Student Spotting in Bristol
The Gromits have gone into hiding, the sun has taken volunteer redundancy from his job as a hat model and darkness has enshrouded the city of Bristol. But out of this seemingly depressing winter vista comes an unlikely source of activity and optimism. The student. Drawn to Bristol's culture, excellent facilities and mightily handsome and talented bloggers. As much as I can empathise with the species of 'student' (I was indeed one myself in the not too distant past), there are a few tell tale signs that give away their attempts to blend into the cultural landscape:
Deep analysis of bus timetables
We see you, stood hunched with hands on hips, peering at the ridiculously small print of the bus stop timetable. Your eyes swing up to the LCD display to formulate some kind of rationality between the two wildly conflicting times shown.
The timetable says the next bus is in 14 minutes...
Yet, the digital display says the next bus is due...
There you are, fragile and naïve, who to trust? Caught between digital and analogue. The timetable, although partially obscured by a smear of unidentified fluid, holds a certain authority - a tangible permanence. But you trust digital. You are a child of the digital revolution after all.
Let me stop you there. This is Bristol. Neither printed or digital display is correct. Welcome to the Bristol public transport network. There quite feasibly may be no bus at all.
Unfamiliarity of traffic patterns
Weathered commuters like us shave seconds off our daily trudge to work through weeks if not months of careful observation. Traffic light patterns are noted (either subconscious or not), crossing points are plotted and even seemingly wide open spaces adopt their own invisible racing lines for thrifty pedestrians.
Without this knowledge a student must rely on instinct when trying to pick a point to cross the road. This will usually either end in an altercation with white van man or at worst a sort of half waddle half jog to avoid the front bumper of an amorous estate agents Mazda.
Balloons & Vouchers
Who doesn't love free (or at least discounted) stuff? Combine the hail of vouchers with balloons (the international symbol of discounted produce and/or services – obviously) and you have something of a ruckus. Freshers week and most of September sees a bumper month for student discounts. For the rest of Bristol we get to watch on as vouchers and nightclub flyers create a floating sea of broken promises and nutritionally questionable chicken combo deals.
There is a lot to take in whichever University you choose to study at; sights, smells, new pubs, grumpy locals but that slightly glazed look of the student is the same no matter which foreign environment they find themselves in. It's not a hangover, nor even confusion at the local transport system. It's a combination of hope and promise. Hope to build a brighter future, and the promise of a free cheeseburger with every extra value meal with a valid NUS card at participating restaurants.
Image: Robert Jackson