Today’s walk was another spur line added to my main walk from Southport to Brighton – so that I can connect Edge Hills: University, Liverpool district and battlefield. I walked from Liverpool Central (included on the main route) out to Edge Hill (the place), having previously walked to Edge Hill Uni – so it all joins up, if you follow me.
I wanted to get to Edge Hill before the bulldozers – as the area has been ‘targeted by the NewHeartlands regeneration team’, several streets are due for demolition, including houses on Durning Road, the original home of Edge Hill College.
Liverpool terraces aren’t the only buildings targeted for demolition. On my way into work at the uni, I took some snaps of buildings that will probably be knocked down soon, and the site of new developments. Edge Hill has come a long way, from a college in Liverpool, with tens of students to a university near Ormskirk with 20,000. The campus keeps developing, and soon these yellow lines may become halls where people will live, love and generally mess about.
An odd thing, seeing the skeletons of things to come.
After work I got the train to Liverpool Central, crossing territory I walked back in January.
I popped in to Worlds Apart, a comic shop on Lime Street, and bought a comic in the Final Crisis series – wherein the fictional universe I’ve been reading about since I was ten will once again be transformed and rebooted. Worlds and characters will be reborn, rewritten or edited out altogether – a sort of cosmic fictional housekeeping – ‘explaining’ why heroes whose stories started in 1938 aren’t doddering centenarians, and why, say, Batman can be a grim avenger these days, rather than the cheery fellow he was in the 1960s. As it happens the very first comic I read was one of these ‘crisis’ events, involving two versions of earth being crashed together (to create the energy to form a better world, the ultimate regeneration project) – I will never forget the spectacle of the ghost of a dead policeman stretching his ectoplasm around the two earths, cats-cradle style, to keep them apart…)
As another delaying tactic, I went to a secondhand bookshop, one of the worlds in which I feel most comfortable. I was in the mood for westerns (another world I inhabit, that of western pulp readers) but, apart from the complete works of Zane Grey, they didn’t have any. But I did get Landscape with Canals, the second volume of L. T. C. Rolt’s autobiography, including journeys on the canals I have been walking along. He makes the point that ‘The inland waterways of England are a little world of their own…’ Worlds within worlds.
Finally I launched myself towards Edge Hill itself. Being a coward, I was a bit nervous. The news feeds for “edge hill” I get every day (when they’re not talking about the University, some club in LA or a Napa Valley vineyard) occasionally mention various kinds of mayhem in Edge Hill – such that a middle-class boy from the suburbs might imagine bullets flying and blades flashing as soon as the border is crossed. (Stupid, I know, but recounted here in the cause of honesty.)
What I actually found, having walked through the University district, was a place that seemed busy with cars but empty of people. A lot of empty spaces – wide hard-to-cross roads, DIY centre and supermarket carparks. A few old-fashioned shops among the chain outlets.
Pockets of life: trees, art, a family hunkered down out of the wind in a pub doorway, the adults smoking, the kids in pastel anoraks bouncing around.
I walked up Durning Road a bit – the boarded houses just seemed empty to me, dead sockets – I couldn’t imagine meals, arguments, laughter happening inside them. I can understand the affection for the now-cancelled community, but the new estates sound good, and who is to say that they won’t be communities also? The only thing that seemed odd to me were some imprisoned bits of greenspace, as if spaces could only be any good if they were rendered inaccessible .
I wandered down to Edge Hill, ‘the oldest passenger railway station in the world’, which I’ve been through on trains many times. There is a nascent art centre in the station, with an installation on the approach road – ‘a network of posts that grow in stature as they cascade downwards towards the station – recalling the moorings for ships which suggest the idea of travel from the past’ – and people with wine glasses spilling out from a private view. A good feeling that new things were happening and an atmospheric place getting acknowledged. (As a bonus they had Dudley and Dowell draincovers from Cradley Heath.)
Ironically, the exhibitions just opening (that I was too late to see that day) both have a theme of exploration – Katriona Beales Into Far Lands, ‘Drawing inspiration from early map-makers attempts to depict new worlds and the history of Edge Hill station as the place where the first railway journeys began’, and Guided by the echo by Nelson Guzmán, ‘an outsider navigating a new city by the sites and stories that absolve reason and understanding; where the word ‘evil’ is the simplest answer’. Reckon I’ll have to ‘get off at Edge Hill‘ again soon.
A train was pulling in so I got on to it and was back at Lime Street in a few minutes. An hour had passed since I left Worlds Apart. A young guy in a pinstripe suit was reading the Financial Times – I felt younger than him, with my satchel full of comics and purposeless journey.
I decided to walk along to Liverpool One, a new shopping centre. I had heard it talked about, in the hushed, excited tones of pilgrims returned from an ineffable spiritual experience. All I knew on a practical level was that it did (or perhaps didn’t) have a branch of Primark, so I decided to find out more. Whether or not there is a Primark, there are many clothes shops, arranged in a pleasing way in an environment of light, curves and angles. I felt drawn through the flowing walkways, desire paths where there was no desire. Helpful men in branded leisure/work wear maintained a Singapore-like purity. If it’s shops you want, this seems like a nice enough way to encounter them. Liverpool might be a separate country, but if so, like many places in the globalised world, it has the same shops as everywhere else.
As befits the fruits of the Paradise Project, Liverpool One makes promises of an elevated nature: soon it will give me ‘everything I love’ – a rash promise to make, as I happen to love some pretty esoteric stuff. Bring it on.
The combination of Edge Hill (regenerating) and Liverpool One (regenerated) left me unexpectedly miserable, as I took stock later in a nearby Wetherspoons (beer: George Wright Blue Moon). I have always inhabited multiple worlds, or at least multiple social circles. Take my 18th birthday party, for instance – a mixture of middle-aged lefties (from my Anti-Nazi League involvement), teenagers I was at school with (a few miles away at Hove Grammar School) and teenagers from where I lived (Portslade). A strange mixture of people, baffled (or bayfield) by finding themselves together, worlds colliding over a Party Seven. In a way I’ve made a career out of veering between worlds – Another Girl, Another Planet is the national anthem of my biography (but without the girls, planets or heroin). My university job involves working with various different disciplines, without pursuing any of them. Flickering between worlds and not actually settling into any of them is a wearying affair. Somehow these Liverpool spaces left me feeling sapped, vampire-sucked, adrift – painfully conscious of my provisional identity, my drifting diffident and uninvolved in the many worlds I inhabit, my ectoplasm stretched out to breaking point.
An image of a shark floated inside a giant video screen.
I got the train home from Central.