Saturday, 1 February 2014

Leaving Bristol

Sambuca runs down my arm, leaving behind a sticky aniseed trail as I reach the disposable shot glasses over the dancing crowd to my friends. The Lonely Tourist accepts one with mumbled and uncertain thanks as they get handed out; perhaps he's more of a whisky drinker.

Behind the microphone, Gaz Brookfield and the part of the floor called the stage, the leaded windows are running with condensation. The crowd is singing and dancing, eating up the last fifteen minutes of 2013. The small Bank Tavern, hidden away on John Street, is full on New Year's Eve. Not rammed, but full enough everyone seems familiar as you jostle to the bar. The wood panelled walls are hung with blow-ups of banknotes and portraits of the Queen, on windowsills LED candles flicker amongst stacks of books. The old illuminated by the faux old.

That familiarity of the people around the bar is a miniature version of the feeling I have towards Bristol after living here for more than seven years, even if you don't know the names, you recognise the faces. Leaving Bristol isn't going to be easy.

When I first moved to Bristol I wasn't very impressed, it came across as expensive, snobbish and irritatingly hilly. So how did Bristol come to feel like home?

Simple really, like anywhere else does; familiarity, friends and places you associate with good times.

Familiarity is the easiest, all it takes is walking around. Soon you'll find where all the things you need are, some shortcuts and some landmarks. If you don't know anyone to start with making friends is harder, you have to find like minded groups of people through work, sport or some other hobby. I was lucky that I started to work in Bristol with a large group of people, so that was easier.

But to make somewhere really feel like home, to bind you to it more than a place where you know how to find a pub, a post office, and a supermarket it needs to remind you of memorable events you experienced there. Every time you see that street, that house or that venue you're taken back a little bit to your previous experience. Every time, like muscle memory, building a link to the physical space, building a bit more the feeling of home.

Good memories come from the best times, when it feels like the city has conspired to make everything just for you. The right people, the right music, the right weather, the right time. A few moments like that and you'll feel right at home, and Bristol’s offered plenty of those moments:

Wayne's World double bill and air guitar competition and the Cube Microplex. Stinking, sweaty, high energy gigs in The Croft's tiny rooms. The Downs with a barbecue on a last sunny Sunday of summer. Roccotillo's milkshakes. Thespians mopping their stage after a downpour in Queen Square. Testing new Pie Minister pies. A fast lap of Ashton Court bike trail. Long evenings talking the World's most important nonsense in the Highbury Vaults. Cider at The Apple. Heras fencing the Lloyds amphitheatre.  Huge portions at Planet Pizza. Gigs Mr Wolf's. Dancing to a band in the tiny space next to The Old Duke's bar. Cocktails at the hidden Haus Bar. The boats in Underfall Yard. The bike path from Bristol to Bath. The terror of playing The Louisiana for the first time. Paddling a dragon boat with all your might in the docks. Snowy sliding in Brandon Park. Relaxing on the grass in Victoria Park. Sunday breakfast in The Bristol Friary. A curry in the cellar at the Raj followed by late drinks at Renato's. 

It's these and many more moments, and the people they were shared with, that make somewhere home.