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Bristol Sights.

Stepping off the train, Graeme found himself in a distant land with which he had once been familiar. Or had he? The dark side had been clouding everything recently, and not in a good way (as was the case when the Emperor came to power). Believing his faltering sense of direction would somehow lead him to his destination despite no firm existence of a proven track record, Graeme set off nonetheless. He had arrived in Bristol, one of the few U.K. cities where pedestrians find travel easier than cars due to a rather primitive road system that doesn’t show much mercy to mere mortals. It would soon become apparent, however, that your method of travel is secondary to an actual basic knowledge of where you’re going – something Graeme would have much time to ponder over during his two-hour walkabout through the south-western part of the British outback. In the past he had crossed yetis, goblins and harsh environmental conditions. None of them, as it would turn out, could measure up to the Bristol native, whose skin tone and accent was seemingly enough to put off wandering travellers from simply asking for directions that would make life, or at least this one day in life, slightly more comfortable.

Adopting an “I’ll know it when I see it” attitude that surprisingly sometimes does work in stories such as this one (the main difference being that it usually involves Hollywood actors and exciting car chases as well), Graeme proceeded through the city centre with a stride that told onlookers “yes, I in fact do know exactly where I’m going”, when actually his impressive pace meant precisely the opposite and probably would have been taken as such had it not been early morning rush hour; a time when Bristolian hunter-gatherers were themselves eagerly navigating mountainous terrain in the hope that they’d survive another day. Every so often Graeme would chance upon a map that gave him a slight fluttering in the heart because those inventions usually mean salvation in these situations, but again, when you’re not sure of which direction you’re supposed to be going in and are currently only relying on local landmarks (by sight rather than name) mixed with your own intuition to guide you to where you want to go, maps don’t tend to do an awful lot of good. So off Graeme would set again a few moments later, his only real achievement being the steady self-disintegration of his own fragile confidence.

As in any coherent narrative piece that has a beginning, middle and an end, this story ultimately had to be going somewhere; preferably somewhere productive. Wander the streets endlessly, Graeme could not. (Well, he could, but that would be a sad ending, and this tale has a happier one). Eventually, Graeme recognised the need for a little assistance in reaching where he wanted to go. A taxi company seemed like a safe bet, and so, after successfully ordering one (a taxi, that is), he was invited into a back room to wait with a shady-looking individual who proceeded to enquire as to whether or not our protagonist was “a traveller”. After some inward deliberation, Graeme supposed that he was a traveller, having stayed in three cities in the past three months (Belfast, Pompey and Bristol). In also hearing an accent that was quite different from his own, this individual felt he had the measure of the leather-jacketed Irish rogue sitting before him. He asked if he could borrow Graeme’s phone, because he had to “call customer services”. It was a sign of how bad things had got that the phone was out of battery and therefore out of action, helpfully preventing an awkward moment from happening because, let’s face it, there was little chance of Graeme handing over his phone in any case, unless this guy was calling an ambulance, which O2’s customer service line didn’t provide last time he had checked. Then again, they may have upgraded their service recently. Regardless, the “urgent” customer services call was soon forgotten, as our potential newfound adversary then produced a cheap-looking bracelet that he promptly stated was going for £190-£200 on the high street. Presumably, this meant he was selling it for less (around £185-£195 less, by the looks of it); a figure that he was hoping to reveal once his enticed customer had enquired as to what great deal was being offered to him for what was apparently “the last one” (surely this meant it was a popular product – how could anyone resist?).

Graeme took the bracelet in hand. Observed it. Feigned a look of interest. Stated how good it looked but then, rather than asking for that bargain price, set it back down on the desk in front of the good sir and said nothing else. Smiled and looked around. Wondered if he’d finally killed the conversation. Turned out he had.

What you’ve just read is pretty much exactly how my morning transpired on the 30th October, as I arrived back in Bristol for my second F.P. training block this year. I know you’re all dying to know what this means, and it seems I’ve been holding out on you. How unfair of me: it started over two months ago and I’ve hardly so much as mentioned it until now, but it’s really quite simple. F.P. stands for Frontier Project; an initiative set up by New Frontiers, a charismatic Christian movement based on New Testament principles. I’ll spend a year working with my home church (which is Solent Community Church in Portsmouth, despite Portsmouth not technically being my home) while attending different training blocks that prepare us for later (and current) life with theological teaching that goes beyond what we’d get in church on a typical Sunday morning. I say ‘us’ and ‘we’d’ not because I’m referring to America’s drug problem but because there’s a group of us, 18 in all, and a great, diverse group at that.

I arrived at City Church (our designated building for said training) around 11am – two hours later than scheduled – on the 30th, having managed to avoid any more con attempts and get a taxi without further incident, to find us talking about the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, before moving on to the book of Acts on the 31st. We also spent the night trying to injure ourselves (in the most positive way possible) by jumping/ falling over a fluctuating bouncy castle with more holes in it than the plot of Lost, and then watching Anchorman. You know how, when you’re younger, you think you’re going to grow out of this sort of thing? I’m starting to realise that’s just a phase: the truth is we never really ‘grow up’, but the stress of life glosses over your old self to fool you into believing that you have.

Of course, the notion of ‘growing up’ (and the negative connotations associated with it) is something entirely different, I’d say, from the development of necessary characteristics such as maturity and wisdom, which I can see developing in myself over the coming year. Hopefully, you’ve seen this process happening too; the previous post about my sea baptism was only the beginning of a journey that won’t always be full of happy thoughts and beams of light (as the mistaken opinion of some may suggest), nor should it be. Part of this maturing process will be about expanding on the ideas that I shared in the last week of August, just a few posts ago. Other parts of it are not yet apparent, but I’m open to God changing and challenging me this year, even more so than He has already done (open to it, but of course I’m not trying to speak for God here; I will develop at His pace and if that isn’t to develop any more than I already have done so far, then that’s fine too).

As always, I’ll use this blog to keep everyone up to date on stuff, and I’ll also use it for a few extra things as well…

In an unforeseen turn of events, Graeme had reached his destination, once again defying the threads of fate and delaying what was thought to have been an inevitable conclusion. The world had kept turning, with common sense prevailing and the darkness diverted safely elsewhere. But it was growling, yearning to roam the land, to cast doubt and fear among the masses. And as Graeme left Bristol two days later, he was watched by a certain mischievous character masquerading as a goblin.

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