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w/e 2023-04-23

I spent three-days-and-two-nights in Bristol this week. Partly so as to not spend too much time at home alone while Mary was in London, partly because it’d be good to see some friends anyway, and partly because we have a thirty-year university reunion soon and I wanted to have a proper catch-up with people outside of whatever that will turn out to be.

I had a lovely time, wandering around old haunts in better-than-expected weather, and chatting to friends I hadn’t seen in weeks, years, or possibly decades. I’m not sure the last time I spent an evening – never mind two – sitting in restaurants/pubs/bars chatting to friends (recent birthday party aside). The good stuff.

It might have been ten years since I was last in Bristol and I had a bit of a parallel world feeling walking around. The structure of the city is so familiar to me from living there for five years, 28 years ago, so I didn’t need to think about how to get to most places. But on the journey almost every shop, café etc, was different to what I remember. Like a video game Bristol in which they had to change all the signage.

A photo from the point of view of sitting at a table outside a coffee shop, looking across Park Street in Bristol, on a sunny day. An out of focus disposable coffee cup and a magazine are in the foreground. A young woman wearing big lace-up boots, a long skirt and an off-the-shoulder top is walking past. A mural high up on the building opposite depicts someone holding a large bunch of purple and orange flowers in front of their face.
Sitting outside a coffee shop on Park Street. (Apologies to the passer-by in the only one of several photos that looked OK.)

Also, one of the biggest differences was: many more coffee shops. While I was aware of how many had opened in London over the decades, this was obviously a gradual process. But returning to somewhere after so long, it was much more obvious how big a change that is. Way back, when a cappuccino was the height of coffee sophistication, Bristol only had a handful of coffee shops, and they were closer to cafés than today’s Artisinal Barista Experiences.

But anyway, the highlight was seeing friends, and being able to settle into long conversations with people I hadn’t seen for so long. I’m very grateful that it’s been possible to sustain such good, long-term friendships despite not enough actual contact.

Today, back home, my out-of-practise brain has been too full of remembered chatter, and lots of thoughts, and I’ve thankfully not had to do any listening or talking, unless you count shouting at squirrels.

§ While in Bristol I avoided the one afternoon of drizzle by going to see Rye Lane (Raine Allen Miller, 2023) at Watershed, home of some of my favourite movie experiences, which records tell me, I hadn’t been to since seeing Chungking Express in 1995. Not much had changed (which is good) apart from very nice new gender neutral toilets.

Rye Lane was a bit like a musical without any songs (which is also good). Fun, silly, romantic, a bit over-the-top, a bit predictable. Vivian Oparah as Yas was especially good.

§ This week we finished watching both seasons of Looking, which we really enjoyed. The characters were interesting, fun, but sometimes annoying, and there were bonus views of San Francisco, which is always a big plus. I enjoyed Lauren Weedman’s performance most – the others were entirely fine but she seemed much more alive, as if her lines were just occurring to her. We’ll miss the characters, even the annoying ones, but we also have the movie to watch yet.

§ That’s all.

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