Gossip, literature and cocktails

Arnos Vale twisted treeI don’t believe a birthday should last just a day – I think it should be at least a week-long celebration. So I began my birthday week yesterday, with two very different revelries. 

Gossip From The Forest coverThe first was an event at Foyles bookshop in Bristol as part of Bristol Festival of ideas. One of my favourite authors, Sara Maitland, was there to talk about her book Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales, which she described as part natural history, part a history of forests and part an examination of her theory that we have the kind of fairy tales that we do because we have grown up surrounded by forests.

It’s a gorgeous idea, and utterly plausible – in woods things are often heard and sometimes glimpse yet not seen fully – the perfect measures for fertile minds to make something from. They hold in atmospheres that reflected and deepen our moods, so that if you enter warily you can become properly afraid, and if you enter contemplatively, you can sink deeper into yourself.

They’re places where wildlife rustles all around you, and whose to say that those creatures springing and pausing unseen overhead really are nothing as innocuous as squirrels or birds?

I’ve yet to read Gossip from the Forest, but utterly loved Sara’s previous book, A Book of Silence, which I’ll review here on Monday.

I was sooo overdressed for this event, to the extent that one of the book sellers crossed the room drawn by the twinkles sewn into my dress! The reason for this is that the next chapter of the night was speakeasy The Milk Thistle. I hadn’t been there before, but had head many enticing things about the place, not least its lengthy cocktail menu, but its house rules, which seem like a list of etiquette from yesteryear, with favourites including:

  1. Name dropping is very much frowned upon.
  2. No fancy dress, except of course for period attire
  3. Swearing, hooting, shouting or shrieking shall not be tolerated; there are other people here too
  4. Gentlemen will refrain from approaching ladies they are not previously acquainted with, unless of course they are invited to do so

Milk Thistle doorwayEven gaining entry is something of a game, as there is no sign and you have to ring a doorbell then wait for a member of staff to open the door to you. The menus are printed in the form of a newspaper (presumably in case the police burst in searching for prohibition infringers).

We broke one rule by having more than 10 people in our party, but were very well behaved considering. I did wonder if we might get chucked out for an overuse of bubble mixture though. What? It is my birthday!

At the Milk Thistle cr Frances Gard

 

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