Living On The Edge (Of Bristol)
Cai writes a love letter to Warmley, and to living in the quaint ol’ suburbs of Bristol.
I ordered a pot of tea for one ‘but no sugar’ I say as they’re writing down my order.
As I walked into the Warmley Waiting Room, I was greeted with warm hugs and smiles. I ordered a pot of tea for one. ‘But no sugar,’ I said as they wrote down my order. I knew it would be a waste of a sugar bowl that could be precious during a hectic lunchtime rush. I took a seat in the summerhouse and remembered what it used to be like on my lunch break when I worked there: frantic during the busy summer months, and warm during the cold winter months.
Before starting at Rife, I used to work in a coffee shop round the corner from my home.
I live on the edge of Bristol in an area called Warmley, which feels very different to more central areas. There’s Park Street, Cabot Circus, St Nick’s Market, Bedminster, Hotwells, Stokes Croft – all these places that are part of the amalgamation that is the city centre and are, at max, a mile away from each other. We look at Southville’s restaurants and café’s, its independent shops and its theatre. We look at Stokes Croft’s bars, its artist studios and its vintage stores. There is so much going on in those places.
Warmley, on the other hand, is six miles out of the centre. It takes half an hour to even get close to town and a good 45 minutes on the bus (and that’s not even when it’s raining). The highlight – Warmley High Street – has a chemist, post office, three hairdressers, one pub and an independent café. So when I started working at the café, I expected it to be quiet, slow and dreary.
What surprised me was that it was completely the opposite. Sure, there were quiet days, but there were always people there. During the summer, I found it some of the most challenging work I’d ever done, and I came home every day exhausted. But as I worked there more, I grew to love it. Not for the latte art (although that was always fun) but because of the people there.
There were days when Claire’s dad used to come in and wash up, even though he should have been resting and relaxing.
When I started working there, as cheesy as it sounds, I joined a family. It was a family ran business and Claire and Justin (the owners) lived at the end of the garden. Every person they employed happened to be a friend of theirs and we all enjoyed being there. There were days when Claire’s dad used to come in and wash up, even though he should have been resting and relaxing. Helen had known her when she was at school and now their kids played together. I don’t know where Marie came from, but she felt like she knew everyone. Her son even worked there during half term, manning the bacon machine (even though he probably wasn’t supposed to). We were one big unconventional happy family – we were all from different backgrounds, but we all got on so well.
And it showed in our interaction with customers. All the reviews consistently emphasise how important the staff was to their great experience there. People came to the café because as well as the great coffee, it was the centre of our neighborhood.
I grew to know the regulars – Alan and Tony (but not on fish and chips Fridays), Welsh Dave and Lewis (the dog), Patrick from the Warmley wheelers and Kim on her way back from the night shift at Asda – and I grew friendly with them. I slowly became a part of this community that I’d been reluctant to join at first.
The actual center of Bristol makes up less than 5% of the total population of Bristol.
As you get further out from the centre, there are less places to go, but more actual people. The actual centre of Bristol makes up less than 5% of the total population of Bristol. So whilst a lot is going on in the centre, it means that most of the people there are commuting in. The vast majority of the population lives in their own smaller neighborhood. It’s easy to think that your neighborhood doesn’t have any identity when you spend most of your time travelling to somewhere else in the city.
I would travel into town a lot for sixth form, to see friends and to be a part of everything that was going on. I wanted to spend my time where it would be most productive, useful and fun. Working in the Warmley Waiting Room made me feel a part of the area I lived in when there was very little there for me. There will always be a part of me now that will love walking round to the waiting room, and ordering a pot of tea for one (but no sugar as I know it would be a waste of a sugar bowl that could be precious during a hectic lunchtime rush). I still enjoy everything that’s happening in the centre, but I realise that there is more to Bristol than it’s middle.
There is so much in so many other areas, and you might be surprised by what you find.
When you give people a space to meet and socialise, you build these connections, which is what the Waiting Room does in Warmley. But there is so much in so many other areas, and you might be surprised by what you find. I’m not saying that you’ll stumble across a theatre you never knew was round the corner, but you might find that there are more reasons than you thought to stay in your neighborhood. There was so much more on my doorstep than I realized. It’s only when I took the time to invest in the area that I lived in for that door to open for me.
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