MN Electrical. Ashley road. BRISTOL-- 1992/ 2006/ 2009/ 2016 / 2022
The shop had closed years ago and you pushed sheets of plywood to get up to the flat. There were six of us in there, me shacked up in someone's room. I suppose I should say my boyfriend's room but that's not how I saw him really. Bryn. It never felt like a relationship , more an intermission, somewhere to stay while I worked out where to go next.
In the winter the parameters of my world were confined to that freezing flat. Time was etched out between monitors and mixing desks. I watched the weeks unravel from a black and white portable, stretches of daytime tv subsumed in the amethyst light of the room.
He was always there, a heavy morphean presence, sighing with his back to me in a broken office chair . Hours would melt into the noodling labyrinths of Cubase, the bland dogmatism of drum and bass messageboards. Over the winter he'd got kind of bulky, all that weed, all those nights playing x box with bowls of doritos. When the spring came, casting its brutal light on that dusty hallway, I started going out without him.
STAPLETON ROAD. --
Day three of a heatwave, must be 30 degrees out there-
It's all kicking off , they're not letting some Somali bloke sign on .
Twitchy attention across the open plan office sucked into a writhing circle of G4s uniforms.
Onlookers emerging from Black Swan opposite .
other blokes mobilizing--
I'm sitting on a soft green chair watching Nigerian security guards push him around. Can hear the sirens, the noise outside and i'm thinking this is going to take time.
I'm hot after the run down here, sheen of make up slipping off my face. They won’t sign you if you’re a minute late.
I'm waiting for an emergency payout, my personal issue.
I forgot to bring something to read. I look at my phone, scroll through texts--
look across the street to the pub, blokes outside with pints of cider, bottles of lager-- red faced and jeering as the bloke gets thrown in the back of the van--
My turn. Usual moronic hassle. What have you been doing to look for work. Wrote jobseekers diary with five different pens at the kitchen table before . All this pointless stuff , what i'm available for- warehouse work, call centres. They want me to go to some logistics depot in Swindon, threatening to stop my money if I don't.
I draw on a composite of fictions and convince them i'm pliable.
Neroli, Magnolia, Rose
those scents, pulling me out of that seething hive, across the car park-
Black swan, them lot, usual crew, watching me in the yard, heat intense and my legs and arms bare, burning now-
push through Blackthorn stinking leers to the violet cool of the bar.
-subsonic ,big screens, adverts ricocheting across the walls--
it's the tramadol, maybe it's too much, making everything tremble, ceilings shimmer, indigo blur round the door-
Sit in a burgundy corner, ripped wallpaper, low mahogany table, vodka glass outlined with a neon glow. It was Adam that gave me the tramadol , told me he scored a batch from a hospital porter. Before that I was just getting by with the diazepam.
Adam. Should never have got involved with him. I mean he's alright looking, mohawk, thick black hair in gluey crests , but the way he acts, so manic all the time, i can’t handle it.
Gold piercings in jagged eyebrows-
drugs taped under snooker tables.
This is a ritual coming in here after signing on, when i've escaped from the dole office I come in and have a vodka to celebrate--
They don’t own me. They can cut off my giro. I’m still here. That's how I think sometimes, I can just take off - hidden tracks, a helix of boltholes. If it gets too much I can just leave. And i'm thinking maybe it's time, Bryn at home on Cubase, Adam liking me too much--
Black Uhuru on the juke box, juke box wired up to juggernaut soundsystem-
room reverberates, blokes at opposite table skinning up. I know some of them from when I was living in that squat in Stokes Croft. Wiry one comes over, blond pony tail and grey adidas tracksuit –asks me if I want to order any shopping from Broadmead…
I tell him, Chanel Chance and that YSL nail varnish, irridescent black, shining blue like a magpie feather, he says yeah, should be able to bring it all back for twenty.-
look across at the dole office, red brick fortress casting doubt over the pub--
security guards talking to the police , screw faces broken now with sycophantic smiles-
Adam texts and says he's coming down. I've been meeting up with him in here, nothing serious- just having a drink, getting stoned in the afternoon.
Out in the yard, concrete is warping in the heat, splitting into zones--
exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke and that scent , Lemon Haze reminding me of last summer-
Collapsing buildings beneath the motorway flyover. Biggas carwash, men hanging round in vests and bomber jackets.
Hoardings ,luminous poster shreds.
Shah Jalal mosque.
A load of lads in off the street, baggy jeans, fluoro vests, Adam's crew wheeling massive speaker cabs . Yard becomes a spindly convolution of tarpauline and scaffolding poles. He comes over in that bouyant, arrogant way he has, spike under his lip , vexed Egyptian eyes.
I knew from the start I shouldn't get involved with him .
When he asked me to go round to his I always made excuses , but then there was that party, that solstice one in the orange factory--
me in that stretchy pink dress, bleached hair backcombed, first blazing heat of the year.
We'd been drinking in the Coach house, that pub under the railway bridge. Place was full of Trowbridge punks, rough cider, Amebix patches hanging off denim jackets. There was something disorientating about that pub, like stepping into a mirror, all the rooms seemed to double - two bars, two snooker tables, twin corridors of yellow light. -
I remember the banners draped behind a burgundy stage- text becoming invocations-- Class War A.L.F the conjuring of Swing risings.
There was a yard at the back, plastic chairs and sullen brick walls..
Sabs in combat trousers, black vests, baseball caps
plotting rural revolt
I remember how we stepped out on to the street to face a crescent of filth with telephoto lenses.
We gathered in the stark , mathematical shadows of an iron railway bridge and faded into lanes of conifers . The track brought us to the M32 and the concrete inclines of an unsteady footbridge. Lines of vehicles were waiting on Gatton road, a convoy going to this party.
It was in a red brick factory on an industrial estate hemmed in by a span of railway tracks and the elevated section of the A434. The convoy trailed into a desolate lane of corrugated iron and breezeblock walls.
We slinked in under a metal shutter, place still had the stink of UHT orange -
I remember heavy chains and fluorescent strip lights, long corridors crawling with glyphs and sigils--
then a vast hall-- all the rigs were in there, doors thrown open to a scratchy meadow of broom and gorse-
bashment, jungle, breakcore -
big crew in there , time distorted, circles moving.
I wanted to be outside—there was a bonfire and a few people I knew from the Swan .
Adam with his mohawk, his intense eyes.
Wasn't really my type, bit young, early 20s maybe. I wasn't really feeling it-- there was something not right about him, maybe the accent, a kind of public school smoothness beneath the slangy narco speak-- there was a swagger about him but even through the veils of MDMA I knew it was fake.
We talked for hours, strange unspooling conversations about hospitals, hostels, the network of institutions he'd inhabited. He told me about his walks around Bristol—he called them circuits, told me they were all mapped. He made notes on every place he scoped, routes in and out of the city centre, Broadmead Shopping centre, the new Harbourside Development, the abandoned sorting office behind Temple Meads.
melancholic dub , stacker PA's
crew swarming around us, absorbing us into a strident, fleshy band-
that ALF lot from the Coach House going on about the Beaufort Hunt and that Life Sciences place in Cambridge-
the monotone credence of their talk, the tramadol, the residues of those pills- I just remember the motorway slip road buckling, bending like plasticine as anxiety rose in icy beads on my arms.
I wanted to trace his circuits through the city centre, back to Easton-
back to Stapleton road, a load of us, a collision of his crew and mine. 5 am, sky a dazzling salvo of
Freesia, Litchi, Peony.
scents coming in waves--
Spiralling tracks round Brandon hill, site of insurrectionary gatherings, mass gatecrashing.
He showed me nests of intricate symbols on walls and windows, he told me he'd been communing with the revenants of the city, channelling them into oppositional currents-
He spraypainted burn down sigils over the new developments with a practiced elegance, dancing runes marking the hoardings, the new vestibules-
He took me through Harbourside, the rebranded docks, showed me the heritage symbols , the psychtropic theme park, the parched tangle of trees in aluminium tubs.
Toxic stink of the aerosol -
Ox-eye daisies, red campion , knapweed-
Cascading down Bridewell street, the ruby fracturing of morning-
buildings opening up , neon interiors, glowing amusement arcades .
Shutters down, the haze of morning rain burning off in the heat-- iridescent vapours and saplings of ash in breezeblock yards--
TSB, luminous signs replicating , detaching from the front of the building , glowing circles of jade-
two storey houses, flaking paint, grey with exhaust fumes
all sloping towards us.
Attic conversions heaving off rooftops, cracking and breaking--
He reaches for my hand, a cool act of possession-- I feel nothing but pale, narcissitic attraction- the glimmer that comes from being wanted-
had hoped for another taste of last summer, those incendiary days of Yorkshire, -
but as we traipse through overgrown gardens, expanses of scorched ivy, it's not even an echo.
breezeblock walls, exquisite scent of damask , forgotten tangle of roses.
When I first turned up in Bristol last Autumn it was about getting away, being off the map. What I was looking for never appeared. It wasn't enough, me and Bryn, one of those dull, drifting relationships, neither of us really bothered, shacked up for convenience and comfort . It started when he was coming down off a three day bender. He came round to our squat in Stokes Croft and asked us for temazepam, or codeine, or anything to take the edge off. He was hallucinating catastrophes, walls swarming with black. I'd managed to straighten him out, nursed him through the next few days. He'd triggered something in me, a protective, nurturing side and we started hanging out in the flat at Ashley road. It was less hectic than the squat in Stokes Croft and I thought maybe it could be ok staying there a while, I could cook dinner and have everyone in for a few beers, seemed more like a family than that big office block before.
Transit vans parked skewed angles on the pavement,
Adam smiling , holding my hand,
a greedy, monopolising smile.
Flat to let , window held together with parcel tape.
mattresses and bed frames.
heavy plastic sheets behind smashed windows.
There are three of us now, me Adam and some bloke picking up coke cans in search of a lost stash. The way he trudges, seems like he's blind to us. Adam said he'd met him sleeping rough in the Bear Pit, that brutalist hollow between Stokes Croft and town.
Shah Jalal mosque, under the motorway flyover. It was them that was first onto him, Adam, much later, long after i'd gone-
Peach walls, ,flow charts, redacted words.
I mean i'd seen it, I knew that he wasn't right, that's why i'd ended up avoiding his calls, why I bailed out of Bristol altogether— he was too hectic, all those weird drugs he was getting from the hospital but still the ban on alcohol--
squeezing through green railings, beneath the sweep of the motorway-
round the back of the dole fortress,, 90s architecture harshing my buzz.
He puts his arm around me, speaks softly to me, presses a valium into my hand-
Row of derelict houses, windows sitexed.
Buddleia sprouting, bin bags hurled on pavement – a network of itinerants following codes-
they are there if you can read them--- marker pen letters sliding off walls, shoes hanging from telegraph wires, sigils spraypainted on plywood windows-
Under the railway bridge- that stone they have in Bristol, crumbling red like Mars-
their house ,
three satellite dishes, barred windows, yellow newspapers taped inside-
and pale green plaster like sugared almonds.
a front room you walk into off the street -
70s wallpaper, orange geometries unfolding across damp walls-
mottled olive green carpet.
place stripped of furniture--
Records and cds splintered across the floor, prismatic reflections on the ceiling.
photocopied maps in a heap,
miniature lightbulbs, circuit boards-
And upstairs, two little rooms. That biscuity smell of old bedding.-
sloping ceilings, dorma windows , light filtered through sitex sheets-
We sit talking, he says he wants a total reordering of the UK, wants to see the entire system dismantled-
I say I understand that--
He says Britain is a cesspit, says the shopping centres, the clubs in town are immoral hives -
feel like i've been here before-
those words, echoes of another time-
the sleeping bag , the scorch marks, , marker pen circles-
Spike under lip.. two rings through eyebrow-
he's staring at me, demanding something.
I say i'm going downstairs to the bathroom
hexamethylene triperoxide diamine,
video on loop.
everything falling into place.
Creep through the front room-- bloke shuffling about near the door —I'm not even sure if he can see me.
Into the kitchen , missing mdf units, gouge marks in the wall-
I try the door but it's jammed behind a case of steel.
Bathroom at the back. Wasp carapaces on a dusty window sill. Peroxide bottles, mould creeping across the ceiling. I try the frosted window, feels stuck, frame resisted by a chlorophyl bank, a yard of nettles neck high. I clamber onto the ledge , shove through and fall into the stinging tangle , blisters of pain erupt across my body, the pleasure of them rising in the rush--
By 2009 I was back living in Yorkshire, i'd never bothered keeping in touch with him or any of that crew. I'd never been able to connect with Bristol and didn't miss it.
I read they'd given him 11 years. Must have converted the year after I left.
Broadmead shopping centre was the target.
Home made vests.
Air gun pellets, batteries , electric bulb filaments, ball bearings, tubs of screws.
12 bottles of peroxide.
They said he kept the explosives in the fridge in a Family Circle biscuit tin.