far too much writing, far too many photos

[continued from last entry]

A minute after settling in, a voice on the P.A. announced that due to track work we would be not be taking the normal route, added dryly that we would instead head north via the ’scenic route: Birmingham.’ A longer ride, he said, me feeling more smugly content by the minute about going with the seat upgrade.

Even with the detour, work crews frequently slowed our forward movement to a crawl, by the time we slipped through Birmingham, it was exactly five days later to the hour than the last time I’d been there. Heading in the other direction, then, toward Bristol via the lovely rolling farm country of the Cotswolds for a couple days’ visit with a friend: Nita.

Her section of Bristol: Totterdown, a former working-class area now making the upward swing toward something more gentrified. A tough district not too long ago, apparently, its rough edges now taking a softer, more liveable aspect. A neighborhood of narrow streets riding the slopes of a hill, Nita’s narrow, three-floor home across the street from a mosque.

Totterdown, seen from Victoria Park, Bristol

On the ride in from the train station, a park caught my attention — a sizeable expanse of grass and trees spreading up a hill, daffodils providing color. A couple of blocks from my destination, planted in the middle of an ocean of urban neighborhoods. At Nita’s, I dragged my bags inside, we said hello, she asked what I felt like doing. Minutes later, I had her out the door, we made our way up the park’s green incline, sun and clouds providing spectacular light, Bristol extending out away in various directions, looking just fine to me.

The skies on this green island are spectacular, the constant interplay of clouds and sun producing beautiful light and never-ending, eye-catching celestial tableaus, at least to misfits like myself who experience far too much bliss from simple things like the play of light and dramatic skies. Nita put up with my blabbering about all that with great patience, likewise accepting my tendency to take far too many photos with admirable forbearance.

She’s an interesting person, Nita — sharp, articulate, with an expressive face that radiates life. And bitchen red hair (along with, er, abundant cleavage, given the right outfit). Someone who’s been fun to get to know over the course of various visits to this part of the world. And someone who will watch the Daily Show with me, cackling at least as loudly as I do.

Her daughter, a lovely 20-something now earning money as a model, was away on a photo shoot, bequeathing me her bedroom for my stay, complete with Eminem shrine and window overlooking the mosque. Also looking out on some spectacular sunrises (something I’d rather be asleep for), fine weather having followed me to Bristol. The shades were sheer enough, however, that the swelling of early-morning light over the urban horizon roused me. Real pretty, but I tried to ignore it.

Next morning, we hopped a bus into the city center to pick up a router so that I could establish a household wireless network (a selfless act of self-interest on my part, me a recent convert to the wireless joy thing and willing to go to great lengths for easy internet connection). Scored that quickly, at a good price, then found ourselves an outdoor table at a café, settled in for a couple of hours’ worth of caffeine and far too much conversation, soaking up spring sunlight.

When we finally roused ourselves and got walking, we stumbled across a small chapel tucked away in a courtyard, turning out to be the John Wesley ‘New Room’ Chapel. A beautiful, austere space, a good place to sit and soak up some peaceful vibe. Rooms in the building’s top floor were once used by Wesley, including a bed he slept in, its thin mattress suspended on ropes. (According to the guide/caretaker, the ropes would have to be re-tied periodically to eliminate slack — hence the expression ’sleep tight.’)

The upper level of the main meeting space — The John Wesley
‘New Room’ Chapel, Bristol

When we stepped back out in to the afternoon air, the temperature had slid up to nicely user-friendly levels, the kind of afternoon made for soaking up sunlight. Which I did for a bit, working my way through a Cornish pasty while Nita wandered about, working her way through a cigarette. Two teenage girls tossed themselves into the seat to my right, flicking bread crumbs to gathering pigeons, slowly freaking out as the number of pigeons seemed to grow exponentially, until one of them threw her shoe into the cloud of birds, scattering them. She left the shoe where it was, bare foot swinging in the warm air, it remained there, pigeons all around, when we left.

Returned home, set up the network. I’d done the same thing my first afternoon at Dermot’s lair (three weeks ago now — how the hell did that happen?) using a Belkin router, the process smooth, easy, taking ten stress-free minutes. The set-up of the Netgear router bought for Nita’s place started well, went quickly downhill. Three hours later, I managed to find their customer service number — hidden away in a page at the company’s website — less than five minutes after getting a real human being on the phone to help me iron out the last stubborn problem, the network was up and running. Making me obnoxiously happy.

[this entry in progress]

España, te echo de menos.

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