Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Garlic Bread?

MY girlfriend Wren decided she was really going to test our relationship at the weekend. Feeling she needed a "change of scene" she went to look at a new flat, then asked for my advice. On Tuesday we went along: And I was shocked to find out that it was a sparrow's fart's distance from Ashton Gate, home of the sporting team of my nightmares - Bristol City.
Well, I can tell you, it took me a whole five minutes to rant about my disapproval and come up with a miriad of reasons why it was not wise to move to Bedminster, the most appalling one being that she might find I no longer came over to visit! Even as I said it I was cursing myself for resorting to such underhand tactics.
Still, I suffered my punishment. We then set off for Bath, took a wrong turning and ended up in Stockwood on the outskirts of Brizl.

Now, I haven't had many good experiences in Stockwood. In fact, I have only been there twice in my life. The first time was a good 27 years ago in the company of my sadly departed friend Dexter.
A mate of his was having a party there so we rounded up a crew and travelled across Bristol to this forbidding outpost, an estate in the middle of nowhere, on the understanding that we would be able to bunk down there for the night. Wrong!
At about 2am in the morning the hostess decided there wasn't room for the likes of us village folk and we had to leave. By then, unfortunately, we had spent all our money on beer and had nothing left for a taxi. So began the 12-14 mile trek back "home" to Winterbourne.
The start of the journey, even though it was fairly cold, was a bit of a laugh as we were still feeling the warming effects of the alcohol we had consumed. But after about a mile and a half it became a bit tedious.
By the time we reached Bristol Temple Meads Station we were freezing, dehydrated, bored and tired. For a time we ended up hunkering down in phone boxes at the station, trying to regain our strength for the final nine-mile haul. One of our team - I seem to recall it was a lad called Doug Poole, who famously always tucked his shirts into his underpants to prevent them from creasing - walked into the offices of the British Transport Police to demand we be given a cell for the night. For once in my life I failed desperately to get banged up. The walk continued.
Finally, by about 8am the following morning, we made it back to base camp, tired and emotional, falling into bed as soon as we got through the door. An adventure never to be forgotten.

As soon as I saw the sign for Stockwood I began to quiver but assured Wren: "Don't worry, if we keep driving we'll be out of here in no time."
Wrong again.
Stockwood appears to be just one huge estate and just as you think you are getting out of it, you turn a corner and find you're back at square one. It's a bit like the Truman Show, the Prisoner and the Blair Witch Project all rolled into one.
Wren, ignoring my pleas to keep driving (it is a rule of mine that you never admit you're wrong and turn back or, for that matter, check a map) stopped the car in the middle of said estate and dug out the A-Z. After what seemed an age we eventually came across what we were looking for - a route out of the maze - and continued on our journey to Bath.

THE weather was beautiful but cold, and it had been a long time since I'd been to this picturesque Spa town, but it was well worth the trip. We visited the Saracens Head for lunch, an enjoyable steak and chips with garlic bread and garlic mushrooms to share (and avoided breathing on anyone afterwards). We then went in search of the Hilton Hotel where Wren used to work as a chambermaid, and followed that with a nostalgic trip to the Island Club or, as it was affectionately called, Bog Island.
Now closed, this was a public toilet in the middle of a traffic island which had been converted into a nightclub. Once again the memories came flooding back, this time of Dexter's stag night and the episode in which 20 of us on this occasion had no trouble in getting banged up. We spent about five hours in a cell after the evening's celebrations after Dex's future best man smashed the window of a supermarket.
After that the sun went down and we headed back to Bristol, having enjoyed a brief shopping spree and cashed in on a few CD bargains at HMV. Wren also managed to buy me a belated birthday present from a quirky little shop called Plain Lazy which sells T shirts and hoodies bearing humorous slogans like "Reduce your carbon footprint... stay in bed". Well, it was amusing at the time.
Followed that with a visit to the parents, an enjoyable chinese and a trip home across the bridge. A lovely day, and by then Wren had decided that living in the middle of Bristol City territory was probably not the best thing for her love life. Sorry, babe!

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