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Bristol 21.03.24

Upon arrival at the hotel where we have worked for the past two years, we were told that the hotel would be empty of residents by March 27, earlier than we had understood. So we knew we wouldn’t be returning next week.

All of the men would be relocated to cities and towns mostly unknown, the pronunciation of which was practiced around the table, while we acknowledged that how things are written in English is sometimes not how they sound - the usual rules don’t apply.

The housekeeping team made a rare stop at the table today. One woman stayed for a good while, telling us of all of the people she had come to know over the last two years. She spoke of the houses she has been beamed into across the world on mobile phones, and how, when she goes into Bristol’s centre, she frequently hears shouts of ‘Mum!’ by those whose lives she’s encountered and inadvertently become an important part of. She had said many goodbyes and was sad some men hadn’t found her to do the same. We thought together about how it might have simply been too painful.

Small scale buildings were tentatively constructed, Jenga towers rose, and images were put safely inside small sketchbooks to be packed into one of two allowed bags.

Near the end of the session, curved bricks were used for the first time to add height and decoration to a little house with a partially constructed roof. We were told: ‘this building isn’t finished yet and it needs some people in it’. We turned the slide projector 45 degrees so that an image of people could be seen on the external walls of his house. Its maker laughed with delight at this playful addition, while in contrast the goodbye was hard.

At the close of session today, our regular conductor of packing away and moving tables and chairs back into the dining room was noticeably absent and we were instead helped by a gentle young man from the same country.

Words by Amy Wilson & Sarah Robinson.

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