It was the sixth trip up north in ten months. It’s soon to be seven. All these journeys have been memorable for their own reasons. Whether it’s been old places and old friends, mostly both, it has brought memories and hope flooding through my veins. The recent visit to Lime Street and all points west was part of a secret mission. (I’ll come to that later.)
For the first time in my recent history, I rolled out of the station into a Liverpool basking in the warmth of late spring. There was no cheeky little fresh faced breeze to remind me of countless days of the bleak windswept concrete plains of the old St John’s Precinct.
This was town in the bright optimism of May. Trees were vaunting their new season’s green among the brightness of eager shoppers, chatting and laughing.
There would be an occasional glance skywards just to check that the blue was real and the sun was genuine. It had an air of calm. This was definitely not mid August when the streets would be teased by bored children and emboldened teenagers strutting about like peacocks in their traditional attempts to attract the opposite gender.
The only dilemma was to choose the best route down to the river. After marvelling at the sheer size of Weatherspoons (Blacklers), I went the traditional way ending up on Church Street.
On Church Street was a piercingly loud street band with one of those brassy Mexican style trumpets. Personally I could have made better music with a pencil and a matchbox. It sort of shattered the calming ethos I’d been enjoying so it was time to steal away into the back alleys of Liverpool One. It was all new to me. Not quite my cup of tea but just nice to roll along looking very much like the tourist with my overnight bags and flashy camera.
Then I saw the Bluecoat Chambers. The scene of many triumphs.
Three grade eights, two grade sevens and an LTCL were all successfully passed within its distinguished walls. Then there were the countless accompaniments for nervous youngsters and their treasured instruments. It is a little oasis of beauty, peeking shyly from behind the brassiness of national chains, invading the grand old shops with their bright sassy lights.
The change from the old Liverpool, before pedestrianisation, when shop fronts matched the grandeur of their setting and you were attended to by polite pushy gentlemen in suits and ladies in twin sets, is remarkable. You can now name the major stores on any high street and expect the same marketing pizazz shoved in your face from all available angles.
A brief diversion down Castle Street to admire the elegance of the banking quarter gave me my first glimpse of the river, radiating in mid afternoon glow.
The Pier Head, now devoid of its plastic bus terminus is a mixture of old and new sitting alongside each other.
I had to gaze at my old familiar friends and there was Edward VII, still poised on his dashing steed.
Across the river were the silhouettes of my history.
I boarded the Royal Iris and felt cheated; not because the fare was a whole full five pounds nor because I could hear the dulcet tones of the fat-faced Marsden coming through the speakers but I know where the real Riyal Iris is.
Renaming a ferry does not relieve the anguish of seeing a fine old lady of the river swiftly and secretly sold off to rot in some stinking berth on the Thames.
Low tide meant a steep climb up the walkway. I looked at my battery indicator; worryingly low. But I wanted to ride in glory along the prom and show off the angel’s tenacity by charging up Guinea Gap to emerge at the summit like a Greek Titan whilst whooping in triumph, pretending not to notice the looks of passers-by who would assume my status as being a care in the community job.
Once going along the motorway, my friend’s car started to overheat. “Pull over and I’ll fix it,” I merrily chirruped. I opened the bonnet and disconnected the temperature gauge. We still got home. I applied the same principle here. I ignored the battery light. I still got home.
Now for my secret mission. My old friend George was marrying his long standing partner. I assume it was a marriage as opposed to a civil partnership. It was at the Town Hall.
Young George was not expecting a motely crew of gate crashers. The look was priceless.
As it was, we continued our celebration in the darkened confines of the Eggy Ferry’s lower level. Suitably seedy considering some of the places George and I have frequented in the past. The passing years were banished to the shade as we partied like born-again teenagers. We were raucous and riotous. (Nothing was damaged.)
The place is just about wheelchair accessible but it was no big deal. This was not a moment to miss.
Thank-you for reading