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Writing Bristol by Xavier Leret

Writing Bristol

I spent my youth roaming the hills and streets of Bristol. At
the age of thirteen I was on roller skates at a break neck-speed to Redland, over Kingsdown, backwards down Park Street. Then I traded the skates for a push-bike which I ditched because I preferred walking. All over the city, from Filton out
to Ashton Court, Southville, Henlease, Redland, Cotham.

As a child I played in the trenches of the old Iron Age fort up on the downs. I had my first kiss at the foot of Cabot Tower. For a while I lived not far from where Cromwell parked his army before taking the city from the Royalists. I performed on a stage that
had been raised on the profits of slavery. As a kid I spent hours in the museum, peering into the gypsy’s waggon or being over-awed by the skeleton of a giant deer. It has a face like that of death peering into the world.

I have now lived away from Bristol for as many years as I lived there. Firstly I moved out to the Cotswolds before making the journey East, living in London for a while. I came home to see my parents, but that was in on the M32, then straight back out
again. I thought I still knew the city, but returning to write The Romeo And Juliet Killers I discovered that the geography of my memories was askew. My setting around Cabot Tower wasn’t exactly as I remembered it. The tarred remnants of a neolithic hunter, in the museum, has been superceded by the sarcophagus of some minor Egyptian bureaucrat. An entire park was not where it should have been. Some places I had completely made up. Sometimes I corrected mywonky memory, but other times I preferred it, choosing to montage the reality to the unreality.

The other day I took my family to Fishponds, in Bristol, to
see where the star of my book Daizee lives. She lives in a bedsit in a loft conversion with a skylight in the roof. The house overlooks an old Jewish cemetery. Then I took them to where Franky shows Daizee the way to Australia, from the top of Cabot Tower, and in the distance, in an oatmeal blur, I pointed
out the estate on which Daizee grew up. Later I took them to my old school and the parks I used to hang out in, some of which feature in the book. And what I hope is, that I have, for my children at least, confused the bits of Bristol that I made up with those that actually exist. It all seems very real to me.

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