bristol: with a blast from the past
Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, in a time that feels like yesterday, it was the four of us, living and working together in a small town in Nova Scotia. The four of us plus our friend Paul (who owned the house) made five. Five people. Five distinct personalities. One roof. One bathroom undergoing slow renovations. One dog. Many mice. Four cold winter months.
Not only was it a full house… it was a gathering spot for friends. The house on Whiterock road was always whiterockin’ (no more cheesy puns past this point, I promise). Given its location, our friends saw it as a stopping point for a quick hello or beer or coffee on the way to or from somewhere. The barn hosted many-a-late-night jam sessions and the hill behind the barn, beneath the forest line, was perfect for the annual luge party each February.
But though we loved each other deeply, you might have guessed that living together wasn’t without its challenges (after all, we were in each others’ faces 24/7). And so, we drank, a lot, during the winter of 2005. It seemed to narrow the gap between our (minor) differences and made the winter seem less long and filled the woodstove-heated kitchen with laughter. So even if there were times when we wanted to whack each other over the head with a cast iron frying pan, you could say that the five of us made a great team, shared fantastic meals and wicked laughs and that the good times always outweighed the fact that someone inevitably left their dirty dishes in the sink.
That Spring, Brian and Saffa flew from the Whiterock nest and moved to England. A few months later, K and I bought our first house in a nearby town and by Fall, Paul sold his house and left to teach up North. And though so much has changed in three years… we each carry memories from that winter and I’m sure they look back on it with as much fondness as I do.
3 years later…
March 8, 2009
It starts to drizzle as I board the bus to Bristol. The sun held on as long as it could for my short visit with Susannah and it is now hiding beneath soft shaded blankets, taking a nap (it must be exhausting being the sun). The heavens open as we near Bristol and it hails against the window pane. The sound is soothing. We get stuck in traffic and arrive 30 minutes late at the train station, where Saffa is waiting for me. We hop in the car and take a million wrong turns in search of the boat yard, which ends up being right around the corner from the train station (we blame our lack of orientation on the pissing rain, being in a city we don’t know and the shittiest map every drawn; I bet they have better maps of remote villages in Africa). But… because of that, by the time we arrive at the boat yard, the rain has stopped, the sun has woken and it is blue skies. Ta Da!
We unload our stuff on her friend’s old boat where we will be spending the night (thank you Gary) and head out in search of a café (this time, walking). Don’t you find chats are always better when your hands are wrapped around a mug of soy latté? Maybe it’s because espresso is fuel for speech. It has been 3 years since I last saw Saffa and there is much catching up to do. So much has changed. Mainly… the two brothers are no longer in the picture and we’ve both left Nova Scotia. I don’t know what makes our friendship different from what it used to be but it feels lighter. Perhaps because we aren’t tied to relationships that make us unhappy. We have grown into ourselves more. And I have to say that the new me and the new her get along splendidly.
After coffee, we walk around until pint time (which varies from person to person… in my book, it’s anytime after noon and it’s always noon somewhere in the world, yes?). You’d think, England… a pub around every corner right? You would be wrong in that assumption. I finally ask someone on the street if they know of a good pub and they point us towards Start the Bus. We sit on the leather couch, drink Bath Ales, eat Devon chips and listen to some indie tunes (we always shared similar taste in music). Bliss and… more bliss.
We go back to the boat for a wee snack (Saffa made quiche with goat’s cheese and rosemary sweet potatoes). The boat is old and made of wood and feels like the home of a captain. The deck is full of terra cotta pots with green sprouts poking out. There are two swans in the water by the front. The inside is small and packed with stuff. A single man lives here and there are beans in a can and hot dogs in a jar (have you ever seen such a thing?) and half an onion drying on the counter. It smells of oil and sea. I love it all.
When the sun sets, we look for a place to eat. We walk forever only to eventually end up right where we started, at The Hole in the Wall, beside the harbour, where I get my first fish and chips and a Guinness. Saweet! Wilbur plunges head first into the thick foamy top. He is delirious and passes out before long. I tuck him into bed. The gnome, ever used to partaking in a cheeky pint (or thimble), keeps a watchful eye over him.
3 years of catching up
1 bottle of wine
1 hard to find cork screw
hmmm. Looks like a recipe for effin fun with 2 capital Fs, me thinks. We decide it’s time for a photo shoot. Without my trustee tripod, I must improvise and build a tower for the camera. Always a good idea to put a camera on a Tupperware bowl on top of an ashtray containing screwdrivers and wrenches and paper clips and pennies (or pence, as it were). And then add a couple dvds and books for good measure. The leaning tower of crap aka Jeanine’s last minute MacGyver tripod. And after all that, we still manage to cut our heads off in every shot. Go figure. You’ve seen it before… wine-induced photo shoots can get pretty silly, which is why I am only posting one photo. The one where Saffa says we look like elf rejects, “like we weren’t quite what Santa was looking for, but maybe we should try again next year”. Dat true (that was for you Safski – wink)
We go to sleep in the bed under the plastic with the big puddle. Let me explain. Old boats are prone to leaks when it rains. So there are pots and pans and bowls on the floor, by the sink, on the table and all around the boat to catch the droplets. Over the bed? A big sheet of plastic. And since we’ve already established that it pissed rain earlier, the plastic did its job. A big round belly of water now hangs over the bed. This has us giggling for minutes on end. We fall asleep to the sweet sound of a boat creaking on the water, swans barking at 2am (who knew such graceful birds sounded so awful)… with fingers crossed that the water won’t break.
You never, ever, EVER know where life is going to take you. Just because you are on one path, doesn’t mean the road won’t suddenly fork, doesn’t mean you can’t turn around and find a short cut or a long scenic route to a different place. When you see people you haven’t seen in ages, people who were walking along the same road as you and then you bump into them years later, in a whole different world… it can be pretty surreal.
And then it’s good to know that some things don’t ever change. We may only be two now, but we are still all jokes. The girl brings out the laughter in me.
At 4:30am, I put my huge pack on my back, walk up the ladder, climb over the wire, hop on top of the white boat next door, jump down, cross the bridge to the cab waiting for me. 20 quid and 30 minutes later I am at the airport eating a croissant and sipping an espresso. Getting ready to leave this beautiful country and start a whole new adventure in Spain.
This concludes the England segment of my trip. If you missed the beginning, start again here. If you’ve been following all along, stay tuned for Spain (and thank you for all the lovely comments — I am so enjoying reliving this trip all over again, with you). If you would like to see other photos of England, I am slowly uploading them to my Flickr account. If you would like to watch a funny video, click here. If you would like to win a million dollars and travel the world? Join the club.
Cheers England! Thanks for the good times. Ola Spain! Here I come.