Hidden Bristol

Hidden Bristol

Stories of ghosts, tales of riots, anecdotes of love and legends of lost and forgotten Bristol. This anthology is the perfect companion to the Bristol Writers Group‘s upcoming evening of Thunderbolt Tales. Being part of the Group, I even get honourable mention from Word of Mouth for this. Enter shop for price.

Or, if not fully convinced, here’s the opener to my little offering:

The place that shall not be mentioned. Alec tries not to even think about jumping. But what is left?

Not the Job Centre. He has turned right on his heel at its entrance. Alec Chamberlain come to sign on for money? The very fixtures and fittings of the place have oozed desperation into his anguish-laden system. A misery compounded by City‘s loss and Rovers’ win the night before. Life really knows how to rub salt.

Alec will have to jump. The unmentionable place is invading his mind again.

In the greyness of the day he stumbles, almost blind, from St Stephen’s Street across lanes of traffic. He ignores the temp agencies and skirts round Colston Hall to a café near where he’s parked. He sits at the counter by a window and pulls out the morning’s mail, grabbed from the letterbox in his hurry to make the appointment. First item: Visa – the monthly depth-charge on the crippled submarine of his finances. He won’t open that letter.

Item two: another missive from Fascist, Bastard & Wanker plc, maybe his P45 this time. He doesn’t want to deal with that either. Twenty years he’s given them. Twenty years taken from him. With only a measly pension to show for it. If he can wait that long. If the fall doesn’t kill him first.

He places the letters next to his coffee. Good coffee, slightly bitter. Maybe the last taste he will have of life. The blues playing over unexpected silence maybe the last sound, until a jackhammer rattles into action outside. He is alone (again!), the morning workers having grabbed their lifelines and disappeared into the city offices from this cosy little niche.

Cosy. Cosy for some, he supposes. Leaflets and posters strew walls and window ledges – activist this, that therapy, voluntary the other. Angels, yoga. He sneers; he is a Starbucks man. An overflowing bookcase stares at him from one of the walls. Valuable city centre real estate clogged with frippery. Free frippery: a nearby poster explains that the books are free. Where’s the commercial sense in that?

Weird art also hangs on the walls. Isn’t the Arnolfini Gallery enough for one city’s worth of nonsense? He pulls what looks like a newspaper towards him from the far end of the counter. “The Spark.” He desires the executioner’s spark. “The best of the alternative west.” Alec pushes the potty paper away again.

The coffee now tastes too bitter.

The waiter is eyeing him. Alec barely registered the man in his preoccupation and rush to buy coffee and quell his jangling nerves. Dreadlocks. They should have given the place away immediately. Pretentious t-shirt too. And tattoos, and beads round the wrist. Alec gives his sneer more air-time, regards his unpalatable coffee, then scoops up the doomsday letters. He is out of here.

But not before he hears, “Left, then right, my friend. Left, then right,” in mellow tones.

What is the hippy freak spouting?

The dreadlocks repeat, “Left, then right. Left, right.”

The last thing Alec needs is walking instruction. He throws a final sneer and leaves the café.

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