Walk #19b: Bristol Jen

I'm not able to include the original Walk #19a in this series. Perhaps inevitably the process of obtaining consent to publish 40 conversations has not always run smoothly, and in this case I never heard back from my friend after sending my account. It's possible something I wrote felt uncomfortable. What I think more likely is I completely forgot to ask if I could include the walk in this series beforehand, then sent her the account out of the blue. A bit like walking into a friend's bedroom with a boner saying 'so, sex then', without any prior discussion. If you're reading this all I can say is I am very sorry, for pushing whatever button I pushed. If you ever want to tell me I will listen. If you don't want to, that's also OK. <3

Walk #19b (second attempt)

With: Jen (born 1979)

Date: 12 July 2016

Where: St Werburgh's, Bristol

Jen and I met online. I'm not sure either of us can remember exactly how or when. It's like that, sometimes. Having established many shared values, Jen kindly offered to put me up when I passed through Bristol on my way to Bridgwater to get my bike serviced. I was excited to meet her in person.

It was a sunny day, and soon after I arrived (late, because my train was cancelled) we set off on what ended up becoming an impromtu afternoon pub crawl around the St Werburgh's area of Bristol near where Jen lives. First, though, we climbed to the top of a small hill overlooking the area, which Jen explained is known locally as 'The Mound'. It's now a nature reserve but used to be a railway cutting. It got bombed a lot during the war.

Dropping down again we stumbled upon Ennywevvers, a new and very 'Bristol' urban glampsite Jen had heard about. We were given a short tour of the quirky site and made some suggestions about publicity including getting themselves listed on 'end-to-end' (Land's End to John O'Groat's) websites.

Next we passed 'The Yard', which is full of self-build houses that Jen describes as 'well interesting'. She says 'both the yard and the mound exist because of local community action saving them from our capitalist overlords, though ironically the people in those houses now sell them for top dollar'.

As we walked Jen told me about her work, which I broadly understood relates to 'open source' IT development, the movement to get public bodies and other holders of data to make it available to developers.

Finding ourselves at The Farm we stopped for a drink. Local ale for me, wine for Jen. Here we talked about the subject I am probably most interested in: the paradoxical tension between wanting to be free and wanting to love and belong. We talked about some past relationships in which we'd each wrestled with this tension. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly one can get into really personal, even difficult stuff if one dispenses with small talk!

Next stop was The Miners', where Jen knew a few folks. We sat at a slight distance from the pub where our conversation would not be overheard. I learned a little about Jen's various past lives including her nomadic period and the period she lived near Liverpool.

Finally we moved on to The Duke of York, which felt more a bit queer. I think we were a bit drunk by this point, so the quality of our conversation probably deteriorated and I can't remember what we talked about! I seem to remember Jen trying - and failing - not to smoke a cigarette. There was a sign in the beer garden of the third pub reminding patrons not to smoke dope. Realising we probably ought to eat we stopped at a small supermarket and bought ingredients as well as more alcohol! Back at Jen's place we chatted with her flatmate while Jen whipped up an amazing tagliatelle with quorn, asparagus and tarragon.

Thank you Jen for hosting me and for the all-day, brilliant, easy conversation! The first of many, I hope.

Addendum: See here for Walk #19a and an important life lesson for me.