Riot in the garden – Stokes Croft Riot of last Thursday

This was my first chance to show off my atmospheric new space in the garden. I had draped some fairy lights on the exposed brick work, and had sprouts pinging out of the top of my mismatched pots, like proud little green aliens. The light made the sprawling Ivy look magnificently green and mesmerising. I lit up my pineapple light and sat reclined on my wooden seat.

But the sound of blades chopping the air above obscured our words.

They were visiting from London after returning from living the other side of the world. I hadn’t seen them for ages and was already slightly happily hazy from an earlier cider by the waterside with some of my Bristol dwelling friends. Only a few hours ago I’d been discussing my deep love for the city of Bristol, and the quandary of finding somewhere you can imagine as yours for many years, whilst also wondering what else is out there. Out of everywhere I’ve lived, I think I may like it the most. I couldn’t even put my finger on why, it’s a huge combination of things. All I can say is, every time I consider leaving, something happens to draw me further in.

But right now, there was tension in the city. It was breathing anxiety.

“Something’s going down. Blimey, I hope they quieten down. Sorry, Bristol is normally relatively quiet at night. Especially around here.” It was Bank Holiday tomorrow so I assumed, as we lived in a city, by and by, activity can and does occasionally get heated. However I was aware that they had been living in isolation up a New Zealand mountain for the past near on three years, so I felt compelled to defend the evident city strife.

The helicopter was still slicing, there was noise on the streets.

We hear that it’s about the new Tescos. The day before I’d cycled past the peaceful protesters, I’d wanted to ding my bell in support, but someone had robbed it a while ago, so I smiled and nodded at them. Like I do with the lady that stands up for peace by the fountains. I didn’t want that Tesco store either. I don’t know anyone that did. Not because I think Tesco is the worst thing to ever be, but because it was unnecessary. I buy as much as I can from the shops on Gloucester Road, as do most people I know. In fact I’ve made a special effort to get it from there since we moved to Bristol in 2008. Even when we lived in Clifton, I’d always support the local, independent retailers. Growing up in a village, it feels natural…: ‘butchers, bakers, candlestick makers…’. I think independent businesses are to be respected and supported. Plus they’re cheaper and the food actually goes ‘off’, as opposed to one supermercado tomato I had that remained unchanged for one month in my fridge. As an added allure, Charlie’s grandparents also used to do their weekly shop on Gloucester Road, back in the 60s (? – many years ago). I do love this connection. Tesco, just down the road from Gloucester Road, just like the Sainsburys on Gloucester Road, was not needed. Supporting our independent shops is SO important. But Stokes Croft is more fierce than Gloucester Road. The proud strength of identity there is palpable, stamping a Tesco sign on its hind, is like a metaphorical chain to the opposite of what the area celebrates. It could only be controversial.

“I’m trapped in the riots”. I looked at twitter as I got into bed and saw that one of my friends was stuck – and scared. I looked at further #stokescroft tweets. I couldn’t sleep. The helicopter was sawing through my earbuds. Push Charlie, tell him it sounds horrendous. My mind races, immersed in helpless concern; People are being hit and hitting out. It’s violent, scary and breathless. From the tweets, it sounded like a compression chamber of stress, passion, aggression and fear. It was the fear that sounded the worst. It’s what was evident. It clearly got out of hand, people were getting hurt. This should not have happened. The police should protect, the protestors should be respectful. But there was something in the air that night, there were forces that created something terrible. I’m not going to pass comment on who is to blame, or what happened. I wasn’t there after all. All I know is I live in Bristol, I love Bristol, I believe in standing up for what you believe in, I hate violence and I hope peace is restored.

I got up early the next morning and saw a multitude of photos taken during the night. There were opinions flying about and a call for justice. From reports I have heard, from friends, reporters, bloggers – my image of the riot got increasingly messy. I hope those in the wrong are reprimanded for their actions, investigations made etc. But I also hope people’s faith in the city remains strong. It all got very, very misty there last Thursday night.

I drew myself away from the opinions and shocking photos to make a coffee for our guests. Sitting back down by my green sprouts, a mm taller (definitely), I told them what I thought would be nice for to do for the day. I always like to show off Bristol when friends visit. They should all move here of course. As I waxed on about the joys of bike rides through the city, pies and cider, I was interrupted: “Hels, Hels! You left the fairy lights on silly, they’ve been flashing all night.” I could see them faintly blinking helplessly in the sun. “The plug is boiling!” For a second, all I could hear was the wood pigeon coo-cooing.

Need a song now – by a Bristol artist of course, one I always talk about: This Is The Kit:

For another opinion on the riots, read Tigerlily Quinn, here.


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