When I moved to England, to Bristol, from my little Scottish island, the first place I lived was Clifton village. I thought 'this is what England is like' and was amazed and terrified. Clifton village is a village within a town that feels like a village. The people who live there are the kinds of people whose wives drive Mini Coopers to lunch dates and whose husbands drive Saabs and Audis to offices five minutes' walk away and keep vintage Jaguars in the garage for glorious Sundays. Heroes and darlings of the cultural world can also be found here, playing the piano with the windows wide to see who stops to listen.
This is my favourite part, Royal York Crescent, because you can spy on these lives so effectively from here. The windows, under their humbug-striped canopies, are old and enormously wide and tall – a statement from a time when sheets of glass that size were rare – and resemble shopfronts, displaying the wares inside. There are few net curtains: an assumption that those who live or walk in Clifton are too polite to peer inside? An invitation to do just that? I always look in.
Some are minimalist white and bare inside. Others embrace the architecture and attempt a befitting atmosphere: regency armchairs, dark shiny mahogany sideboards, imperious lamps. A few have been lived in unchanged for decades, and look nicely dated, like old curiosity shops that I might like to have a rummage in, given the chance.
I wandered around it in the early afternoon in my thoroughly modern American Apparel dress, layered over a white skirt and tube top from the same, carrying my grandmother's white gloves (which she once wore to launch a ship, I'm told) and her (and my) prized neckscarf on my head, I suppose contrasting the old and the new in the same way as the buildings do. Then my camera battery ran out.
Dress, Skirt, Top: American Apparel
Scarf, Gloves, Bag: Pinched from my mother, Pinched from my mother, Charity shopped (respectively)