I am awake, at the crack of dawn and, after a good shower, put on one of my four shirts and head down to church.
The Banksy Line, note that Well's Hall is in the background
On the way, I pass the line for the Banksy art exhibit. As I write this on 7/10/09, I can attest that the line has been this long every day since I've been here… going on three weeks. This is the sort of response that the Arts usually can only dream of.
I'd dropped into this particular church - the Bristol Cathedral - before, for evensong. I'd sat in the back, one of only six people. A million miles away, dwarfed by the huge space, hidden by ornate crenallations, I could see the berobed blib which was the priest. The sermon was uninspired, the phrasing interspersed with melodramatic pauses every five seconds to allow the prodigious echo of the empty words die away into the empty space.
Tourists came through the door past a sign asking them not to, forgetting that they were on their cellphones. It was disgusting… Secularity need not beget Irreverence.
Today I'm back and their are forty or fifty people, mostly older, huddled in a circle about the center - a puddle of humanity dwarfed by the stone around them. A lecturn closer the congregation is used today and the situation doesn't feel quite as alienating.
Afterwards, I walk about, looking at all the many plaques and statues marking the final resting place of some person. Over time, the composition of a church here must gradually move from stone to people, which is what it was to begin with.
As I walk away, clouds loom over the church, which has stood here for 800 years and I wonder if it will die in grace, or a whimper of apathy.
Sunday's a good day for a ride around Bristol, so I find myself a water taxi at the floating harbour, and off we go.
The floating harbour was formed in 01809 from eighty acres of tidal river. With the aide of a set of locks, ships no longer needed to worry about tides and commercial activity could continue, unabated, at all hours. It helped revolutionise Bristol and remained active till 01975.
|On the way, we pass an rigged ship moving, mysteriously, without wind.|
And then on, past the S.S. Great Britain, built by Brunel, Bristol's pre-eminent engineer (I'll do a blurb on him later). Launched as the world's largest ship in 01843, it retained the title for sixteen years. The Prince Albert took the train to Bristol to see her off along with thousands of his countrymen.
|After years away, the S.S. GB returned to Bristol in 01970 to a welcoming crowd estimated at 100,000. The years hadn't been kind to her, but the public interest ensured that historical preservation was a factor in the floating harbour's future. Today it rests near the shipyard of its construction - both are retired.|
|We pass a set of very "green" boats, moving along the River Avon. The river winds its way through six locks and six hours to Bath Spa, otherwise eleven minutes by bus, and then on to Stratford.|
Passing the castle grounds, we see swans, which belong to the queen. This amazes me, that one person can own an entire species and all their progeny, unto eternity. I remember being similarly amazed by the Louisiana Territory, that some man with a flag could claim an entire watershed and that the claim was valid enough to be sold for 60 million francs (about a third of what Haiti paid for their freedom, but that was claimed with guns, not flags).
But Bristol is also a modern city.
|After disembarking, I stroll down the harbour-side to the St. Mary Redcliffe church, which has also been built on the "bedrock of the faithful".|
|The churches here are seafaring churches. The Cathedral sported candles dating back several hundreds years to the rescue of *mummblemummble*, the real Robinson Crusoe. Here they have a model of John Cabot's Matthew, built by the same craftsmen who sculpted its larger twin and brought here to be blessed, prayers said for the crew.|
|In a neighboring room, there are the resting places and monuments to explorers of the Americas - a whale-rib graces the wall.|
|I drop by a pub then, where a crowd of all ages and a sign on the wall speak to the enduring power of food, drink, friends, and warm spaces - when all else has crumbled, you'll still be able to find yourself a pint.|
|And then it's time to head home for the evening, when heavy rains come a fallin', if only briefly.|