Original Shift Entry by Jon Walker
Arriving in the city is a daunting prospect for a country boy like me but I persevere and park the car in a space that seemed to be waiting for me, than kyou parking angel. I walk with my bag strap covered in shift badges, buttons as they are known across the pond as we say here, anyways, I've got my light guardian crystal on a twine around my neck, I'm wrapped up warm, have a flask of herbal tea and ready to go give free hugs to whoever would like one, and see who would like to connect, see what happens when you put one foot in front of the other, I give myself a target of one in an hour.
Walking down the steps into what is locally known as the Bearpit, it's a landmark in the centre of Bristol that connects pedestrians up with the many routes from one place to another, underpasses link together into a roughly circular space, steps or ramps lead down into this place that used to be a dark and dank drug infested place for the homeless and addicted to hang out and deal and use.
It wasn't unusual for there to be a lot of junk, litter and needles and all sorts of detritus down there, it smelt, but not anymore, it's a colourful place, full of street art, depicting conscious themes, the austerity measures brought in by the government to try to tighten our pursestrings, overstretched and broken by the bankers, that's the nicest and only thing I'm going to say about that whole mess.
So right away, I'm nervous, not sure where to go, stand, be, I make my way down into one of the tunnels thinking maybe I ought to go somewhere more open, into the town centre shops, but no. I see someones backpack and it's been left there, back in the tunnel i walked through there was a pile of sleeping bags, was there someone in there, under there, who knows but now there's a face to see.
I meet Kelly, wearing surprisingly but i love the connection the same colour scheme as me, black and red, and we connect, and talk, she sings me a song, about homelessness and loss and even though it's a little strange to be here, she asks me if I am living on the streets, taking time to ask after my wellbeing, i offer her some of my herbal tea, maybe she'll like it, at least it's hot and freshly made.
Her boyfriend comes back, street hair cut, talking about the police who are on their way, confiscating alcohol as it's not allowed in this area, to be consumed or carried, he's also got drugs but that's the no win situation for the homeless, to keep warm and avoid the pain of the cold, of the lack of somewhere to be, something to do, they use, or sell, or drink or all three, and so does he, but not now.
We're talking for a while, it feels right to leave now and soon there's a little group of them together, as I stand in the middle of the circle, Free Hugs Sign out and proud above my head. My light guardian crystal is around my neck, glowing and changing colour as I have a special one that goes through the chakra colours and to golden and white and pinky purple and basically it's incredible and fun.
I have been stood there, it's getting cold now, for thirty seconds, when I'm hugged right away, connecting to folks, as each person makes their way to work, from an art class is someone I met before, what a great connection, to see her face and the magic of the synchronicity, the feeling is wonderful, a quick hello and wish her well, and the next person, and the next, waiting for friends, off to work.
Coming from a bar, heading to a club, going home from work, carrying shopping, going back to make food, cycling through, two kids on drift trikes, skateboarders, walkers, people using the cafe that is within a double decker bus called Bearittos, because of the Bearpit, I chat to the guy behind the counter but I ate very well before I left so I don't buy anything. The food looks good though and hot.
I get a lot of hugs, well over my quota of hope, of one in the hour I planned to be there, it's gone quickly, I want to do this again, maybe this is my new Friday night now, we will see what happens.