Monday, 25 November 2013

Food: The Thali Cafe, Southville

On Saturday a friend and I endeavoured to go for a long bike ride in the bright autumn sun, only to find ourselves distracted as soon as we got to North Street in Bedminster (very close to our starting point of Bristol's harbourside, trust me!). I hadn't yet been to North Street with the arty independent eateries and exciting performance spaces it offers (The Tobacco Factory theatre is here). I was very excited to see the glittering front of The Thali Cafe, recommended widely, so we decided to pop in for light afternoon refreshment. 

The Thali Cafe opened its Southville branch – the fifth in the chain – in March this year. With a large floor space and retro design, it has a great atmosphere. The food is gorgeous to match – I enjoyed herby chicken and delicious sticky paneer skewers, washed down with a fresh lime soda. And if that wasn't enough, we drew the afternoon out and I couldn't resist a delightful lemon sorbet – yum!

Now I'll have to check out the other four branches, starting with my local in Montpelier.

Afternoon nourishment at The Thali Cafe, Southville | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Vintage photography, old radios and retro design at The Thali Cafe, Southville | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
No shortage of bright primary colours here | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Vintage sound | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
The Thali Cafe, Southville | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

We stayed long enough for the atmospheric lighting to come out... | Photo: Rosie Pentreath


Friday, 15 November 2013

Literature: Things You Should Know

I believe that there are things in life that everyone should know, should be aware of. Things that all should ponder and contemplate, and – above all – be respectful of. Writer A.M. Homes may have had a similar thought when she compiled and titled her 2002 anthology of short stories. Or maybe I am projecting my own values on this collection (it does contain a central story entitled Things You Should Know after all), but I am happy with that.

Things You Should Know is a goldmine of eloquent and striking commentaries on the desires, fears, dissatisfaction and peculiarities of everyday life. Homes builds colourful snippets and windows into entire worlds so fully in the imagination that you can almost taste them. And she is rare in her talent for writing equally convincingly from both the female and male perspective, not to mention her ability to construct a protagonist of any age. This is strong stuff.

Her writing beautifully communicates the pain of things not said and emotions repressed. Also – young voyages of discovery and the painful awkwardness of adolescence. Rules to live by can be found hidden in the luminous prose.

The central story, Things You Should Know, has a simple and lovely wisdom (you must read it) and in Do Not Disturb a frank voice states 'Expect less and you won't be disappointed.' There is something in that and it doesn't have to be cynicism.

Reading this set made me think back to the exhibition at Arnolfini contemporary art gallery I saw last Saturday – Mierle Laderman Ukeles Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980. The same maintenance of creativity is implied and Ukeles' assertion that 'The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom' can be applied to the mental states of many of the Homes's frustrated characters. And along with the stunning poignance of Homes's prose is the gorgeous use of metaphor, such as in The Weather Outside Is Sunny And Bright (again, you must read it). 

An eye-opening and affirming collection, this is one I know will chance my life a little bit in the way that some books (and films and art and music etc) can.

NB: The book's cover photography (above) is by Thomas Grünfeld.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Playlist: Young Galaxy

Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy | Photo: Promotional

What better way is there to bring warmth into these chilly dark evenings than revisiting something a bit summery? I reviewed Young Galaxy's latest album Ultramarine back in April and that is what I have picked up again recently.

Filled with dreamy riffs and gorgeous descriptions of summer days, love and sleepwalking, every track has great energy and irresistible appeal. And upon regular listening I have discovered hidden gems, not least the concluding section of In Fire, emotive and beautiful as it is, appearing rather unexpectedly when the song seems ready to end.

Another Young Galaxy album I love is Shapeshifting. It includes the ethereal For Dear Life and the brilliantly uplifting We Have Everything. Brilliant dream pop.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Art: Mierle Laderman Ukeles Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980, Arnolfini

Arnolfini is currently showcasing the first solo exhibition of the early works of artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Born in Denver in 1939, the artist was particularly interested in everyday routines in her work and in 1969 wrote a Manifesto for Maintenance Art to question the place of art and aesthetics in the task of keeping the basic systems for survival maintained.

A large portion of this exhibition focuses on her project following the working lives of New York's sanitation workers, displayed in letters, photographs and film footage. Ukeles dedicated eleven months to working alongside 'sanmen' and getting to know their hopes and frustrations as workers surrounded by taboo and social hierarchy. It is moving to experience the passion and efforts she devoted to communicating the men's personalities through this exhibition. Her thanks is genuine and her art respectful.

I was worried that her attempt at hands-on experience in the sanitisation department of America's largest city would come across as patronising. After all, here is an artist that will dip into this way of life for a matter of months before returning to the relative comfort of an artist's studio and the limelight with which it can become lit.

But coupled with the other main part of the exhibition – an exploration of the mundane and everyday routine in her own life through Art (with a capital 'a' of course) – Ukeles comes across as a rather humble and unpretentious enquirer.

'I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother. (Random order). I do a hell of a lot of cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, (up to now separately), I 'do' Art. Now I will simply do these everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.' (Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969)

Ukeles' Maintenance Art seeks to challenge everyday life. 'The sourball of every revolution', the manifesto states, '[is the question,] after the revolution who is going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?'

This is hugely poignant for me. We may dream, imagine, create, celebrate and fall in love in our lifetime, but what about everything in between? The mundanity becomes a real struggle, indeed according to Ukeles 'The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom'. It is something I have often contemplated and fought against, and I doubt I am alone in that.

'Development: pure individual creation / Maintenance: keep the dust off pure individual creation'

This exhibition perfectly captures Mierle Laderman Ukeles' experience of the fundamental questions surrounding human existence and the difficulty of confronting the tasks that fuel civilisations' advancement. Her's is a powerful achievement.

Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Touch Sanitation, 1979-1980 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Transfer – The Maintenance of the Art Object, 1973 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Washing, Tracks, Maintenance – Outside, 1973 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Art Interviews at A.I.R Gallery, NY, 1973-1973 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980, installation view, Arnolfini | Photo: Stuart Whipps/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980, installation view, Arnolfini | Photo: Stuart Whipps/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Mierle Laderman Ukeles Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980 runs at Arnolfini, Bristol until Sunday 17th November. Visit:

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown

On a windy and rainy Wednesday I decided to seek refuge in my favourite cinema in Bristol. Among the usual compelling choices on the bill at the Watershed was The Broke Circle Breakdown.

The Broken Circle Breakdown is an intoxicating Belgian drama that traces the demise of a relationship when a couple lose their daughter at the age of six. Following a non-linear narrative, Felix van Groeningen's film is adapted from a stage play by Johan Heldenbergh, and focuses brilliantly and intensely  on personalities and emotional experience.

A very beautiful film, it conveys the frustrations, passions, loves, disappointments and losses that are rarely avoided in a single life. On top of the fantastic acting and gorgeously fluid transitions between scenes, the energetic Appalachian music – something I grew up watching my dad and, later on, my sister play at folk sessions in my 'local' – that provides the soundtrack and part of the plot made it all the more relatable for me. Set in rural Belgium and centring around the shared lives of two bohemians (her a tattoo artist, he a bluegrass musician), the plot throws up no shortage of stunning photography.

This is a powerful and heartbreaking watch. Vivid colours and incredible tattoo designs by Marie Brabant accompany the music to make a very visceral depiction of a life as it falls apart. Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh give unforgettable performances, not to mention the young Nell Cattrysse as Maybelle.

Visit: for screening of European films.