“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I did know that I wanted it to be in zone two.”
I grew up in suburbia but I got my first Red Bus Rover at age 10, and, with my 8 year old next door neighbour, toured all the famous places. Trafalgar square. Buckingham Palace. Hamleys!
It was 12¾ miles by train to Charing Cross station and I must’ve made that journey a thousand times in my teenage years. St James Park. The Natural History Museum. Oxford Street. Ice skating at Queensway.
I finally got to live in Zone 2 after I left the RN. Whitechapel had the BEST pubs for music. The George on Commercial Street had an amateur hour on Fridays where any one of those pensioners could’ve been a star in their day. Maybe they were?
I swore I’d never live in suburbia again. Plymouth Hoe was next but we soon traded our view of the Sound for the shadows of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan.
Two years of that and we headed for San Francisco but we missed it by sixty miles. We ended up surrounded by the dreary strip malls of Almaden Valley for the next 23 years with four-mile drive to the nearest pub, the Britannia Arms. Thank God they put a bar inside Wholefoods.
My vow was dormant but not forgotten and now here we are in the thick of it again. Home at last. There must be 100 pubs and restaurants within a mile or two. Three of my favourites are just minutes away. The Grain Barge, The Broken Dock and The Three Tuns are as much home as my actual home.
We get asked all the time why anyone would trade California for Bristol but this is the view from outside my house and I awake every Sunday to cathedral bells.
Contra their reputation, cities are much friendlier than the suburbs and I strike up a conversation with a stranger every single time I go to the pub. That happened maybe four times in twenty years in Silicon Valley. It helps to have a cute dog.
When we came home to England we chose Bristol at random like a Womble choosing his name on Uncle Bulgaria’s map of the world.
It was home all along but we never knew it until now.