Friday, April 14, 2017

Christina Hollis—Research: It's A Tough Job...

Bristol Docks, via Pixabay
...but somebody has to do it.

I spent last week in Bristol, laying the groundwork for my next book, Women’s Lives In Bristol, 1850-1950. I was born six miles outside the city, and worked at its financial heart for fifteen years. It’s changed so much since I moved across the Severn to live in rural Gloucestershire, I hardly recognised the place. 

Once I’d checked into my hotel and got out onto the streets, I had a bit of a wobble. What on earth had I done? Everywhere looked so different, and I no longer had any contacts in the area. Luckily, some things don’t change. Bristolians are as friendly now as they always were. The first person I asked told me to follow the Blue-Signed Path (as opposed to the Yellow Brick Road) to the old bond warehouse which now houses the Bristol archives. That made me nervous for a different reason. The places around what’s known in the local lingo as the Float Narbour (Floating Harbour) used to be avoided by lone women, unless they were on “business”. 

I was in for another surprise—the whole dockland area has been transformed. It now has sunny plazas, and the water is hemmed with smart apartments. Little front gardens spill flowers onto a wide, level walkway. 

Designed by Brunel (with a little help from Sarah Guppy)
via Pixabay
The Bristol archive was exactly two miles from my hotel room, door-to-door. The weather was glorious, so the walk was easy. It was also safe, although I had to keep an eye out for cyclists and skateboarders. 

I set out on that first morning with only one problem left to solve. As I love food so much, it was a biggie. In the whole of my walk I’d only seen one place serving food of a kind I fancied eating for the whole week. Yes, there were plenty of KFC’s, Macdonalds, Pizza Expresses and the rest, but I only eat that kind of thing once or twice a year, as a treat. The rest of the time, we live on local, seasonal, home-cooked food. Eating out usually means the one or two local places that serve food of the sort I’d cook for myself and my family, if only I had the time. I’m funny that way!

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It looked like I’d be existing on supermarket snacks, and visits to a teeny-tiny vegan pop-up, next to an enormous and very busy shisha lounge. That didn’t appeal at all, but I needn’t have worried.  When I pushed open the door of the B Bond warehouse, it opened into a small café serving fresh, local vegetarian food. I’m a carnivore, but as the daughter of a market gardener I was brought up to love vegetables and fruit in all their variety. A place where I could work and eat home-cooked food without doing the washing up, all under the same roof? I was in heaven.

Above, you can see a picture posted on social media by the chef. I wasn’t entirely sure about her green-pea-and-vanilla sponge cake (centre back of the pic), though. Peas in cake? That took some thinking about. I mean, beneath its frosting, that cake was green. Green cake? 

The other customers weren’t so squeamish. By the time I’d plucked up the courage to try some, the whole cake had been eaten. They said it was delicious. More fool me, for dithering!

When she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women.  Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. Catch up with her at, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at  worldwide.

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