Window seat on Stokes Croft


When I arrived in the window seat, there was a white van parked in the middle of the road, hazard lights flashing. The driver ducked in and out, checking front, back, underneath but you could tell he didn’t really know what he was looking for. I wasn’t paying much attention until the blue van pulled up behind and suddenly there were several people milling around in the road. The blue van driver then pulls around the white van, parking in front. The two drivers connect the two vans with a red rope. They move off, but the white van without the handbrake on rolls all over the road. But they keep going and eventually I lose sight of them.

Soon things are overshadowed by a man in purple leopard print lycra and a black fur coat pushing a bike. I stare because I fancy him. I catch the eye of people passing in cars, and they are staring at him too. Stokes Croft forms part of the main route out of the city centre to the north: there will always be people passing through for whom the Croft must just seem like a hipster circus to be gawped at. I watch a young man in an Audi whose eyes trail lycra man as he turns into Ashley Road. Perhaps he fancies him too.

The street is momentarily quiet again. I order a vegan sausage roll and a soy chai latte because I am part of this hipster circus after all. Behind me in the cafe is a loud girl with bright red hair. She tells her silent male companion, wearing a Bristol University hoodie, that she feels like he has misunderstood her feelings. He doesn’t reply, or at least not so that I can hear him. A man with dreadlocks, dressed in a giraffe suit complete with tail, comes down Nine Tree hill carrying a guitar on his back, and strolls over the crossing.

The sun is starting to drop. Cars have switched on their headlights. The Polish grocery store opposite has a hatch on the side, where a steady stream of people are ordering and collecting takeaway food chosen from a menu I can’t quite read from here. A toddler in a pink coat is handed something wrapped in paper and she looks overjoyed. Next, a group of teenage girls comes to the hatch, and they talk cheerfully to the shop assistant, pointing at things on the menu.

Red hair girl and silent boy just got up to leave. They are smiling. Two elderly people pass: a woman with long white hair in a bun on her head, carrying flowers, and a man whose hands are entirely covered in tattoos. On the opposite side two joggers pass. Inside, someone behind the counter smashes a glass and a cheer goes up.


Crofting on New Year’s Eve


I have always loved Stokes Croft, which channels you between my parents’ house in Horfield and the centre of Bristol. I loved it when it was grungy and a little bit dangerous, lined with all-night takeaways, massage parlours and squats. I love it now, with its late night cafes, graffiti, art studios and the occasional eccentric. Will I love it when the Carriageworks, for many years a vast derelict canvas for street art at the heart of the area, gets turned into luxury apartments? Who knows how things will change.

The photo is the view from Cafe Kino, the Tesco mural perhaps almost as photographed as Banksy’s ‘Mild Mild West’, just 20 yards further down the street. 2.15pm but the weather seems to have triggered a rather early dusk. No more sun for 2015, I don’t think.