Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Local knowledge

I'd never read, or even seen, The Godfather but Paccamora on Catherine Hill was an ideal venue to learn more about that complex political world, over an amazing supper created by Loredana Waters for her 'Literary Reading' event on Friday. Jamie Thomas-King, famed for his role in The Tudors (a series "light on dates and heavy on sex, glamour and lovely table settings" according to The Guardian review) read two dramatic scenes as we nibbled authentic Sicilian cuisine in cushioned candlelight. Originally formed to support the poor through solidarity, the Mafia is now synonymous not only with racketeering but with Sicily itself, and Lore was anxious we should know that only 2% of the five million in her homeland have any such links...  which I make 10,000...
Tales of sex and violence take me neatly to Bedminster on Saturday for the Show of Strength theatrical walk Why Don't We Do It In The Road? Writer Sheila Hannon researched the quirky, and often gory, history of these streets to introduce us to authentic characters like Alfred Daw Collard the poet-butcher who penned ditties in his slaughterhouse. Less jolly was the history of The Bull pub which doubled as Magistrates Court and was known locally as The Bull and Butchery. Mrs Gardner, matron of the Victorian jail in North Street, tells of the last public hanging in Bristol when the prison governor fainted as seven men wrestled an 18-year-old servant girl to the scaffold, despite the 3500-signature petition to the Home Office to save her.
After gruesome tales of grave robbers & body snatchers we moved on to more modern times with Lucky Eric, who introduced us to traditional features like a drain cover made by Thomas Crapper, ending the tour with the 1983 Brinks Mat Warehouse Robbery which unexpectedly has a local connection too: stolen gold was smelted down in a North Street house and laundered through the local Barclays, where apparently no suspicions were aroused by the deposit and withdrawal of a few hundred million pounds in a few weeks. All stirring stuff, lucidly animated by actors Kim Hicks & Chris Yapp and much enjoyed by those who braved the gales to follow them.
Another image to end this posting, from the blossom-filled lanes around Frome which make me think of Brendan Kennelly's fabulous (longer) poem Begin:
Every beginning is a promise
born in the light and dying in the dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work... 
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending, 
that always seems about to give in,
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

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