As a country lad, brought up in a village and having lived most of my life in rural, if not remote, surroundings, adjusting to city life has been quite a revelation. As with any new experience it’s very much highlighting how our personal norms and expectations are so based on our own prior experiences . . . and how that can make us, quite unconsciously and unintentionally, biased or dismissive of alternative perspectives. There’s no question that conscious moving, being mindful as you are relocating home and/or work, can be a wonderfully opportunity for evolving!
Firstly though, I must say a huge ‘Thank You!’ to the folks of Bristol, for making me so welcome. In less than a week in this vibrant yet chilled city, for example, I’ve had more conversations on buses than I typically had in many months in North Wales.
At first, I was a bit disappointed that folks didn’t smile or say “Morning” when they passed in the streets. Then I realised that you’d never get anywhere if you did that in such a busy city. Not like my Northamptonshire villages where meeting someone could be a bit of a rarity, so you’d make the most of it!
I also noted and appreciated common courtesy in apologising for bumping into you, for example. This helped me realise that what I had taken as people ignoring me was, in fact, them giving me my space. Far from ignoring me, they were respecting me! This came as a big, but positive shock: I had previously thought that most folk were ignoring me, probably because they were too caught up in their own lives and were unaware of anything or anybody else. Thus, I felt, they didn’t care about me and my feelings. Or might this be about where you happen to be out walking? In Bristol, at least, respect is the order of the day. Wonderful!
Living cheek by jowl with our fellow man is a big part of city living which has a number of consequences, particularly in expensive towns and cities, such as Bristol.
Since even those in a reasonable job often can’t afford a place of their own, all manner of opportunities exists for sharing of accommodation. When it’s not possible to own, or rent, your own everything, there is little choice but to learn to share a front door, bathroom, kitchen . . . or whatever. What a wonderful opportunity to learn tolerance and cooperation! It’s also about, in good conscious evolution terms, being present: knowing when to swallow hard and accept some behaviour you’d rather not . . . and when to stand up for decency and fair practice. For example, if one individual (me included) makes a mess in a shared kitchen it’s up to that one person to clear it up . . . and they may, sometimes, need reminding of this!
If you’ve been used to a whole house to yourself, it can take some adjustment to having others around and not having so much room. You don’t have the space, for example, for all those possessions gathered over a life-time. What to do with all those things, all that stuff? In reflecting on what to bring with me I had to do some deep reflecting on what I really needed. Wanting, or what I was used to, is a luxury what space is in limited supply. For example, I didn’t bring my PhD thesis . . . but I did bring my little cuddle Roo. Even in a welcoming city, a lone settler needs some sort of companion!
And then there’s food. With just a modest shelf space and a part of fridge, gone is the possibility of a food store.
Just in Time
My exploration of local supermarkets had already revealed that a significant number of folk rely heavily on pre-cooked meals. And why not! Many of them are remarkably good these days and some people may not have the time, facilities (or inclination) to cook a proper mal from themselves. What is a ‘proper’ meal anyway?
Then I also noticed that many shoppers were queuing up to pay for just a few items: just the one meal they were about to consume. Oh! When I’m travelling I’ll do that, but as a resident? I needed to do a rethink. Then I remembered that businesses often practice ‘Just in Time’; i.e. they only buy and stock what they need for, say, the next day’s production. It saves on space, on inventory: it’s part of ‘Lean’ approach to doing things. When food, of all sorts, is available if not 24/7 but from at least before most folks’ breakfasts until after most folks evening meal, and you’ve no place to store a week’s meals then, I have to admit, it makes sense.
And so, I’m opening my mind to the ways of the city . . . and my heart to the lovely people of Bristol, as they are opening theirs’ to me.