Hope for Bristol

I have come down to Bristol in England’s south west. It is a city I have never before visited, so I have much to see. While here, I shall meet my cousin who is studying palaeontology at the university, and spend time with my relatives of Wiltshire towards the end of the week.

Two years ago, earnest Bristolians made world news by throwing statues of former slave traders into the harbour. Bristol had been a historical centre of transatlantic slave trading, and this presumably made its more virtuous citizenry feel uncomfortable. Their toppling of the traders’ statues was a very brave thing to do- Bravo Bristol. I guess any Germans born in the next century who can summon sufficient nerve to burn a swastika flag will be drawing from the same deep reserves of valour. Making do with attacking Bristol’s past suggests that there's insufficient wrong with the Bristolians’ present. Bristol, you see, is a rather pleasant place to live and work.

From what I have seen of the city, I like it very much. It is already evident that the time I have allocated to its exploration is going to prove woefully inadequate. My hotel is near the university, so there seems to be students everywhere, walking around with huge headphones oblivious to the world while wearing baggy, corduroy trousers they are pleased to call fashion. The streetscape seems to reflect their youth and sense of fun. 

I strolled over to Clifton, which is close by where I am staying. That suburb, which rather pretentiously calls itself a village, is full of upmarket brasseries and bars, with large stretches of pavement dedicated to outdoor seating. Left-wing university lecturers in grey jackets over black t-shirts cycled through these streets returning to their large Georgian terraces, while middle-aged mums and dads visiting their undergraduate sons and daughters were inspecting menus for the night’s feed. It was all very civilised and polite. I dare say Bristol has its urban troubles, but I saw none of them in Clifton.

I called at the famous suspension bridge, which surely deserves its own blog post. Suffice to say, I was pretty overwhelmed by both its scale and the beauty of its setting. The genius of human engineering combined with the dramatic splendour of the Avon Gorge render it one of the nation’s, if not the world’s, most inspiring beauty spots. Yet despite this wonderful combination, the wider city’s cultural capital and its righteous population of zealous protestors, 127 people committed suicide from the bridge in the two decades before 1993. Now, safety wires guard the parapets and the Samaritans advertise their phone number on multiple signs. Despite this, it is still the second most suicidal bridge in the world after San Francisco’s Golden Gate, claiming an average of four deaths per year. Bristol is a gorgeous city, but life here- as anywhere- without Christ is hollow and unfulfilling. If you live without the source of life, you are barely alive. If you ignore the One for whom you were made, you are left frustrated and restless.

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” John 5:24

Interestingly, the quirky hotel whose bed I hire left in my room an empty glass and a small decanter with a note attached:

Sip Me

I think it is fortified wine or sherry. I shall certainly sleep well in my bed tonight: readers can guess whether this is because I quaffed the sherry, or because my nonconformist conscience rested easy.