My days in Bristol are coming to an end and I must choose carefully. I’m tempted by a day in the country, to cross the Mendips to never really looked at Shepton Mallet, close to my teenage home ground. Or Wells or Bath or libidinal Frome. But I think this time I’ll concentrate on Bristol.
I decide to explore Broadmead, the shopping centre, just across the water by Castle Bridge from Finzel’s reach where I’m staying. The pre-war shops were further south and badly war damaged, their site now marked by Castle Park with its two ruined churches. Potentially pleasant although many hangaround folk keep utopia at bay, I suspect among them those that maintain the area’s old trading traditions.
I approach Broadmead in the spirit of medicine, to be endured rather than enjoyed, necessary and logical but not nice. And, of course, retail is everywhere but happily a lot more.
First, the wonderfully named Quaker Friars with its old Meeting House adjacent to what was a mediaeval friary, with odd bits of stonework here and there. It’s a meeting house no more but the building is still there as is Merchant Taylors almhouse (now a function room attached to the garishly signed Galleries). And one of Wesley’s early Methodist churches, complete with museum and statue of the man himself, an oasis in mammon’s desert.
Finally, there is the pleasing Lower Arcade or just Arcade now as the Higher Arcade was irreparably bomb damaged. The post-war developers almost managed to destroy the Lower Arcade too, only being prevented by foresighted listing (to their despair and posterity’s delight).
After all this culture, I abandon myself to the spirit of the place at Marks and Sparks to replenish my wardrobe, adding more socks and yet another shirt to my Swedish clothing mountain. I think about whether to go to the library to rest for a while before exploring another area but eventually, in a burst of old man awareness, decide to return to the hotel to rest and plan the morn.