Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Story Time

Last Friday, Queens Road got together for a one last night and made a trip to the Cori Tap, the pictures of which can find on Facebook. There was a man there named Steve. Steve was about 50 and he was hitting on two Queens Road ladies, Mabli and Laura, so I did the gentlemanly thing; I went over and relieved them by putting myself in between Steve and the ladies. Well, he then started speaking to me, and he was quite... abrasive.

His posture was telling me all sorts of things, mainly that he was really drunk, that he was proud, and that he was ready for a fight. Almost the entire time I spoke with him I thought I was going to get punched... so I took off my glasses.

Steve, who's been around the fighting scene all his life, immediately picked up on that small gesture and heckled me a little, he asserted that I was getting ready to fight. I just said I didn't want them to get lost and that I didn't need them. That was the first of many sidestepping maneuvers I did that night.

He stood really close to me, his chin held high. He always looked me straight in the eye and I straight back. He went on about many things that night, but he started our conversation by asking "Red or White?" I had no idea what he was talking about, but after some goading, I got him to elaborate on its meaning. "There is a line" he said, "A line between north and south Bristol. Which side of the line do you live on?" he asked me. I told him I live about 5 minutes "that way" and pointed towards the Uni. I asked him where he lived and he said "About five minute the other way". To me, this was an obvious stance; a challenge that I didn't want to take. He spoke with authority, with conviction, and again always with his chin held high and his chest puffed out.

I finally started to understand what he was going on about. Football. Thank God I called football it's proper name that night, for he told me that if I would have called it Soccer he would have clocked me. He told me I could walk a mile in a direction and get "taken out" in that mile, (incidentally his pronunciation of mile led to another tangent, because I couldn't understand the word mile, to me it sounded like "Maul", so I mentioned rugby in an attempt to better understand, which prompted a line I heard many times that night: "You have absolutely no idea.") He said that things have been escalating in recent times; some people were getting shot in that mile. That's the true Bristol, the real Bristol. And if I wanted to learn about people, I'd come with him to see the real Bristol. Then somehow that conversation led to his son. His son was 28 and bright, but who does manual labour because that's just what he has to do. He told me his son could bury me any day of the week.

But all this talk, it all had to do with football, not the "Red or White" like I thought he said, the "Red and White", that is, Bristol City Footballs colours. Then he would ask me all throughout the night, Are you "Red and White, or Blue and Red" I would always say Red and White to appease him. Apparently Blue and Red is Cardiff and "we" hate them. He tried to get me to challenge some randomers in the Tap. I didn't. So he had me ask him. "White or Red?" I asked, "White and Red" he answered. Oh fun drunken times! He told me he would never fight me for two reasons, one because I was young and strong, but two because he didn't need to, there were plenty of his mates who would fight me for him. He called me young, just a baby. He went on and on.

The most interesting thing I suppose I took out of it was this. He asked me what I was doing here. I said studying at the Uni. He said "what are you studying?"
"Ahh. People. If you want to see the real Bristol you'll come with me and i'll show you the real Bristol."
"Okay" I said timidly. I never went anywhere with him.
"You don't have a clue what it's all about, you're just a baby"
I nodded
"When you come with me, you'll have to get in it. You'll have to come with me and get into it."
He pretty much meant I'd have to fight. That's apparently what it's all about. It's not about hate, for apparently, he loves his opponents, and they love him. They respect him. It's about the fight, and the brotherhood that comes along with being a Bristol City Fan.

I think I've been inducted into this Bristol City firm. However, he doesn't know my name or where I live, so I don't think I'll have a problem. So, Go Red and White! Whoo!

I was so scared.

And yet, Ros and Dom said that I was loving it. They did make great attempts to save me, to which I would join them back at the table, but the conversation was left unfinished and Steve would come back to me and keep talking. So finally, I said that I should go to the people I came here with, to which he shook my hand and said, "Always hold your head high and never back down, no matter what." Then walked away.

That was the beginning to a great night, and the ending to a great story.

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