Bristol Still Life

 

A car alarm sounds, an endless soar and dip of electric whoops.

The neighbour’s kids are in the back garden kicking a football around, trundling up the powdery tarmac path on their scooters. They shout and cry and argue in English, their mother chastises in Arabic.

Streets away a road sweeper van hums and whistles, brushes whirring against the pavement, a windy suck of air as it sweeps away polluted dust and grit and unsuspecting invertebrates.

A plane reverberates like thunder; the waspish rev of a moped. Twin sirens – lazy cousins to the car alarm – weave together, fade and grow and fade to nothing.

But.

The sparrows chitter their fussy song and a blackbird answers proud from the chimney top. Leaves stir on the cherry tree, the long grass is a sea of hushes. Rain pitters the roof and a bobble of a bumble bee hums over the raspberry canes.

 

What Pegman Saw : Spangles and sparkles and rainbow shells

‘Roll up, my babber!

‘Wanna forget that pox-scarred mug of yours for a time? The face that scares the pretty maids and leaves you thrashing alone in your truckle bed, sweating and wracked with a guilty glow at your own sinning?

‘Wanna leave that slum you call home, choked with jaspers and river stink in the summer, crumbling into the Avon with the black damp in winter?

‘You wanna see a mermaid, my dove, her tail flash with sparkles, head acrowned with abalone shells bright as a rainbow?

‘Wanna see a prince, all ‘andsome, bedecked with spangles, limbs straight at a plumb line, not like mine that’s bent as a sail in full blow.

‘Forget the dog eggs and horse shit, forget the rent’s past due and you’ll soon be toshing to make ends meet. Inside’s love and loss and happy endings ever after.

‘And who don’t want that?’

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Streetview.

Well, how could I resist this one? I know this fair city rather well, having lived here for the last thirteen years. There are many rundown, twisting alleys to inspire dark tales, there’s the harbour with its seafaring history, local pubs like the Llandoger Trow (supposedly the inspiration for the Admiral Benbow Inn in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island), or the Hatchett Inn on Frogmore Street, where the door is reputedly covered in human skin.

But I chose the historic Bristol Old Vic Theatre. Built in 1766, it’s Britain’s oldest continually working theatre and during recent refurbishments a gutter was discovered down which cannon balls could be rolled to mimic the sound of thunder.

And for those of you not from the southwest of England …

Brizzle Dictionary

Avon – main river running the centre of the city, separating North Bristol from South Bristol.

Babber – mate, pal.

Brizzle – Bristol

Jaspers – wasps

 

General and historical notes

Dog eggs – canine faeces

Toshing – searching the sewer for lost valuables.

Truckle bed – low wooden bed, often on casters, that can slide under another bed when not in use. Often used by servants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash fiction win

Harbourside, boats and painted houses

Image: Pixabay

 

As part of National Flash Fiction Day on Saturday 25th June, Bristol has a Flash Walk around the city centre, where short stories inspired by the harbourside and all its watery goings on will be read aloud by trained actors.

I am delighted to say that one of my flash stories – Will there be pirates? – has been selected to be performed as part of the walk.

So, if you’re in the Bristol area on the 25th and fancy meeting up to hear some stella flash fiction, the walk begins outside Bristol Cathedral at 10.30 am.

Do come along. I can’t promise sunshine, but I can promise pirates*.


*Pirate not included