It’s been over six weeks of lockdown in the UK. During this time, too many annoyingly smug and twee videos have done the rounds, featuring Bristol as a city tinted with Farrow & Ball filters and the misty tears of middle class angst. In reality, lockdown is nothing like this for most people. There’s simply no garden for many residents in which children can have a crisis with Melissa & Doug toys. There’s no properly leafy outdoor spaces like large Victorian parks for children to be able to explore or let loose without having to tiptoe across two meters of dog faeces and beer cans to avoid oncoming pedestrians.
If you’re in hot overcrowded small flats, painted with the flashing blue lights of the police, awoken in the early hours to the dulcet tones of a drug deal going south, you’re probably somewhere like St Jude’s. I love St Jude’s. It’s central, busy, completely non-judgemental with transient residents and people attempting to cope, though often not coping with the utter hell that life throws at them.
But the area barely gets a mention anywhere. It’s like it doesn’t exist or it doesn’t matter, sitting somewhere between deprivation and a shortcut for drunken people from more boho areas of the city to screech like drunken foxes at 12am, 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am.
There are plans in place to rid the area of industry and turn it into Frome Gateway. Whether this will be an improvement on Marvin Rees’ current desire to throw up even more new build high rises to squash families in remains to be seen.
But in the meantime, Bristol isn’t the Channel 4 love-dream privilege with kooky rows of colourful houses, Banksy and St Andrew’s Park. It’s much more interesting, at times it’s so much harder than that and we don’t all sing from the same luvvie media hymn sheet. It’s time to end the myth.
Coronavirus is not a ‘great leveller’. Definitely not in Bristol which is segregated with so much disparity between privilege and poverty. Most of us walk a tightrope of balance and when we start to fall, we are told to treat it like an adventure for the kids, so it doesn’t stress them out. We spend a lot of time over a lot of years having ‘adventures’. I bet a lot of other families in similar areas do too.
Homeless? Treat it as an adventure. Can’t use the communal laundry in high rises? Treat it as an adventure. Local arson proof park shut? Treat it as an adventure. Have to walk through armed police to get out the street? Treat it as an adventure.
So this is our walk in lockdown. St Jude’s as it is and what Bristol is actually like to live in – a place that is sometimes really hard. And, despite being surrounded by hundreds of people pushed into tiny concrete boxes, often quite lonely.
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