Bristol: For My Imaginary Grandchildren


It has occurred to me that, sooner than I realised, everything will be very different. In my life so far, everything has always switched around pretty fast, and while reading some travel writing this afternoon that detailed London in the 1970’s, I realised that today, right now, will one day be long ago, and filled with an unknowable mystery for any generations that come after.

With that in mind, I’d like to address this diary entry to my future grandchildren. Hello there, my grandchildren. I hope you’re doing well, and are happy. I don’t know what your world will be like – I hope it’s lovely – but here is a little slice of mine. Here is your granddad at 26 years old, going about a very normal day. Here is a straight up, true, possibly bland but totally honest run-through of my Tuesday this week: that is, the 29th of October, 2019.

I woke up at 6am, warm and cosy beside Jeanne. I’d normally be unconscious until almost 8am, however I’d accidentally gone to bed at 8.45pm the previous day, tricked by the rush of darkness brought on by daylight saving time – that’s due to be abolished in a year or two, so I imagine you’ll be unfamiliar. Essentially, we alter to the clocks in the spring and autumn to give the farmers more daylight hours to work, and it fucks* with everyone’s body clocks for a few days.

*this is a hilarious swear word that you are absolutely forbidden to use.

I then did as I do every morning – I rolled over and gave Jeanne a kiss on the cheek, and lay there for a while, deconstructing the evening’s dreams. They’re invariably bizarre – evil villains and battles, magic spells and weird hybrid animals. Sometimes fun, sometimes bloody horrid.

By 6.30 I was restless, unable to get back to sleep, and asked Jeanne if I could turn the lamp on to read. She said no in a very small voice. I turned the lamp on anyway, with a cackle, and she squeaked and rolled over, pulling the covers over her head. I took my book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, off the bedside table, removed my bookmark, and at a leisurely pace, read the last thirty pages.

The ending of the book gets a lot of flack from a lot of scholars, but I quite liked it. I think it’s very true that Huck would regress to an earlier version of himself upon finding himself in familiar surroundings. On the raft, alone together, he and Jim grow and change. At the end of the book, back among the society they know, they tipple over, backwards, into their old characters. I’ve done the same this year. I think that’s why travel is so addictive. Our environments and social circles shape us every day. I’d ideally like to be moving, always. It’s the only way to stay shapeless.

I showered and dressed and shared a bowl of Frosties with Jeanne, and we got the bus into the city centre together. It’s not far but a very slow ride, twenty to thirty minutes at a crawl. It costs £18 a week for the bus. I have an app on my phone; I buy a weekly ticket and just scan it when I climb aboard. Fast and easy, but stressful if your phone battery is low. I’m sure that 50 years from now there’ll be some novel new way of commuting – or perhaps commuting won’t be necessary at all.

I hopped off a few stops before Jeanne and headed into my office – it’s a gorgeous white-stone building from the 1930’s in Bristol centre. The day’s work was long and pretty dry; there’s not a huge amount to do at the moment, although everything is going to go haywire next week when the process for creating our bi-annual magazine begins. I’m the sole copywriter in the entire company – 300 employees, tens of thousand of clients. Bit intimidating.

At lunch I went to Sainsbury’s and bought this potted soup thing. I figured out a few weeks back that buying meal deals for £3 is a mug’s game – leave that to the recruitment crowd that swarm the shop every day come one o’clock. It’s all about the potted soups. They cost £1.65, they are tasty, they contain little in the way of fat or sugar, and their packaging is recyclable. Every time I buy one I feel like I’ve made a sneaky clever decision. When I’m particularly peckish (always), I add a baguettine for 30p. I imagine the whole tedious ‘office lunch’ thing will be pretty similar for you, sweet grandchild o’ mine.

Every lunchtime I do the same thing: I microwave half a pot of soup in our gigantic new office kitchen, pick up the steaming bowl with a tea towel, and take it across the canteen to sit alone in the window. I break up the bread, dip it in the soup, and read my book for 40 minutes or so. I know I look anti-social, and it would be nice to have extra friends in the workplace, but I want to read a book a week to improve my writing – and maybe even add an IQ point or two –  and I’d rather do that as part of my working day, then have evenings spent however I like, guilt-free.

I left work at 4.30pm for an eye test, because the damn screens give me headaches. It’s impossible to escape screens, truly. Anything I want to do requires some amount of screen time. Listen to music? Screen. Banking? Screen. Look at old photographs? Screen. Writing? Screen. Games? Chat to mates? Learn a language? Learn a song on guitar? Plan a holiday? Shop for clothes? Screen, screen, screen, scream. I can only foresee increasing screen usage in the future, unfortunately. Prove me wrong, kids – I beg of you.

So I went to Specsavers and was welcomed by a very nice man with good hair who said it was his second day on the job. He took me into a room where I stuck my head into a giant white robot thing, and he turned the light off and I had to identify letters from a distance through a variety of lenses. I then went into another room where a young optician blasted a brilliant light into my eyes and took photographs of the inside of my eyeballs until my they were streaming.

She read me my results: my eyes are totally fine. She said that I was ever so slightly long-sighted, so would perhaps struggle focussing on things that were very close up, however it was such a slight condition that there would be no point in me wearing glasses – which I’m grateful for as I can’t afford them. I wonder whether people will still be wearing glasses when you grow up. Perhaps there will be some amazing instant fix, and the very notion of a pair of glass circles being worn on your face will seem like lunacy.

I got out of the opticians at 5.20pm – my office doesn’t close until 6, but there wasn’t much pointing in heading back for what would only be 20 minutes by the time I got logged onto my computer once more. Instead, I celebrated my good eyes with a trip to McDonalds, where I used those giant screens to order a chicken mayo and a cheeseburger for a pound each, and queued among the giant rabble of people for 15 minutes or so. Does McDonalds still exist in 2069? Does anybody still eat meat?

I walked to the bus stop munching my two little burgers, quietly hating myself for my lack of willpower, and took the 73 bus home. On the bus I put my headphones in and listened to the My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast. I listen every day – it makes me laugh out loud constantly, and brightens the journeys to and from work. Podcasts have been around for years, but I’ve only got into them recently. They really add a extra little joy to my day. I wonder if they will change in format – uploaded straight into your subconscious, perhaps?

At home I stripped off in the bedroom and did a quick 30 minute full-body workout with a pair of dumbbells I bought offline several weeks ago. I’ve done it two or three times a week for around a month now, and it’s getting a little too easy. I need to up the weights, but that means buying extra plates and I don’t have much money. I like to take my time exercising – dance around like a tit between sets, sing along to music, make a bit of a party out of it. It’s the only time in my life these days that I’m totally alone and unobserved – and you’ve got to have your fun, don’t you?

Jeanne got home sometime later and found me sprawled on the bed in a pink t shirt and comfy sweatpants reading Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’ – which inspired this diary entry, actually. Jeanne smelled like the autumn air when she got in, and when I kissed her cheeks they were cold. She asked me if I wanted to come with her to Tesco to do a food shop. I told her not really because I was in my pyjamas. She got annoyed, which I said wasn’t entirely fair because this was the first I’d heard of the Tesco plan.

Jeanne went to Tesco and I read my book until she returned with a bag full of vegetables. I asked her if she was still mad at me. “Oui.” She’d bought a vegetable masher thing and set about making a soup downstairs. I came to join her and gave her a kiss to make friends, and everything was okay. For dinner I ate leftovers from the night before, because I’d already had two burgers and felt guilty and fat (that said, I still wolfed down a bowl full of mashed potato and gravy).

I played electric guitar for a while but found little pleasure in it, because we live in a share house – we can’t afford to rent a place by ourselves if we hope to ever have enough saved to leave Bristol- and I can’t turn it up the amp as loud as I’d like. Then, with all options for evening entertainment exhausted I had a bit of a lull:  I got gloomy out of the blue, and sat on the sofa and sighed to Jeanne about how badly I wish we were able to travel and have adventures again. After all those adventures, it’s tough to readjust. It’s been months now, and I still have my moments of frustration and sorrow. Jeanne is used to it. She sits and listens and strokes my back.

I decided to be proactive to cheer myself up, and looked online for writing competitions to enter. There’s one opening in November, it turns out. The grand prize is £10,000. I looked up the details and drew up a plan for a short story to work on. Things felt a little brighter after I’d found a new goal.

I learned a little French with an app for 15 minutes or so (I really should do more); my entire French vocabulary is apparently around 1600 words now. Pretty proud of that, despite it being the vocabulary of the average 4-year-old. Do people still learn other languages? Is there some brain implant thing that does it for you? I’d be shocked if there wasn’t, you know.

Then your granddad brushed his teeth, climbed into bed, cuddled Jeanne, and together we went back to dreaming.


I wonder which parts of my very average day will seem funny, sad, quaint or bizarre in fifty years’ time – or in two years’ time, for that matter. Because you never really know, do you?

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