Friday, 24 January 2014

Bristol, a memory

Inspired by the lovely Jai, a memory from my time in Bristol, as a student. 

Street Art in the "People's Republic of Stokes Croft"
Do you remember my last autumn as a student in Bristol? When the motivation was slowly running out but the essays just kept on pouring in? When three months seemed far too short for a deadline, but like an eternity to be apart? 

Graffitti in St Paul's
I remember that November. With it's dismally grey days and howling wind and lashing rain. And  I remember in the middle of it all, deadlines, wind and rain, you said you would come to Bristol and visit me.

The Canteen, Stokes Croft
It took you two and a half days to get there from the Pyrenees: hitch-hiking up the west of France, across the channel by ferry and then a coach to Brizzle. 

But you came. 

I met you at the bus station. We hadn't seen each other for nearly two months. You took me in your arms and I melted.Then I took you by the hand, and I showed you the city. 

ConsumAction in Stoke's Croft
For five days, we walked the city streets. That November, they were occupying Council Green and there was still yet no Tesco's in Stokes Croft. We rummaged in the charity shops along Gloucester Road and you ransacked Oxfam Books whilst I was in class. I showed you the guerilla knitting in St Andrew's Park and the best place in town to buy a falafel sandwich. 

View of Bristol, from Clifton
We devoured Turkish pastries and salty yoghurt drinks from Bristanbul. We wandered through the allotments and eco quartier in St Werburghs, and I took you to see a hidden climbing wall. We searched in vain for reggae in St Paul's, but managed to find some Banksy graffiti in Easton. 

Terraced houses in St Werburgh's

In between lectures, we walked through Clifton to the suspension bridge. We watched a foreign film at the Watershed. We bought croissants then went into the Canteen to drink coffee and read the Guardian. We ate a scorching curry at the Thali café.

The legendary Thali café, Montpellier
And do you remember the afternoon when I bunked off of class, for the first time in my life? When we hired a tandem from the Bristol Bike Project? We had the hair-brained idea to cycle to Bath along the old railway. 

I had never been on a tandem before. You went in front, steering the way. I sat behind and closed my eyes, terrified. We cycled around the streets of Easton, you shouting out instructions, me, protesting with every turn of the pedal: "MOINS VITE, MOINS VITE!!!" 

Men with dreadlocks and women in djellabas laughed to see the young French couple wobbling past on the tandem. 

Through the streets of Bath, by tandem

And then we found the cycle path, and I found my feet. 

We sailed down to Bath, cycling in unison. It was exhilarating to cycle with you. I had never gone so fast, never gone so far on a bicycle before. I felt on top of the world. We sang songs at the top of our lungs, watched the countryside roll past. Stopped to examine plants or observe birds. 

In Bath, we peddled down to the river, past the Cathedral and then dived into a Tea Rooms. I was badly in need of cake, and you needed a coffee. And then it was back on the tandem, cycling back to Bristol with the wind behind us, beating the dusk before the sun set across the fields.

Recycled Tandem and Putney bridge, Bath

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