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The Naked Guide to Change

As a full-time student, funds are understandably low in the Lacey-Williams home. It was my fiancé’s 30th this year and not being able to buy her the moon and stars to mark the occasion I did the next best thing. I promised her the moon and stars. Let me make that a bit clearer. I created 30 promises that are fun, local and most importantly, cheap (or better yet; free). Using Tangent’s flagship publication, The Naked Guide to Bristol, I highlighted some of Bristol’s quirkier activities on the grounds that if The Guide… says it’s good, we’ll go for it.

Once I’d given Simone the 30 promises, we browsed through The Guideto determine what she’d like to do first. But as we scanned the pages a problem became apparent. I was working from the first edition of The Guide, Tangent is currently on its updated fifth edition. Undaunted, we set out to find out what has changed between the first and fifth editions in this ever-evolving city.

Thankfully, there are a decent few stalwarts that haven’t changed at all between the two editions. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the world’s most identifiable landmarks, and having celebrated its 150th year in 2014 with one of the most impressive fireworks displays we’ve ever witnessed, it’s safe to say that promise no.3 (A Walk to the Suspension Bridge) is a solid given.

If one promise was to have changed then surely it was going to be no.28, the free trail found in the ‘Children’s Bristol’ section of The Guide. My first edition suggests beginning at the Windmill Hill City Farm for “a hearty Farm Breakfast and a mug of tea”. The City Farm was established in 1976 and has been growing since its roots were first laid in Bedminster. So far so good. From there, says The Guide, we should go to St Mary Redcliffe Church to “find the Church Cat’s grave and the tramline embedded in the grass from a World War Two air raid”.

From there it’s on to the Industrial Museum… wait, the what? Judging by the map, we soon deciphered that where we were meant to be going was in fact The M Shed. Two years after the publication of the first edition of The Guide, the Industrial Museum closed and was replaced with what we now know as the M Shed which opened in 2011. Confusion over. Promise No. 28 is still on.

After wandering around the Millennium Square Fountains, admiring Bristol Cathedral, we battle the incline of Park Street to head to Bristol Museum and then on to our final destination, Cabot Tower. This Bristol landmark holds a very special place in our hearts as it happens. It was here that I proposed last December (and she said yes). The vista from the top of the tower offers a breath-taking panoramic view of the city and its harbourside, made even more poignant to us due to that pivotal afternoon.

Not all the promises included dragging Simone around the city. Some of them involved food and/or drink. The first edition of The Guide recommends The Argus Fish Bar on West Street in Bedminster. Ideal for promise no. 16; A Chippy Dinner. Unsure whether the place was still going, a quick search online and our concerns were unnecessary. The Argus is still going strong and according to one site and its reviewers, it is quite possibly the best fish and chips in Bristol. Promise no. 16 is secure.

Simone and I reside in the BS7 area of Bristol, so a lot of the promises are things to do ‘South of the River’ so we can explore the other side of the city. But not wanting to exclude Gloucester Road, I included a promise to go to our favourite Italian, Di Meo (no.7, A Tastecard Meal). Gloucester Road has understandably changed in the 12 years since The Guide was first published, but not to such drastic lengths that it would be unrecognisable from that first edition. Famed for having “more charity shops per square metre than anywhere else in the Southwest”, Glossy Road is still “a mish-mash of trendy bars, spit-and-sawdust pubs, chic restaurants and cheap cafes”.

Whilst taking a mental note of just how many charity shops there were per square metre I also couldn’t help but notice how many beauty salons/hairdressers/barbers there are. Just walking from the junction that leads to Bristol Memorial Stadium, past the Tinto Lounge, down Pigsty Hill, past the pop up Christmas bar outside Nailsea Electrics (really), down where to The Plantation used to be until you reach the Cat and Wheel at the famous Arches, there are currently 22 hairdressers/barbers. I guess everyone deserves to look their best as they push their trollies around one of the three Co-ops.

To conclude, of the initial 30 promises I made, most were safe and secure in respect to the newest edition of The Naked Guide to Bristol. Some may have changed slightly, such as the trail, but change isn’t necessarily a bad thing - no. 9; A Walk to Snuff Mills, which might I add, does not have the worst toilets in Britain any more. I even commented on how nice the toilets were before I found out about their dirty past.

Bristol is a city that is forever changing. Next time you climb the steps to the top of Cabot Tower and look at the Bristol skyline, just count how many cranes dot the landscape and you’ll see just how much change is indeed, a constant to Bristol.

David Williams

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