Thundering bridge where for years there were warning signs: men working below. The signs always troubled me. No one there as we walked through liminal Avonmouth. The river slow off to the estuary almost more mud than water.
We walked thinking about the river and what it carried and more and more I am thinking of the memory it holds. A legacy that is with us and part of us, blood and water. From the heady heights the road thundered at us, bars restrained us and coaches teased us. The lure of speed in its deadly spate, great chunks of metal hammering past. The past roaring at us from behind bars as we looked down to the river.
Smoothing down and out of that epic adrenaline enchantment to more overgrown tracks. The river drifted by its run slowing as the tide turned. An indifference.
Down this river went the brass and cloth from mills at Keynsham, Saltford and Bath; guns, gunpowder and more from Bristol. Where were the shackles made? Boats built, repaired, cleaned, loaded unloaded along this river. Here. We tried to imagine. Boats returning feeding the european addictions, sugar, tobacco, rum: wealth on one form or another. Wealth oozing, viscous, tarry old oil not smooth river mud.
We spirited up a galleon decked with flags first down river then motoring up against the current where teams of strong men would have heaved. A pirate ship, a heritage spectacle not even harnessed to the wind, an enchantment of adventure and enterprise materialised
So we walked on into the enchantment of neoliberalism and stumbled upon its shipwrecks. A contemporary epic of adventure, freedom and enterprise proclaiming who deserves, seizing ownership of shared assets and re-writing the story of collective mutual support. Those deemed undeserving are abandoned. Thrown overboard. Assets re-purposed. The legacy of slaveownership runs deep.
At last arriving at Bristol old wharves, great red brick boxes, the bonded warehouses in which I had once imagined the merchants counting their gold, loomed through the gorge. Under Leigh Woods, graffitti walls for years emblazoned with Hendrix Lives. Deeper and out of site another palladian mansion stands triumphant the origin of its wealthy statement barely challenged.