“Liverpool is at once a myth and a reality. People’s ideas of Liverpool must vary because Liverpool itself is both mythical and grittily real. There is so much to think about in Liverpool: so much to imagine. Liverpool isn’t just a World in One City – it’s as many worlds as you can envisage. Liverpool is so complex a notion, so complex a reality, it is impossible to pin down. When we think or talk of Liverpool, we reveal our own personality, interests, tastes.” So writes Pam Russell in just-published The Mersey Sound: Liverpool’s Language, People and Places. Reading this excited me, and made me realise how unformed my own image of Liverpool is. It has been my nearest city for the past eight years; I have visited many times, and been to many places (the top of Radio City Tower and the back room of Ye Cracke spring to mind.)
It will never be my city.
I had assumed that I was just indifferent to it, or the fact that I was always there for a reason, or passing through, meant I had never really engaged with the place. But perhaps the nature of Liverpool means I haven’t settled it in my mind – there is so much to it, so much difference in a small space, that it can’t be quickly ‘got’ the way Milton Keynes or Singapore might be (at least superficially.) Looking at some streets today, they seemed like collages of different cityscapes, an unplanned scrapbook of architecture now following some private logic of of its own. Golden domes, glass towers, Victorian wedding-cake buildings and art deco – trees grow through the tiles of the Futurist cinema and giant banners prompt you to think of passion, culture and the Pool of Life.
Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll be walking in along the Trans Pennine Way – a great sweeping curve that crosses the city. I hope to get at last as far as the infinity sign made by the double roundabout on the A580. Rambling, not purposefully heading for a meeting, bookshop, meal or train station. Actually arriving at Liverpool, maybe.
Technically I started the walk in Merseyside, as Southport is part of it (though originally in Lancs and with a Preston postcode.) And I did slip in to Lydiate and Maghull, damp and weary from the Moss. Ormskirk, and the independent academic state that overlaps with it, could be considered as being in Greater Merseyside or the City Region, but it isn’t a ‘Liverpool’ place despite the L postcode – more like a tamer, Lancashire version of the Interzone described by William Burroughs – people of many citizenships coming and going, beneath a big sky.
Tomorrow might feel like actually entering Liverpool. A quote of a quote of a quote: Eugene Victor Walter via Paul Devereux via Iain Sinclair: spiritual tourism as ‘a complex but organic mode of active observation’. That’s how I’d like to approach it, avoiding simply achieving the objective by crossing distance or just keeping this blog stoked up with wordage. So who knows – maybe I’ll see Blakean visions over Aintree and spend all day writing poems; maybe I’ll slog on in the rain and pop in to the Old Roan B&Q to get that washer I need.