From Bristol with love

I took this.

Or: “Naughty Badger’s* step-by-step guide to an awesome couple of days away”.

*Not sure if I’ve explained this nickname. It’s not as deviant as it sounds, unfortunately.

Step one: Set off alarmingly early, because your significant other needs to renew their railcard and is confident that this can be done at the station before 7am. On a Sunday morning. Resist the urge to tell them not to be so ridiculous.

Step two: Find that, indeed, it is not possible to renew said railcard. Resist the urge to hiss “I bloody knew it, you moron”. A conductor tells you to get off at Clapham and do it there – but the conductor does not understand that you are booked on a specific train from London Paddington and if you miss it, there will be financial consequences.

Step two, part b) Get off at Clapham. Wait for significant other (SO or “Boy” from now on) to take passport photos and fill out form. Assure him that his face doesn’t look “wonky” in the photos. (It does look a bit wonky.)

Step three: As expected, miss scheduled train. Fail to remain chipper – it’s cold, and you’ve been up since about 5 – and snap briefly. Then feel bad. Have fruitless exchange with member of station staff, who rightly asks “why did you get off at Clapham if you had booked tickets for the 9.03 from here?” Pay for new tickets.

Step four: Once on train, doze off on Boy’s shoulder, but keep sliding down into his lap, causing him to worry about what this looks like to other passengers.

Step five: Get to Bristol and feel high as a kite that you’re back. Chatter like a [well-rested] child at Christmas. Discuss lunch: “I really feel like soup. Something healthy but warm.” End up in ‘spoons with a cheese toastie and a pint. Which both go down an absolute treat.

Step six: Because you have an exceptionally cavalier attitude to deadlines, spend the afternoon writing feverishly in order to meet one. The Boy is fine with this, as he has John Niven’s latest book and, unusually for him, a Nintendo DS.

Step seven: Drink strawberry beer. Realise at about half-ten that you’re starving. Make plans to take pizza back to your hotel room (do it once and you’ll have a glorious tradition for life. Trust me). Head to nearest pizza place, scoff at prices. Head to nearby Tesco Express, whip out iPhone, find a deal, order pizza. Return to pizza place, collect pizza. Worry about how disapproving the hotel staff will be when they see you carrying the pizza box to your room. Boy assures you repeatedly that no-one will notice or care.

Step eight: The hotel has locked the front door, and you must show your keycard to be let in. Which means you and your pizza have been noticed. Refuse to make eye contact, feel mortified. Once inside the lift, hiss at Boy: “Sorry, what was that you said? No-one will notice or care?!”

Step nine: Forget feeling mortified, demolish pizza in bed while watching CSI: Miami. Realise that far from being cool and exciting, eating pizza in bed with fairly awful American TV and a nice young man beside you is actually the dream. Also realise that the main dramatic device of CSI: Miami is… the way… Horatio pauses… to make every utterance seem… really… significant.

Step ten: Following a pretty poor night’s sleep – partly due, no doubt, to being chock-full of cheese and pepperoni, but also because you seem to be in The World’s Hottest Hotel Room – drink a bajillion cups of coffee. And find that Brendan Cole, of Strictly Come Dancing fame, is staying at the same hotel, with a group of musicians and dancers from his show.

Step eleven: Go shopping. While in Topshop, receive an e-mail saying that one of the five pieces of copywriting you did the previous afternoon has been accepted. Figure that the company is going to e-mail you about each piece separately, which means you have four more to go (you’re good at maths). Immediately think back and realise that you wrote a lot of bollocks. Narrowly avoid having a full-scale panic attack in Topshop. Think, for the ninetieth time in your life, that coffee and an anxious personality do not mix.

Step twelve: receive four other e-mails telling you your pieces have been accepted. The red fog of anxiety clears.

He took this.

Step thirteen: Head to Clifton – the only reason you come to this city at all, really. Time it perfectly so that you’re standing on the bridge as the sun goes down. Let the views knock you sideways, like they always do. This is the bridge where it all began, two and a half years ago. It will never not be the most beautiful place in the world.

(Give any readers permission to be a little sick, if they haven’t already.)

Step fourteen: Get cold, go to a pub. Drink more strawberry beer, try a pilsner called Veltins, which is honestly one of the best things you’ve ever drunk. Go and eat a terrifying amount of glorious Indian food at Clifton’s Thali Cafe. Wonder how on earth you’re going to fit in a cocktail or two (we had vouchers for free ones).

Step fifteen: Walk back to the hotel, seeing the city lit up around you. Debate whether the definition of true love is both “finding the person you want to annoy for the rest of your life”, or “finding the person you can stand being annoyed by for the rest of your life”.

Step sixteen: Decide that you can probably stomach at least one cocktail, so reluctantly shoe-horn yourself into a dress and head down to the bar. Watch as Boy promptly sloshes quarter of his first drink over his jeans. Feel old because the amount you’ve eaten and drunk over the last thirty-something hours is catching up with you, and you just want to sink into that big hotel bed.

To finish: As the train leaves Temple Meads, remember that year you spent in Cardiff, flitting to Bristol whenever you had a few days spare, and how flat you felt when you had to get on the train alone on Sunday evenings. Feel grateful and relieved that you don’t have to do that anymore.

Get home, Google “jobs in Bristol”.

You really need to listen to this guy. Saw him last night, and he is disgustingly talented.

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