A Weekend in Bristol

How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you — you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences — like rags and shreds of your very life.

— Katherine Mansfield

Stamping booted feet through wet leaves this weekend, I was enveloped by memories. That’s the thing with old homes – around every corner a former self wanders, uniting past with present. There’s the language department, and my favourite restaurant; the park where we slipped and slid down snowy slopes on makeshift toboggans during that one cold winter that turned our toes to icicles. There’s the school where I played an undertaker in the first-year play, and that’s the street I danced down hand in hand with a boyfriend, over autumn leaves fluttering down from these very same trees. There’s the spot I wrote my final essay, hunched in the corner of the cosiest coffee shop – and that’s my old house, a light flickering in my bedroom window. Who lives there now? Cities we have lived in, and left, are full of memories, aren’t they? How could they be anything but? Bristol is full of whispers of my past life echoing; how surreal to watch scarf-clad students flitting past on their single speeds, baskets filled with library books, and remember the life I once lived.

Bristol is a city made for the kind of autumn gloom that enveloped the British Isles this past weekend. It was a weekend full of laughter and good food: Sunday afternoon spent tucked away in the cosiest and most quintessentially British pub (The Clifton) eating our way through the hours and admiring the little sausage dog padding around our ankles. We browsed the best bookshops, walked across the Suspension Bridge with our necks craned skywards and ate lunch in my very favourite Boston Tea Party.

It is almost always surreal, returning to a place you have loved and left. But this time I felt no urge to return, no desperate longing to recreate the lost life of my university years in Bristol. I loved them dearly, but they are a chapter closed and buried. I am content belonging elsewhere – but Bristol sure is a fine and fair city for a gloomy autumnal visit.

  • This is such a wonderful post! In fact, I have a similar one stored in my drafts ready to be worked on this week, after a weekend spent in my university town, Cheltenham. You word it so well – around every corner a former self wanders, uniting past with present – that is just so spot on.
    This post has made me love Bristol even more than I already did, and now I must plan a visit there because autumn in the city is just something I can’t not experience.

    N xo

  • Annie

    What feelings your words evoke.

  • Julia d

    I have been thinking of this kind if stuff a lot recently….like how you can go from one life stage to the next and not carry on anything, take nothing with you…you lose touch with people and move cities and I guess you bring only the things you learnt, that can’t be seen…all going into the big concoction of you. It’s fascinating isn’t it?? Thanks for a very very thought provoking post. Gorgeous writing style…

    • Exactly. Thank you for leaving your thoughts. I love provoking discussion…especially about how our lives add up. Penelope Lively wrote people are like icebergs…all that ‘stuff’ hiding below the surface. I think it’s a good metaphor! xx

  • Jenny K

    I came to your post from a link in Naomi’s blog and did not expect to find it was about Bristol! I’m at the university here now, and I’m sure that in years to come I’ll be having very similar thoughts to you- there are so many memories already tied up here.
    Jennifer x

  • I want to get to know Bristol more – some of my good friends went there for uni and I visited a few times, but always felt that I wanted to see more of it! Your pictures are utterly beautiful as usual, especially the one of the suspension bridge – it really is such an architectural feat! And I completely empathise with the way you feel when you return to a place that you once loved. I long to return to Cambridge after four years of living there, but it really is a chapter of my life now behind me. I always think it’d be lovely to go back to our university towns one day with my own children 🙂 x

    • The bridge- isn’t it just? It takes my breath away every single time. I’m glad you can empathise – the years after uni are such an odd time! xx

  • Miho

    these photos are absolutely breathtaking, as is your post of course. it makes me want to experience Bristol for myself, but I suppose it’s not so much about the place as much as it is about these places that hold memories for us – I love the idea that we leave imprints in different corners of the world. x

    Miho @ <a href="http://www.wandertowonder.com">Wander to Wonder</a>

    • Thanks Miho! You’re lovely 🙂 Do experience Bristol for yourself. It’s gorgeous at this time of year. xx

  • beautiful!!! Love your camera strap!