Tuesday 31 August 2010


An active weekend in Bristol including a cycle ride to Bath and back (36 miles at full pelt and no injuries except a sore behind), a vertiginous walk over Brunel's bridge, a ferry ride around the harbour (a bargain at under £5), and larging it up at the Old Duke music festival. I also take a rather classy photo of St Mary's Redcliffe, Bristol's best church and much more interesting than the Cathedral (whose nave is a machine-carved Victorian reconstruction - not a great look). St Mary's, built by Bristol's merchants to offset their greedy weekday devotion to Mammon, was described by Elizabeth I as "the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England" and she knew what she was talking about architecturally unlike the current heir. The church is full of history which I won't try to describe but if you visit don't miss two quirky monuments outside - the grave of Tom (1912-27), the church mouser who used to sit next to the organist during services, and a great piece of twisted tramline stuck at a crazy angle into the graveyard, blown clean over the church by a 1,000 kg bomb (Bristolians famously shouted abuse at Churchill when he visited following the near destruction of their City in 1941).

In the interests of ecumenicalism I should also mention John Wesley's New Room, the first Methodist chapel in the world (including his tiny bedsitter upstairs), an oasis of spiritual calm surrounded by the vast and depressing Broadmead shopping centre indistinguishable from any other city's "retail park" and selling all the usual rubbish. There is a Welsh connection as the chapel was taken over by the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists until it was returned to the Methodist Church a century ago. Looking at the plain, understated but beatifully proportioned building it occurs to me that, whatever the competing religious merits may be between different denominations, in matters of good taste the Nonconformists certainly come out on top...