treat myself to one of their delicious creations tomorrow, when I take Martha to her dance lesson at The Tobacco Factory as they supply the cafe. From St Nick’s to the M Shed is a brisk ten minute walk, but I ducked into the Arnolfini, and then, sadly, back out again. It was good in parts, but overall, not good enough.

The M Shed opened its doors barely a year ago, and it’s always busy. No wonder – the displays are well-thought out, look wonderful and are very engaging for both adults and children. In places it does, however, feel a little like a work in progress. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. And I think one the museum would agree with, not least because one of its primary functions is to be an ever-expanding repository for local history, and as such it never will be complete. Everywhere there are little blank labels and pots of pencils which invite visitors, Bristolians in particular, to share their experiences and memories of the city.

The Parkinson exhibition is a complete delight – it features photographs from the Angela Williams Archive and covers the ten years from 1954 to 1964, at which point Parkinson left Britain to live in Tobago. It is remarkable to see how much fashion changed in that time; not just the clothes, but the age and appearance of the models who, in the 50s look so much older than their 1960s counterparts. It was oddly refreshing to see that though slightly matronly, the women in the photographs from the 50s were undeniably glamourous. It’s a shame that older models are such a rarity these days.

So although my to do list remains exactly as it was this morning – not a single item has been crossed off – it was a very productive day after all.

PS I would thoroughly recommend getting the catalogue, which at £5 is good value, and it contains lots of lovely images and some interesting essays.

7 thoughts on “awol

  1. My mouth is watering looking at all that gorgeous food! And the exhibition looks fascinating.

    I miss Bristol, I was a frequent visitor to the city growing up in Somerset and later Bath, but my parents moved away from the area and then last year my Bristol based sister moved to The Forest of Dean so now I have no reason to visit.

  2. So appreciate the prod re M Shed & Norman Parkinson. I will try to fit in a visit with the daughter when she does a 24 hour visit to Bristol, & buy her a catalogue to take back to London.

    • Hi Sheri – I think you’ll both really enjoy it, it’s small but perfectly formed, beautifully lit too. If you time it right you might also see seagulls going slightly nuts outside the windows – apparently it’s the mating season and the windows have a reflective coating on the outside, so they see their reflections and think it’s a rival gull. This afternoon one bird in particular kept attacking the windows, first just with his beak and then hurling himself at them, wings flailing.

  3. I loved the Norman Parkinson exhibition too. What you say about the evolution in the age of the models particularly resonated with me. The models of the fifties epitomised the kind of style I remember my mother wearing, while by the sixties I had caught up and these were the clothes that I was wearing.

  4. I’ll glad you went awol and gave us a tour of parts of Bristol. That food looked amazing! My Granny was born and lived in Bristol as a child – mainly in Park Street,and I feel as if I am coming home when I visit in the city. It’s lovely to find new gems to go to on my next visit!

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