Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Blog 54[10] A trip down memory lane...

Blog 54 [10] A trip down memory lane...

Hot on the heels of my retirement last week and my reminiscing about Liverpool I found myself actually right back in the heart of Liverpool at the weekend! The ‘Intelligent-one’ was in a competition with other students from his college and other colleges from the North West and they had reached the semi-finals being held in Liverpool. So Saturday morning saw us once again up at the crack of dawn and setting off…with me as navigator as per usual; except that I know this route like the back of my hand! We made it with just 10 minutes to spare before he was meeting his group and after wishing him good luck and waving him off we found ourselves in the heart of Liverpool at 8.30am on a cold Saturday morning with all the day ahead of us! I of course was in my element as this meant a full day of shopping! Of course the ‘Hubby’ and the ‘Cutie-pie-intelligent-computer-programmer’ were not as enthusiastic…can’t get my head round his new nick name; I must devise another which is as flattering to him as being referred to as intelligent but also conjures up how physically cute he is; even at 14!
So, anyway they were less than thrilled and yes I could have left them at home or even sent the ‘Intelligent-one’ to Liverpool on a train; but somehow that would not have been the same! To brighten their moods I suggested breakfast and then over hot food we discussed what they could do whilst I shopped…they were keen to do some shopping but not a great deal! So once they were fed and warmer and happy we made arrangements to meet up at a set time and place and then I was free! Walking through the new shopping areas was a bit alien to me…don’t get me wrong I love all the new shops…Liverpool has been totally re-developed as a major city and all the cafĂ© cultures and department stores that are part of being a city…but somehow with all this progress there was something missing…so I set off in a completely different direction to the shops to surround myself with history…not just architectural history but personal history…as I walked down towards the Pier Head [or Peer’edd as it was pronounced by Liverpool people we worked with…!] I turned back the clock and sat on a bench and looked out across the Mersey…

“Dear ‘Big sister’,
Guess where I am? It’s been so long since we have talked and laughed together even though I sense you around me sometimes. I’m sitting in our favourite place…although it’s changed so much since you and I were last here! As I look out across the Mersey that view is still very similar but when I turn and face the city…my goodness what changes there are; huge buildings, offices and apartments and hotels…I close my eyes and can picture you and I sitting with the wind blowing our hair and skirts! It was always great to sit here on a Saturday, eating a pie or slices of ham or cheese from the market as we talked about what we were going to do with our lives now that we were both qualified and teaching here in Liverpool…it’s hard to believe how different our lives turned out; almost as different as this city is now…”
As I moved away from the bench I actually talked, in my head to my ‘Big sister’…it may sound a little crazy but it was as if she was there with me...just like old times!

“Turning my back on the Mersey I walked back through the Derby Square and unbelievably the old British Home Store shop is still in the same place! As you know ‘Big sis’ I always loved shopping in this area as the sound of the seagulls reminded me of shopping in Bangor County Down as children with grandma during the summer holidays. That sound still makes my heart leap now and it was a bit funny really doing Christmas shopping against a backdrop of modern and old buildings, Christmas displays and the sea gulls flapping about!
I walked through the new shopping area and I was glad to see the market was still there…although upgraded! I couldn’t find the coffee shop we used to sit in but the pub with its glass engraved doors, polished floors and leather bound seats is still as it was all those years ago and as I passed it I imagined the doors opening and from inside there would be laughter and banter and music…remember Friday nights in there? Fighting to get to the bar…holding our glasses of lager high up so as not to spill the precious liquid on our dresses whilst trying to keep our clutch handbags firmly tucked under our arms! Do you remember the group of lads we used to meet up with? The same place every time, they always sat in the left hand corner booth and would shout to us to join them. One of them was a dustbin man whilst he was studying and he had the cheekiest grin and one Friday night we all piled into a taxi to go to his house…which actually was nothing like a house but in a round ring of brick built flats, about 5 storeys high; one on top of the other with balconies and stairwells the likes of which I had only seen on the television; the washing lines were like skipping ropes and were pulled across from one flat to the other across the street by a pulley…his mum and dad were real ‘Scousers’ and had a great sense of humour and sat watching telly whilst the rest of us had a few drinks, sausage rolls and played cards! I wonder what happened to him or the rest of them? I wonder if they missed us once we moved away?
Well I walked right up the old Bold Street and most of the original shops have now gone…the Woolworth’s building…or was it a Co-op building… is a designer shop, the bank is a mini express shop and the boot shop is a party novelty shop! I went into a specialist comic and animation store for a surprise stocking filler for the boys and as I wandered around the shop all of a sudden I heard a song; I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard it on a radio or at a disco even! It was the Elkie Brooks song; “Sunshine after the rain” and as it blasted out it nearly swept me off my feet… do you remember how we used to sing this song on the bus on the way home after a few ‘bevvies’…and sometimes we sang it outside down at Peer ‘ed dancing along the railings with the sound of the Mersey lapping the dock walls! I felt a real pang of sadness well up and for a little while I just had to stand still and look at the DVD section…heaven only knows what anyone thought but I was lost in time…a time when we were recovering from broken hearts and felt we would never love again! It made me think of someone I have not thought of for a long time…the words used to cut deep as we sang with feeling…it made me realise that that part of my life is so far away now…
I found myself at the top of Bold Street facing the old ‘Bombed out church’…a true landmark! Guess what? St Luke’s is still standing, a monument to those who lost their lives in the Second World War, it is now a heritage site; the external building is perfect and quite stunning; the inside is the place for poetry reading and art exhibition. Just think you could have had some of your art work displayed there nowadays! Hard to believe that we all used it as a meeting place: “See you at the bombed out church 7.00pm Saturday;” everyone knew where this was; who would have thought it would still be there and standing proud?

Walking the streets, the very pavements that you and I walked along together was a strange but yet comforting sensation…hard to pin a word to it really…just thinking that we were here once, together, shopping in Blackler’s for ribbons and buttons or net underskirts for our outfits and smokey grey tights…we used to get our make up from there as well and see little old ladies who had probably been shopping there all their lives getting stockings and gloves of a better quality than anywhere else. Do you remember making a date to meet a lad under the naked man outside the Lewis department store? We waited across the road to see if he turned up…well he did but he wasn’t quite what you remembered him looking like…disadvantage of too much Australian white wine!! So we ‘did a runner’ and had a fish and chip supper on the way back to our bedsit instead! Well as you know I’ve a poor sense of direction…and I must admit all these memories and trying to do Christmas shopping at the same time added to a bit of confusion! I couldn’t find George Henry Lee Department store, although I saw old buildings that could have been it…I couldn’t find the Kirklands Wine bar that was so popular and thought maybe it was further up the main street…but I did pass the Central Underground Train Station and that has changed so much! Amazing how we used to hop on and off those trains! We could go as far as Southport or just a few stops along the line to Bootle. Remember Bootle station? You should, it was where you landed me in a heap of trouble and it was Christmas shopping time too! We had arranged to meet after work on the 4.00pm train into Central for a shopping trip and a bit of supper… [a few drinks or ‘bevvies’ as you loved calling them!] Well I was running late but as was the case in those days you could get on the train at Waterloo and pay as you got off…so I ran for the train and secured a window seat so I could wave to you. A few stops down the line you got on at Bootle and sat chatting ten to the dozen. As we approached Central I realised that I didn’t have enough change for my ticket…you never had any money in those days either…we were going to cash a cheque in the town, how easy things are nowadays with cash points and cards! So you said: “Just say you got on at Bootle, they won’t know and it’s only ½ pence difference.” So I approached the booth, never having lied like this before and suddenly all the fare dodging signs stood out in my face! I was sweating when I said I got on at Bootle…of course by then you were through the barriers…I was asked to repeat where I got on…I lied again…and was promptly arrested by two station guards who escorted me, in front of all the other passengers, into an office marked ‘Police.’ I nearly fainted! I was in my first year of teaching and I was now being arrested for fare dodging! I explained that I was ½ pence short of my fare from Waterloo and only had enough to pay for the train from Bootle. All my personal details were being written down and when they heard my profession was a teacher they looked at me and one of the officers actually suggested that I say I was a secretary as the courts would be more lenient. Courts? Oh good God I’m going to jail! I was sweating profusely by now, my mind whirring with the scandal and I refused to say I was a secretary as I didn’t want to add more lies to the situation! I was then searched and they discovered that I was actually ½ pence short for my fare…so I was telling that bit of truth…but none the less I was going to be cautioned. I began to cry…I know a wimp’s reaction but there you have it…I was terrified that not only would I go to court but I’d have a criminal record and go to prison; I could kiss my future goodbye! If you remember sister dear I was escorted through the barriers and made my way to where you were standing. As I began to explain what had happened and what had been said you said; “Ah…that’s what those men in uniform were at the station for…they must have been checking everyone’s tickets…that’s how they knew you didn’t get on at Bootle…no one could have got on without a ticket…” I could have throttled you…especially when you started to laugh and I do mean laugh, you were bent over double with tears running down your face at my predicament!
As I walked past the station I found that I had walked almost a full circle and was now approaching the new shopping areas again. All these stores in one place… just fabulous. You would be in your element! We had many shopping expeditions…many years of falling out over the same dresses and which one of us would have it because our tastes were similar! I stopped then outside the jeweller’s shop on a corner…it has been there forever! The same shop…it has had a bit of a facelift but it was lovely to see it remaining amongst all these changes... ‘Boodles…’ the only shop for diamonds! Do you remember how we used to look in the windows and choose which rings we’d have…engagement, wedding, eternity and a diamond dress ring; we had it all planned…we’d both find nice young, wealthy lads and marry and meet up at the Pier Head and have lunch in a restaurant instead of sitting on a cold bench in the wind overlooking the Mersey…
Ah well dear, lovely, sweet ‘Big sister’ all that was a lifetime ago…so much has changed since those days…I have a thousand memories of you and I here in this city…in our old Liverpool home…”

 I met up with the ‘Hubby’ and ‘Cutie-pie’ [sorry son!] and after lunch we did a little more shopping : I actually bought a pair of full length leather boots…needed boots for ages and wanted long ones for years! The irony is that my first real pair were bought with my first real salary in Liverpool and here I was in Liverpool again getting my second pair in the sales…32 years later with my teaching pension!
Then we joined the ‘Intelligent-one’ and on the way back to the car-park I stood looking at the Pier Head, the gulls squawking above me, the shoppers whizzing by, the Christmas atmosphere swirling around me and as I saluted you my ‘Big sis’ the words of your favourite song flashed through my mind and the picture of you with your glass in the air swaying in tune to:
“In my Liverpool home…
We speak with an accent exceedingly rare…
Meet under a statue exceedingly bare…If you want a Cathedral we have one to spare…
In my Liverpool home…” *
Blog 54 [10]
Foot note; I escaped ‘prison’ due to the wonderful headmaster I was working for who understood fully when I explained what had happened; he intervened and wrote a brilliant letter of support and explanation to the Commissioner who gave me a written reprimand! Better than a jail sentence for ½ pence!
*Words from the song 'In my Liverpool Home' by Pete McGovern.


  1. Replies
    1. You are so right Jack...definitely the great Elkie Brooks...all time classic in my eyes: Lilac Wine.