Rhian Pritchard. Current location: Queensland, Australia.
Bath is warm sandstone afternoons, cupped hands around rich, coffee-toned buskers, book musk and spring snowdrops by the canal. It’s the sweet, sharp kiss of frost on early winter morning bus stops; the mulled wine wanderings of mid-afternoon markets before the evening throng; the fireworks over the hill, bright bursts of colour above the constellations of city lights, damp grass, lost gloves in the dark, laughter at sparkler-burnt fingers, black pepper in a flask of homemade soup; a hundred thousand slow mornings of milky tea and toast.
This is my love letter to a city that is not a colour-sucker. Grey buildings, grey streets, grey skies – Bath has never been like that for me. Perhaps because it’s home.
Brisbane is different. Life is faster here. The parks, sun-sucked green islands of hope, are hemmed in by skyscrapers. I don’t know the name of the local bookshop owner. I have never spontaneously painted glitter or rainbows or eyeliner on my face for a festival, carnival, or cultural adventure.
I miss Bath’s small moments. Brisbane is big, bustling, and sometimes faceless. The one thing it is not, however, is grey.
There’s a tunnel on the outskirts of Bath. It’s a deep, dark venture, buried under a hill on the path of a forgotten railway line. And down there – down there is one of my favourite places of all time. There’s a light in the dark. A flickering flame of a thing, so dim that it would be invisible anywhere else, and yet here, it’s the highlight. It’s the destination.
Brisbane is like that. After the sun sets, the colours are visible. The cliffs by the river, where you can scramble thirty feet up into the cityscape, are the best view of the real city. Story Bridge, looping and long across the river; the skyscrapers’ evening occupants reflected rippling under the mangroves; and the city’s name circling through its steady rainbow, stamped on Southbank as if to say: “Here. I have the bright lanterns and incense, the wafting spice of curries, the cloying sweetness of pastries, the fresh dew of iced tea. I have the slow Saturdays of sunbathing and sunflowers, live Sunday sessions on the short river beach. I have the stories of our pasts and our futures woven into me.”
Bath bore witness to my heartbreak and healing; Brisbane’s mark on me is smaller. If Bath is a hole in my heart, Brisbane is a fingerprint on it. But Bath, to me, before I left, was simply home. I can’t help but wonder what Brisbane will become to me once it’s behind me.