643 Home, sweet home – part 2

Bristol

We had got to 1965, I think. My student years (p. 378) were spent mostly in Bristol. Bristol had always been a port specialising in trade with what were once the Colonies; in particular the tobacco trade, though it was also home to some very popular brands of sherry. When I went there it was not easy to guess quite how the city made a living, as all there was to see was houses, shops, and some offices.

The University was thus a major factor in life in Bristol. I went there to study French, but I’ll save that for p. 378. Let’s concentrate on my two temporary homes; I have no pictures of either of them, so I’ll do my best with plain words.

I got both of these through the student accommodation service; the first was in Knowle, a council estate on the southern side of the city, in Daventry Road. As far is I know, the area had no connection with the Midland town of the same name. The houses were ordinary suburban semis, a lot like my home in Enfield, though the rooms were much smaller, more like my grandmother’s house.

I sometimes wonder if the landlady knew what she was taking on in accepting two male first-year students. Neither of us was given to riotous behaviour, but we were both pretty green, with no previous experience of living away from home and looking after ourselves. I think my only offence was playing her piano very badly. The other student sealed our fate, I think, when the landlady’s daughter held her 21st birthday party in the house. She was a dull, plain young woman, not good-looking, and uninteresting to talk to.  The party was pretty uneventful apart from my fellow-student getting very drunk and ending up in the garden sitting on the coal bin.

Whatever the reason, during the vacation I got a letter from the landlady saying that she would not be taking students next term. Hasty liaison with the accommodation office found me a new address; I went back to Daventry Road to collect my belongings (including a cumbrous blue wooden trunk, which I still have), persuade a bus driver to let me on with all this stuff, and take it up to the new address.

This was in Waverley Road (no. 55 I think) in Redland, which for the geographers among you is to the east of Whiteladies Road not very far from the BBC (if it’s still there). The other side of Whiteladies Road takes you into Clifton, originally separate from Bristol, and definitely one of the posh parts of the city. Redland doubtless had been quite smart – the house were bigger and more stylish than in Knowle – but it had come down in the world. Just the sort of part of a university city where you find the student houses.

I remember that the landlord’s name was Terry, though his wife (I can’t remember her name) had ideas above her station and often called him Terence. They had a big, fat, scruffy old mongrel dog, very friendly; I can’t remember his name either. The dog and the owner were a good match.

They had bought one of these big Victorian houses to let out to students; subsequently they had bought the house next door and joined the two together; and by the time I left I think they were considering buying a third, though I think they never did. I spent seven of my nine university terms living there (plus the one in Daventry Road and the other in France) and enjoyed it very much. I made one fairly long-term friend there; I often spent evenings in the pub with some of the engineering students (from the aircraft works at Filton) and I wasted an awful lot of time in the television room.

Bristol will loom very large in “Places in my life” (p. 910) as well as in “University”. For now I’ll say that the house apparently came to a sad end. It so happens that a Bristol Esperantist used to live in Waverley Road, though I didn’t know this at the time. Her name was Dorothy Fulford. I had contact with her some time in the 1990s; she said that Terry and his wife had eventually retired to somewhere warm and had sold the houses to some kind of ne’er-do-well who began doing something nefarious in the houses (I’ve forgotten what) and eventually they burned down in what was apparently an insurance fire. Now, on Google maps, in satellite view, you can see one house in Waverley Road, on the south side, which is conspicuously newer than the ones around it.

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