THE 12 or 13, window seat, strange pattern, stranger feel, wet floor, thinking about Tumbles toy shop. Bubble bus stops, reading graffiti swear words, and City Pets, straight in, glowing fish tanks, strange smells, afraid of the Piranha, asking for a tortoise, mum says no, again. St John’s Market, glowing butchers, strange smells, afraid of the live crab, massive chicken sandwich cut into triangles! Full. Carton drink. Toilet. Millions of leather coats and tracksuits all hanging high, strange smell. Last stall, nut shop, funny picture of monkey, stare at chocolate raisins. Boring shops; C&A, British Home Stores, jumping through clothes rails, told off. Jumping through clothes rails, warned of dad. Stopped jumping through clothes rails. Outside Burton’s, waiting, waiting and watching some more, man screams Echoooooowwww! Pigeons fly, dad appears from nowhere, Saturday dock shift finished, talks of cargo, boats and The Labour Club, don’t understand. Beg for a look in Tumbles, please just a look, please. Manage to promise to be good in school enough to get a He-Man character! Heading home, bus becomes Castle Grey Skull.
The 12 or 13, window seat, backpack and books, The Empire, William Brown Street, meet others, brimming with life and lectures. Talk of Medication and deadlines, meet others, talk of Baa Baa and shots, meet others, talk of The Haig and cheap copies of The Guardian or pool. Lecture. Hatton Gardens awash with student talk; economics of the ‘80s, politics of Eastern Europe. Opinions, opinions, opinions being formed. Friendships being made. Culture, Religion, no barriers. Library. Brimming with life and reading. Rumour of new books in The Bluecoat, race there. Mark’s in. Brimming with life and literature. Cover for him as he goes to ‘store room’. Comes back with Howl and Becks. Spirits lifted higher. All rush to Music Zone, Dylan for a fiver. Backpack bursting, deadlines loom. Brimming with life and sound. Open Eye Gallery, lunch in the Pilgrim. Talk of modern art, Gonzo’s Ruthin, veggie burgers, Depeche Mode v Stone Roses, the smell in the Blue Angel. Juke box kicks in, day changer! The Haig, Baa Baa and Medication. 2am, reading extracts of Howl to passers-by whilst conducting survey. Police send us and our backpacks home but not before they’ve voted for the Stone Roses.
The 12 or 13, sunshine, day off teaching, into cathedral, listening. Need bits, stroll to Tate, see students laughing, ferry passing. Buildings being built, restaurants being built, apartments-de-bars being built. Bookshop being removed, Quiggins being removed, Paradise Street Lost. Capital of Culture or the Culture of Capital? A city shifts, galleries change as they swap consideration for consolidation. Turner Prize. Independent stores for a giant spider. Sad. Ferry passing. Our accent fading behind counters. A city shifts. Things I miss; those people and their opinions, good manners, the same Levi jeans everyday, patience. Things I have; FACT for the film, chicken sandwich triangles on the steps of the bombed-out church, a stranger’s stare, thoughts of my brothers, nephews, great-nephews. Meet friends and strangers, talk football, life, mortgages, summer. Pint in The Dispensary. Looking up at buildings and a world passing. The people buying paint in Rennie’s passing. Alan smokes when he should be painting. This city’s history is my history. A friend when alone, a theatre when learning. For me, you and our friends and our strangers.
A lot of people talk about albums they love as forming the soundtrack to their lives. For me that’s the role Liverpool has played for at least the last decade – a long song, sometimes strident, sometimes muted but always audible.
In pubs and clubs and city streets, in student halls and Smithdown terraces since torn down, I scratched at the surface of who I am and who I might become. Any memory worth having from my adult life involves Liverpool in some way – whether as a presence or an absence.
Everything worth a moment’s reflection has either happened there or been the poorer for taking place elsewhere, and yet whenever I think of Liverpool what springs to mind are not my first half-arsed attempts at sorting out the whole love thing, my first game or even the first house I shared with my soon-to-be wife.
The memories are of textures, sensations and images. Of walking down Rodney Street in icy November, stepping out of Fly in the Loaf into the midst of a samba parade in July, of being half-shoved off the 26 bus into a very special kind of madness on Walton Breck Road.
These memories can be repeated and shared with others – with new friends and with the children I’ve yet to meet but who one day will be the centre of my world. They’re the ghosts of feelings my Scouse grandad took to his grave, like his dad before him (apart from maybe the samba parade).
A city of shared experiences, for ever in love with its own history and mythology, with family and friends, with socialism and socialising, has gifted me these treasures as only Liverpool could. Wherever I end up in life, I’ll never really leave.
Liverpool is the very foundation on which I was built, it’s the key stone in the centre of my bridge, the unique mix that made me what I am.
Liverpool showed me what it was to be a winner, what it was to be unique, it showed me that with talent it IS possible to go out and Shake the World.
It’s the place that taught me the importance of politeness, where all my neighbours’ doors stood open, where heritage and history stood on every single corner.
It’s the place that stood firm in times of heartache, came together in tragedy, overcame times of social decline and raised its two fingers to prejudice.
Liverpool gave me wisdom, knowledge of the common man and taught me how to spot the disingenuous. It taught me how to stand up for myself, stand up for the underdog.
It gave me humour, taught me not to take myself too seriously. Its entrance, (though very welcoming) is simply too small a door to fit big ego’s through.
Liverpool is the place where my parents were born, and their parents, and their parents before that.
It’s a beautiful, strong and proud, proud place, its stunning sights accompanied by an underscore of music and of laughter, with talent oozing from its pores.
Liverpool is a family, my family, it’s in my veins and always will be.
Liverpool is me and I will continue to fly its flag where ever I may go.
I was over for a game a couple of years ago (I’m from Cork Ireland) with my girlfriend and we were on our way up to Anfield in the bus. We were sat next to this old lady, she informed us she was a blue, we had great craic with her. Anyway a young lad gets on the bus and he has to stand right in front of this old lady. You could clearly see his Calvin Klein boxers on show for everyone to see, so the lady shouts over at him “hoy, what did them undies cost ya?” He said “£10”, she said “you must have £9’s worth of ’em shoved up your arse to get them that high up”, it was priceless.
The seagulls sum it up for me. Rarely can you walk about Liverpool without hearing the call of the birds who know they’re unrestricted by land’s end. It seeps through to the people too that feeling of no barriers, an unrestricted hope, a belief.
What avian creatures can’t capture however – an attitude unlike any other city in the world – is visible in every boozer, shop or on any street in the city.
An attitude that makes you feel that in some ways Liverpool should be thankful for some of its years of misery and for being inflicted with an accent that many years ago was considered a hybrid mess.
The well-documented demoralized years which the city suffered in the past have allowed it to emerge on the other side with a trademark sense of humour and blessed with an individual voice to characterise it.
“Are you from Liverpool?” is now a question people will inevitably be asked given their enunciation and it is also one they can now proudly answer in the affirmative.
Liverpool – my sanctuary.
The superficial relationship one have to the city you visit, the ’what happens in Liverpool stays in Liverpool’ attitude, is something the Liverpool visitors don’t have. Instead, you seek to take in everything – the atmosphere, culture & above all the people, to carry it with you for the rest of your life.
To me Liverpool is a treat. A place I only get to twice a year but every time makes me want to return. My obsession with the city began through the football club in 2002. We drove over from Dublin to see our 2001 cup haul. On the way to Anfield we had to ask for directions, flagging down a road sweeper we heard the thickest souse accent I’ve still ever heard to this day.
When we got to Anfield, we managed to park in the ground not before talking to the fella on the gate who told us stories of the different players he knew. Sadly, now, Michael Owen was the one he said knew best. Into the city the number of things to see and do is endless. Of course the Beatles Cavern Club and the museums and shops in the Albert Dock where all taken in. Every time I’ve been there’s always something new and interesting to see.
What stands out most is the friendliness of the people; I believe it’s what makes the city so special. Whether it’s the road sweeper or the gateman at Anfield people of Liverpool make you feel welcome. Being from Ireland the sense of humour and attitude of the people make me feel right at home. I know, gladly, my fascination with LFC and the city will continue for years to come.
Liverpool. A city of communities. A nasal tone in our accent “exceedingly rare” is a result of our industrial heritage and our mix of cultures. Liverpool grew to be a great sea port because of its strategic position. People of many lands put down their roots, took some of our culture and merged it with their own. Some people came here by choice. Others settled by necessity. The city was the hub of the British Empire for nearly two centuries. It has seen destruction through a tyrant`s bombs. It has seen deprivation through war and politics. It has seen failure and seen success. People have died and people have thrived in making our city. Men of labour and innovation and women who carried families through thick and thin all played their part in building our city.
The one constant thing that all visitors to Liverpool comment on is the friendliness & the humour of its citizens. Liverpool is a community city. This is what makes Liverpool special to me. It’s not iconic buildings or World heritage sites. Whenever away from the city this is the first thing that hits me. When I return to the city either via John Lennon Airport or Lime St Station, it`s not the buildings that greet me it`s the fab & friendly people. In the words of the Spinners, “It`s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me but my darling (people) when I think of you.” It`s not buildings that make a city. It’s people.
1977. Elvis had just died, Jimmy Carter was President, and I was 5 years old. I don’t remember much about being 5 years old. Not many people do. But most people do have one abiding early-age memory which stays with them through their life, which they recall during conversation, or give a self-knowing smile when remembered.
My own memory was that very year, and my first trip to Liverpool. No, I wasn’t born here. To this day I still joke with me Ma that I’ll never forgive her for that, bless her. My memories of staring up at a huge tower with THE biggest birds I’d ever seen, then walking round to the side, and realising “wow, there’s two!”. I think you probably could have fit that Liverbird in my mouth at that point, it was that far open. From that moment, I fell in love with Liverpool. Forward the clock to 1982, the year I watched my first football match. I didn’t have a clue who was playing. I was mesmerised, riveted. That team was Liverpool. My fate with the city was cemented.
I’m not a Scouser, but I still feel with every fibre of my being the love and devotion to my adopted city. My heart still skips a beat when I see the Liver Building. I feel that affinity so much that I eventually relocated to Liverpool – a decision which to my mind is the best I’ve ever made. (Adopted) Scouse and VERY proud.
John Belcham, professor of history at the University of Liverpool and author of numerous books on the city’s history, has a word he uses to encapsulate the essence of Liverpool: ‘exceptionalism’. For Belcham, Liverpool’s exceptionalism is a distinct culture that comes from its port-city status and its mix of heritages, from the days of slavery to onset of Irish immigration. Liverpool sees itself as a place apart from the rest of the country, and its residents rejoice in this identity.
But you don’t have to be a historian to get a handle on Liverpool’s exceptionalism.
It’s written in the fabric of the city. It’s there in the bee-hives and high heels of its women, in the inside knowledge of its cab drivers and in its newsagents that refuse to stock the Sun. It’s there in the cold wind that sweeps off the Mersey, in the crowds that sing ‘we’re not English, we’re Scouse’ and in its gay pride marches, where badges are handed out that proudly proclaim, ‘I’ve never kissed a Tory’. Over the years, in the face of recession, unemployment and national stigmatisation, Liverpool has had to learn how to look after itself. But its residents have always come out fighting. This is what makes them so exceptional.
It’s difficult to actually describe what Liverpool as a city means to a young Scouser.
While outsiders are quick to revert to old stereotypes and dismiss the place, many locals my age wish to leave for pastures new believing that “it’s grim” and has nothing to offer. That’s all well and good, but to instantly dismiss the place of your birth always angers me.
What they don’t realise is that the Liverpool we have been brought up in has transformed from a downbeat, to a thriving cultural metropolis throughout the last 10 years. If they think things are bad now, they should have seen what Liverpool was like during the 80’s is a line favoured by many elders I know.
Thanks to the 2008 European Capital of Culture, as well as the hundreds of millions of pounds ploughed into the city centre to provide us with a top-quality shopping destination, plus the numerous amounts of bars and restaurants on offer, we are the envy of many throughout the UK and even the world. The past decade or so has given us Scousers something to be proud of, plus a bit of arrogance which had been missing for some time!
So instead of being ashamed to be a Liverpudlian, I am and always will be proud to be a Scouser. I suppose the main thing this city means to me is to express yourself, be opportunistic and to never give up when the chips are down.
It was in September 1983 when my sister and I took our first ever trip to Liverpool.
We were in our early teens. Dad fixed a day out for us with his friend Tommy, who lived in the same village, Llanbedr, near Ruthin. Tommy was a Mersey Tunnel Police officer. He drove us and his two young sons, Ian and Michael, to join him on a day of duties manning the old Birkenhead Tunnel.
I remember the excitement as we were introduced to the patrol team in the control centre above the tunnel entrance. The guided tour took in lots of vivid impressions. I recall the thousands of 20 pences, new coinage in 1982, funnelling along a conveyancy system from the toll booths. Tommy took us in a patrol vehicle and we stopped in the middle of the winding tunnel. Out of the car and into the blaring, booming sound of Saturday traffic in the darkened underground with blasts of warm air and fumes. We escaped the loud roar and echo by entering a side passage which took us deeper into the maze of passageways beneath the tunnel. The spooky might of 1930s engineering all about us as we inspected turbines, cables and pipes.
We then came through a narrow entry to a man frying up bacon and eggs in his subterranean post. Tommy left the four of us with him as he resumed patrol duties. We were taken ever deeper and further along a dimly light narrow passage before beginning to climb ever higher until we emerged into natural light at long last. We were at the back of the Mersey Tunnel building, to the east of the Port of Liverpool building, one of the Three Graces and climbed many flights of stairs to eventually be rewarded with our first ever sight of Liverpool. A metropolitan hive of activity on the streets beneath us and the surrounding large block buildings of Liverpool.
I remember being mesmerised and gasping at sights like the Liver Building. At an impressionable age when all is wonder we were almost touching the iconic images which seemed a world or television away. How thrilled we were. Tommy later picked us up and we headed up towards the new tunnel entrance off the wide and eerily empty Scotland Road.
The Wallasey tunnel’s straight modern drive contrasted greatly with the older one. Completed in 1973, this one glimmered with much promise of mega industrial growth in the region but collided with a city in the throes of deep decline. Times were hard in Liverpool. The Reds were playing at home on this day and an expected surge of traffic didn’t materialise. Out of town fans were perhaps thinner on the ground and roads in those days, and average capacities in home matches were only 33,000.
Still, we saw some action to wind down the day. An ice cream van had been spotted racing down and changing lanes in the old tunnel. The monitoring team radioed Tommy. He pulled the van over, stepped out and approached the driver. We eagerly viewed their exchange and Tommy soon returned. Nothing doing, he said, and no ice cream unfortunately to top off an incredibly enjoyable day out.
We then headed back up through the Wallasey Docks and found a great vantage point to take some photographs on the riverside with the Liverpool waterfront standing majestically before us. I lost count of the number of times I kept looking back at the Liverpool skyline as we began the journey home to North Wales. The city had a mystical, powerful presence of a defiant giant which has drawn me back there ever since.
I cannot call myself a Scouser, born and raised at the wrong end of the East Lancs road. Manchester has always struck me as a city without a soul. Yet all those around me are indoctrinated with the idea of Liverpudlians as being second class citizens. Having parents from Dingle & Scotland Road, I was never going to fall into that trap.
From day one, Liverpool & its people have left an indelible mark on my identity. Having a large extended family (my old man is 1 of 9!) brought me close enough to Scousers throughout my early years to see their humour & wit, togetherness and strength of character. My kind of people. 3 years living there as a student gave me a true taste of what the city is all about. A melting pot of architecture, music, culture, sport, people, laughter, solidarity. There is no place like it. If Manchester has no soul then Liverpool has bags of it. I cannot call myself a Scouser, but I’d like to think of myself as the most Scouse Mancunian there is.
I have two mums – both are in spirit. My birth mum left in1994, but she is still about on another more subtle level. My other mum is my city – Liverpool. She bore me and I’ve always known her. When I go away and return, her arms are open wide and her embrace, through my city brothers and sisters, warms my heart – the home hearth fire that never goes out. She grows with me; her changing face bringing a welcome newness, but her time-honoured heart forever holds my fondest memories. Childhood days in climbing frames of bombed houses and footy on the ollers, the enog labyrinths, the tin bath in front of the coal fire and minding cars when the blues played. The games of path and broken windows, the chalked wickets on neighbours gate posts. The Pink Echo, cut into squares and hung on a string in the outside loo that always felt better on the bum than the weekday one, the pub on every corner and a million other things. My city mum – I always felt safe with her. She took care of me and still does, and it is reflected, every day, in the love, warmth and compassion of her other children – my fellow Scousers.
ALL aboard for fun time. It’s February, 1979, in Corwen, North Wales and five foot snowdrifts. The mission, to get to Liverpool and Eric’s Club to see Iggy Pop on his New Values tour. Also, it’s Iggy’s 32nd birthday. We’re also heading for Probe Records to get a Factory sample EP. Probe was a vinyl mecca.
Out of the snow of Wales and toward the bleakness of Birkenhead, and a ferry across the Mersey, the Liver Buildings look stark against the ashen sky and the Mersey in full flow. Here starts the adrenaline that only teenagers know, that smell, taste and sound of rock n’ roll.
Probe is bustling with punks, rastas, plastic mods and the Liverpool cool elite, and the ever present skinheads (knob heads) always on the rob.
Mathew Street had nothing in common with the King’s Road in London. Liverpool had its own style and script, the new Mersey beat – Teardrops, Bunnymen and Big In Japan (Pink Industry), beatnik shtick psychedelic.
Eric’s: Run by Roger Eagle, a man with a vision and humour. Tickets got, tucked down socks to avoid being robbed by skinhead (knob heads), picture sleeves hidden under t-shirts to be autographed by Iggy.
The descent into Eric’s, past the tickets booth and down three flights of stairs into the bowels of Liverpool. Bogs to the left, green room right, bar and main stage front.
All aboard for fun time. Kids’ matinee at 3pm with Iggy. The only club in the country that did this, fucking brilliant. Support band did well, The Zones. Rumour around the room that Bowie’s here with Iggy….yeah, right!?!
A big man with a big cowboy hat speaks on stage a big ‘hello’.
Cue noise and mental pogoing.
I Wanna Be Your Dog. Glen Matlock on bass. How much gob can one man take? Poor bastard!
Enter Iggy, bare chested, red pants and cock out. “Okay, ya pieces of shit. Here I am, love me!” and we did.
During this wonderful madness I somehow found myself involved in what started as a few ‘fuck yous’ to suddenly being hit on the head. And me and Iggy were grappling like a pair of startled tom cats in an alleyway….wiry fucker!
Enter the doorman. Gripped by Iggy and head locked by a doorman I’m pulled from the crowd, kicked and punched and thrown back in again, just in time to sing Happy Birthday Iggy. Ahhh.
I’m Bored…..and time at the end of the gig to hide from the doormen to get autographs. Hiding in the toilets, standing on a bog, with my mate Steve in the cubical next to me. Fucking bang, my door is kicked open, it’s my mate the doorman…cunt!
Kicked me all the way up the three flights of stairs.
Back on Mathew Street, Steve did well and had got Lust For Life and The Idiot signed, twat.
I’m excited, battered, skint and happy as fuck.
Saturday afternoons have never been the same since.
God bless Roger Eagle.
I bought a TV from Richer Sounds and when I got it home it was making a noise. I called the shop and the lad who had served me, answered the phone. I told him who I was and that ‘the TV I have just bought is buzzing’. He replied, seriously, with ‘I knew you’d like it, lad’. Brilliant!
A big thank you to all those who contributed.
Kings of Europe banners hanging defiantly from windows in tower blocks post Heysel. The clanging of the cathedral bell post Hillsborough
Just being different and better than the rest of this tinpot country
Reading this has brought back so many childhood memories, brilliant article! Thanks fellas.