As I emerge into Bristol streets after my three month absence, their familiarity hits me like a sound wave, a bass line thrumming, veins pounding faster to meet the rhythms. I am crushed by it, flattened like an imaginary wolf by a microscooter on the Kindergarten route, rendered breathless by the rawness of returning to the place that means home. While I know I can live elsewhere, possibly for a long time, I will always experience this surging rush of love for Bristol upon every return. Sunset over the suspension bridge and mud entrenched banks of the river below, multi-coloured houses blinking on the hill, hot air balloons hanging in the sky above Victorian architecture, the streets I played in as a child, roamed around drinking illicit beer and smoking nervous cigarettes as a teenager, laughed my way home from the pub through as a young adult, left, returned to, left, returned to, again and again, paved right into my consciousness. They say to me with a sort of relieved sigh, ah yes, hello, you are back now.
The manmade river slicks onwards, depositing the best of its waters into Underfall Yard to keep sailboats and canoes aloft, bobbing in reflected sunlight. We walk down the chunky slabs of the chocolate path and through the ship building yard, steeped in history and scattered with mysterious boat parts, waiting, like I, to be formed by old Bristol lore into a whole.
Outside the cottage inn, the steps leading down to the water overspill with Sunday afternoon drinkers. To the left, Nova Scotia bench veterans overlook the water and sip real ale. Across from here, the allegedly more upmarket Pump House hosts grizzled Bristolian men encased in a fug of hot chip fumes, patterns of clouds drifting across the sun and their old bare chests.
I have new short self-conscious hair for this new part of life. Bristol is the same but everyone is different. Sands have shifted. I must choose to impose a strict routine on myself, or drift along for a while in lost confusion until life shuffles itself into a new order to catch up with me, or presents some new objective. I don’t know. Returning is always a heady mix of similarity, nostalgia and strange differences.