Getting a little routine

23 October 2023
For the second time this year and not far off the third time in twelve months, I find myself staying in Bristol, in this instance due to having a business meeting nearby and having noticed a good deal on hotels for the Saturday and Sunday nights of £130 it made sense to catch up with some friends who were in the city. The trip has like previous ones left me with mixed feelings of the place and make me wonder what I really want out of life as well as how I can achieve it.

Central Bristol

The expected end-game

I already had the impression of Bristol being anti-car but even some multi-lane inner-city clearways that used to be 40 MPH are now 20 MPH, and coming in on the M32 was painfully slow. Making the route even more horrid was all the clear signs of economic decline such as the boarded-up Debenhams, and locals tell me that the whole Broadmead area is dead because anyone with a car goes for the free parking in either Cabot Circus or Cripps Causeway, and it is people with cars who buy the most when out shopping. Even though I do not drive that much these days to me this is all Green Party virtue-signalling that is driven by a rabidly anti-car mind-set rather than any actual concern for the environment, and as always happens it has killed business.

Speed sign

The “clean air zone” did not cover the diesel-powered car I was driving and without doubt the vast majority of the vehicles that it does catch are business and logistical for which there is no alternative, but that is something such politicians do not give a damn about. I remember when the “residents'” parking zone came in as well as what it did to city centre business and looking back I saw the writing on the wall — while details of the current situation did not cross my mind the trend was as clear as it could have possibly been. Had I stayed around it would have been not far off the slow and painful change for the worse that was my expectation so I am glad to have gotten out when I did. There was no realistic prospect of anything close so Bristol developing the sort of situation I experienced in 2013 and beyond, which all boiled down to the sort of priorities that those in control had.

Residents' parking

Given the reasons I voted against its introduction in the first place the abolition of the Bristol city mayor is of no surprise, and as I expected it ended up being filled by a pluralist party crank, but prior to then I already had little respect for those running the place. The sheer amount of virtue-signalling I saw is not something that someone of my age wants to put up with, but this is an inevitable consequence of the demographic of this city.

Visiting haunts

I did visit a few places that I had not been to since pre-New Zealand including one or two place that may have last been entered way back in the mid-2000s. Most were surprisingly unsentimental because I did not really remember much about them, to the extent that I was not even sure about refurbishments that had occurred in the time since, so at least some were essentially new places for me. Originally I had no intention to go visiting places since raking up old memories was something I wanted to avoid but the combination of time to kill and where friends wanted to meet up meant that I saw more of the city than in any previous time I have been back in this city, and that included coming across Four Quarters which is an arcade bar which the friend I met that day mentioned and I ended up getting through something like £40 worth of tokens. I am pretty sure London has something like this place somewhere but it will be a trek to get to rather than anything walkable, and being in that place was the one time during the trip that I felt that Bristol might be a better place to live rather than London.

Arcade bar

Previously posh areas like Clifton Village are now rather run-down whereas other places like Gloucester Road seem to have gentrified, which is something I observed back in 2017 and this all adds up to Bristol not being the place I remember. In fact my sense of local geography has clearly degraded as I ended up having to check maps for routes that in the past I could go into auto-pilot following. The place is far from the well-off and vibrant place it was back in the mid-2000s before the credit crunch but it feels a lot more adapted to the economics of the world today than it was in the earlier 2010s. This is the place of a past life but in some ways it offers things that I want of my future life that I have not found within convenient distance of where I now live, but without a shadow of a doubt it is unlikely the big changes I wanted in my life would have happened had I stayed around the last decade.

Tree trunk carving

The only proper reason for staying in Bristol at all is to meet friends, and in hindsight given who I was meeting it would have been better to stay up in Filton rather than centrally in Clifton. The only realistic form of travel is driving which in the city centre is a massive pain compared to the past, and I am not even very enthusiastic about visiting central places.

Train station

My mindset

This trip had made me think about whether I have become an empty shell. Even at the time it was clear that I was cracking up during Covid, and more than three years down the line I doubt that I have properly recovered from either my relationship breakup nor the dent it put into my career. At times I feel that my mind wants to go into shut-down like it did in those dark days of mid-2020 as there is not the motivation to even do hobbies, and even relatively easy to sort out upsets have left me with undue anxiety. It feels that comparing myself to an absent-minded goldfish like I did during Covid is still not far off the mark and this is well away from any sort of the forward thinking that is critical at this stage of my life.

Goldfish bowl

It was only around March 2022 that I really started to piece my life back together but the year and a half since then has had plenty of upsets but no major positive advancement, so looks almost certain 2023 will end up being a wasted year in terms of reestablishing the things I lost in 2020. I am no longer a spring chicken and the traditional ways of meeting people, namely in-person rather than Bumble or online groups, seem to have really gone out the window post-pandemic. Part of me thinks it was a mistake moving to a vast metropolis rather than a small city the size of Bristol, because at least with smaller cities things are all relatively close together.

Flight case


This is my third visit to Bristol in just over twelve months so such trips can no longer be considered anything special and at first the overriding feeling was one of emptiness, but in the end I saw far more of Bristol than any previous visit and actually considered staying the extra night. However my opinion that I would not want to live in Bristol is unchanged as the reasons for leaving have all been validated, and if I was to move to yet another city I would want a completely clean slate.