Bright Lights, Big City

Growing up above an off licence in a busy city centre had pros and cons. Spending a lot of time on our own, unsupervised meant we had a lot of “creative” time. This was definitely one of the pros.

Cotham Hill if you don’t know Bristol is at the bottom of Whiteladies Road. Whiteladies Road is a long hill and every December its entire length is decorated with huge and impressive Christmas lights that stretch from one side of the road to the other.

My favourite thing about living at the bottom of it was that from my bedroom window you could see all the way to the top The Christmas lights looked amazing and I felt excited from the first day they went up every year. From my bedroom which was on the third floor of our flat, above the shop, I could see a good way across the rooftops of the city. I used to leave my window open in case Superman aka Christopher Reeve wanted to fly in and visit me. If I couldnt sleep I would fantasise that Superman and Captain Kirk were having fisticuffs over who got to be my boyfriend.

Mine and my brother’s bedrooms all had big sash windows. When we pushed them open the three of us could easily fit and lean quite far out. This meant that we could see all the comings and goings from the shop below. When we moved to Cotham Hill we became aware of “tramps”. We could see scruffy men in brown scruffy coats with long hair, long beards, woolly hats and who up close smelt quite bad. The word “tramp” meant nothing to me at the time. I didn’t know that they were homeless alcoholics. We saw them as harmless but smelly Paddington Bear type characters in their duffle coats, who liked to hang around outside our shop. The only thing we knew for sure was that they stood outside our off license for long periods of time wobbling and shouting and this amused us greatly. From our open window they could neither see nor hear us and we used this to our advantage.

We raided my mother’s jewellery box for a chunky bead necklace, released the beads from their thread and divvied them up between us. We cried with laughter as we dropped these mini bombs on the tramps below and everytime they looked up to shake their fists at the sky and hurl insults into the air we would quickly pull our heads back in from the window. When we decided that my mother would notice her rapidly shrinking costume jewellery collection we moved on to spitting. This incited a much more aggressive response from the tramps who became much more agitated. So much so that my father had to come out of the shop and speak to them and whose eyesight unimpaired by whatever was in the bottles they had been swigging did clock his three darlings hanging out of the bedroom window.

Another spanking was dished out. This time I belligerently told my father “that didn’t hurt”. The next one did. The spanking didn’t deter us. We moved on to Lego bombs after that.

Leave a Reply