I step down from the train as it finally grinds to a halt in Lime Street and traverse the station concourse with a huge smile on my face. I am back in Liverpool, a city which is slowly staking a claim to the wandering soul of this old Viking sailor. The sun vainly attempts to warm through a bitterly frigid, winter’s afternoon and the wheeling seagulls call a sailor’s song, reminding those who feel, memories of Liverpool’s great seafaring past.
I stand for a moment in front of the ornamental gateway that marks the spot of the original Liverpool sailor’s home. I thrill at the thought of how many sailors of all nationalities have passed through this amazing sea port whose origins stretch back to the Vikings and beyond. I am truly humbled.
For sure, Liverpool has a murky past, with much of its money acquired from the slave trade, but how many modern cities can actually claim any purity? Quite simply, the human race has a vicious, violent past – all of it. No country stands without bloody hands, including those that were the recipients of the dreadful ‘Atlantic Triangle’. Even today, Arab slavers operate on the African continent and one has no need to look further than the outrageously decadent rich of Knightsbridge and Chelsea to find domestic slaves from poverty-stricken parts of the planet. Quite simply, humanity is brutal, beautiful, violent, humane, impossibly cruel and unbelievably compassionate. We are all things.
The old warehouses are slowly being claimed by rapacious developers as the the new era of Mammon establishes itself in England’s ‘green and pleasant land’, and the whole city has exploded into a property ‘free for all’. Every time I return, something else has vanished to be replaced by ‘new build’ mushrooms that cater for the thousands of students and new tiny businesses that are filling the vacuum left by the collapse of the old manufacturing industries.
Yet despite all this, the ordinary scouser is resilient, humorous and bloody-minded, as well he/she should be, for there’s never been a better time to question what the hell is happening on our precious planet; sometimes it seems as if society has had a ‘apathy implant’.
I am curious and a wee bit worried about the future of this magnificent, crazy and rumbustious city. Will she become emasculated and ‘health and safetyised’ like so many others, or will the true Scouse grit come to the fore and fight back as in the days of yore, during the resistance against Mrs Thatcher? Maybe she will have a mass invasion of bourgeois foreigners like London’s richest areas, to quaff all the new property with their legally laundered capital during the weak pound’s slumber, adding a massive rent increase nightmare to her native population’s other headaches.
Liverpool is firmly anchored in the present though and her folk bask in an amazing, colourful history, taking great pride in her musical and sporting heritage. One only has to stay in the Youth Hostel here on a weekend to rub shoulders with Liverpool and Everton FC football fans from as far afield as China, Denmark and Ireland, who make the pilgrimage to the hallowed grounds of Anfield, Goodison and the new Cavern club. To say that the weekend entertainment in the city is wild, is a wee understatement, for sure! Noisy, rough and raucous are only a few words to describe her, but there are many others, none of which would make the ‘Thesaurus’!
To end on a supremely optimistic note, it is the fighting spirit and humour of the Scouse themselves that will endure. Liverpool maybe disappearing on the surface but her soul shall never die!
I end with a joke:
An old man who worked on the docks was known as ‘Diesel’ by his mates, and a young apprentice asked why?
‘Well son, he sometimes riffled through the cargo looking for a bonus and was often heard to say: “Dese’ll do!”‘
Happy Solstice to you all!