¦ dialling in from Sky Bunker ¦
It was my birthday the other day. I was trying to recall the last time I’d actually celebrated it – always away or “too busy” writing to bother. I think it was when I was 25.
So a last-minute text to a bunch of folks living in Bristol led to a fantastic night at the Grain Barge, an old boat moored up on the edge of the harbour loaded with smiles and the best local ales (Bristol Beer Factory) this side of the planet.
It was lovely to see disparate clusters of friends and new individuals come together in one place; many of them had never met each other before – only knowing me. So it was great to see new connections forming and conversations flowing. Fab cake from The Crew.
Skip to this weekend and creative freedom. Second weekend in a row where I’ve got nothing planned but writing.
I get to indulge, sinking into the other worlds that rotate through my mind.
Feedback from last month’s launch – The Black Lake - my 7th novel – has been exceptional. So I’m delighted and feeling more motivated than ever.
I nailed 2,000 words in about 4 hours, working on The Social Club (London in the post-Yellow Dawn world, where the Power of Eight Group have taken control).
Outside the dense fog of the morning had burned away with the sun; the city, stretching out below looked almost like something from a novel. Surrounded by the dense green tangle of nature roaming across the hills that cross the horizon. That’s what I love about Bristol and living here. A blend of ancient and modern, of urban and rural, every concept rubbing shoulders with everything else.
I did the walk into the city, about four miles, dropping down from this hilly vantage point through old Victorian industrial zones, along pre-Victorian canal paths and closed businesses from the 1980s. My mission was to meet up with Oj at the Cottage Inn, down in Hotwells. Another 2 miles striding with a warm breeze blowing through my loose fitting shirt; no jacket or heavy bag, just dark blue jeans and hiking boots; big headphones clamped to my ears. Walking now takes me past the 12th century structure of St Mary’s Redcliffe and the preserved remains of a thousand years of trade, war, religion and industry that dominates and shapes the Bristol harbourside.
Cottage Inn. Sitting outside in the sun at a heavy wooden table, devouring Fish and chips with a mountain of mushy peas and a pint of ale.
Great British Fish and Chips and Mushy peas – Click for Full Size
Then walking further through Hotwells, round, to the Grain Barge and there’s magic man, part of the crew, standing outside tempting us to join him. We clamber out onto the front of the boat, outside the super structure, and plonk ourselves down on the rusting ledge with legs dangling over the water. There’s a girl next to me with a short skirt and cowboy boots reading a book by Anaïs Nin. We quickly get talking. From Dostoyevsky and The Gambler to the dream of commercialised space flight.
Oj and I depart. Drifting rather dreamily through the apartment blocks lining the harbour on the way towards Lloyds amphitheatre. There’s a couple hundred skateboarders clustered around the exit point of a particularly difficult jump, all whooping with delight or supportive groans as various kids give it a go. Great vibe.
And then in Millenium Square we find deck chairs and bean bags have been laid out in rows for the public to come along and enjoy; a massive screen and sound system are showing the Last Night of the Proms. Its surreal and wonderful. We grab a couple of deckchairs and stay there for an hour whilst the sky shifts through blues and purples into violet and indigo as the sun sets. Joseph Calleja, a new tenor hot from Malta, gave a luxuriant performance of part of Verdi’s “A Masked Ball” – Forse la soglia attinse … Ma se m’è forza perderti.
Joseph Calleja performs part of Verdi’s Masked Ball – Un ballo in maschera – BBC Last Night of the Proms – PHOTO BBC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Deckchairs and Last Night of the Proms in Bristol 2012
It’s dark when we leave. I’m shivering a little, the cold of night now clawing through my light shirt.
So we stop into Bordeaux Quay on the way to find a taxi. Enter Lucas, barman with an epic knowledge of cocktails. We bounce around the idea of a night where folks attend a sort of life-coaching session, describing their lives woes and their dreams, and getting them to make cocktails that define the essence of these emotional states.
“I can imagine a lot of Marriage on the Rocks,” I said, and supped a Black Label from a solid orb of glass whilst discussing the idea of dessert and something to wash it down with. I ordered my favourite: crème brûlée. Whilst Lucas delivered an Espresso Martini with a twist; using Galliano Ristretto, along with coffee and vodka to balance the bitterness. It looked amazing. It tasted amazing. And it nearly took my brain into the stratosphere: caffeine and the sugar injection from the crème brûlée. I named it ROC. Russian Organised Crime.
Espresso martini by Lucas – ROC
Finally, we’re in a taxi home and I’m feeling like I’ve been on holiday – but in my own city.
Bristol. What a place of random adventure. Where friendships are formed in the twist of a smile, the clink of a stainless steel spoon against ceramic or the toasting of new things beneath raised glasses of ale.
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David J Rodger – DATA