Bristol again30 November 2017
Last weekend I visited Bristol, which was the first time in close to four years since I last visited, and just under five years since Bristol stopped being somewhere I lived. I had no specific plan to visit Bristol on what is an approximate 5-year anniversary, but like my last visit events resulted in me making a trip over. This time round I came to Bristol with a life that has progressed independently of the city, and although in hindsight there are signs I left Bristol just before things started to improve, from my perspective they are all too little too late.
The job at the timeEarlier in the month marked the day I last worked in the UK, but this was in itself just one of many contemporary milestones in a short period of time, and of these one that was effect rather than cause. Until only recently this job was my longest-lasting employment, which cannot pass without some comment. However I look back at it, my job at the time was sustaining a life situation I knew had to change, and until I left this job nothing was going to improve. To all intents and purposes the job, which I have already written about in depth, was my life. Economic circumstances dictated it be so, but the whole “you have the job” argument about maintaining such as status-quo negates other costs such as mental well-being. The job itself was a strain in many different ways, and in hindsight I was on a road to a breakdown. Leaving the job was an enabling act. It would be a year before my life had comparable stability, and objectively the time in New Zealand before then was pretty much a failure, but it was liberating. It would be three years later — in 2015 — before my professional life would be back on a track I wanted it to be on, and my personal life feels like catch-up. I don't know whether I'll actually own property again anytime soon, though that in itself does not bother me, and renting has the walk-away advantages.
Previous visitsMy previous visits were likley biased due to the limited areas I visited, and in the case of March 2013 was influenced by a tinge of sour grapes. This latter visit which was part of a visit back from New Zealand, was due to the flat being disposed of, and the date coincided with a farewell party at the student's union building before much of it was to be handed over to university office space. All in a reinforced feeling of many things coming to an end, and at the time I treated it as a final “goodbye”. The February 2014 visit was for a Chinese new-year party I was personally invited to by the organiser, and on this latter visit it seemed Bristol's economy had at least levelled-off, but Bristol city council's somewhat zealous anti-car attitude had finally hit oppressive levels. Both visits made me conclude it was right to leave.
New first impressionsAt first it seemed the place has finally turned around as my first port of call after parking was what looked like a newly-opened restaurant in Stokes Croft, near what is now called the Bear Pit (the James Barton roundabout south of the 51-02 building). However walking up Park Street the next morning made me doubt this initial assumption, a soon enough I came across quite a few empty units, including the former Bennies resturant which looked derelict. Then there was Roamers & Seekers which had an eviction notice pasted on the outside that was dated only three weeks previously. Several units on the Triangle were also closed down including notably Jack Wills, although most of these including the latter were relocations. However then came the bomb-shell:
A mural of this style with barbed wire on top would not look out of place in Stokes Croft, but this was in Clifton Village — the supposedly posh part of Bristol. For parts of show-case Clifton to look like a ghetto, I would not hold up much hope for the rest of Bristol being anything like up-and-coming, let alone being the well-off city I once remember it being back in the mid-2000s. This was a shock as I remember friends mentioning that Bristol house prices were shooting up, and later on this view turned out to be a bit pessimistic, but it did show how things would be somewhat mixed.
Whiteladies which I visited later had a fair few eateries on it now and they all seemed to be doing well, and the old cinema next to Cowshed is once again an operational cinema. However be.in.Bristol (formerly The Ranch) next to Vittoria seems to have closed down yet again and what was Sasparilla is no longer a tavern, but this area has never really been much of a night-life zone — further up Whiteladies there is no trace of the former Sloanes. Whiteladies between the station and the auction rooms is dominated by kitchen & furniture shops, many occupying at least two retail units in a row, which I remember taking note of previously — it is pretty clear someone behind these companies is driving a hard bargain with a land-lord wanting to avoid high vacancy rates. Having said that the large number of such stores means there is demand for high-value house merchandise, which was not the case back in 2012.
Controlled ParkingI remember the introduction of the Kingsdown RPZ (Residents Parking Zone), which although the consultation was not outright rigged, was in the face of multiple complaints which were not properly addressed. The scheme involved reducing the number of available parking spaces within the area, with the number of spaces expected to be available being far lower than than the number of properties qualifying for permits. Anyway as people like me expected it did end up becoming a money-spinner that was eventually rolled out city-wide as part a nakedly anti-car agenda by a council that when I last looked seemed increasingly communist-leaning.
Even though my hotel (I stayed elsewhere the first night) was able to issue me with a temporary permit for the local area, I did not bother as free spaces looked thin on the ground. Parking has always been a problem in Bristol and especially Clifton, but it is not worse than when parking was unrestricted. I suspect this much-expanded controlled parking is partly responsible for killing off shops in the Triangle and Park Street area, as the ones that relocated rather than going bust went to areas such as Cabot Circus that have on-site car parks. Lack of free city centre parking is why I did not bother with any shopping.